If you haven’t read Tim’s reports on preparing for this trip (this is his first time planning a trip), be sure to check out what it took to plan and prepare for this trip in a wheelchair.
It’s an all day drive, 384 miles, to get to our next destination, St. Louis. We have a Ford Escape, a non-accessible vehicle, to make the drive in. That means the power chair has been left at home and Tim is using a new manual chair he bought for this trip. He’s manhandled into the front passenger seat, our luggage and the folded-up chair in the back cargo area, and my wife sits in the back seat with the maps in the navigator position.
Before we left on the trip, my wife went to the AAA to get maps. Unfortunately, she didn’t check them at the time and the girl at the counter, geographically challenged, gave us maps for Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. None of those states feature our destinations of Cincinnati, St. Louis , or Kansas City (but Kansas comes close!).
Today, we are relying on the map Budget Rent a Car gave us and we exit in Indy to find the speedway. 40 miles later, we figure that either the map or our navigation were off because we never found it and ran out of time. Later, checking the map on the computer, we find that the map was off, placing the speedway about 25 miles west of where it really was. Too bad, I really wanted to see it…nextime I guess.
Ever onward, we stop at a great Love’s Truck stop in Illinois for fuel, sodas, and snacks and then later again in Terre Haute for lunch at a great Steak and Shake restaurant. We later find out that a couple of hundred miles south of us, tornadoes are wreaking havoc on Oklahoma including destroying another Love’s truck stop down there. We just got a little light rain along the way.
Weather is an ongoing concern for us. Local news keeps predicting thunderstorms and we’re concerned over cancelled games and vacation killing inclement weather. We can push back our next two games by one day if necessary, but no more than that.
Coming into the St. Louis area, the first thing you see is the giant Gateway Arch, the tallest structure in the city. It’s off at the Martin Luther King Bridge and into downtown. Our hotel is on 4th Street, right behind the arch, so it’s very easy to find once we’re in downtown.
For this leg of the trip, we’re at the Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch. We walk into the beautiful, large marbled lobby and check in. The room they give us has a small window with an interior view which we don’t like so it’s back to the lobby to ask for a better room. They give us a two-room suite on the 7th floor. It still has a small window but at least this one has a view of downtown and the Old Courthouse.
Window aside, it’s a great suite. A separate bedroom with a king size bed. A nice sized living area with a large (queen size) sofabed and recliner. Two 42” flat screen TV’s…one in each room…with a large number of channels to choose from including several HD channels. A large bathroom with a roll-in shower. A small dry bar with microwave, fridge (not honor bar), and a coffee maker.
The hotel also has a good number of freebies to go along with the room. We take advantage of the first with some wine, beer, and cocktails along with a light dinner in the lobby (chicken wings, nachos, egg rolls, salad, and veggies). In the morning is a hot breakfast featuring scrambled eggs, biscuits & gravy, sausage, pancakes, yogurt, fruit, toast, bagels, donuts, and muffins along with coffee, juice, and milk. Starting at 10 in the morning, it’s all the popcorn and soda you want until 10 at night. In the room, you have free wifi or free wired Ethernet high speed Internet access (your choice), 60 minutes of free domestic long distance, and 15 minutes of free long distance to Mexico or Canada.
There is a nice pool and spa area on the 8th floor with a good size pool and two hot tubs overlooking the river along with a decent fitness room. The guest laundry is adjacent…$1.50 to wash and $1.25 to dry.
Back in the lobby is a stunning diorama of Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea exploring the new territory with a waterfall and pond. Lovely hotel…one of the best I’ve ever been to. It’s rated #1 in St. Louis on Tripadvisor with good reason. Rates are reasonable too…we paid $150 for our suite, adjacent to the arch and two blocks from the stadium.
After breakfast the next morning, we go over to the Jefferson Expansion Memorial National Park behind the hotel. The arch is huge, stunning, and inaccessible. Built in the early 60’s, it’s debatable if the architect, Eero Saarinen, should have thought about accessibility (Universal Design was really in its infancy at that time) so we’ll let that slide.
An underground visitor’s center is under the arch. There is a fee to enter but if you have the America the Beautiful Access Pass or Golden Access Pass, you can enter free (you get the pass at the entrance to any national park if you’re disabled for free).
Tim and I elect to send Letty up to the top to take pictures while we watch a film on how the arch was constructed. I buy package deals for all of us that includes a riverboat cruise at noon. Letty goes up in the tiny capsule to see the observation deck. The trip includes 85 steps. That, and the tiny door plus small interior of the capsule rules this out for non-walkers.
The documentary is vertigo inducing as we watch the workmen put the final touches on the arch, 630 feet above the ground.
Meeting back up in the lobby, we have some time to explore the gift shop before going down to the adjacent riverfront for the cruise. Well, it’s adjacent if you can walk down stairs…
I ask at the information counter how we get down there in the wheelchair. They show me on a map how I can go either way and detour down to the water. It looks short on the map.
In reality, it’s a half-mile, unmarked trek to get around. We finally find a way by taking an elevator down to the bottom floor of a parking garage, exiting through their ramp, walking down a street to the river, then doubling back to the dock.
This is just ridiculous. Take a look at the pictures…it would be very easy to build a ramp down the hillside to the dock. I can’t believe it is this inaccessible.
On the dock, we find things accessible enough. We get spots on the bow of the boat and leave on our cruise. The tour takes us north past a floating casino; then on to the original power plant built for the 1904 World’s Fair (still in use); numerous docks loading and unloading barges; back down south to get great views of the city; seeing a wrecked barge up against one of the bridges; and finally coming back to the dock after an hour. There are also numerous barges being pushed up the river and pulled the other way filled with all manner of cargo. It’s an interesting trip.
Now, we have to make our way back up which entails another ½ mile trek. We decide to go the other way. It’s just as long.
Being lunch time, we decide to eat at Max and Erma’s, a nice little place attached to the hotel which has a $10.99 special. Choose an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. It’s very good and we can’t finish it all.
After lunch, we go to the room to rest up and get ready for the game.
There's more to come, watch for Part 2 coming very soon!
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