Freedom Lost and Freedom Gained

“Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life.” Bob Marley

State 5: Missouri - June 24, 2017

Saint Louis: 2 of 2

Nate

After leaving the Anheiser-Busch factory we headed deep into the heart of downtown Saint Louis to the Old Courthouse. As the name may suggest this once courthouse is now a museum, a nationally registered historic site, and part of the Thomas Jefferson Expansion National Park. Second to only Row vs. Wade, the Old Courthouse is famous for handing down the most controversial verdicts in our nations history in the Dred Scott case. Dred Scott, his wife Harriet, and 2 daughters were slaves in Missouri. In 1846, Dred Scott sued his owner for his family’s freedom. The case was eventually appealed to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in 1857 that Dred Scott, and all African Americans were property, and not citizens of the United States. Historians recognize backlash from this verdict as one of the tipping points for the Civil War, which ultimately lead the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution. Reflecting upon the slave living quarters I saw at Grants house earlier in the day, and now standing in the exact courtroom were all blacks were deemed property, made me feel disgraced and embarrassed at this time in our nation’s history. I then looked around the courtroom I currently stood in, and saw whites along with blacks in almost equal numbers, learning and experiencing the history of the case. We had clearly come far as a country from those disgraceful distant times. Even to this very day, our country is still struggles with questions of who is and who is not an American citizen. I couldn’t help but wonder what Dred Scott would say if he was here today. I like to think he would say America has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

We then exited the courthouse, and were treated to a picture perfect view of the iconic Saint Louis Arch. Don’t take my word for it, see the pictures and judge for yourself. There was no doubt what our next stop would be. The Saint Louis arch is the tallest of all of our nations man-made monuments at 630 feet, and is the largest stainless steel structure in the entire world. The arch construction was completed in in 1965, and of course it was a can’t miss attraction. Going to Saint Louis and not seeing the arch would be like having ice cream without sprinkles. Oops, I forgot that Lori hates sprinkles. It would be like going to a baseball game, and not having a hot dog. Oops, we are vegetarians. Oh well, you get the point. We also were surprised to learn there is an elevator that takes you to the apex of the arch, and on a clear day you can see all the way to Illinois. I hope we were not the only ones who thought the arch was solid? Only in America would someone dream up such a gargantuan iconic and symbolic structure, and then devise a way to bring people to the top in a curved elevator. American ingenuity never ceases to amazed me.

There was no way we were going to miss to the opportunity to go to the top of the arch, but we almost did. We went to the booth to reserve tickets, and saw a sign saying tickets were all sold out for the next two days. To say we were depressed would be an understatement. An hour or so later, Lori then went on the website that sells tickets, and was for some unknown reason was able to reserve 2 tickets for 7:25 pm that night. Imagine our surprise! The tickets are non-refundable and were sold out, so we can’t really explain how we were able to get them. We like to think it was divine intervention, although we will never actually know the truth. Regardless, we were tickled pink to have our golden tickets to the top of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The walk to the entry point of the Arch from the Old Court House was almost a mile on another 90+ degree day. Although they look very close, they are very far apart. The closer we got to the arch, the more impressive was it grandeur. I will just refer to the pics for further explanation. Just know that everyone needs to experience the arch in person at least once in their lifetime. Lori actually thought the elevator to the top was on the outside of the structure. When we learned the elevator was on the inside, we were very confused as the top of arch appeared to be extremely narrow.

As we approached the entrance to the arch, we went through an airport style security, before being admitted into the underground entrance. We were then lined up and given a plastic card with a number on it. We were then marched into a stepped corridor with 8 doors, and told to stand in front of the door that corresponded with the number we were given. One of the rangers then gave a brief history of the Arch, and said the tram system that was about to bring us to the top had been developed in only two weeks, and had been in continuous service since 1967. Lori and I both looked at each other, and you don’t need to be a psychic to know what was going through our minds at that moment in time. Well, there was no going back now! Just then the doors we stood in front of us opened with a loud metal clank. We then we saw what we believed to be an elevator could only be described as a fully enclosed 3 ½ foot metal orb that seated 5 people, secured to a rickety angular tram system similar to that of a ferris wheel only without the views. You were unable to sit fully erect, and with seating for 5, the 2-foot rule for personal space went completely out the window. The trip to the top is a bumpy, stressful, and extremely long 4 minutes, and Lori and I counted each and every second. Trying to be optimistic, we felt blessed that on our ascending trip, we only had 4 instead of 5 people total in our orb, and no crying babies. Here is a picture of the orb and the entryway:

When we reached the top, the door to our orb again opened with another loud clank, and we walked up a flight of 25 stairs to the observation deck at the apex of the Gateway Arch. Once at the top, we were treated to unprecedented views of the Saint Louis skyline, and Mississippi River. These views were via a multitude of tiny 6 inch by 24-inch windows, and you had to lay down on your stomach to actually see out of them. The pictures and memories were well worth the hair raising trip. The Saint Louis Cardinals happened to be having a home game at the time, and we got some awesome shots of the packed stadium. This helped ease the sting of the $25 parking we had to pay, because we happened to visit the city during game day. Once we saw all there was to see, and took enough photographs to fill our memory card, we then waited in line to board the next orb for our to return trip back to earth. By the time we exited the arch it was already dark. And the moon light reflecting off the arch made it even more picturesque than during the day. We decided to walk a mile back to the steps of the Old Court house in the dark to get another picture perfect shot of the arch, only this time at night. I personally like the night time picture more than the day time picture. What say you?

With our feet once again firmly planted on solid ground, we reunited with Rosie, and bid farewell Saint Louis. We crossed the Mississippi River, and celebrated as we entered the 6th State of our Cross Country Trip: Illinois: The Land of Lincoln. Let me take this opportunity to say what a disappointing motto. Everyone knows who Lincoln was, and his lasting contribution to our country. Surely something else of interest must have happened in the Illinois over the past 175 years since Lincolns death? Anywho, we spent the night at a Walmart in Cahokia, IL, just over the Illinois state border, and had a good night sleep.

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