It’s been about ten days since Coachese, our seemingly doomed Winnebago, crapped out on us in St. Louis. At that point, he had literally millions of mechanic’s hours, buckets of sweat and tears, and actual American Dollars in him. On the other hand, we had several days worth of fond memories of camping in him. So when the good people at this latest shop gave us the bad news and asked us to think seriously about what we wanted to do about him, we did. For like 5 minutes. Then we told them not to give up. This might be like calling in the transplant team for your 99 year old grandma, but there it is. No question, he will ride again.
In the meantime, we loaded some of our stuff into big, blue Ikea bags, rented a car and headed off to yet another airbnb, because money is clearly no object for ballers like us. To be honest, we were all pretty much over this whole experience. We were feeling defeated. We suspect Frances doesn’t even remember St. John. We were burnt on the midwest. We debated going home for a week while Coachese was in surgery, but ultimately, that didn’t really make sense. Plus, I had serious doubts we’d actually come back.
To pull ourselves out of our depression, we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into our area of greatest expertise: recreation. We decided to treat St. Louis like we were actually here on purpose. Here’s what we’ve been up to for the last ten days:
The Arch. It seems kind of dumb and it’s hard to accurately describe, but if you find yourself with a day in St. Louis you definitely have to go. See the movie in the visitor center before you go up. Really. It’s a piece of late sixties gold, like an episode of Quincy, but it also puts the whole thing in context. Possibly the whole city. Plus, you go up in these crazy little Buck Rogers elevator cars. It’s surreal.
The World Chess Hall of Fame. Not even kidding. It was in the first neighborhood we stayed in (Central West End), so we just walked over. We don’t play chess, but the museum is totally worth a stop if you have some time to kill. They had an exhibition of paintings inspired by the chess games of Marcel Duchamp. I still have no idea how to play chess but it’s always cool to see a bunch of people so into one thing.
St. Louis Art Museum. Good times. And free! They have a huge Max Beckmann collection, it turns out. Now we’re big fans. Beckmann, who knew?
Cahokia Mounds State Park. Do you guys know about the Mound cultures of the midwest? I’m not going to explain it all here but it’s basically like our version of the Aztecs. That neither of us ever learned about in school. Definitely look it up. There are sites throughout the midwest, but this one was especially cool because you can actually go up on the mounds and really see how it was all laid out 1,000 years ago. Also the visitor center is kind of incredible. Not that much science in there (think 4th grade field trip) but their life-size diorama game is top notch. World Class.
We stumbled on an outdoor movie at White Flag Projects. They were showing A Film To Be Determined by Cindy Sherman. They basically have a series over the summer where a different artist will pick a movie and they screen it outside for free with free refreshments. Stellar. The catch is they don’t tell you what the movie is, just the artist who picked it. Then attendees are sworn to secrecy about what the movie was.We love Cindy Sherman and we absolutely loved the movie. If you ever find yourself here, maybe check them out to see what’s going on.
The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion. No idea what that is? We didn’t either. We moved to a new neighborhood, Cherokee Street, a few days ago and we were out walking the dogs when we saw this sign saying there were tours available at The Chatillon-DeMenil House. When we went over to see what was what, the guy working there said there was a tour starting and he would watch our dogs for us on the porch. What??? Are you kidding??? Our tour guide was fantastic. He was one of those guys who was so into what he was doing that it was absolutely impossible not to be interested. We got the whole history of the city in this one tour. It’s so much cooler than it sounds. Also, the dogs had a blast. $8 well-spent.
The St. Louis World’s Fare in Forest Park. There was a World’s Fair here in 1904 and it was a really big deal. Turns out we were here for the annual celebration they have on the old fairgrounds which is now a beautiful city park. We’ve both been World’s Fair geeks since reading Devil in a White City, which is a true story about a serial killer operating in and around the 1893 Chicago World Fair. So this was right up our alley. Lots of food, lots of beer, lots of art, some amateur bellydancing, a cook-off and eight million dogs. What more could we want? It was fantastic. The pups had The World’s Greatest Day.
Laumeier Sculpture Park. We drove out to this place because we were looking for a dog-friendly way to spend the day. This totally exceeded our expectations. They have acres of paths with tons of sculptures, including a huge eyeball which everyone enjoyed. They also have bathrooms, water fountains, shady spots. Everything you need for an afternoon with canine art-lovers. Totally free.
And, finally, The Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour. To be honest, the only reason this was even on our radar was we heard St. Louis sits atop this huge network of caves which is why beer brewing really took off here. I’m not talking about the 47 million craft breweries you can find in every American city these days. I’m talking about the German immigrants who needed cool temperatures to make the beer they missed from home. In the pre-refrigeration days, caves were key. Kind of fascinating, right? So, we bit the bullet and headed over not quite sure what to expect.
They have a few different tours that range from totally free to really cheap. We’re fairly dorky and picked the history one, so of course we were the only ones in our group. This happens to us a lot. We basically spent almost two hours with a personal guide walking around the historic Budweiser campus drinking beer and meeting Clydesdales (in their incredible barn which is itself a National Landmark). The brewery has been in continuous operation since the late 1800’s and the heft of that was actually pretty mind-blowing. Oh, and the Beechwood Aging is a real thing. We saw it. Warning: there may be a lot of Budweiser propaganda on this tour. I mean, there must be- it’s now my favorite beer.
So, if you’re ever stranded in St. Louis with two dogs, there’s some stuff to check out. We’ve had a surprisingly solid experience here. It’s a good town, but we’re very ready to get back on the road. We’re hoping to get Coachese back today or tomorrow, but who knows?