So, I'm not dead. And believe it or not, I've been exploring more than ever lately. It's just that most of the stuff I've explored recently is either stuff that's too huge to risk talking about, or it's just stuff that would get me sued into oblivion for even mentioning it. I wish I could, since some of it is incredibly awesome, but the statute of limitations can't last forever, right? In the meantime, here's a little St. Louis trip report that I never got around to posting.
I'm not sure of the month, but it was last winter sometime. I'd been obsessing over some historical St. Louis locations, and I decided I needed to do some research at the library on the subject. So, at the crack of dawn, I drove up to St. Louis from Springfield and headed to the downtown library.
Now, I mean no offense to my St. Louisan readers, but uh... The library left a lot to be desired. I hadn't realized it until then, but our library center in Springfield had me spoiled rotten. Everything in Springfield was computerized, right down to the old newspaper clippings. This was not the case in St. Louis. Plus, just about every chair in the place was taken by dozens of homeless men trying to get out of the cold (which I don't blame them for one bit, but it made it the most crowded library I've ever seen).
I was wandering about the library looking up a few things when someone started walking behind me uncomfortably close. I kept walking and made a few deliberate turns around bookshelfs to let the person get around me, but they were still there. I started to think I had some nutjob following me and turned to look, and I was right! Fortunately, it was just memory_machine and silverstreak.
We started going through some old books and maps for an hour or so, but it was slow-going and we weren't having much luck. We found a few interesting things, which we wrote down, but we had intended to do other things that day as well.
After the library we headed to the house of someone I'd spoken to on the phone. He believed he had a cave under his place. There was a strange story about a pipe in his backyard and how something they'd dropped into it had taken four seconds to hit bottom. We broke out the fishing line and some sinkers and fished around in the hole with them. If there was a cave there, we couldn't get our line to drop into it. It kept hitting bottom around 6 or 7 feet. We talked a bit about digging it up, but we weren't prepared for that at the time.
From there, we headed over to the banks of the Mississippi River to check out the wreckage of the WWII mine sweeper, the U.S.S. Inaugural. Chris showed up and met us there as well, if I remember right. It had been shipwrecked along the bank for over a decade and it looked like it had been there even longer. The hull was rusted and dented, and it was half-buried in the river muck.
The edge of the river was still half-frozen, but the ice wasn't solid enough for us to walk out to the shipwreck. Silverstreak and I began picking up boulders off the shore and throwing them in the water between, trying to make some kind of bridge. It might've worked, but we were running out of good rocks nearby and it looked like it was going to take forever.
So, I took my shoes and socks off, rolled up my pant legs, and waded out into the icy water. My feet went numb so fast that it really wasn't that bad. The rocks underneath were pretty slippery, though. And when I neared the actual shipwreck, there was mud and silt piled around it. I ended up sinking into it up to my knees before I was able to climb aboard.
I spent a little while walking barefoot around the rusty hull checking out what little areas of the ship were still accessible and trying to recall when I'd had my last tetanus shot. There were still a few portions of the boat you could get into, but most of it was filled with sand.
One thing I had to check out, though, was the big gun on the front of ship. It took some minor acrobatics to get down to it without falling into the water, but I managed to climb down. I straddled the barrel and sat there and waited so the guys could get some good pictures.
On the way back off of the ship, I must've allowed my feet get dried off enough to not be numb anymore, because just walking on the hull of the thing hurt like hell. And wading back through the water the second time hurt as well. I sat on the shore after I got out of the water and dried my feet off with my socks and I had to let everyone wait on me a minute. Something about the cold makes your flesh really tender. After a bit, I changed pants and socks at my vehicle and we were off again.
We went to the Eads Bridge next. We'd known forever that there were hidden areas inside of the bridge, but we'd been a little reluctant to check them out. Today, we just decided to do it, and memory_machine and I ran down to inspect it while the other guys stayed behind. We managed to look down inside of the bridge, but there was no way down into the interior of it, so we ended up just taking a few pictures and going back the way we'd come.
After that, we headed across the river into East St. Louis to check out the abandoned Gateway Community Hospital. Memory_machine got a pretty good kick out of it, as you can see on his blog, but I was a little nervous to go in there. Anybody that's read very many of my entries knows I'm not scared of doing most crazy things. However, wandering into a big abandoned building in East St. Louis seemed scarier than all that other stuff. Realistically, East St. Louis probably isn't that dangerous in the daytime. But the place literally looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie--trash flying around all over the place, burned out and crumbling buildings and houses everywhere, street lights don't work, etc. Whether it's true or not, the place just screams, "This isn't a safe place to hang out."
As it turned out, there wasn't much to see in the hospital. The place was gutted like crazy. Copper thieves had apparently ripped out nearly every wall in the place in search of copper to scrap. There wasn't really any hospital equipment to speak of, either. If it weren't for the occasional sign inside the place, it wouldn't even have been evident that it was a hospital. There were also huge mounds of pigeon crap inside the place and trash bags full of it where someone had apparently tried to clean it up.
Inside the hospital, though, I did find one thing that made me decide to break the urban explorer's "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints" rule. There were two already-shot rolls of film lying on the ground in one of the upper floors of the hospital. I debated for a moment about taking them, but I decided if I didn't they would just lay there, deteriorating until there was no chance of developing them any more. I half-figured they had passed that point already. And since the hospital had been closed for a decade and a half, I didn't expect the owner was going to come looking for them.
After the hospital, we called it a day and I headed back to Springfield.
A week or so later, I did have the film developed. It appeared to be some meeting or speaking event to do with East St. Louis city business. There were men speaking a podium with the East St. Louis city seal behind them. The other roll contained pictures of a basketball game in one of the arenas in St. Louis.
Here you can read about White Rabbit's day-to-day explorations and adventures.
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