Friday, July 06, 2007

The Zoo, Some Cards, An Arch, The Loop...

Any clues where vacation is this year? Well, okay, "An Arch" really should give it away.... St. Louis, for sure! I haven't updated much recently, and part of that is because we have been on vacation (I'll post some pics below). For those of you wondering if I had fallen off the Earth, here's a run-down of the action so far:

Monday - Since Mom had just come home from her second visit to Shreveport, we all decided the best thing would be for her to stay with my brother and his wife in Hot Springs while we went on vacation. She has been doing very well, and my sister-in-law has been keeping Mom busy with shopping, er, walking... :-) From Hot Springs, we began our quest for St. Louis. The drive wasn't bad at all, and really only involved three interstate roads! Awesome! And, it turns out, our hotel is VERY conveniently located near Forest Park (in fact, we didn't realize until WEDNESDAY just how close we were to the Science Center!). We got in a little late on Monday, so we called it a day and got ready for Tuesday!

On the road to Saint Louie!
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At the hotel - FINALLY!
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A cool car we saw while driving along...


Tuesday - Woke up, ready to take on the St. Louis Zoo and whatever else we would decide to do! The Zoo was great. Em had fun, especially at the penguins! We walked for hours, looking at just about every display they had there. Em got a lemur stuffed toy and Tyler got a transforming bug-thing. :-) We rode the train around the park, which was a nice break from walking, plus let us see the zoo from a different perspective... We drove around Forest park for a while trying to figure out where things were. Yes, they have signs, but the signs only get you part of the way to where you need to go. So, when you get to the end of the road where the signs for the Art Museum point, there are other signs... None of which say anything about the Art Museum! AUGH! We eventually figured out that if you didn't see what you were looking for on the sign, it meant you needed to turn AWAY from all the other signs - like map-reading through omission... Crazy!
We decided to hit the Science Center. That was very cool, with lots of space-related things for the kids to enjoy. OF course, one of the coolest things was the walkway over the highway. In the floor, you could look down and see the cars passing under the walkway! Yeah, a little freaky at first, but it really was neat!
I should mention that we have spent a lot of time....exploring... St. Louis - that is driving around trying to get somewhere that we're not sure sure where we are going. Kingshighway is a frequently visited road - for better or worse... :-)
We drove around for quite a while, looking for something that now we cannot even remember what we were trying to find! LOL... We ended up eating at Applebees, plus we had to make a Wal-Mart run, so it worked out okay.

At The Zoo!
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A car passes under our feet!
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Shan and Kay at the Science Center!


Wednesday - We woke up on the 4th of July and everyone (except me because my leg is still healing) went for a morning swim after breakfast. Once again, we kinda did some driving around. Then, we went and got our baseball tickets for the Cardinals game against the Diamondbacks. We learned a couple valuable lessons here... First, make your vacationing plans early if they involve a ballgame! We bought tickets from stubhub.com, which turned out to be a broker. So, we paid a little more than $20 for $10 seats... And, we learned that section 442 is not one, not two, but at least THREE escalators off the ground! In fact, when you look at the picture of the stadium, and you see where it says "Busch Stadium," we were literally on the other side of those letters! Can you say NOSE-BLEED!? Even so, the game was great! Ty got a cool baseball and Em got a foam finger. Yeah, we spent a bazillion dollars on some drinks, burgers, and a hot dog, but hey, it's a ballgame! :-)
We were told they were going to clear the stadium for the fireworks, but that not quite the truth. They cleared PARTS of the stadium, and we ended up on the top-level deck facing the arch for the 4th of July show! Talk about great viewing! Absolutely gorgeous, and the show lasted just about 20 minutes! That is a LONG time in fireworks-time! There was even a finale-like display at the halfway mark! The kids really enjoyed the show, and it turns out that our parking space was only two right turns from getting back onto the highway for the ride back to the hotel!! Talk about a great time!

Swimming Fun!
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Our seats were behind the sign!!
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Can you say "NOSEBLEED!!?"
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All of us supporting the home team!


Thursday - Arch Day! The only two things I wanted to accomplish on this vacation was seeing the Cards play and going up in the Arch. Someone needs to get the word out on just how the whole "arch thing" works. After waiting in line for 30-45 minutes to get through security, you waiting in line for another 15-30 minutes to buy tickets, then you wait about 90 minutes before your group is called for boarding. And, THEN, you wait some more, watch a video, play with some hands-on displays, wait some more, and then you get into your...well, egg. Really, I felt like Mork. There are 5 seats in each of these 'cars' that you ride in, but we barely fit, especially with my leg being bum... We had the advantage of riding up with a tour guide who needed a lift to the top (so Em sat on shans lap). We asked him some questions, so the 4 minutes up was not too bad, though they REALLY need ventilation of something - way too hot in that cramped space. I didn't know what to expect at the top. From below, the 'observation area' looks very, very skinny.... In reality, it is about 4 people wide and 20-30 people long. I believe i heard someone say that the top holds about 200 people, I think. Anyway, the little windows provide several breath-taking views! I loved it! I overheard a couple of college guys talking and one said something like, "I am afraid of heights, but not closed-in heights. Just open-space heights. This is closed-in." I knew exactly what he meant.
The ride down was faster... MUCH faster... And the ride itself is a kin to something like a ferris wheel and roller coaster all rolled into one. Don't let that stop you, though - it is no where as 'open' or 'dangerous.' We were told that the ride itself COULD be operated with just one cable, but the designer built it with a 9-cable system for safety. Smart man.
After we got back down, we had 6:00 tickets for the 1-hour boat tour. Since it was just after 4, we figured it would be worth a shot to see if we could hit the 4:30 tour. Sure enough, there were lots of available spaces, so we were allowed to exchange our tickets (never, ever let the "no exchanges or refunds" signs stop you from asking!). The ride was informative and very cool, with plenty of photo ops for various sights and attractions around the riverfront.
After the tour, we headed west for "The Loop," which is a dining/shopping area that is closely connected to the local University near there. Definitely a college area. We ate at Qboda Mexican grill. I felt like the guy in the commercial that tries to pay with cash and everything comes to a grinding halt... I have never been to a Qboda (I have no clue how to SAY it!), so when it came time to order, we were kinda slow about it. The cook was obviously frustrated, but oh well... We walked around the strip for a bit and had dessert at "Ben and Jerrys," which was VERY good ice cream... Yes, we decided to forego the "Cold Stone" this time...

One of our first Close-Up views of the Arch
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Em and Shan look out one of the windows at the top of the arch!
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Busch Stadium from the top of the arch
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With a little timing, you can get some very cool shots!
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Walking around The Loop!



The kiddos have been wanting to see a movie, so after supper, and after we got back to the hotel, we decided to see the 10:00pm showing of "Ratatouille." It's a cute movie. Sorry, but it is NO "Toy Story" and certainly no "Cars." But, it was a cute and funny movie. I can tell you that 10:00 on a Thursday night gets you a nearly empty venue! In fact, until the movie actually started, we were the only ones in there.



What will Friday bring?? We'll have to wait and see!

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