Since gas prices were down, and this week was a bit slack (in that I could take some time off without any problems, and the little guy was off school) I tripped the trigger on the road trip machine, and it started operating Friday. How was it all? It went well.
I picked up the little guy Friday afternoon - and he literally couldn't believe that we were actually going... but I think it DID sink in once we passed Chattanooga and it was starting to get dark. He had things to keep him busy - I'd hired him as my navigator, ($10 a day, plus room and board) and he was in charge of picking out the proper routing and keeping me going in the right direction, plus logging (via GPS) latitude, longitude, elevation, and speed every 15 minutes.
We made it a bit past Ft. Campbell, KY and stopped around 11 PM, then we were up about 6 and got on the road very shortly afterward. One quick stop at Scott AFB later, Aaron saw some snow flurries - and could barely contain his excitement. (Me? I spent 8 years in Wyoming, 7 in St. Louis. I could surpress my excitement with little trouble.)
We came over the rise in Caseyville, IL - and could see the Gateway Arch on the horizon. We made our way to the Riverfront, went up the Arch, did the obligatory tourist routine of going UP the Arch - and then back down to the Gift Shop (though the tram exit didn't funnel through the gift shop, we still went through it...)
There was a tourist helicopter setup near the arch - and the price wasn't QUITE what was on the side of the chopper. But Aaron went up for a quick circling ride... and came back with his smile going ear to ear.
Then we headed out to the St. Louis Science Center - which was quite a bit more extensive than the last time I was out there. We took our time, looking at the Ansari X-Prize exhibits, at the replica of Spaceship 1 on display in the lobby, and caugh their star show. There was an extensive "Space Station" setup on the upper levels, and we took our time going through that, looking at remote sensing equipment and microgravity experiments. It was WELL worth the time.
After that - I got lost. Well, not lost - but turned around. Kept trying to find my way back to I-64E, but couldn't locate an on-ramp for it. So we headed west, waiting on an exit that wasn't "Exit Only"... then swung onto I-170N via a detour. (To be fair, Mapquest warned that I-64 was seriously torn up...) I saw a road name I recognized, got off to look at the map (my navigator couldn't keep up with the task - but the map wasn't very clear) and figured out where we were.
Hey, it's been 35 years, okay? Lot of road changes have come and gone - but the general layout hasn't changed much. The area we used to live in was transitioning from rural to suburbs - there were still fields across the road that lead to our subdivision. But now? Serious housing - the fields are no more. The entire area feels very built-up, with business parks lining the road. The subdivision, however, hasn't changed much. Some trees aren't there, some bushes are a lot larger than they used to be, hedges are much shorter... and I'm talking about the yard in the old house.
It was fairly dark by then - so I turned around and stopped for a moment or two in front of the house. It looks a lot smaller now...
After that - I continued on to the elementary school I used to go to. That also was a lot smaller than I remembered, and a lot had changed on the playground. The swingsets and slides were gone - there was now a fence at the back so you couldn't get at the stream (possibly a drainage ditch) at the rear of the property. Well, you expect changes after 3 decades.
At that point, it was time to find dinner - and after extensive back-and-forthing we ended up at a Denny's over by the airport. They've got an interesting 'Prime Rib Sizzler' dish that was VERY good, and Aaron really liked the meatloaf. Then we headed east to the motel, and got some swimming in before we collapsed for the night.
On the way, we caught sight of a VERY interesting building - Lumiere Place Hotel - which apparently has a 'fin' made out of LEDs. It had a moving pattern on it which reminded me of the advertisements on the buildings in BladeRunner. (Click on Nov. 22, and check out the 7-8PM photos.) Cool, eh?
The next day we'd intended to go to the Science Center again, but ended up at a brewery. Aaron thought it'd be interesting to take the tour, so I obliged him... then we started looking for a Wolf Camera store. (You see, earlier in the week I'd promised him we'd go to a camera store so he could look at video cameras. I just didn't specify which city...) It took us a couple of hours, but we eventually found two of them - neither of which had what he was looking for. (For some reason, he's interested in pro-grade camera equipment. We're talking stuff like you see used on shows like "Dirty Jobs". Go figure.)
We had a snack in a local mall's food court, then caught a movie (Madagascar II) which was pretty decent. Then we headed back - we were both a bit tired, and were looking forward to an early start back.
The trip back was uneventful, with Aaron continuing the logging. We stopped at a McDonalds for lunch which I'd gotten some truely awful coffee at two days before - and as we walked in I smelled something pretty bad - it could have been elderly chicken or beef, I couldn't tell. We used the facilities and beat feet - if the inside of the place smelled like THAT, we weren't going to sample the food. The coffee had been barely drinkable - I wasn't going to give them a second chance.
A half hour east, and we stopped again. This place smelled okay, and the coffee was MUCH better. We proceeded eastward, through various bands of rain, and stopped at the TVA Kentucky Dam, and after a few minutes we kept going.
We got into town right about rush hour, in the rain, and met Sue and the inlaws for dinner. Aaron had a fine time telling what he'd seen... and now I'm wondering...
Where next - and when?