Friday, May 30, 2008

Forest Park

I finally made my trip to Forest Park this morning (Friday). I set the alarm a little later than usual, at 6:45, with a plan of leaving around 7:00 or so. I think I ended up leaving around 7:30, after having a breakfast cookie and banana, along with my big Starbucks mug of instant espresso & hot chocolate.

I planned this later departure because I didn’t want to go out too early, for safety reasons. In the end I got there a little after 8, and I’m quite sure that I would have been perfectly fine at 7 as well. But at least I got a little extra sleep!

I took the Metrolink to get to Forest Park. With all my trips to London I'm an old pro at public transit trains, so I felt a little discombobulated at the lack of signage in this one. There was nothing to indicate which side of the tracks I needed to be on! So I asked another person waiting for the train which side I should be on for Forest Park, and luckily I was already on the right one. (Because if I hadn't been, apparently I would have to go out of the station, cross the street, and reenter on the other side. Yes. A little primitive, perhaps. But at least St. Louis has a public transit train, as compared to, say, Seattle!)

I keep referring to Metrolink as a public transit train, rather than "underground" or "subway," because it is partly above ground and partly underground. But from now on I'll just call it the Metro.

The Metro trip to Forest Park was amazingly quick. It was about seven* stops along, I would say, and took 15, maybe 20 minutes. The stop was conveniently titled "Forest Park - DeBaliviere.**

The actual park was just across the street. Luckily, for purposes of finding my way back, I began right at the History Museum, in the imposing Jeffersion Memorial Building (built in 1913). This would be a good landmark to signify when I had completed my six mile loop, plus a landmark to find my way back to the Metro.

The running and biking trail(s) follow the circumference of the park for six miles. (There are also additional trails into the park.) In places there are separate trails for running/walking and biking, but for a large portion there only appeared to be the one paved road-like trail which I considered the "bike" trail.

I started out in front of the History Museum on the gravel "foot" trail, plodding along at an easy pace. I was amazed, after a mile or two, when I touched my face and found it wet with sweat. I wasn't running hard, and did not feel at all tired, but the heat and humidity was making me sweat profusely. (So much for the sunscreen I put on—should have used waterproof!)

Passing a picnic area, I saw a small building that looked like a restroom. I figured if I used it, then I wouldn't have to worry about any "emergencies" later on! So I jogged off the path. It was a typical park restroom, cold metal toilet and (for excitement) the door wouldn't close enough to lock. So this was perhaps my quickest squat and pee ever! I made it in and out of there with no embarrassing interruptions.

One of the things I was carrying in my overburdened jacket pockets was my digital camera. I had debated about bringing it on the run. Although it is a very small camera, it is still bulky to carry while running. On the other hand, I was also a tourist and thought I should have the opportunity to take pictures with a better camera than my cell phone! So I brought it, and running with it banging against my stomach was not too horribly irritating. But I reminded myself frequently, I had better take some pictures to make this worth my while!

Eventually I made it around to the St. Louis Zoo. This is where I thought I lost the running trail for a while. But I asked a park official (who was directing traffic), and he pointed me back to the bike trail which went around the outside of the parking area (I was on the inside). So from that point on I was sharing the road with bikes.

Periodically I stepped off the trail to take a picture of something (see above, re carrying camera on run). Part of the time I could see the busy streets and buildings of St. Louis, and part of the time my surroundings were more quiet and peaceful.

About three quarters of the way around I veered off the path to look at and walk on a Victorian Bridge. It was built more than a hundred years ago and led to the transit system at that time. I also passed by a public fishing area where I saw a man sitting on a chair and fishing. I was going to take a picture of him, from a distance of course, but he saw me with the camera and I felt awkward. I pretended to take a picture of a building across the river and never did take the fishing picture.

About the time I was beginnning to wonder whether I would ever get back to my starting point, I saw the History Museum ahead. Hurrah! No longer tired, I continued running for a few minutes past the museum—until the end of the song I was listening to—then turned around and ran back.

I took a few pictures of the building, the trolley you can take around the park if you're not into running or walking, and the fountain in front of the museum. Then I asked a couple of girls (possibly students from nearby Washington University) to take my picture (much nicer than a cell phone self-portrait). (Then I took a cell phone self-portrait to send to Lorraine and my mother.)

I considered going into the museum. I kind of wanted to, but it didn't open until 10:00—about fifteen minutes away. I perched myself on the side of the fountain to sit and wait awhile.

Then two ladies came walking by carrying big cups of Starbucks coffee. I hopped up to ask them if there was a nearby Starbucks! They started giving me elaborate directions, but it was pretty clear it was not nearby. However, they said, Kayak's Coffee is not far—directing me to walk up the street a couple of blocks to Washington University and then turn right.

That seemed like a good plan. I could always go into the museum (if I wanted to) when I came back to get the Metro.

I started walking up the street. It soon became clear that "a couple of blocks" was a bit of a misnomer. That is, unless a block was a quarter to half mile long! But I didn't mind walking. It took me past lots of nice houses, and I could look across the street to Forest Park and see it in a way I hadn't while running (sometimes running blinds me to my surroundings, as I am focused on putting one foot in front of the other rather than looking around).

At the second cross street I came to, I was in fact at Washington University, so I turned right. A few blocks ahead (real blocks) I saw the sign for Kayak's Coffee. And right outside it was a Metro stop (Skinker)! I wouldn't have to walk back to Forest Park to get on the Metro. (So, no trip to the History Museum.)

Kayak's Coffee is a funky coffee shop with an outdoorsy, lodgy decor and theme (it's named after the owner's Siberian Husky, Kayak). I ordered a latte and a piece of crumb cake and settled myself at a table.

When the crumb cake was gone, I took the remains of my drink and headed back to the Metro.

I had one more stop on the schedule. I got off at Union Station to have a look at the shops there. In the food court I was a little excited to see a barbecue restaurant! I ended up ordering a pulled pork "platter" to take back to the hotel for lunch. I suppose it would have been pleasant to sit and eat (there's even an outdoor patio), but I felt compelled to get back. So I gathered up my styrofoam "platter" and hopped back on the Metro.

(I ended up not eating my lunch until much later in the afternoon, after I went to hear another speaker at the conference. But I did enjoy my pork and barbecue sauce! It may not have been the best of St. Louis' barbecue, but I like food, and—although some may disagree—I'm not that picky. I'm picky about what I have and how it's prepared, but I'm easy about quality. Makes no sense, I know.)

I'll add some Forest Park pictures later on.

*Okay, I cheated here. I had originally guessed six stops, but then looked at the map and determined it was seven!

**Again, taking a little help from the map. DeBaliviere is the name of the street you come out onto.

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