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bert goes to St Louis and gets all touristy - Trip Report


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so every year, my spouse and I try to do a trip together to someplace we've never been.

 

it's always a fun adventure, and if you've read my TRs in the past, you know we try to mix in a lot of culture with our fun, even if it's a quick trip

(I never have a lot of vacation time for "our" trips, since I do a lot of solo things - mainly Dragon*con in Atlanta, but also other solo trips - that eat up all my vacation days).

 

last year, we did a 3 day visit to Niagara Falls - and had a blast. This year we bounced around a few ideas, and tho Dollywood/Branson/the Smokies will happen some day, I only have so much vacation time . . so we settled on a trip to St Louis to experience the Arch. Something neither of us had ever seen, and always wanted to.

 

so after planning it out, we got up early - like 2:30 am early - to head to the airport for our 2019 adventure.

 

it will likely take me a week or more (at least), to get the days up, since I took a lot of pics . . . and you may have noticed I tend to get overly detailed and type a lot.

 

But wanted to at least get the TR started, so I can tell what I'll be posting.

 

on this 4 day trip, we went to:

 

-- St Louis Zoo

-- St Louis Museum of Art

-- the Old Courthouse (site of Dred Scott case)

-- the Gateway Arch National Park

-- the City Museum

-- Six Flags St Louis

&

-- Grant's Farm

 

every one of them was excellent and can't wait to share my pics/stories from each stop.

 

oh, and we had GORGEOUS weather, for all 4 days - our trip weather mojo working in full effect. yep, it had been pouring for weeks, and the rivers and large portions of the area were flooded (which meant cancellation of our Riverboat ride, but what can you do? nature) - but from the moment we stepped out of the airport, until the moment we flew back home yesterday? beautiful weather in St. Louis, and perfect for all of our sightseeing.

 

will try to get up the first part in the next couple of days! -- have to start typing up, and get the photos downloaded from the phone.

 

I tell you, only 2 days off of work (with the weekend, 4 days total), but still got creamed today with action items .. so didn't even get to upload pics today!

 

one "funny" thing to note - I purposely planned this trip on a weekend the Cardinals were out of town, since we were staying in downtown St. Louis. Right by the convention center/Gateway Arch National Park/Stadiums.

so what happened while we were there? Yep, the St. Louis Blues (who were ranked last in the league back in Feb), ended up in the Stanley Cup playoffs - with game 6, that could win it all for them, happening on Sunday night. oy.

 

yep, downtown was NUTS, with "Blues" parties everywhere, and our hotel actually ended up being the home base for the news organizations that were covering the playoffs! LOL. . .it was noisy until about 11pm, when it was obvious the Blues weren't gonna win, and the series ended up tied 3-3 and going to game 7 to decide on Wednesday night.

 

I mean, because they didn't win, we weren't kept up all night with the partying - the St. Louis folks LOVE their hockey (we had no idea). But it was funny to us.

 

anyways. . full TR starting soon.

 

bert

Edited by bert425
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Not sure what you're complaining about with the Blues fan crowds. I mean... there were only an estimated extra 40,000 people in our small downtown area...

 

I'm looking forward to an outsider's perspective. With our park not being a large draw, it's rare to hear about an outsider's detailed perspective.

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Day 1: part 1 St Louis Zoo

 

So we got up insanely early, and headed to the airport in Austin for our 5:30 am flight.

 

Because we were leaving so early on a Friday, the traffic was almost nothing so we made great time. Parking was a breeze at the airport.

Checking our bag, and Security were very fast too, since we were there before the morning rush of Business Travelers. Heck, we were actually at our gate by 4:15, a good 15 minutes before even the Coffee Stands / food stands in the Austin Airport were open.

 

Austin – Bergstrom is an International Airport, but if you have a flight before 4:30am, or arrive back post 10pm? Good luck finding anything open in the Airport – which is a shame, since the Austin airport is filled with local eateries / companies, and there really are some great options.

 

We flew Southwest - our preferred carrier for direct flights - and as is typical these days (especially with some other airlines cancelling flights due to the Boeing stuff), the flight was COMPLETELY full. At least we know the drill to check in 24 hours in advance, so we had our choice of seats as we were low B boarding numbers. Nick prefers window, and I get a little claustrophobic, so I like the aisle seat.

 

But as it was a full flight, we did end up with someone between us – who in addition to her huge bag, also had a small dog in a carrier that she put under the seat in front of her.

 

Side note: it’s been about 9 months since I’ve flown anywhere, but at that time there wasn’t this current thing that folks travel with animals in animal carry ons. Not only on our flight, but we saw TONS of small dogs in travel carriers in the St Louis airport upon arrival, as well as while waiting for our flight back. Is this the new trend?

 

Anyways, she was a nice enough center seat companion . . . although she kept opening up the carrier zipper while boarding, all the while saying “I’m not supposed to open it, but look how sweet he is!!!” Nick and I just rolled our eyes at each other behind her (she was leaning forward rubbing the dog’s head), and getting a little concerned when she turned to me and said “you’ll have to watch him when I get up to pee, which will be a lot”.

