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ST. LOUIS, THE QUEEN CITY

St. Charles, MO and St. Louis

overcast 72 °F

(Tuesday) It was only a short 2 1/2 hr. drive from Jefferson City to St. Charles. I chose St. Charles as it is on the fringe of the busy St. Louis metropolitan area. After arriving and getting set up I drove into St. Charles and discovered their beautifully restored downtown. The district covers several blocks, is on the National Historic Register, and has 100+ shops, boutiques, restaurants, and B&B's. The streets are paved in the original bricks with gas street lights in that area. Simply beautiful. A block away and running parallel to the Historic District is a beautiful park running along the banks of the Missouri River. In it are gazebos, walking paths, old railroad cabooses, and playground equipment for kids. It is certainly a 'gem' to have happened upon this lovely town.

(Wednesday/Thursday) St. Louis was the destination today. While about 23 miles away from St. Charles it was fairly easy to navigate with the help of Serie (the iPhone voice) and the iPhone 7's navigational setting. She talked me through all the way there and all the way home. My first stop in visiting St. Louis was Union Station, where I picked up the City tour bus. The bus tour gave an overview of the city and allowed me to get my bearings. As it turned out it was almost a private tour as not many were touring. St. Louis' Union Station is spectacular. Restored to its original glory it now houses a 500+ room Hilton Hotel and Conference Center with various restaurants within. An aquarium is being added to the hotel/former railroad space. In its day there were 14 tracks servicing the passenger station, all under cover to keep travelers out of the elements. Today this area is a pond feature with a fire & light show choreographed to music, activated every half hour. Restaurants ring the pond offering dining options. All pretty spectacular. Union Station's main lobby is the most elegant I have experienced. In its heyday during WWII it handled up to 100,000 passengers a day. My words cannot adequately describe it so I would suggest Googling Union Station-St. Louis for pictures and background. Its quite a place. After lunch by the pond the next item on the 'bucket list' was the Gateway Arch on the banks of the Mississippi River. It has become St. Louis' icon, its symbol representing the Gateway to the West. It is truly a modern engineering marvel, constructed of reinforced concrete clad with 1/4" stainless steel panels welded together, all rising to a height of 630'. Officially defined as an inverted, weighted catenary arch, its construction required digging 60' into the earth to reach bedrock. A massive 630' concrete base was then poured to support the giant structure. In its construction the two legs of the arch rose simultaneously to meet in the center, with a margin of error of only 1/64". Imagine! Inside the structure is a tram-like elevator which takes the stout-hearted visitor to the top for viewing out the small observation windows. Engineering tolerances allow the arch to 'sway or move' up to 18" in 150 mph winds. It was an exilerating experience in calm winds! A National Historic Register site as the world's tallest arched structure, it is operated by the National Park Service. A 25 minute film told the interesting story of its construction. It was quite an experience.

(Friday) When one thinks of St. Louis one thinks of the Busch family. A tour of the Budweiser Brewing Works seemed appropriate so I called to make a reservation for one. The company complex is a literal campus of red brick buildings, some 8-10 stories high. One of the brewing structures was once a train station with elaborate iron railings, columns, and chandeliers. It now houses a half dozen brewing tanks each holding 16,500 gallons of liquid brewing in the 30 day 'Beechwood Ageing' process that the company advertises. There are many others, I am sure due to the enormous size of the place. After the tour we were directed through their Biergarten and gift shop (of course). A free sample was offered and lunch (not free) of bratwurst with mustard on pretzel roll & sauerkraut. All very German and all very good! Probably the high-lite of the day was the next stop. Grant's Farm is located several miles from the brewery. On its 281 acres is the ancestral home of the Busch family and also the 19th century home of former General and President Ulysses S. Grant. The Grant Home is a National Historic site.
But the true attraction -to me, at least- was the Budweiser Clydesdale Farm (one of three) where the beautiful horses are stabled and trained for their show work advertising the Budweiser brand around the country. There are 3 teams of show caravans; East Coast, Middle-America, and West Coast, who show in approximately 325 events each year. Each event is sponsored by the local Budweiser distributor and there is no cost to the community. It is a public relations advertising effort on behalf of the company.
Each 'hitch' has 8 matching Clydesdales pulling the familiar 2-ton Budweiser wagon. Three tractor-trailer trucks carry 10 horses (2 spares), horse handlers, wagon drivers (2), and 2 Dalmatian dogs (1 spare). There are always 2 drivers on the wagon along with the familiar Dalmatian dog. The reason for the second driver is the stress and weight of handling the 40# reins along with the 30# stress or pull on the reins while driving the animals. Handling 70# on one's arms for extended periods in a parade requires a relief driver, for good reason. All very interesting!
The company breeds its own horses and has about 170 horses on its 3 farms. At the breeding farm the mares annually give about 20 foals, and over the 3 year training period about 4 of the 20 make the cut for show horses. The 15-16 others are sold at auction as 'Budweiser brand' animals, a premium lineage.
For Budweiser, they have to be a minimum of 18 hands high, have a matching dark coat, white leggings, and white face. Training temperament is also important. At maturity they stand 6' tall (18 hands) at the base of the neck and 9' at the top of the head and weigh between 2,000 & 2,300 #'s. They are huge animals! The docent-led tour showed us 1 yr. olds, 2 yr. olds, and mature 3 yr. olds, each in different phases of training. Their diets are strictly regulated and feed is supplied by the Purina Company with Enriched Plus ration balancing food. They require up to 50# of timothy hay each day (about twice the average horse) and drink 30 gallons of water per day. I didn't ask the manure output!
All in all, it was a very interesting visit with much learned about the Budweiser Clydesdale horses.
Tomorrow is a tour of Busch Stadium, Home of the St. Louis Cardinals Major League Baseball team...........

Posted by dixter 15:33 Archived in USA Tagged the farm to arch brewery visits budweiser clydesdale

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