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Ailsa’s Travel Theme challenge this week on Where’s my backpack at  http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/08/31/travel-theme-curves/ is  Curves.  Great timing Ailsa!  We recently paid a visit to one of the largest man-made curves that anyone is ever likely to see; The Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri. And you can bet I took pictures of that baby from every possible angle while I was there!

The Arch, designed by architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947, began to take shape in 1963 and was completed in 1965 at a cost of, what would have been then,  $13 million dollars.

At a height of 630ft and comprised of carbon steel, stainless steel and reinforced concrete, The Gateway to the West, as it is sometimes called, is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River and overlooks the city of St Louis.

It opened to the public in 1967 and it’s possible, if you’re so inclined, to take a tram to the top of the Arch in order to get a really awesome view of the city. Although I’m not a great one for heights I thought, since we were there, that I would pluck up the courage and travel to the top.

What really threw me a curve was the little ‘pod’ that takes you there. Of course it had always amazed me that you could possibly travel inside a structure that looked so thin but I really wasn’t expecting that tiny cubicle, only large enough to squeeze 5 people inside, sitting uncomfortably knee to knee and the taller  occupants having to bend almost double to avoid hitting their heads as they got in. There was an audible intake of breath from the people waiting to go to the top as the doors slid open to reveal  this unusual mode of transportation but we all stepped bravely forward and hoped for the best. To be absolutely fair, they do ask you if you have a problem with claustrophobia when you purchase the tickets.

It takes 4 minutes to go to the top and 3 to come down. Although you don’t see the outside as you ascend (probably just as well, as far as I was concerned) it was comforting to get a glimpse of the stairway used inside the Arch for maintenance and emergencies and know that if our little capsule  got stuck, there was a way out.

 Arriving at the apex of the Arch we looked out at the scene below and felt it had all been worthwhile.  Looking over the city we were treated to a birds-eye view of a place where you may possibly see a curve ball or two; Busch Stadium, home of the St Louis Cardinals and arch (forgive the pun) rivals of our Chicago Cubs.

Robert W Duffy wrote in the St Louis Post-Dispatch in 2003;

“The Gateway Arch packs a significant symbolic wallop just by standing there. But the Arch has a mission greater than being visually affecting. Its shape and monumental size suggest movement through time and space, and invite inquiry into the complex, fascinating story of our national expansion.”

I think that sums it up pretty well.