Road trip: St. Louis Arch and City Museum, driving long hours takes its toll

The Toupin family's road trip continues. After climbing through the steampunky City Museum in St. Louis and heading to Kansas, the family realizes driving long hours is a lot of work. 

AP Photo/file
Children climb across a suspended wire tunnel under an airplane at the City Museum, March 18, 2009, in St. Louis.

[Editor's note: Laurie Toupin and her family are road tripping across America and sharing their experiences in a series of blogs. See the related links menu to the left for past installments.]

The City Museum of St. Louis defies description. 

There's a school bus hanging over the edge of a ten-story building... An abandoned airplane sitting atop the branches of a rod iron tree... A treehouse atop iron trees with dragons as branches.

Part junk yard art, part indoor/outdoor play structure, part amusement park.

If the definition of a museum is a place where one can explore, then the name applies. Otherwise this place is more like someone took truck loads of junk meant for the local junk yard and welded them together into connecting structures which can be climbed on, walked through, and explored.

Every hole, however small, leads to hidden passages through whales, scorpions, dark tunnels, and dinosaur mouths.

It was amazing. And to think we wouldn't have found it if I hadn't been talking to the gift shop clerk at the St. Louis Arch. We stopped there first to see this amazing engineering feat and ride the tiny little cars up to the top. `

That was fun, but of the two stops, the kids truly enjoyed the City Museum. And who could blame them? It was so unique and unusual.

I love the unexpected. And today truly felt like an adventure. We passed the world's largest wind chime this morning in Illinois.  We stopped in Vandalia, Ill., to see the former capitol building where Abraham Lincoln did his first politicking as part of the Illinois General Assembly in 1834.

After the Arch and City Museum, we traveled to Kansas for the night and found a store called Nostalgiaville in Missouri. This store was loaded with blasts from the past...Betty Boop, The Three Stooges, Elvis, even Scooby Doo paraphernalia plastered every inch of this three store front shop. My daughter, Colie, was thrilled to find a pair of pink Elvis heart-shaped earrings for herself. And I could indulge in teaching a little historic pop-culture.

But the day did take its toll. By the time we got to Lawrence, Kan., that night, we were all done and stayed at the Jellystone Campground.

I know I've been on the road too long when I get excited to see the GPS say we have only 3:59 hours to go. I thought traveling five hours a day would be good. But five hours really means six or seven depending on traffic, weather, and gas stops. And we need a break. The kids can only watch so many movies, play so many board games, and entertain themselves so long. They need to be held, read to, and listened to.

While our destinations may be fun and exciting, a mother who is always distracted by driving during their waking hours is not what they need on their vacation.

Jacob, 5, especially, needed a day to play and just "be with Mama." He'd been good so far, but I could tell he had reached his breaking point. Plus I needed to do laundry, dishes, and have a normal day of meals. Our destination is awaiting us in California, but keeping the kids healthy and happy along the way is more important.

Because of this, I am changing our route. Instead of heading south on I-40 to Dodge City, Kan., as originally planned, we are going to continue on I-70 toward Colorado, Utah, and then head south. There are still plenty of wonderful things to see that way. And it cuts off about 10 hours on our trip. While it is fun to see a lot, sometimes less is more.

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