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Such Great Heights

Breakout Tour: Days 17-20
Hi-Tone Cafe
Memphis, TN

The decision to leave Freakster’s even though we weren’t in a terrible rush to get to the next show came sometime after a chicken wrap and an Orange Julius. We weighed our options and decided to head out toward Memphis instead of camping out in the venue’s parking lot mostly because we had a lot of office work to do, and also we had to be in Memphis by Sunday night so that Nate could wake up early and work on Monday. Another one of the deciding factors was that we were going to take the time to stop in St. Louis and see the Gateway Arch. We’ve driven by the arch a few times but never had the opportunity to stop. This time, there was no holding us back.

The trip from Illinois to Missouri was a bit of an adventure in itself. Soon after we left Pontiac, dark storm clouds began gathering in the distance. What started as a sprinkle of rain soon turned in to a full on downpour, slowing our progress exponentially. Our decision to not spend the day barbecuing seemed a little better as we continued to crawl our way through the driving rains of the storm. About half way to St. Louis our phones all chimed with warning texts from the National Weather Service that tornados had been spotted in our area. We pressed on, but kept a weather eye on the horizon for any signs of danger. It seemed as if we were going to be flooded out of our Arch trip, but the closer we got to the city, the less imposing the weather seemed.

We arrived in St. Louis around 7pm to sunny skies. The highway that we were on had a detour because it’s bridge that led into the city was shut down for construction. As we worked on rerouting to another bridge it seemed as if the whole city was in some phase of road work. The process of finding another route and crossing the river took over half an hour (even with gps!). I think it would have been faster to seal up the bus and ford the river Oregon Trail style.

We finally arrived at the park that contained the Gateway Arch. We found that busses get priority parking, so we were able to pull almost right up to the steps that led up to the Arch. We parked, took some pictures, and then headed up the stairs to the monument itself.

The Gateway Arch is huge, much bigger than the perception that you get of it from passing by it on the highway. It is also one of the biggest optical illusions, appearing way taller than wide, with the reality being that the height and width are virtually identical. Looking up at the top of the Arch from the ground was dizzying, with the clouds moving quickly across the sky it gave us sensation of falling.

The only ones that went up to the top were Mochello and I. (Yes! That is a true statement! You can go to the top!) Truth be told, it was an unforgettable experience. First, we walked down a hallway that is set up like a museum, containing exhibits and relics from the Western Expansion. The hall leads to a dead end staircase with miniature doors lining one of the walls. When the doors opened we climbed into a small spherical pod about five feet in diameter with five small seats along the outside walls. The whole thing was very reminiscent of a Ferris wheel cart. The glass door closed behind us and we were left sitting, touching knees with three other people in a semi circle. The pod was began to move, traveling upwards inside the legs of the Arch, the steelwork, maintenance stairways and the catwalks visible through the pod’s glass door.

Mochello had neglected to mention that he was slightly claustrophobic, so the assent was all that much more interesting. As the pod was hoisted ever higher I couldn’t help but feel that we were inside of Willy Wonka’s Great Glass Elevator. The nervous chuckles were worth the sideways glances thrown at me from everyone in the pod when I said “We’re going through the roof!”.

After about five minutes, we made it to the top without incident, 63 stories up above the rest of the band. The observation area was about 65′ long and 7′ high, with small viewing windows on each side. The view was amazing and scary at the same time, the whole experience indelibly etched in my mind. After spending about half an hour just enjoying the view we headed back down the to the ground via the pod elevator and met up with the rest of the guys at the bus.

We spent the night a few miles south of the city, then woke up the next day and finished our trip to Memphis. We spent the next two days digging in deep on the office work that is always looming over us. We have gotten more efficient on our office days these past tours, seeing as we’ve had so many. Nate and I went to see the new Tom Cruise movie one of the nights at a theater in what we were told afterwords was in one of the worst neighborhoods in Memphis.

We pulled up to the Hi-Tone Cafe Tuesday afternoon to the realization that the club was just on the outskirts of the ghetto. When we went inside and met with the owners they told us that they had just recently moved to that location and were doing some ongoing reconstruction. We went in to the main room and saw what they meant. The room looked half gutted, with exposed cinder block walls, broken sheetrock, and missing lighting creating the ambiance.

Everyone was skeptical about the sound system, until soundcheck at least. For a small system it was some of the best sounding gear that we’ve heard all tour. Both Nate and Johnny sang some of the best they have this run since they were finally able to hear themselves in the monitor mix.

After the show everyone was itching to get on the road a bit and put the ghetto behind us. We packed up our gear and headed an hour east to a Walmart, Dive pulling up next to us shortly after.