 

Turned out not to be an issue, as by the time the plane started to back away from the gate – literally 5 minute after she was telling me about how much she had to pee – she was out cold. And slept thru the 1:45 flight, only waking up long enough to shift over and fall asleep with her head leaning into Nick’s space, or into mine, or with her head lolling straight back in the chair. It was pretty odd, but gave me the impression there was some sort of “self-medicating” that had taken place prior to the flight .. as quickly as she was out.

 

At least we didn’t have to make conversation during the flight (and the dog stayed quiet the whole time too). . LOL

 

We arrived in St. Louis just after 7am and I was pleased to note how nice the weather was looking.

 

I hated booking a flight so early, but did so because: 1) it was a direct flight & 2) it would put us into town so early, we could spend the whole day at the Zoo and still make it check in by 4pm. My plan had been: pick up car rental, get to zoo by 9am opening, stay in zoo until at least 1 then head to Art Museum for a couple of hours, and head to hotel by 3:30. Backup plan for rain was to be Art Museum / Science Museum as they are both indoors. . but didn’t need it as the day was gorgeous.

 

We were able to quickly get our bag, and since so early, we stopped at the Info booth at the airport where a very nice gentleman pulled out a St Louis map (that included all the tourist areas), and gave me a quick tour of routes that would be good to use to get where we wanted to go. I had google mapped everything, and had the print outs with us, but I liked his map better. It was so easy to follow, and we made great use of it during our days in town.

 

We took the shuttle to the car rental (Dollar), and again the folks there were very nice and happy to see us – again no lines. . LOL, I guess flying early on a Friday is the way to avoid lines everywhere. He “liked” me so much, he offered me a Mini-van for only $55 a day “usually $105”. I told him no thanks, so he offered me a Sedan for $35 a day. Again, no thanks, the $24 a day car I had booked was just fine.

 

Ended up being more than fine – a Toyota Corolla that got fantastic gas mileage, as well as having a big enough trunk that we could easily lock the Suitcase & Carry on out of sight.

 

He wasn’t thrilled I didn’t upgrade, but handed over the keys and we were off to the zoo, with the map I had gotten from the information booth guy.

 

One thing we noticed while driving: not one cop spotted on Fri/Sat or Sun on the way to Six Flags. The only time we saw any police in St Louis was on Monday coming back from Grant’s Farm – and I think that was only because we were taking side streets and got a “tour” of some of the city neighborhoods. But on the main freeways? *everyone* was speeding, and we never saw any Police Cars.

 

Maybe they all just drive undercover cars? Not that it mattered, as *I*, of course, drove the speed limit.

 

Anyways.. . . . on to 1st batch of pictures:

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St Louis, I am in you!

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we're looking pretty perky considering how early we had gotten up (with only a few hours sleep). . and considering how long this 1st day was gonna be.

 

but I think that's the Spirit of St Louis (or at least a replica, since the original is at the Smithsonian), so of course we stopped to take a pic.

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we got to the zoo about 30 minutes before opening, but that was fine as it allowed us to get some great parking near the entrance, as well as to take our time looking at all the great sculptures scattered around the South Entrance to the Zoo (the North Entrance is facing the interior of Forest Park).

 

Parking was $15, but once we parked at the zoo, we left the car there when we went over to the Art Museum later.

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this sculpture is a lioness carrying one of her cubs. . . but from the angle Nick too the picture? I think it looks like a lion carrying a warthog's severed head !

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multiple sculptures all around the entrance to the Zoo, here in the parking lot, and also across the bridge toward the entrance gates.

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said bridge, over the road.

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Chronologically, we're 112 years old together.

 

mentally? we're maybe 12 total? :p

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on the zoo side now, looking back at the bridge.

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what's great about the attractions in Forest Park, and many of the attractions in St Louis, is that they are all free. The only cost is the parking. So the Zoo, the Art Museum, the Science Museum were all free admission, and you only pay for any "upgrade" or special attractions you want to do.

 

in the zoo, I/We absolutely wanted to do the Train and the Carousel they have on site, and I had just planned to buy tickets for those - but the zoo ambassador out front did a fantastic job of upselling us to the Adventure Pass - which at $14 was only $2 more than it would have cost us for just the train & carousel.

 

Instead, with Adventure Pass wristband, we got unlimited rides on both, plus the Sea Lion show, an opportunity to touch stingrays/sharks, and a 4D film (which we didn't bother with, as it was themed to the movie "Smallfoot", so we had no interest). A great deal.

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Nick attempting to "kiss the cobra"

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we're now inside the zoo, and we headed directly for the train, to take a lap around the zoo and get the layout.

and to experience the train, which several folks has told us "DO NOT MISS"

 

because we had gotten there right at opening, the train wasn't quite ready yet, so we hung out near the "River's Edge" section station, and took some pics.

 

Granted, it was helped by all the rain the city had been getting, but the grounds of the St Louis Zoo are SO lush. Just beautiful.

