Sunday, August 28, 2016
Tim and I began our Sunday with brunch at a trendy little café called MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse. We opted for the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet where the food was good, plentiful and provided enough strips of bacon to wallpaper the room (Mmmm…bacon wallpaper…). Despite the crowds, my brother and I managed to snag a table by the front window. Judging by our fellow customers, MoKaBe’s was most decidedly hipster. Judging by the décor, there was also a touch of militant liberalism about the place. Being the straight-laced conservative that I was, I half-expected one of the bearded, plaid-wearing staff members to pick me out of the crowd and hiss “We don’t serve your kind here.” Tim and I managed to fly under the radar though, and we left with pleasantly full stomachs.
We next went to the nearby August Gate Church to attend the 11 a.m. service, where my brother had attended a couple of times. August Gate was a relatively new church community, meeting in a small building that had apparently once housed a church of another denomination. It was a nice and welcoming place. It was also very warm as there seemed to be no air conditioning. Before the service even started, the sweat was coming down my face in rivulets. As my co-workers could testify, I had an acute sensitivity to heat (which meant any temperature above 70 degrees) and a severe dislike of sweating in dress clothing. I spent much of the worship portion of the service with my eyes closed, not in prayer or in genuflection, but simply to keep the streaming, stinging sweat out of my eyes. The church was led by Pastor Noah, a young man with a cleanly-shaved head and a flowing beard that would have made the original Noah jealous. Worship was led by Pastor Josh who possessed an equally impressive beard. It turned out to be a special service as the congregation was about to launch a sister church into northern St. Louis. The soon-to-be pastor of that church gave the message.
After church, Tim and I went downtown and walked around. We strolled through Citygarden, home of some very…interesting art installations. We passed by the courthouse and the beautiful Old Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, all the while Tim provided me with interesting architectural tidbits about the city. Having earned a degree in engineering and being employed by a construction company, Tim was becoming something of an expert in the St. Louis cityscape.
We wandered down toward the Gateway Arch, observing the construction going on in the park around it. I had hoped to go up to the top of the Arch, but it was inaccessible that day. I had gone up once before many years ago, back when I was terrified of heights. Between the dizzying view and the herky-jerky elevator that brought me to that view, it was not the most enjoyable of visits for me. Since then, my acrophobia has faded and I figured that my second visit would go much better. Alas, it was not to be, at least not today.
We moved on to a plaza which framed the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. In the midst of the plaza, we saw a rather strange sight. At first, we (and others around us) thought we were looking at a statue of a man dressed in white snowsuit (complete with white gloves and baseball cap). Standing in the blistering heat with sunglasses obscuring his eyes, he stood motionless under a large black and white umbrella and holding a large Christian flag. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the statue was an actual person! What was this all about? Later internet searching revealed that the man, named Brad, was, according to him, instructed by God to stand before the Arch for several hours every Sunday afternoon, offering prayer and a compelling life story that brought him to that place. Not sure at the time whether we could speak to him (or if he would speak to us), Tim and I passed by and moved on to the recently restored Lewis and Clark statue.
We were fairly certain that these were in fact statues (I kicked Captain Clark’s shin just to make sure).
We passed under the historic Eads Bridge next, then headed back to where we parked the car.
With time pressing, we took a quick drive through beautiful Forest Park, passing by the art museum along the way. This would be a place that I would have to revisit at another time. But now it was time to go home.
Overall, I was amazed and impressed by all the construction that was going on in the city. There was a sense of revitalization that I had never encountered here in former visits. I also enjoyed touring the city with Tim, who was clearly enthralled by his new home. Still, being a long-time resident of Chicagoland, I clung to my old prejudices about the city. Despite the pleasant visit, the best part about a trip to St. Louis, I mused as I crossed into Illinois, was leaving it.
The final leg of my trip was rather anticlimactic as I traveled north along I-55. I cast many a bored glance out the window at the uninspiring Illinois scenery around me and wished for mountains. I arrived home around 9:30 that night, travel-worn, and to be perfectly honest, rather glad to be back.
After two weeks, 13 states and 4,700 miles, my odyssey had finally come to an end…or had it?
Epilogue: Sunday, September 25, 2016
A month has gone by since my return, but thanks to my persistence in recording, editing and blogging my journey, I have been continually reliving, reviewing and analyzing my journey of self-discovery. Had my road trip accomplished anything? Had I managed to “find myself”?
Yes and no.
Naturally, a two-week vacation is not going to solve all of life’s problems. However, the trip did serve as a catalyst in giving my life a much-needed reset. I had the ability to process my grief, frustration and spiritual weariness while reveling in the wonders of this country, and in the wonders of rekindled friendships. Now I was finally ready to move on, to take on new challenges, and yes, to even face an adventure or two (provided that I remember where my car is parked).