Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Observations of Decline - A Trip to the City
It wasn't just St. Louis. Around the turn of the century I had a passing familiarity with several large cities from Detroit Westward into Phoenix and in a sort of curving band including Denver, Dallas, K.C. etc. but hands down I spent most of my time in St. Louis.
In a vain attempt to appease my Ex I gave up my high dollar traveling job and settled back into rural life. Of course it wasn't my traveling that was the problem but just a convenient topic to complain about so it really didn't matter what I did but I found that once I was away from the hustle and bustle of traveling I was much happier myself. Considerably poorer though but once again able to begin prepping and shooting.
By 2002 I can tell you St. Louis was a mad house. Even I-70 was a complete basket case of bumper to bumper traffic and semi-trailers blocking lanes for miles. From St. Louis to Kansas City was a complete nightmare. I found most days I could actually take back roads and small highways that meandered well out of my way and still make better travel time, it had gotten so bad.
Inside St. Louis was worse if you can believe it. I cannot remember any trip out of that city around 1999 to 2001 that didn't involve backed up traffic for miles, closed lanes due to fender benders four hour waits and a full tank of gas. I-270 always looked like a cross between madmax in Beemers and roller derby. It didn't matter what time of day or even what day it was. It was always a fight.
I was glad I didn't have to go back there. I knew every little town between Columbia and St. Louis on I-70. I knew each billboard by heart and noted all the new construction on an almost daily basis. Then cold turkey I just never went back.
So this weekend I had promised my son I would drive him up to spend the day with a friend of his while the Mrs. and I would go to the zoo and mess around. She was excited, he was excited I could only think about the madhouse drive and the traffic and let my blood pressure rise in anticipation and dread. The forecast was for a beautiful Saturday in the upper 60's and I just knew everyone was going to be out and about.
I was all packed and ready for the road-wars to begin. We pulled onto I-70 and I was scanning the road like a fighter pilot ready to get in front of the road blocking semi's before they could block me in for miles while keeping an eye out for the LEO bogies ready to write me a ticket. I thought about mounting an AR from the sunroof but the wife didn't approve.
128 miles to St. Louis and about 60 miles to the true madhouse I figured. Traffic was remarkably light on I-70 though. I saw a few trucks and some passenger vehicles but there were long open stretches of road actually visible. By the time we got to Wentzville I figured God almighty was playing a trick on me. I hadn't been cut off once by some foreigner driving a semi nor had to even slow down waiting for a pack of cars to clear.
We entered the three lane section and I thought OK it will start here. Traffic did increase but it wasn't really any worse than a mid sized town at rush hour. The far outter lane was completely unused. Before we came up on the river I had seen a sign declaring traffic was down to two lanes. We crossed the bridge without even hardly slowing down. Seriously two lanes on that bridge ten years ago would have meant a 5 hour wait and 15 mile traffic jam.
The entire trip I had also been noticing the same old signage was still up. In some cases the signs had been redone but were still for the same companies. Several business areas were closed and I didn't see anything new that jumped out at me except one used equipment place. Some parts of the interstate had been replaced but the I saw no new business, truck stations or even new housing.
Getting onto I-270 I figured the fun would begin. Still light traffic. From Florrisant down to Ladue and over to Forest park and the zoo there were no back ups, no fender benders, light traffic and no lines. There was actually parking available at the zoo as well.
To be honest the entire experience reminded me of driving into and around the St. Louis I remembered from 25 years ago not 10 years.
Later in the evening the Mrs. and I went shopping at a mall I remembered them building about 12 years ago. The son and his friend were seeing a movie so we decided to just wander around and shop for a couple of hours. The mall was packed with teenagers wandering here and there but at about 6 pm the place became deserted. Apparently there is a rule against anyone under 18 being in the mall after 6pm. Security guards were everywhere but like the kids earlier they were everywhere except inside the stores. Almost all the stores were empty of customers although there were few empty locations.
We entered a Cabellas and the place was packed. It looked like a gun show with all the middle aged White boys walking around grabbing boxes of ammo. The only place I saw with actual customers outside of a big box clothing store anyway and one shoe store.
I didn't see beggers or distress. No mobs or uprisings. I didn't notice any decaying buildings although some of the old closed business locations were over grown and empty. What I noticed was just a simple lack of traffic and commerce. Closed empty shops, nothing new and shiny and open spaces where I had never seen open spaces before.
I imagine only someone who had a time lapse view from the peak of things to what it is now would have noticed but to me it was almost like night and day. I actually enjoyed the driving and was pretty relaxed the entire time and I never expected that.
Makes me wonder what the next decade is going to bring or if we will even make it that far.
Tomorrow I will post some observations I made inside the Cabellas and about my almost failed adventure in finding some small rifle primers, including an overheard conversation between one gun shop owner and his supplier. Some eye opening stuff.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!