 

the "River's Edge" section is the only portion of the zoo we didn't end up going thru - not that we woudln't have minded seeing the animals over there (even tho we'd seen them before at other zoos, or at Busch Gardens' parks). . but because this one section is heavily themed with winding, uneven paths and hills - and Nick had left his cane in the car, thinking the zoo would be mainly flat. I had MADE him take his cane on the trip, and he begrudgingly agreed to make me happy.

 

He didn't want to go back to the car and get it, and since we had seen all of the animals featured in this section, I was fine to bypass it, and focus on the rest of the zoo.

 

Spoiler, all the walking this first day really did a number on him, and by the late afternoon he was using the cane, and used it heavily for the rest of the trip.

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these shots are from the first few hundred feet of the River's Edge section.

 

it really is lovely. .but honestly, the whole zoo is amazing. I think it might be my favorite zoo I've ever been to, knocking San Diego out of my top spot.

 

yes, I loved it that much.

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River's Edge waterfall

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and with the tooting of the train horn in the distance, we knew it was time to get a ride on the train so we went back to the station (about 9:15 am).

 

We were the only ones in line at this station -- something that would change in just a couple of hours, when they went from just 1 train to 3, and every station would have full queue lines.

(but with the 3 trains on the tracks, the afternoon lines still went pretty fast)

 

so the Station Engineer posed with me

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as did the Train Conductor who came over to say hello to us, as we were joining his train at this stop.

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wood seats, but an absolutely lovely train. that makes a nice long loop around the zoo, and you can see some of the exhibits from the train only (or better from the train).

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and here it is. . the back side of water! (that's the South Entrance to the zoo out there)

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a view from the train across the lagoon, looking towards the South Entrance

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take the tunnel !

 

there are 3 tunnels on this train (I think) . . several of them very long. So damn neat.

 

and like at a theme park train tunnel, everyone hooted and hollared when the train went thru the tunnels.

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at the train station, you get an amazing view of the Tigers.

 

(yes, this is while we are on the train letting people get on from this station)

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we rode completely around the park, then stayed on the train to go back to the station over in "the Wild" area.

 

why?

 

because that's where the Zoo's "Conservation Carousel" is of course!

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we passed another train getting ready to be added to the tracks on our trip around the 2nd time.

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for Larry - if he wanted a ride sign :)

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this tall guy squeezed onto this tiny puffin, cracked me up.

 

(but i got a chance to ride it later in the day too :) )

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just beautiful.

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yep.. . . everywhere you look. . beautiful

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This is an absolutely stellar Carousel.

 

yes, it's themed to animals/conservation, so no standard horses or chariots here . . but they are taking incredible care of it (a couple of animals were "missing" and the operator told me they cycle them off occasionally to rehab them).

 

the array of animals to choose from is among the best I've ever seen, with some gorgeous painting all over it - interior panels, exterior panels, all over this carousel is just some fantastic artwork depicting animals. Most of the animals are "sponsored" with plaques under them, and all of them have the name of the animal on the wooden beams overhead. so it's a learning experience at the same time as a beautiful carousel running a nice long program.

 

I *loved* this thing, and we rode it multiple times, including back to back after our 1st ride (got off and immediately got back in line).

 

if I had to say one negative thing about it? the lack of classic carousel music.

yes, they were playing some music thru speakers, but it was all more modern songs, mainly with "animal" themes. I mean, I get it . . . . but still wish it had Carousel music.

 

Still loved it tho, and it made my top 3 favorite carousels.

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technically, according to the wooden beam above, I was riding a constrictor snake. . .but c'mon.

 

I was riding a Log.

 

and I loved it.

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Nick rode a hippo

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I love my log.

 

I wanted to carry it around with me all day, like the Twin Peaks lady.

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beautiful

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the view from my log. . .

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after we got back in line, for our 2nd ride. . . I chose to ride:

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a Silverback Gorilla.

 

while Nick rode a Black Leopard.

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I thought it was a Panther.

 

but nope. . the wood don't lie !

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hey.. .they have a b-unny here too! (the b_unny is "my" ride at SFFT Grand Carousel). But with so many options here, I had to play the field a little bit!

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they even have a sea lion and her pups as an option to ride.

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We took a break to eat something, as it was already 10:30 and we hadn't eaten anything yet since getting up that morning.

 

I know it was ~10:30 by now, because we had decided that we'd catch the 11am Sea Lion show (it was included with our adventure bands), and then after that start exploring the animal exhibits.

 

we weren't super hungry, so ended up at Carousel Cafe, which overlooks the lake across from the carousel - a lake full of ducks and flamingos. Very pretty.

 

we had pretzel wrapped turkey and cheese - it was an "almost as good as Busch Gardens Pretzel stand" snack.

 

 

more zoo pics in next post.

Edited by bert425
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zoo pics continued:

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We've arrived for the Sea Lion show - yes, they do "tricks" but there is a lot of education mixed in as well, so really appreciated that.

 

it looks a bit empty, but it would fill in as the show got ready to start.

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see? more people!

 

and the sea lions get pretty close to the crowd.

