This is a multi-part trip report. If you haven’t already, you should start at the beginning. Remember that you can click on any of the photos to see larger versions of them.
Bryan and I wake up this morning to find the note Mandy’s left on her bed: Super hungry, took a key, going to eat waffles. We join her downstairs and stuff ourselves with fruit and waffles and yogurt and more waffles, then go back to bed and doze until ten. We leave our bikes in a storage room at the hotel and checked out. After another Metrolink ride, a tour of the old Union Station, and a lunch of bad Chinese food, we walk to City Museum.
This place is incredible. AMAZING. They’ve used salvaged junk from all over the city – architectural odds and ends and pipes and rollers and industrial doodads and musical instruments and tile and marbles. There are beautiful undulating metallic walls made out of cafeteria pans. There are concrete dragons and fish and tunnels and crawlways and metal mesh tubes that connect one story to another. You can disappear into the space inside a fish’s mouth and come out in a crawlway on top of a sort of cask and then find yourself under the floor of another level, next to a train, and then you’re coming out of a metal web on your head onto a floor made of tiles that look like the back of a turtle. I put three new holes in my shirt.
There’s also a whole section devoted to the Chicago school of architecture, with lots and lots of pieces of cast concrete and iron from old buildings, all displayed on plain scaffolding. There’s stained glass, and a whole room of ornate and beautiful doorknobs, organized according to their symmetry. There are heavy gold-colored vault doors saved from some ancient St. Louis bank.
And you can touch things – run your hand along the brow of a gargoyle, touch the lion’s mane, feel the cool metal of the cast iron snowflakes saved from a demolished building. And then there’s a skate park kind of thing, and the world’s largest pencil, and a pipe organ, and a ten story slide that apparently used to be a garbage chute (which removed skin from my back and my left elbow).
Outside, there’s a giant play structure built on cranes and part of a fire engine and some scaffolding. There’s a wadded-up mass of wrinkle-tin pipe painted red, partly, and decorated with teal-green ball things.
There are two gutted airplanes sort of perched on top, and a web of metal rings and doodads connects everything with crawlways and stairs. The whole place is historical visual manic art cacophony. It’s absolutely freaking incredible.
We leave City Museum in a little hurry, since Mandy wants to go up into the arch. She’s upset about something someone had said to her just before leaving the museum, and I have a feeling food will help, so we stop at Hardee’s on the long walk to the Arch. She ate a whole 1/3 pound cheeseburger in about two blocks, and we buy her an arch Tram ticket and sent her up.
An hour later, Bryan and I have walked through the museum, visited the gift shop, and are starting to realize that we’ve made an error in planning. We’d thought we could get back to our hotel in about an hour, and then to the Amtrak station in another hour … but we’ve left ourselves no time to box our bikes and check our baggage before boarding our 8pm train.
And Mandy still isn’t down from the arch. She walks out at 6:15 and we hustled across the park to the Laclede Landing Metrolink station. We ride across town, trot the mile and a half across Forest Park, and grab our bikes out of storage at the hotel. We fly messenger-style through the streets to get back to the park – taking lanes, blowing red lights and stop signs – and get back to the Metrolink station with three minutes to catch our breath before the next train. We made it to the Amtrak station at 7:30 exactly, in just about half the time we’d expected that trip to take. And with a half hour before the train boards. We feel strangely victorious.
I negotiate with the ticket woman for some bike boxes while Mandy and Bryan start tearing down the bikes for the trip. We’d made it in time to get back to little Rock tonight, but our baggage hadn’t. Our bikes will have to get home on tomorrow’s train. I put the boxes together (I’m good with tape) while Bryan and Mandy box the bikes, and we repack just a bit so that we can carry all our bags on. We’re in line to get on the train at two minutes until eight.
I’m coughing so hard when I get to my seat that I have to explain to the little girl across the aisle that I’m not contagious – I’m just hurrying. Bryan and Mandy sit together on the ride home, snuggled up and sleeping. I sit between a grandpa from Texas and his two little granddaughters, who chatter away until bedtime. And I drift off to sleep again on the train, headed home from another good trip.