Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

We’re camped in St. Simon, Missouri, about a 20 mile drive to St. Louis.  On Tuesday we drove into town to see the Gateway Arch.  They were doing a lot of road work and for this reason the usual directions to it didn’t work.  It took us a while to get next to it and then to find parking and then to walk over to it.

The Arch is right next to the Mississippi River and is very dramatic.  We first came up to it from the northern side (after huffing and puffing to get Susan’s wheelchair up a very steep hill on a cobblestone road).

It was more dramatic up close.

And dramatic looking up from the center towards the sky.

The visitor center was undergoing renovation and the museum associated with the Gateway Arch was closed so other than walking around and under the arch there wasn’t much for us to do.  There is an observation deck across the top of the arch and a tram/elevator that gets you there.  Neither Susan nor I are terribly fond of heights so we turned that down.

Despite the fact that there were ramps down to the waterfront I’d have to give it a C- at best for handicap accessibility.  The ramps were steep and there were no pauses along the way. Without assistance there’s no way that anybody in a wheelchair could get from the waterfront to the Arch by themselves.  Ditto on getting down.  Because of the renovations there were no restrooms, only porta potties, and there was at least one handicap accessible one, so I’ll give them some kudos for that.

The Gateway arch is very dramatic and worth a visit if you’re in the area.  Once the renovations are done it’ll probably be worth a visit even more.  We’re not sorry we went and I certainly got my share of exercise for the day getting Susan to and from it.  One recommendation is to locate the Gateway Arch on a map first so you have a good idea where you’re going and not to depend so much on the signage since the signage is misleading.

I will also add that we saw this sign several times while driving and trying to find the base of the Gateway Arch.

We didn’t actually see anybody “aggressively begging” in St. Louis while we were driving through it, but this is a phenomenon we see all over the country (although more in the southern cities in the winter than otherwise).  During the winter In Tucson it’s hard to drive any distance without seeing somebody or several somebodies at an intersection with signs asking for money.  I can’t say whether there really are more people who are truly down and out or whether this has become an accepted a way for some of them to eke out a living.

I’ve had mixed experiences with this.  In particular when commuting in Boston there were several “beggars” who had staked out their particular territories and I remember one who “owned” a spot in the Back Bay T station pulling out his IPhone once and chatting with somebody about his weekend party plans.  A nurse friend of ours who worked with the disadvantaged in San Francisco said that 95% of the men and 90% of the women panhandling have a drug habit and whatever you give them goes to support that habit.  I can’t say whether or not that’s true, although it’s certainly plausible, but I will say that if and when a person drops off the financial edge into poverty and homelessness for whatever reason there is no easy way back.  I don’t have any kind of an answer for this phenomenon and can only comment that it appears to be occurring across the country in all of the cities that we’ve visited.


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