 

at one point, the trainer gives the sea lion a frisbee in the water, and it flings it into the crowd (and these people almost killed each other trying to snag it for one of their children. . . I dunno, I just imagine after a couple of hours (and in a hot car), that ain't gonna smell too great, since it comes out of the water - not to mention a sea lion's mouth.

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I'd recommend stopping in to see this if you are at the zoo.

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they are loud too. . and funny. Yes, I realize it's training, but still pretty impressive to watch.

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after the show, you can hang around and take a picture with the sea lions.

 

(not sure if they charge for them,but assume if you get the professional photog they do, since they had that set up for petting the stingrays). We actually intended to stay, but then forgot, and when we noticed they were out for pics with the audience, we were already up the hill behind the show stadium (the area IS called "Historic Hill") headed toward the Herpetarium for the snakes, and I wasn't about to ask Nick to go back down the hill just to get a pic closer to the sea lions. . since I had already taken a bunch during the show.

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Giant tortoises!

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they were moving. Slooooooowly. . but moving :)

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this guy was just pretending to be a rock tho.

 

probably hoping someone would come along and step on him so he could bite em!

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ssssssssssssssssss

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It was humid in here (of course), and there were TONS of school groups (or maybe daycamp groups) as it was Friday late morning already. .but the amount of unique reptiles in here made it well worth going into the building.

 

same true of the monkey house next door too. . which not only was humid and crowded, but had that distinct monkey odor. still worth going in tho.

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I felt like doing what these dudes wee doing - just climbing on top of someone and taking a quick nap.

 

but I was still pretty perky.

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just chillin on a rock, by a cactus.

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you can really tell this is an historic zoo, just from the impressive architecture and reliefs all over the place.

 

this is inside the Herpetarium

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this snake is horny !

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and this guy was attracted to the lights coming from above.

 

he was striking at the lamp covering .

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the zoo really is so lovely, you forget you're in the middle of a city. (and actually, it's not just the zoo that's this nice - the whole park is beautiful).

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in the monkey house, looking at lemurs.

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um. . it depends on what angle you are standing at when you first see this statue outside the monkeyhouse. . but um. . .yeah, made us do a double take.

 

LOL

 

they are building a new play area to be more interactive with the monkeys, and honestly, I had such a great time at this zoo? I'm more than willing to come back next year for a weekend visit JUST to go to the zoo and Six Flags.

 

we shall see.

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Zebras (in the Red Rocks section of the zoo)

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and beautiful giraffes

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Don't remember what this guy is -- but it looks like a zebra got busy with a Giraffe!

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Nick was starting to fade, so he sat on a bench outside the "Worlds Fair 1904 Flight Cage" while I took a look at the birds

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absolutely LOVED the mosaic on the outside of this "flight Cage" attraction.

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the pictures really do not do it justice. This mosaic was incredible.

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the "Jungle of the Apes" Gorilla enclosure in "the Wild" section of the zoo

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3 different big guys, just hanging out enjoying the sunny day

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and then it was back to the Carousel for another ride.

 

Nick's legs were starting to give him trouble (we really should have gone back for his cane early in the day :(. . but he did well, just needed to rest a lot). . so he rode "bench", while I rode. . . .

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the PUFFIN!

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hehehe

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I was so proud that I fit on it :)

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We headed towards the North Zoo Entrance, as I still planned to go to the Art Museum, but hit all the animal exhibits along the way, including the polar bear.

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who was hanging out in the pool, since he's no fool, and the sun had come out to warm up the afternoon.

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so tho Nick's legs were acting up, I convinced him to come with me thru the Penguin & Puffin coast exhibit.

 

no ice in there, as SeaWorld Orlando has (the trainer I chatted with inside told me it was due to SWO having Emperor Penguins, so they need to keep it colder), but it was nice and chilly in the exhibit, and we spent a good 15 minutes enjoying watching the penguins (and talking to the trainer there).

 

She had to keep stopping our conversation to scold people who were reaching over the "do not put your hands in the water" sign, to dip their hands into the water (to see how cold it is, I guess).

 

sheesh. . I hate people sometimes.

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Penguins!

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just hanging out on rocks.

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and on the edge of rocks

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Puffins too!

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and then we went next door to the Grizzly Ridge area, where the two bears were having an absolute ball - playing with toys, and jumping in and out of the waterfall.

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the space is designed really, really well. . so folks visiting can get some great views of the bears from multiple angles.

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oh, and they have a big bear statue out front. . so of COURSE I had to get a pic with it.

 

doesn't help me to *not* want a pic, when the statue seems to be saying "guuuuurl"

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playing in the water

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this pic is actually out of order a little bit, as this is from when we came back from the Museum, and took the train around from the North Entrance to our car at the South Entrance.

 

but it's a zoo pic, so put it in this batch.

 

we're in the queue line waiting for our chance to board.. at this point they had multiple trains on the track, and the queue line was pretty long.

 

the line was long enough that we went a little past the Train Station, down to the Stingrays at Caribbean Cove to touch them and the small sharks before doubling back to the Train station to head to the hotel.

