Construction began in 1963, the cost was $90,491,005 in today's dollars, it was designed by a Finnish American architect, and it is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The Gateway to the West is 42,878 tons of patriotism, elegance, and modern engineering. It is also very, very tall.
|630 feet tall, to be exact.|
If you know me, you probably know that I am petrified of heights. It's not that I really think that there is any probability of falling, or collapsing, or malfunctioning, it's just that something begins to rush through my veins whenever I so much as think of going up in a high building, and I get a little shaky just standing on a stepladder. I knew that no one back home would understand, though, if I returned from St. Louis without going up in the arch. All my life I have heard people tell me that going up in the arch isn't as bad as it looks. I'm still not sure that I believe them. Thankfully, though, Mindy is also a little leery of heights and has gone up into it several times just the same, and that was a comfort. Cameron on the other hand was constantly telling me things like, "You do know that it bends in high winds, right?"
Our first stop was the visitor's center: The Museum of Westward Expansion. This is where they have creepy animatronic mannequins set up all over the place, telling you about the Lewis and Clark expedition. It was an interesting museum, and I learned from a friendly park ranger what not to do with beaver tails.
After a while our time-slot came up to get in line for the ride up into the arch. Naive little me, I imagined that if our tickets said 4:45 we would get into our elevator at about 4:45. I now know better.
A looong time (probably only 39-45 minutes) later we finally worked our way into the creepy little white pod that was straight out of a Star Wars movie.
|"We all live in a creepy little pod, a creepy little pod, a creepy little pod....."|
I have to admit, I nearly had a panic attack. I think I pinched poor Cameron's leg the whole way up. I had my eyes squeezed tight and was twitching and cringing with every jolt of the elevator. However, I did survive.
The arch was crowded, and when the attendants asked everyone to move to the edge of the room and stay away from certain windows I had to wonder just how many people that thing could safely hold. Thankfully I got my "sea legs" under me pretty quickly and was actually able to lean over and take some pictures out of the tiny, clouded observation windows.
|I called my parents while up in the arch.|
Great cell reception!
|The arch's reflection in the river.|
So it wasn't too bad, because I didn't die or--even worse--burst into tears. Cameron and Mindy were troopers for putting up with me, and I'm glad that I was able to experience the quintessential St. Louis attraction.
That wrapped up a very full day of sightseeing. Then the work began....