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Traveling Will & Robin

Current travels: Three months in the wilderness of Siberia, Mongolia, and the South Pacific


Aug '10

St. Louis is Listening, Part 1: Vagabond’s Yelp


The Arch

Finally, a City! St. Louis was to be my refuge, my island of escape from the the isolation, the “rural charm”, the hills, and most of all, the heat of southern Missouri. On this charge it succeeded. The presumed lack of camping options in downtown St. Louis meant that for the first time in 6 states I paid for a place to stay, but I was thrilled to be staying in the Huck Finn Youth Hostel. True, it was pretty far down on the list of quality hostels I’ve stayed in, but being around other people, even better, other travelers, was worth it.

I pegged Walter at about 70, based on the deep-set wrinkles surrounding the gray beard he trimmed daily with an old-fashioned pair of hair scissors. Leaning over the dorm room bathroom, he methodically and conscientiously brushed all the stray hairs off his frayed white Hanes undershirt and the conservative khaki Docker pants into which they were tucked. Walter had been at the hostel for a month at this point; wintering in New Mexico and summering in the Midwest, he is the quintessential old youth-hosteller. This is a man who’s obviously experienced in hostelling: the towels draping down from the bunk above him provided a near-perfect veil of privacy around his bed, his possessions neatly arranged below for easy access. This lifestyle, he informed me, is very economical.


St Louis

Walter also recommended to me particular attractions and places as I continue eastward. This is a regular phenomenon with travelers — it’s as if there exists and entire hidden world of attractions, sleeping, eating, hospitality information that is exchanged only by those far enough from their homes that they’ve forgotten all their regular haunts. An old bike tourer on a remote country road told me which church will give me a free shower and pointed me towards a fire station I could sleep behind. To the young Dutch boys in the hostel, in the midst of a driving meander from New York to San Diego, I passes along the tip of the good pub that had been recommended to me. The work/travel hostel employee made sure I knew where to find the home of Robert Pershing Wadlow, the tallest man in medical history (8 feet, 11.1 inches!). I countered by sharing with her where on Route 66 she could find the World’s Largest Rocking Chair (46 feet) and the Vacuum Cleaner Museum (and Factory Outlet). This “Vagabond’s Yelp” may not always lead you to the single best restaurant or accommodations as determined by the commons, but if you follow its advice you will almost always come away with a good story to tell.

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