 

but that was not until after 3:30. . . for now, after the Bears? we were gonna head out the North Gate, and attempt the St. Louis Museum of Art.

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Hooray your TR has begun!! I knew you’d get it going quickly!

 

What a disappointment to hear that zoo carousel doesn’t play traditional music, which means no organ. But the various animals are absolutely fantastic on it so I guess it evens out. FYI the unidentified zebra-giraffe you photographed is an African animal called an Okapi.

 

 

The waterfalls and beautiful pathways all over the zoo are really incredible. I had no idea St. Louis had such a pretty zoo! Thanks for all the pics of it. I do love that mosaic mural. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

Edited by TBpony414
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Oh wow, looks like you guys had an amazing day! I'm definitely jealous. I haven't been to the St. Louis Zoo since I was a kid.... and right now I live about 1.5hrs from there and have done for 5 years and still haven't made it back there. It looks SO nice!

 

I'm really enjoying your TR; can't wait for the next entry!

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Hooray your TR has begun!! I knew you’d get it going quickly!

 

What a disappointment to hear that zoo carousel doesn’t play traditional music, which means no organ. But the various animals are absolutely fantastic on it so I guess it evens out. FYI the unidentified zebra-giraffe you photographed is an African animal called an Okapi.

 

 

The waterfalls and beautiful pathways all over the zoo are really incredible. I had no idea St. Louis had such a pretty zoo! Thanks for all the pics of it. I do love that mosaic mural. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

 

Okapi!

 

that's right. . .LOL.. now that you said it, I remember.

 

even with the no-traditional-music, the Carousel quickly made it into my top 3. It's just so lovely, I have probably a dozen more pics of it that I didn't post!

 

yeah, it's a huge, and really good zoo - with lots of semi-rare & rare animals. and it's FREE ! you could spend the whole day there and not ride the Carousel or Train (tho really, why would you do THAT), and not spend a penny other than parking - and there is free street parking by the Museum, so you could park there and walk over to the zoo.

 

but since the parking costs support the zoo, i didn't mind at all

 

but I loved the zoo so much, I really DO want to go back for a weekend next year just to do the zoo again, and six flags.

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Oh wow, looks like you guys had an amazing day! I'm definitely jealous. I haven't been to the St. Louis Zoo since I was a kid.... and right now I live about 1.5hrs from there and have done for 5 years and still haven't made it back there. It looks SO nice!

 

I'm really enjoying your TR; can't wait for the next entry!

 

thanks!

 

as noted to TBPony above, the zoo really is so good, that I totally want to go back to spend another full day, and really go thru the River's Edge Section, as well as spend a bunch of time in the Children's zoo area.

 

we avoided spending much time in there during our visit because there were just so many kids there.

 

don't get me wrong, I'm *thrilled* to see so many kids at a zoo (or a museum). . . it's great that they are experiencing these places. . . . LOL, but I don't wanna be in the Children's zoo area when it's so packed. ya know?

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Awesome! St. Louis Zoo is one of the very best zoos out there, and it's free! I love the sea lion show and the penguin/puffin exhibit. Glad you got to see both of those.

 

The zoo was actually built for the 1904 World's Fair, and the birdcage is part of the original fair zoo. It's a lovely and historical exhibit (and the inspiration for the pterasaur cage in Jurassic Park 3).

 

Forest Park itself originated as the 1904 fairgrounds. So you were at an amusement park (the remnants of one at least)!

Edited by ytterbiumanalyst
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Yeah, the corrugated metal tunnels. Eh, it beats walking. That zoo is enormous.

 

I didn't get a pic of it, but I do believe there was a mural on the wall of the longer tunnel too.

 

but not just because it beats walking! it's a TRAIN RIDE man!

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You actually don't have to pay for parking if you park along the roadway near the zoo.

 

Glad you had a good time. Our zoo has a pretty good reputation.

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^ I totally didn't mind, as I know it goes to support the zoo.

(and we knew that by parking in the zoo lot, we could stay there to visit the Museum too).

 

the info guy at the airport circled tons of free street parking within the park as well, so it's nice to have that option.

 

but since if we had parked on the street, we would have missed seeing all those sculptures around the South Lot/Bridge area (not to mention ability to get a pic of the concrete "zoo" sign?). . . yeah, didn't mind. especially since the zoo is free!

 

Free admission? don't get THAT in many other places!

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Great to read another trip report. Looks like fun so far.

 

You have a very understanding spouse! I made mine get up at 3am for a flight once and it wasn't pretty!! And we are both shift workers!

 

we had a fantastic time - tho it wouldn't be a vacation without a spat with the Spouse, right? (so we had a couple - including a doozy at the top of the Arch, LOL, but was all resolved by the time we were back down at the base of it )

 

Honestly tho: it's not that he's "understanding" - he wasn't thrilled about the early-early flight.

but after 15+ years, he knows just to let me plan, and just come along and we'll have a great time.

So he just goes with it - I know what he can handle - even if he doesn't think he can sometimes.

 

I'm a planner by definition (I schedule mfg test floors), and I'm pretty good at my job. . so he trusts me to plan.

