Good morning, my little bloglets!
I’m coming to you from the Land of Lincoln. By Lincoln, I’m referring to the former President, not the maker of such fine automobiles as the Towncars and Navigators. So that means I’m in Springfield, Illinois, not Detroit, Michigan. As cool as it might sound to some of you, I am not in the market for a “Top Dangerous Cities in the US” tour.
With that said, I woke up this morning safe and sound after surviving St. Louis, Missouri (#1 on list of said dangerous cities) with a completely new outlook on life. Grateful for my safety, I did what any other well-known, unshaven, amazing, handsome author would do – wake up, throw open the blinds, and draw on their surroundings to construct perfect works of art. And luckily for you, the reader, I’m including my view of inspiration this morning.
Just look at those evenly spaced trees which represent unity. Or that building made of sheet metal standing, both literally and figuratively, as shelter from the dangers of St. Louis. The highway that represents life – people coming towards me… and people leaving me. The majestic cell phone towers. Not one, but two of them. A rare combination to see out of one window.
I guess it’s starting to make a little sense why my blog only has 31 comment-less readers a day instead of this blowing up as a top blog on the Internet with readers who care enough about the feelings of the author to leave comments. New York Times’ Best Sellers like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling probably have windows with three cell phone towers and a traffic circle staring back at them in their inspiration windows. But I’ll keep trying! You have to start somewhere!
In all seriousness (at least more than that above), yesterday was a unique day. It started out pretty indifferent, skyrocketed up (again, literally and figuratively), took a dip back down, and rebounded for a nice finish.
I started out by going to Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. Honestly, it was pretty dull to me. That won’t make my list of most amazing places I saw along the way. Here’s my logic that I kind of backed my way into last night. I was talking to my grandmother on the phone about how amazing I thought the Harry S Truman NHS was. I told her that I’m not a huge history buff (my brother got all of those genes) so walking around reading about stuff that happened in a certain place isn’t enough to get me really excited about something. But the Truman home had all of the real artifacts laid out in front of you. Not only could you hear about the real life events, you could see the actual artifacts that led the person through those events. There was something tangible. With Grant’s house, there wasn’t any of that. The house had been completely renovated and everything in it was set to give you a feel, but it wasn’t real. The real Grant furniture and other items had been stored in a house nearby and burnt down. So the site had no true, authentic furniture to put into the house. I could have been walking around any house reading the history I was reading. At least that’s the way I see it in my head.
As a quick side note, I just noticed that both Truman and Grant’s middle name started with an S. So does mine. That’s a pretty clear indication to me that if I start going by Matthew S Jerdan, nothing but good things will happen.
But it was personal on the tour since I was the only one to show up. So the ranger walked me around by myself, was patient, and answered my questions like the human version of Grant’s Wikipedia page he was. It was kind of interesting to get the Northern side of things, since I’m a Southern boy who grew up getting the other side of the story all of my life. I knew Grant was a pro-Union-stance kind of guy (obviously), but I didn’t know his father-in-law was all but a complete opposite. He was very much on the Southern side and owned slaves. They always clashed, but made it work because they both appreciated family as well as shared the daughter/wife as a common love.
And I snagged a few pictures, of course.
This day proved to be another bit of evidence in the long list of anecdotes of me bringing good weather wherever I go. Here I am, walking outside in St. Louis all day long, roughly one week away from December, and it’s 75 degrees outside. Crazy!
From there I hit downtown to check out the famous Gateway Arch. Saying it was anything short of amazing wouldn’t do it justice. From the sheer size to the placement to the huge amounts of green space they put in the middle of a city to the engineering & architecting (Tara, I made that word up for you since you’re the only architect I know).
The museum, theaters, and everything else is actually underground beneath the Arch, so I headed that way to buy a ticket to the top. And since I was by myself, I essentially got ushered to the front of the line to just fill spots in non-full cars. Perks of being a loner! The ride to the top was fun! I got paired with this group of four (two young couples that knew each other) and one of the girls just happened to be borderline claustrophobic and afraid of heights. So it’s pretty safe to say she was on the edge of losing it. And guys being guys, kept giving her a hard time. And since I’m a guy… it all was pretty hilarious. At one point at the top, one of them said they thought the sound they just heard was what steel falling apart might sound like and I thought she was going to absolutely lose it. Oh the joys of being a boy!
