4th of July

For the fourth of July, we took an extra-long weekend to visit Baton Rouge and Metairie.

When David, an old friend of Bryan’s, visited us a couple of months ago we took him to the climbing gym here in Little Rock. He went home to Baton Rouge and looked up the climbing facilities in his area, and I think he’s been climbing every weekend since! When we visited David this month, he and his friend Denise took us to the gym in Lafayette.

On Saturday we went to an Independence Day lunch with family. Bryan’s little cousins, Blake and Peyton, were good hosts. As soon as we arrived, they went to brush their teeth, “because a pretty girl is here now.” They made very sure Mandy knew that their teeth were clean. She wasn’t terribly impressed with that, but she enjoyed their teeter totter before heading inside for a smoothie and to watch the History Channel.

We were glad to finally meet our niece, baby Emma. She’s at a hard age to photograph; she’s older than a blob but still too young to sit up by herself. We got a few decent shots but we’re looking forward to our next visit in October, when she’ll be sitting up unassisted and (hopefully) easier to photograph. I took Emma to the bookstore to pick out a book. This time I chose (a Sandra Boynton book) but it won’t be long before she has opinions on this sort of thing.

The real high point of the visit, for Mandy, was the fishing trip. Bryan’s dad organized a trip on a real fishing boat; they got her up at 3 am and drove to Empire. She had a wonderful time fishing and being out on the water. The only real “incident” was when Mandy (adept at peeing in the woods but never having done it off a boat) lost her balance with her pants down and fell overboard into the water.

We had a good visit, as always. We ate beignets for breakfast, snowballs at night, and lots of fried seafood in between. We visited with family and friends and came home feeling reconnected with people who are important to all of us.

Meet me in St. Louis

Our first anniversary, but what to do? We only had a weekend; no time to to on a long trip. We didn’t want to camp; there’s not much special about something we do all the time. We don’t like bars and live music, so a trip to Memphis didn’t sound appealing; we aren’t old, so we didn’t want to go to Branson. The romantic cabins at Arkansas’ state parks are either ratty or exorbitantly expensive, or both. The solution?

St Louis-1858

A two-night, one-day Amtrak trip to St. Louis! We got on the train about midnight on Friday; as a surprise Bryan upgraded our seats to the tiny “roomette” hoping that we could get some sleep. We did, sort of, and woke up in the suburbs of St. Louis, looking out at the river as the train rolled along. We just had time for a dining-car breakfast before our station.

St Louis-1881

First stop: the Arch. Bryan had never seen it, and he needed to. We arrived before the doors opened and rode the first tram to the top. Bryan was entertained by the tiny capsules we rode inside and we both really enjoyed looking out over the city.

St Louis-1915

You can see the arch’s shadow in this photo, taken from the little observation area at the top of the arch. Bryan sent a photo to a couple of friends, from 620 feet above the park, and I called his grandmother. We enjoyed listening to other people — the little kids who oohed and aahed over the tiny cars and people below, and the middle aged men who complained and couldn’t ride down fast enough. We also saw the film about the arch’s construction and went through the museum and gift shops. Our advice: get there early. By the time we left, the visitors center was completely packed.

St Louis-1948

Just across the street is an old courthouse, also part of the national park though not really connected to the arch in any way I could understand. It’s an impressive building nonetheless with an interesting architectural and legal history, and featured a temporary exhibit of platinum prints, a group of photos taken by a man who floated from somewhere in Tennessee down to the Mississippi and then to the gulf.

St Louis-1951

I like Imo’s Pizza, a St. Louis-specific pie made with very thin crust, and after listening to Dewayne talk about it for all these years, Bryan wanted to try it. I hadn’t brought a map or an address but I knew there was an Imo’s on fourth street just south of the interstate. We took off walking toward it, to Bryan’s dismay; the neighborhood got worse and worse and he trailed along behind me, complaining all the way that we were lost and would meet a terrible end. When we finally arrived (it was EXACTLY where I said it would be) he refused to cross the street to go inside. He began quoting Bob Osburn’s opinion that Imo’s wasn’t food at all, but spoiled pizza sauce on a cracker, and began walking the other way.

St Louis-1957

While in St. Louis we made good use of their excellent MetroLink light rail. Here’s the station near the north edge of the park with the Arch.

St Louis-1960

We rode the MetroLink to the old Union Station, now converted to a mall. It’s still on the register of historic places, and is an interesting mix of old and new. We walked from Union Station to a microbrewery Bob Osburn had recommended, which I might add was in no better a neighborhood; we actually walked right past a tree with homeless people camped under it. But fortunately for Bryan, the beer was excellent and the soup was even better, so I stopped complaining about my foiled attempts to eat pizza for lunch.

St Louis-1974

From Shlafly’s, the microbrewery, we walked back to Union Station and rode out to Forest Park, where there are a number of nice museums and an excellent zoo. It was a hot day and we only had half an afternoon to see the zoo, so we chose our priorities: I wanted to see the elephants and Bryan was curious about the giant bird cages. We rode back to Union Station and walked to the Amtrak station, where we changed into fresh clothes before boarding the train for Little Rock about nine pm. We arrived home in the wee hours of the morning, another great trip in our journal.

Does it ever end?

We decided to spend the weekend doing all the wonderful tasks that come with owning a house figuring we can burn a weekend doing that stuff and not piecemeal it over the rest of the summer.