Part two of the St. Louis trip is mostly about travelling west into town to Forest Park and Washington University. But I have to mention an interesting thing that happened to us right after lunch and before we decided to go. We had lunch at a restaurant near the stadium and the bartender was telling us we should go check out the Anheuser Busch brewery and take a tour of it. It was only a mile away and we were able to find it on the map. However it looked like it went through some industrial areas so we decided we probably shouldn’t walk. We saw a cab drive by and Troeger signaled it to pick us up. But apparently in St. Louis you don’t hail a cab on the street because the driver just waved back at us and kept driving. It was very weird. Now the Metrolink did not go near the brewery however we found a bus map that showed a couple of bus lines that did. But after wandering around for half an hour, trying to figure out which bus we needed and where we could catch it at, we finally decided to give up and just take the Metrolink out to Forest Park. This really illustrated the difference between the ease of use in a fixed transit line and a city bus. We couldn’t figure out where the bus would run or when it would come by or where it would go, but finding a light rail stop was easy, just look for the tracks. And the maps are simple and you don’t have the same dread waiting at a fixed line stop like you do at a bus stop about whether or it is actually going to come by or not.
But Metrolink was surprisingly nice. I was afraid this was going to be a dirty and ineffective metro system but I was surprised to find a clean, frequent and expansive system that was heavily used that day. The stations were pretty cool too. Most of the line ran underground in the downtown area but the stops were open to the sky above rather than closed in like a subway. All the stations had ticketing machines where you could buy a multiple types of tickets depending on how you were planning on using it. We got the all day pass for 7 dollars. The Metrolink is actually two separate lines but they run together for a majority of the time and spit apart at the ends. We saw a security guard every time we boarded the train, whether he was on the patrolling on the platform or checking tickets on the train. The stations that were outside also had heaters that a rider could turn on when the temperature got below 45 degrees. I have ridden some pretty nice light rails in America and this one was definitely at par with the best.
The trains were running every 30 minutes and a west bound train was departing the station just as we were walking down the stairs. So we waited for the next one to come and got on to ride out to Forest Park.
Forest Park is like St. Louis’s Central Park. It’s a large city park that is in the middle of the city but was originally built on the outskirts of town in the late 1800’s. It hosted the 1904 World’s Fair, The Louisiana Purchase Exposition and a lot of remnants of the fair can still be seen today. We got of the Metrolink at the Forrest Park stop, at the midpoint of the park’s north boundary. We walked across the street and I imminently knew this was going to be great for my blog. There were two paths that crossed the main walkway into the park. One was for bikes and one was for pedestrians. The bike path was a long straight path that ran through the open grassy areas where as the pedestrian trail was a meandering path that weaved through the vegetation. These trails had been built perfectly for the scale of use they were intended for. A biker wants few curves and better views because he or she is travelling at a faster speed that a pedestrian who prefers to travel a path that has continuously changing views and scenery. Brilliant!
We continued towards the Missouri Museum of History, a beautiful old building built originally as the Jefferson Memorial Building for the World’s Fair, and that stood near the entrance of the park. We made a quick walk through, (mostly to use the bathroom facilities) and walked out the other end back into the park. (While in the museum, I picked up a great map of the whole park that I brought back with me and wanted to scan and post but Beckett got a hold of it and thoroughly destroyed it. Good dog.) We wandered down the paths, over bridges and streams until we arrived at the Grand Basin. This large formal pool was once surrounded by neo classical buildings during the World’s Fair. Today the buildings are gone and only a few remain in the whole park. But the large open green areas have made it a popular park as evident by all the people we saw there that day and the two separate weddings going on nearby. We neared the western edge of the park and right before we crossed the street onto the Washington University Campus, we crossed another separated biking and pedestrian path. Here, the bicycle path was the typical asphalt paved path but the meandering walking path was all crushed stone which made for a great walking surface.
We crossed the street and walked down the wide boulevard alongside the campus and I saw another surprise looking down. These wide sidewalks were meant for both pedestrian and bike traffic and it was marked on the sidewalk and on the light poles, to keep them separated. I don’t know how well the rest of the city fares, but between the light rail system and the extensive biking and walking trail development. I was very impressed with St. Louis! Soon we were walking along side the School of Architecture. The Beaux Arts style building, the frantically working freshman visible through the basement windows and the side entrance into the studio, covered in spray paint from student’s projects was all too familiar from my days at Fayetteville in Vol Walker Hall. The campus was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe the amount of Gothic Architecture and the detail! We wandered west through campus, passing a few art exhibits and a juggling club. We eventually made our way to the northwest corner of campus where we began heading north into the surrounding neighborhood.
The neighborhood was almost completely all brick homes. We kept walking north to Delmar St, which I had heard was a cool hangout street and after walking six blocks or so we found it. But what an unusual place! We were standing at the foot of two huge stone monuments called the Lion’s Gate. This was the entrance into the City of University City. No joke. That was really the name of the town. It was a small independent city inside of St. Louis, kind of like Cammak Village in Little Rock. And across the street was the cylindrical shaped city hall and a Church of Scientology. But we headed back down Delmar St. and found a place to grab a quick dinner and beer on a patio outside and watched people walk up and down the street. Some people were already in Halloween costumes. We actually sat next to a zombie couple having dinner. I could.t see but I’m guessing it was brains. The weather was great but they do not know anything about what good cheese dip in St. Louis!
As 8:00 got closer, we decided to head back to find the nearest light rail to return to the train station. We walked down to the Skinker Line just as the train was pulling away, heading downtown. As we waited for the next train to come by, John noticed on the schedule that the next one wasn’t coming through until 7:35. Our Amtrak train left at 8:00. But there was nothing we could do but wait. The next train came by right on time and we all got on and quietly road, watching the time and wondering just how close we were going to cut it. Luckily, the Metrolink stop was adjacent to the Amtrak station so we were able to get off and quickly get in line to get our seats and board the train. We pulled out of St. Louis at 7:59.
It was a lot easier to sleep on the ride home. We were in a fairly empty car so we all spread out and took two seats a piece. As we got closer to Little Rock, the conductor came through and woke us up. As I sat there trying to come too, Troeger asked me if I wanted a ride back to my house from the train station. I had walked there earlier from my house and it wasn’t that far but just as I was about to tell him no thanks, he told me was also raining outside. So I decided to take the offer. We pulled into Little Rock and got off the train right at 3:18. Troeger gave me a ride back to my place and I was soon back in bed sacked out. It was a great day trip to St. Louis and I can’t wait to go back!