The cars are these tight, cramped little spaces though. Five people per car, with eight cars on each side of the Arch. It takes 4 minutes to get up and 3 minutes to get down. But the top was amazing. My knees were really wobbly as I’m not a fan of heights myself, but still incredible up there none the less. It’s built to sway up to 18 inches and sway it does. Very eerie feeling knowing you’re 600+ feet in the air and to feel your entire surroundings just start to move. Such an unsafe feeling in your gut. Props to the guys who were brave enough to build it. Because if it were up to me, it would have been 20 feet high had I been the one climbing to the top to construct it.
And while it went against everything my body and mind was telling me, I managed to get a picture looking straight down out of the windows.
Once I was back safely on the ground in the not-so-safe St. Louis, I went into the theater to catch the documentary of how the Arch was designed and built. The math-and-science part of me was in heaven! Just amazing watching how they put it together. It made my legs and stomach weak watching those guys just walk around 600+ feet in the air outside of any harness or catwalk doing their job. No thank you. After that, I went back out to grab some more shots. Just a cool place to be!
This is where the afternoon took it’s dive back down to earth. I got a text from a friend I hadn’t talked to in awhile talking about my blog. Except I know this friend doesn’t read the blog (which is fine, by the way! I’m not touchy about that piece of it). Apparently someone didn’t like reading one of my previous posts and called up my friend to fuss. And it chipped away at the good day I was having. I know it’s juvenile stuff, but when you’ve got entire days on the road where you’re just driving, my mind ends up touching on times like these. It’s why I shut myself off from the outside world for awhile. It’s why I call people, instead of having them call me. Everything about this trip, I’m trying to make on my terms, so I can enjoy it for what it’s worth, without having to put up with the high-school-style moments happening somewhere else in another part of the country. Just unnecessary stress and immaturity I don’t need.
So I got a little heated. And just took a walk. Enjoyed the scenery. Cooled off. Let it go. And headed to Joey B’s for some lunch! I ended up with a Firecracker Chicken Sandwich. They say it’s spicy, but really it just tasted like a chicken sandwich dipped in wing sauce. It was good though. I played on my phone and watched SportsCenter just to kind of take a step back and get a grip on the day. And then it hit me. What makes a day better? ALWAYS makes a day better? Animals! So I paid, bolted back to my truck, and headed out of the city.
Operation “Llamas, Not Drama” was in full effect.
I had checked out the St. Louis Zoo online the day before trying to find things to do in the city. I also had an address for the City Museum, which got good reviews everywhere I had looked. But the museum seemed to be more for families and kids – a lot of interactive stuff. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy that, being the big kid I am, but the zoo just felt right. And it’s listed as being a top five zoo most places I looked online. And best of all, it’s free. It’s my fourth zoo (at least) on the trip and the first that’s been free! So I went and enjoyed myself. I saw some cool animals, like the mountain chicken which is actually a frog (that can get up to two pounds) instead of a chicken. And I pieced together my good mood, forgot about the drama, and moved on. Even if there weren’t any llamas in this zoo 🙂
Here’s the infamous mountain chicken!
And a rabid (not really) camel foaming at the mouth.
And a real-life, free-range NBC logo. The colors were amazing. Not sure if they really translate to a picture.
And bushdogs! I’d never seen these anywhere before. Very cool little animals. They made these weird noises too.
And last but not least, the hippos were probably the coolest thing I saw at the zoo. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen hippos before. The Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia used to have one (it died not too long ago, I believe). The zoo in either Naples, Florida or Memphis, Tennessee had a few. But every time I’ve ever seen one, it’s just laying around, lazily, like you would envision a hippo to be. That’s why it’s so shocking when people tell you that hippos kill a bunch of people in Africa every year. Most people in the US just envision hippos being these huge, slow-moving animals because zoo hippos never move. But these bad boys acted like the were jacked up on Mountain Dew and crack. They would hop out of the water. Hop back in. Swim laps. Open up their mouths. Kick off the walls. It was so interesting, I just camped a spot on a rock and sat to watch them for 15 minutes. Fascinating! And yes, I already know I have a weird obsession with zoos and animals. Don’t hate on me for it. Just embrace it!
I thought “If four hippos can be happy to swim around in murky water in St. Louis, then I have no reason to be bummed out!” I didn’t really think that. But it’s true. And with that, I ended a good day, turned sour, turned good again and said farewell to the Gateway to the West. By heading East.