 

and we managed to follow my plan - we usually do, which is why he let's me plan it out -- and we hit everything I had mapped out, and on schedule.

 

of course I had backup "bad weather" plans, but worked out we didn't' need em. We do tend to have pretty good weather mojo on trips. . not always, but usually.

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Day 1: part 1 St Louis Zoo

 

So we got up insanely early, and headed to the airport in Austin for our 5:30 am flight.

 

Because we were leaving so early on a Friday, the traffic was almost nothing so we made great time. Parking was a breeze at the airport.

Checking our bag, and Security were very fast too, since we were there before the morning rush of Business Travelers. Heck, we were actually at our gate by 4:15, a good 15 minutes before even the Coffee Stands / food stands in the Austin Airport were open.

 

Austin – Bergstrom is an International Airport, but if you have a flight before 4:30am, or arrive back post 10pm? Good luck finding anything open in the Airport – which is a shame, since the Austin airport is filled with local eateries / companies, and there really are some great options.

 

We flew Southwest - our preferred carrier for direct flights - and as is typical these days (especially with some other airlines cancelling flights due to the Boeing stuff), the flight was COMPLETELY full. At least we know the drill to check in 24 hours in advance, so we had our choice of seats as we were low B boarding numbers. Nick prefers window, and I get a little claustrophobic, so I like the aisle seat.

 

But as it was a full flight, we did end up with someone between us – who in addition to her huge bag, also had a small dog in a carrier that she put under the seat in front of her.

 

Side note: it’s been about 9 months since I’ve flown anywhere, but at that time there wasn’t this current thing that folks travel with animals in animal carry ons. Not only on our flight, but we saw TONS of small dogs in travel carriers in the St Louis airport upon arrival, as well as while waiting for our flight back. Is this the new trend?

 

Anyways, she was a nice enough center seat companion . . . although she kept opening up the carrier zipper while boarding, all the while saying “I’m not supposed to open it, but look how sweet he is!!!” Nick and I just rolled our eyes at each other behind her (she was leaning forward rubbing the dog’s head), and getting a little concerned when she turned to me and said “you’ll have to watch him when I get up to pee, which will be a lot”.

 

Turned out not to be an issue, as by the time the plane started to back away from the gate – literally 5 minute after she was telling me about how much she had to pee – she was out cold. And slept thru the 1:45 flight, only waking up long enough to shift over and fall asleep with her head leaning into Nick’s space, or into mine, or with her head lolling straight back in the chair. It was pretty odd, but gave me the impression there was some sort of “self-medicating” that had taken place prior to the flight .. as quickly as she was out.

 

At least we didn’t have to make conversation during the flight (and the dog stayed quiet the whole time too). . LOL

 

We arrived in St. Louis just after 7am and I was pleased to note how nice the weather was looking.

 

I hated booking a flight so early, but did so because: 1) it was a direct flight & 2) it would put us into town so early, we could spend the whole day at the Zoo and still make it check in by 4pm. My plan had been: pick up car rental, get to zoo by 9am opening, stay in zoo until at least 1 then head to Art Museum for a couple of hours, and head to hotel by 3:30. Backup plan for rain was to be Art Museum / Science Museum as they are both indoors. . but didn’t need it as the day was gorgeous.

 

We were able to quickly get our bag, and since so early, we stopped at the Info booth at the airport where a very nice gentleman pulled out a St Louis map (that included all the tourist areas), and gave me a quick tour of routes that would be good to use to get where we wanted to go. I had google mapped everything, and had the print outs with us, but I liked his map better. It was so easy to follow, and we made great use of it during our days in town.

 

We took the shuttle to the car rental (Dollar), and again the folks there were very nice and happy to see us – again no lines. . LOL, I guess flying early on a Friday is the way to avoid lines everywhere. He “liked” me so much, he offered me a Mini-van for only $55 a day “usually $105”. I told him no thanks, so he offered me a Sedan for $35 a day. Again, no thanks, the $24 a day car I had booked was just fine.

 

Ended up being more than fine – a Toyota Corolla that got fantastic gas mileage, as well as having a big enough trunk that we could easily lock the Suitcase & Carry on out of sight.

 

He wasn’t thrilled I didn’t upgrade, but handed over the keys and we were off to the zoo, with the map I had gotten from the information booth guy.

 

One thing we noticed while driving: not one cop spotted on Fri/Sat or Sun on the way to Six Flags. The only time we saw any police in St Louis was on Monday coming back from Grant’s Farm – and I think that was only because we were taking side streets and got a “tour” of some of the city neighborhoods. But on the main freeways? *everyone* was speeding, and we never saw any Police Cars.

 

Maybe they all just drive undercover cars? Not that it mattered, as *I*, of course, drove the speed limit.

 

Anyways.. . . . on to 1st batch of pictures:

 

As a person who's from St Louis I'll explain the lack of police. Some cops do drive undercover cars but even then unless you're driving very recklessly they for the most part won't pull you over for speeding unless the flow of traffic of drivers is the speed limit and you're going way above that. If everyone is speeding they go for the most dangerous drivers. Or if it's a major holiday they'll beef the patrolling all of the way up. Or any special events where a lot of people will be in one place they'll be patrolling that more (like the Stanley Cup event)

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Great report! I never thought I'd see a snake as an option for a carousel.

