Our Lewis and Clark Journal – Day 9
Day 9: St. Louis, Missouri and the Gateway to the West [August 4]
We were up a 4:30 today to leave for the airport, flying from Louisville to Minneapolis, and from Minneapolis to St. Louis. The best part of flying into St. Louis was sitting near folks from Alton, Illinois. Through our window, August and I were able to follow the Mississippi River south until we could make out the Illinois River. Just after these two flowed together we saw the mouth of the Missouri, the river we will follow for the next several weeks, opening into the Mighty Mississippi. I have read that after the Missouri and the Mississippi meet they flow side by side for 70 miles before their waters begin the mingle. The view from the sky was amazing, and prepared us for the trip we were about to embark on. This view is something Lewis and Clark could only imagine.
We arrived at our hotel, the Drury Inn, right next to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park. We have only positive things to say about the hotel. Free breakfast, free dinner, free drinks, free long distance, and free parking. We took full advantage of everything. And kudos to Noelle for finding the hotel! In the front lobby was a life-size diorama of the central characters: Clark (seated), Lewis (standing), Sacagawea (standing, with Jean-Baptiste on her back), York (with rifle) and Seaman (Lewis’ dog). August said that the flowing water was Great Falls, Montana; and there is wildlife outside this picture frame. I’m sure we were not supposed to climb on the display, but August returned again and again to literally place himself in the story we were about to live out ourselves.
While Noelle took some time to write in a quiet place, August and I played catch on the green down by the river, listened to live Dixieland from the riverboat, timed the helicopter tours, explored the museum of national expansion and took the tram to the top of the St. Louis arch. As August put his head down in my lap I recalled that the last time I was here was about ten years ago with my own dad, (my dad died the following year, before August was born), and I quietly & joyfully cried.
This was a day with many highlights (a sign of things to come); but topping them all was sitting with August for the large screen film under the arch (Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West, narrated by Jeff Bridges). We had, of course, both seen the film before. But with August curled up on my shoulder and whispering commentary to me throughout, he demonstrated how much he has been paying attention over the last nine months as I researched this trip and U.S. history from 1754 – 1848. He has his own favorite stories, different interpretations, and might-have-beens concerning this expedition. He is really “here” and is fully engaged by the history.
Words cannot express the love and pride I felt this day. I will be blown away again and again over the next few weeks at the profound imagination my child has developed for our nation, for native peoples, and for the great outdoors – all the while complaining about forced marches, fatigue, and being expected to “learn things” he already knew. (He is, after all, seven years old.) But this is truly the trip of a lifetime.
See: Lewis and Clark: The Journey West, narrated by Jeff Bridges. (This is the film shown on the on screen in the Jefferson National Expansion Park, under the arch).