It’s a high school prom, it’s a Springsteen song, it’s a ride in a Chevrolet
It’s a man on the moon and fireflies in June and kids selling lemonade
It’s cities and farms, it’s open arms, one nation under God
– Rodney Atkins
Thursday 23 August
America – just when you thought it was safe, I’m back!
After a long day of travelling, I’ve made it successfully to St Louis, Missouri.
From Sydney, I was on a Virgin Australia flight – VA1, to be exact – to Los Angeles. With a flight time of thirteen and a half hours, it’s a long slog, but it seems to get easier each time I do it. I upgraded to Economy X, which makes a huge difference to the experience, for sure. Priority check-in, priority boarding, noise-cancelling headphones and guaranteed choice of meal are fantastic, but the best thing is the extra leg room for stretching out. On a long flight, it’s a massive bonus. Even better was that I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me, so there was even more room to spread out. I love Virgin Australia – great service and very comfortable. Can’t recommend them enough!
Didn’t get as much sleep thanks to the kid sitting behind me who had an infuriating knack for kicking the back of my seat just as I’d nodded off. Maybe 3-4 hours of sleep throughout, and the rest of my time spent watching TV.
Landed on a muggy morning in Los Angeles about half an hour late (6:40am) after an hour’s worth of delay out of Sydney. We were all standing up, ready to get off, but were asked to sit down so that two paramedics could come in and talk to a passenger. The passenger in question was only a few rows back from me, and when the paramedics left, a TSA officer came on. Possibly interesting, but I couldn’t hear what was going on, and we got the all-clear to get off the plane pretty quickly.
Despite the minor delay, clearing customs and border patrol was as easy as it’s ever been – thanks in large part due to the fact that there’s no hard-copy paperwork now; it’s all electronic with an ESTA application – and I was out by 7:30am, and over at the American Airlines terminal, checking in for my next flight to St Louis. All nice and smooth, hassle-free. Just what you want after being on an airplane for thirteen hours.
Had an unhealthy breakfast at Rock and Brews, the bar/restaurant franchise owned by KISS front men Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in LAX before boarding the St Louis flight. Three and a half hours later, I was in the Gateway City. Met up with my good mate and constant American travelling partner Nathan who’d come in from Sydney via Dallas-Fort Worth and we took a cab downtown.
We’re in a cool Airbnb apartment in the centre of St Louis. The building has been refurbished in recent years with all the modern touches, but was originally designed back in 1905 by H. William Kirchner for Balmer & Weber Music House, who were St Louis-area licensees for Aeolian Company pianos. So, plenty of history here.
After getting settled in the apartment, we took an Uber out to the St Louis Galleria mall complex in the suburbs to get SIM cars for our phones. AT&T are about the only phone company here who do pre-paid SIMs, we discovered after visiting both Boost Mobile and Sprint downtown beforehand. I also had to purchase some new sunglasses because I – stupidly – left mine back in Australia. Safe to say, not my finest hour. I may actually pack from a list in future… (or maybe not…)
Back at the apartment, we ordered Imo’s pizza, which is a St Louis-area staple, and recommended to me by some people on Twitter. The cheese base is called provel – a combination of cheddar, Swiss and provolone cheese with a low melting point. I love eating local food wherever I go, and the added bonus was that this pizza tasted really, really good.
Ready for a massive sleep tonight and tomorrow afternoon – after the expected morning thunderstorms clear – we’re off to Gateway Motorsports Park for IndyCar qualifying ahead of the big Saturday night race here under lights. It’s been more than two years since I last saw an IndyCar race live (the 100th Indianapolis 500, in May of 2016) so to say I’m excited is an understatement.