You can’t get to Memphis without going to Illinois. At least, I can’t. Last week, I wrote about my first solo road trip and its ultimate destination. But it’s about the journey, not the destination.
The next day, I headed for the Arch. I didn’t think I’d need directions — the monument does tower over the city.
So I ended up in Illinois.
It wouldn’t be the last time I accidentally crossed into another state on this trip — I also saw Mississippi momentarily when I drove too far south in Memphis the next day.
The highway near the Arch has quite a few exits and interchanges in a row, so once I saw the exit for the Arch, I promptly missed it.
I’ve missed exits before — you get off on the next one and get back on. Not here – I ended up crossing the Mississippi for the first time right into East St. Louis.
The stark contrast of St. Louis and this blighted area were obvious as I made a loop around a block to recross the river.
I also learned nearly every city has a red brick district. I snagged lunch in a sports bar a block or so away from the Arch in the historic Laclede’s Landing. The cool steel of the Arch contrasted beautifully with the early 20th century brick facades it jutted up behind as I walked the few blocks to the engineering marvel.
I’d never seen anything so tall before. They just don’t have sky-scraping buildings in Kansas. I rode to the top inside a tiny space-age white bubble car with four people from Florida, including a man nearly as wide as he was tall wearing a tank top and overalls. It wasn’t as cramped as you’d think — like getting into a Ford Fiesta and realizing it isn’t so small inside.
The view from the top is where my fascination with high places began. I hadn’t taken a plane yet, so this was as close as I could get. Since the Arch, I’ve been up Reunion Tower in Dallas and Philadelphia’s City Hall and I helped send my boss Jeremy and his bride Kamren to the Stratosphere in Las Vegas on their honeymoon.
It wasn’t an ambitious trip — but it was my first foray onto the wide-open interstate. And I’ve had trips since then that have been bigger and fancier and full of the most interesting things. But St. Louis and Memphis will remain the fondest of memories.