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Thursday, May 16th 2013

3:27 PM

Headed to the Gateway Arch and Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour

 

My bud Lawrence belongs to an online motorcycle club for Honda VTX Riders and him and his some of his group had a trip planned to go up somewhere around Chicago. On his first leg of the trip between Rogers, AR and St. Louis, MO he would have to ride alone. The first person he was going to meet up with in the VTX Club lives in the St. Louis area. I thought what a good idea it would be to ride with him then split off and do my own thing (brewery tours and sampling the local food) when they headed for Chicago. I thought of the fact that I had never seen St Louis from the land - I’ve seen it several times from the Mississippi River when I was working on the tugboats quite a few years ago, but never from land.

We had planned to start out on Thursday even though the weather didn’t look very good. I got to his house a little early, expecting to have to wait a little bit for him to get ready, but low and behold he was sitting on his bike waiting for me. He must have been excited about going on this ride. We headed out to a local breakfast restaurant so we could stoke up and talk about what heading we were going to take.

I want to stop here for a moment and explain and talk a little bit about Lawrence.

Lawrence is a scrappy older man that, like me, loves to go on adventures. He owns a 1300cc Honda VTX that has almost every accessory known to man on it. He has custom saddle bags, a wide open faring, and an extreme amount of electronics on the handlebars and in the faring (Sirius radio, the weather channel, GPS, and more). He wears a sanctioned motorcycle suit with an awesome full-faced helmet with a retracting inside sun shield. It’s kind of like riding with Iron Man. Because of his vocation everybody calls him ‘Doc’ so I’ll call him Doc from this point on.

We ate a small breakfast and headed out into a sky full of low-hanging clouds. It wasn’t raining at this point and my hope and desire was that we would ride out of it as we headed north. Much to my chagrin it caught up with us before we got to Joplin. Doc flashed his lights at me and took off really fast for the nearest overpass so we could get out of the rain and put our rain gear on. So we struggled for about 10 minutes pulling our rain gear on and removing electronic devices to dry places. By the time we pulled out from underneath the overpass the rain had stopped. I decided to keep going with the Rain gear on for approximately the next 150 miles, even though I wanted to take it off right then.

We hit Joplin and the I-44 jog to the East at the exact time that people were headed to work – somewhat of a harrowing experience until we got out of the Joplin area. The clouds began to rise but it was still overcast. Of course, the highway was very straight and somewhat boring.

We came through Springfield and decided to take an early lunch. We stopped in at a sandwich place where we met some interesting people. We couldn’t talk with them for very long because Doc wanted to get back on the road.

As we got closer and closer to St Louis I started seeing  mileage signs telling us how close we were getting. The closer we got the more excited I got. Doc was a real trooper and stayed right behind me the whole way. It comforted me to be able to see him in my rear view mirror all the way. I’d ride with Doc any time.

As we got real close to St Louis we spied the Gateway Arch rising above the skyline. By this time the sun had peaked out and it was starting to get a little steamy. The first place we went to in St Louis was the Gateway Arch to observe it and take pictures. What a pleasant place to hang out. Underneath the Arch was a nice and very informative museum that I especially liked. The only problem was security at the museum where they had metal detectors. I carry so much hardware all the time that I set them all off. I thought I was going to get strip-searched before I could get in.

We went back to the parking garage and got on our bikes and attempted to cross the river. The Highway Department, bless their hearts, is doing highway and bridge construction everywhere, which brought traffic headed across the Mississippi River Bridge to a standstill. By that time it was starting to get real warm and we were baking in our helmets.

We got to Collinsville, IL (a suburb of St Louis) where we were to meet up with Docs friend. He was still at work so we decided to check out the local pubs on Main Street. We found out for most of the local population, other than watching Cardinal baseball, this is the thing to do.  It reminded me much of the ‘Cheers’ TV show set in a Boston Bar where everybody knows your name. I half expected to see Sam Malone (the bar tender on Cheers) behind the bar slinging beers.