 

well, it IS a zoo Carousel, so the animal/reptile theme was expected.

 

but, it wasn't just a snake (two snakes actually).. but the fact I got to ride on a log!

 

was giggling like an idiot for most of the ride

 

 

 

As a person who's from St Louis I'll explain the lack of police. Some cops do drive undercover cars but even then unless you're driving very recklessly they for the most part won't pull you over for speeding unless the flow of traffic of drivers is the speed limit and you're going way above that. If everyone is speeding they go for the most dangerous drivers. Or if it's a major holiday they'll beef the patrolling all of the way up. Or any special events where a lot of people will be in one place they'll be patrolling that more (like the Stanley Cup event)

 

That makes sense, and is true here in Texas too. but one still sees tons of Police cars lining the toll ways (particularly in Houston).

 

so it was just really noticeable that we didn't see any police cars for days while in town.

 

but yeah, when *everyone* was speeding, it didnt' seem like anyone was going over the speed limit. Even tho everyone was (except for me, I went the speed limit just staying in the "slow" lane -- not gonna get a ticket when driving a rental car, ya know?)

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Day 1, Part II:

 

So after spending a good 4 1/2 hours in the Zoo, we headed to the North Gate – which is the gate that faces inwards to Forest Park. This gate looked more like a shopping mall than a zoo entrance, as it’s thru a big building complex, with classrooms, café, gift shop, and lots of administration offices.

 

I stopped at the desk on the lower level (wasn’t marked an information desk, but there was a lady sitting there in a blazer, so took a shot) and asked if the St Louis Art Museum was out this way? She told me yes, it’s right across the street. I asked if we’d be able to come back into the zoo to cut across for our parked car as long as we kept the Adventure Pass bands on, and she looked at me confused. Then reminded me the admission was free.

 

LOL. . I had forgotten! Such a great perk for the people of St. Louis.

 

So we headed out the complex which put us out onto the street, and we saw on the top of a hill on the left, the St. Louis Art Museum.

(we also saw several groups of “prophesying Jehovah's Witnesses” on all sides of the Zoo entrance – and we’d see similar groups the next day at the Gateway Arch National Park. Does St. Louis have a large Jehovah’s Witness population? Or just a very vocal smaller one?).

 

I knew there was a “trolly” in the park, operated by Metro, but didn’t see any trolly stop signs, and I knew that as it was Friday, it only ran every 30 minutes, and had an odd route that went all the way thru the park, rather than just to the Museums/Sights – something the weekend trolly does every 15 minutes on Sat/Sun.

 

Anyways I guess maybe the lady at the desk, WASN’T technically ”information” as she hadn’t actually told us how to *get* to the Museum that was up the hill. So as it was to the left, we took a slight left, looked for a path or something, and didn’t see any. The only path, was up towards the top of the hill going around what looked like the back of the Museum. Nick was getting really worn out, but said he was willing to try going up to the museum, so we shrugged and started trudging thru the grass up the hill, until we made it to that path around the back of the museum, and we followed that around to the front, where we went up the ramp access to the East Building.

 

the East building is a way more “modern” addition to the Main Museum building (a classic gorgeous building called “the Palace of Fine Arts” that was built in 1903).

 

the trudge up to the Museum really put the nail in Nick for a while, and he flat out told me he wasn’t going to be able to do anything in the Museum with me. That was OK, because really, he isn’t much of a Museum fan, and was only going there because he knew I wanted to see it. (if you recall our Philly trip from a few years ago, my agreement with him for that museum was that we could go to the “Rocky Statue” as long as he was willing to go into the museum at the top of the steps . . LOL. . so yeah, he’s not a big Museum person).

 

he insisted I should go check it out, and he would be fine. So I left him sitting on some couches near the Museum Gift shop, and I then spent the next ~1 ½ hours exploring the St Louis Art Museum (checking in on him via text to make sure he was doing OK).

 

I’m absolutely positive I did the museum a disservice by perusing it so “quickly”, but I was able to hit every available exhibition (the only one I skipped was a visiting exhibit by a British Sculptor whom I wasn’t familiar with, and only bypassed it - it was in the East building we had come in, and Nick was sitting literally steps from the entrance to it -- because it was an upcharge gallery. And of course, found out later that evening while perusing the “about St. Louis” magazine in the hotel room, that it would have been free to go in, as we visited the museum on “free Friday” Oh well).

 

While the museum is not the largest one I’ve ever been in (that would be either a Smithsonian, or the Field Museum in Chicago), they have a pretty stellar collection with works of art by: Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, Matisse, Chihuley, Ansel Adams, Degas, Cezanne, Gaudi, Tiffany & Co, Lichtenstein, Warhol, and many, many others. Perhaps not their best known works, but representations from them are present in the museum collection.

 

they also have a pretty extensive Mayan Pottery/ Art, as well as Religious artifacts collections.

