Posted in Life, travel

Tuesday Tour: cruising through the 80’s

Sometimes I jokingly retort that I missed the 80’s.

Oh, I don’t necessarily pine nostalgically for that particular decade of time. Instead, I have to pause and try to recall events that occurred during the 1980’s. Those 10 years of my life whipped by me like a runaway train on a steep downhill track.

So the 80’s? A blur in my memory bank because then I was preoccupied with birthing and taking care of my babies. Three to be exact.  All our children were born in that decade, and I spent many sleepless days and nights rocking babies, nursing babies, worrying over babies, being a hospital patient delivering babies, and even recovering from surgery to remove a pesky gall bladder.

Is it possible I walked around in a daze of fatigue for much of that decade? Probably.

The 80’s became a decade of major life changes for us. Papa decided to leave the military and became a traveling sales representative for a national company which deposited us in the Midwest.

His sales territory covered two large states so when he traveled by company car for two or three nights a week, much of his time away from home was on the road. And since none of our family lived near us, my days and nights were consumed being a stay-at-home mother 24/7 to three little ones.

Not only were we attempting to make ends meet on one salary, but we had purchased our first home (whew, mortgage interest rates were sky high at that time!), spent time and money updating and modifying that house, and thus, funds for extravagant family vacations just did not exist.

Vacations with three tots under the age of six also didn’t sound super relaxing in our minds either. Our last child was born in the late 80’s hence he was just a baby/toddler and the sheer magnitude of packing everything needed for a week for our family of five boggled my mind and shredded my nerves.

So, travel for vacations to exciting and scenic locales were practically non-existent during that decade, yet I can share one highlight of that era for my Tuesday Tour today.

Since far-away grandparents were eager to spend quality time with their far-away grandchildren, most of our “vacations” were trips back east to our home state. On one occasion, we relished the opportunity to spend a few days with extended family in a lovely cottage on the Atlantic Ocean shore in New Jersey.

And occasionally, we managed a side trip of some interest on the way to or from visiting family. We lived in the Kansas City metro area back then, and on our way east, we always traveled through the city of St. Louis located in Missouri on the mighty Mississippi River.  

We always spied the famous Gateway to the West archway as we buzzed through that city, but because we adhered to a strict timetable for travel, we didn’t take time to stop there. Our itinerary was a bit crazy but it worked for us.

Papa worked on Friday, come home a bit early to load up all our luggage and what seemed like tons of other stuff for the children that I had already packed.

We would hit the road around 4 pm, drive until dinner time, stop and eat then change the kiddies into their jammies and keep on driving through the night, changing drivers between the two of us while they slept.

A long 17-hour drive straight through and we would then arrive at my folks’ home Saturday morning exhausted. Grandma and Grandpa would look after the children and Papa and I would take a little nap.

But on one of our trips back to Kansas City, we decided to stop in St. Louis to visit the iconic Arch located inside a U.S. National Park along the river.

Papa and I, with two little ones in tow (prior to our last child’s birth), enjoyed a short cruise on the Mississippi River via a 19th century paddle-wheel riverboat replica. I do recall the excursion was fun and cool on the river on a hot, muggy summer day. Along the way, we had a nice view of the Gateway Arch and also downtown St. Louis.

Today, visitors can still take various cruises on riverboats, including those named Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer, which were originally utilized beginning in 1964 to allow tourists to view the Arch as it was being constructed from the river.

Next, we visited the Gateway Arch itself. An amazing monument it truly is. Standing 630 feet tall, the 63-stories high monument was constructed using 43 thousand tons of concrete and steel to commemorate President Thomas Jefferson’s vision of expanding the United States westward. The city of St. Louis and the many pioneers who made that possible are celebrated by the Arch. 

Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, construction on the Arch, touted as the America’s tallest monument, began in 1963 and was completed by the fall of 1965. Building the arch itself cost $11 million, with 75% of the cost supplied by federal funding and 25% by St. Louis city funds. An additional $2 million financed the arch transportation system (trams inside the monument which take visitors to the top of it) which was completed in 1967-68.

Millions of sightseers have traveled to the top of the Gateway Arch to view the Mississippi River, which flows below the arch east windows, and look 30 miles to both the east and west of the city on a clear day.

I’m happy to say we were some of those millions who took the tram ride to the top of the arch. Going up takes about four minutes but to someone a bit claustrophobic, it might seem longer.

I just remember I was relieved to reach the top, where there are narrow, small windows on each side of the arch in the viewing area, although since it was a hazy, humid day, our view wasn’t the greatest. 

Of course, what goes up must come down and even though there is a stairway, that is only used by arch personnel and is not open to the public, so you must ride the tram back down to ground level.

Looking up at the arch from ground level

Once we arrived on solid ground again, we toured the arch museum, not overwhelmingly interesting for our very young children but my history loving husband enjoyed the exhibits featuring over 200 years of history.

It was just a short stop – one day of touring – as we traveled through St. Louis on our way back to our Midwest home in 1986, but it was a worthwhile stop. And the photos I managed with an inexpensive point and shoot film camera give me memories of it.

Sometimes a deviation from the tried-and-true path is exactly what’s needed. That proved evident both in our travels as well as during that 80’s decade.  That much I certainly remember.

“Take the long way home.” ~ Unknown

© 2021


Mama of this empty nest, I’m content to live a quiet, country life with my husband of 40+ years and to view the gorgeous sunsets off my own back yard deck. Mama to three adults and Nana to adorable grandchildren, my empty nest fills up again with noise and laughter when they all return 'home'. A former English teacher, reporter/editor, education director for a non-profit organization, and stay at home mom, I retired after a season of substitute teaching at a private academy. Now I enjoy time spent with my grandchildren and family and writing words that seem to pour out of my soul or wandering around the countryside with my camera. Foremost, my faith sustains me as I meander through the empty nest stage of life. My favorite scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

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