We finally met up with Docs friend who I found out right away was an extreme Grateful Dead fan. He saw my Grateful Dead ‘steely’ skull on the side covers of my motorcycle and said “We’re gonna get along real good.” His girlfriend (whose house we stayed at) had cooked up some pulled pork barbecue in the crock pot that was hot, steaming, and ready for us.

After dinner we retired to the back yard and listened to many songs that his friend had recorded from concerts: The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and a fantastic guitarist that I can’t remember his name.

Note to self: I must get the recording of that guitarist. I had never seen him before and he was the best guitarist I had ever heard.

After some shut-eye we got up and they were going to head East and North and I was going to head back across the Mississippi River into St. Lous.

I made a bee-line for the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. When I found it I had to try out my new tripod, taking pictures of myself in front of the brewery. Thinking to myself “What an odd thing to be doing,” but I guess I’ll get used to it.

Everyone working at the brewery was very nice and very informative. I tried to get perspective pics of the different areas of this sprawling brewery. One thing that caught my attention was the bottling plant area that was fully automated. It was so amazing to me to see that many bottles and cans of beer with no humans around … amazing. (Check out the pictures in my photo album.)

I loved seeing the Clydesdale horses but we were kept several feet away for their protection (and ours) but I could still feel the awesome power of these animals while in their presence.

At the end of the tour we went to the sampling room and I enjoyed immensely sampling Anheuser-Bush’s latest creations. A special ‘Thank You’ to our tour guide, Scott. He was extremely knowledgeable (sorry for asking so many questions, Scott).

As I came back out into the main hall I noticed banners in the arched ceiling area of the huge welcome center with flags representing the different nations where Anheuser-Bush sells their products. I noticed that opposite the flag banners in this expansive ceiling area they had large mirrors hanging at different facets that reflected back the banners with the flags, creating a surreal image that I really thought was interesting. (Again, check out the pictures.)

I left the Brewery and asked some locals what would be a good local eatery to try while I was in St. Louis. Everyone pointed me to Pappy’s Barbecue which is in the downtown area. Because of the road construction that was going on I had to take a roundabout way to get there and at one point got lost. There was a very nice lady walking across the street that I stopped to ask for directions. As she was giving me the directions I noticed this building with a wonderful aged patina across from us and said to myself, “Self, you’ve got to get a couple of pictures of that.”

I finally found Pappy’s Barbecue and much to my disappointment there was a line out the door and halfway down the street – usually denoting that it’s a very good place to eat. I finally made it through the line and got their daily special, a smoked pulled-pork sandwich. It was delightful. Waiting in that long line delayed me leaving St. Louis so I was starting my trip back to my neck of the woods later than I had planned.

I had planned to take the scenic routes back but time was catching up with me so I took off West on I-44 all the way to Rolla MO to Hwy 93. I got off the interstate thinking I would take at least part of a scenic route but I found Hwy 93 traffic at a complete standstill. I turned around and got back onto I-44 and went all the way to Springfield on it. By now the sun was starting to get low on the horizon and I didn’t want to take the chance of riding through forested areas at night where lots of deer and other animals tend to come out. So I decided to stop for the night at a little motel in Branson that I’ve stayed at before.

While in Branson for the evening I ate at Fuddruckers (a hamburger joint). We used to have a Fuddruckers in Rogers but they moved. They serve up a decent hamburger.

After getting a good night’s sleep I headed to The Outback Restaurant (not part of the Outback chain) where I got myself an awesome steak shish-kabob – best I’ve ever eaten. Then saddled up to head back onto the byway through the Mark Twain National Forest, a beautiful ride, down to Hwy 23 to Hwy 187 and across the one-lane suspension bridge at Beaver Town Arkansas. I stopped there for a few minutes, realizing how lucky I am to live in an area filled with such beautiful scenery.  I took Hwy 62 into Eureka then caught Hwy 23 south down to Hwy 127 over to Hwy 12 and back into town and home. Another great ride in my memorable adventures.

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