Dateline: LAKELAND, Tenn.
I'm just outside of Memphis, on the third leg of the couch-hopping portion of my trip. The last few days have been mostly hanging out with friends, in Omaha, then Jefferson City, then St. Louis, and now here. Nothing terribly exciting, and it's been hard to be social and update the blog at the same time, which is the reason for the recent silence.
Omaha was nicer than I expected. They have a cute downtown, a bunch of rehabilitated railroad warehouses that have been turned into boutique-y commercial spaces and restaurants. My friend David and I did a little shopping downtown, went out to dinner for the requisite steak meal, and pretty much just vegged out the rest of the time watching Arrested Development, which he had started but not yet finished.
I was only able to spend just about 24 hours in Omaha before I had to head down to Jefferson City, Mo., where Andy lived. Since Missouri's capital isn't actually on the route of the interstate (apparently one of only three or four U.S. capitals that aren't, something like that -- putting Jeff City in the same category as capitals such as Juneau, Alaska), I was more or less forced to do a bunch more two-lane road driving to get there. There's not terribly much to do in that city, and since Andy and I both had to work our ways East that weekend, we spent Thursday driving through Missouri's Wine Country (did you know they had one? And that it's the oldest wine country in the United States? Craziness) and stopping at a few wineries along the way. The wine here is a lot different than that back in California. I ended up buying a case, mostly of wines much sweeter than I'm used to picking up -- it seems like everything here is dry or sweet, nothing along the full-bodied spicy route like a Tempranillo or Malbec. Icewine was something I'd not encountered anymore, and ended up grabbing a couple bottles of that.
We tipsily continued on our way to St. Peters, a suburb of St. Louis, where we crashed with Andy's friends Evan and Mike, went for a long walk through the loal giant park system, had surprisingly good Vietnamese food (the pho' didn't have tripe or any of the other "weird" bits we have in California, but was delicious nonetheless), and ate a bunch of cookies.
Friday I had only really half a day for St. Louis, since I had to be in the Memphis area at a reasonable hour that evening. Andy'd gotten us noon tickets for the top of the Arch, which gave us just enough time to grab a sandwich at Amighetti's, and then a frozen custard Concrete at Tom Drewes (eat this, do it now) before heading to the riverfront. The arch itself: if you have a fear of heights, or claustrophobia, don't go up. The little 'elevator' pods have five seats, all sized for people from the 60s, not the current fat-American butts, is low-ceilinged, and it has a window as it climbs to the top that allows you to see into the guts of the arch itself, and all the way up and down the shaft and emergency stairwell. Once you get to the top there are a series of tiny windows that you have to lean against the slanted wall to see into, giving you a great view of the city on one side and the Mississippi River and southern Illinois on the other. You can look straight down to the people walking under the arch below, and the sense of vertigo could be overwhelming if I were more sensitive (or, I can imagine, if it were a windy day and the Arch was swaying). Below is a blurry esoteric picture of my boobs in one of those pods on the way back down (they wouldn't give us enough time to take a proper picture to give you all a sense of size and Jetsonian style.
Unfortunately, I didn't get time for the City Museum, which was talked about. This of course just means I'll have to get myself back to St. Louis again while I'm still young and healthy and OK with wearing knee pads.
Stayed up late last night once I got to Lakeland (after a much longer drive than expected) hanging out with Jacob and catching up since we hadn't seen each other. We just ate breakfast, and are getting ready to head into Memphis proper and do a trip to Graceland. More on that later.