 

I think my favorite floor was the 1st (you come in on 2nd floor, so down a level), where there were rooms full of Armor & weaponry from Medieval times, Ceramics from famous global companies, furniture/design, and multiple “complete” rooms – where the gallery was set up to mimic what a room in a home of the time period featured would look like.

 

I greatly enjoyed this Museum, and it’s well worth a stop, even if you only have 1-2 hours to explore, as I *was* able to walk thru every gallery, and stop to enjoy (and snap pictures) of things that I really was impressed by.

 

on to some pics:

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the view overlooking the park, from the East building entrance.

 

It's a lovely park. If able to make a trip back again for the zoo in the future, will certainly do the BoatHouse (was told by several the food there is amazing) as well as the Science Museum in the park.

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a Degas sculpture.

 

(the museum really wasn't dead, tho it wasn't slammed. . .I'm just pretty good at getting pics avoiding others in them :) ).

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an early Cezanne

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moving further into the "Main" museum from the East Wing. . . the central hall in the main lobby is really impressive.

 

what's going on over there on the lower left, is a mural that the museum is restoring in real time. It's on two giant scrolls, and each day the roll it over 1 inch or so, and then put a restorer in front of it (the area has "display" stanchions around it) and you can watch them clean/paint/restore this gigantic mural.

 

I suspect it's gonna take them years, as the restorer I watched is using a paintbrush about the size of a pin.

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stepping out the front steps of the museum to get a shot of the big statue in front.

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as mentioned, the museum has a fantastic collection of religious artifacts.

 

this Bronze & Marble piece was just stunning.

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as were these candlesticks & Altar.

 

the picture doesn't do it justice.

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I turned the corner into the Asian section and this immediately drew my eye (as did a budda statue behind me. .but I only took a picture of this).

 

turns out it's one of the museum's "prize" possessions, and a visitor favorite.

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pic taken on the balcony walkway over the main museum lobby on the 3rd floor.

 

there isn't much over on the Left side - it was a multimedia display film reel that i only briefly peeked into. . but worth going to it just to get this pic of the lobby.

 

you can see the restorer again on the lower right in this pic.

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big fan of Gaudi, and was thrilled to discover the Museum has one of his designed clocks on display

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also a big fan of Chihuley Glass, and even tho this isn't one of his more well known, or colorful pieces?

 

the way the blown glass undulates, it's just PERFECT in clear glass.

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Unfortunately this Tiffany & Co pitcher didn't photograph as lovely as it looked in person, with the light just brilliantly shining on the copper and silver.

 

there were several stained glass pieces in this gallery as well, but I don't believe any of them were Tiffany Glass, so didn't take any pics.

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from the Suits of Armor room downstairs. . . a pretty cool Swiss crossbow.

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and an Iron & Brass Mace

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Over in the Pop-Art Gallery, a Lichtenstein that's not using any colors other than Black & White.

 

but the movement just comes thru beautifully in this piece.

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also over here? a Warhol (again, with very muted colors, none of the neon colors he was working with just a little later in this period). . . .but hey, it's still a Warhol, so it's great they have one :)

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the Museum had little signs, such as this one, just randomly sprinkled thruout.

 

I saw some in stairwells, or back by a restroom fountain.

 

This one was by the Gift Shop, and spoke to me - so grabbed a pic of it.

 

Upon finishing my Tour of the Museum, I met up with Nick at the couches (and confirmed he had recovered a bit).

I asked at the info desk in the museum about the Trolley to get back to the zoo entrance, despite that it would go all the way around the park before coming back to the zoo. .. but I didn’t want to make him walk.

 

The info desk pointed us to the street out front, and told us to take a right and we’d find the stop down a bit.

*BUT* we discovered that *that* street, would come to the cross street that ran in front of the zoo, just to the right of where we had exited from the zoo in the first place.

 

Yep, if the lady at the zoo counter had told us to take a right upon exiting the zoo? (even tho the Museum is on the left), we would have rather quickly come to the street that would have led us up to the Museum (sidewalk). Oh well, the route we had taken was at least more direct, even tho we ended up walking up a hill in a field, LOL.

 

 

I looked down the street and saw the stop, down the hill – at which point we’d be almost back to the zoo anyways. Nick said that he thought he’d be ok, having rested for a while, and because it was all downhill anyways, he’d give it a shot.

 

we made it back to the Zoo entrance with no issue (and thank goodness for the Shakespeare in the Park, which had already set up the Portolets for the next day’s performance. .so we were even able to stop for a restroom break ½ way back).

 

we went back into the zoo, pet the stingrays & baby sharks, and then took the train around to the South Entrance.

 

a quick stop in the gift shop, to score 2 magnets (we didn’t need) and 2 shirts (that *I* didn’t need either. . but I love one and the other is OK – the price was right: $14 each or 2 for $20), and then we headed to the car, and were on our way to the hotel to check in around 4pm.

 

Just beating the Friday rush hour traffic. . . although we were headed INTO downtown, and the backups were all the other way.

 

It had been a full day already, but we weren’t quite done yet!

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