Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Beautiful Ballas Bypass

The stretch of Interstate 270 around the west side of St. Louis frequently slows just before Manchester Road, and you don't get back up to speed until after the Dougherty Ferry bridge construction is well behind you.

I hate being in constipated traffic, nudging along at 15 mph and hypervigilant front and back.

So I've cut off to Ballas Road south of Interstate 64, a blissfully quiet two-lane that parallels 270 on the east through Sugar Creek Valley (Please Help Preserve Its Beauty) past the tricky stoplight on on a hilltop curve at Dougherty Ferry, climbing hills and coasting valleys on smooth shaded asphalt striped clean as a snake.

Ballas Road presents you with a left fork to Adams Street and downtown Kirkwood, or a tail end of Ballas that reaches Big Bend in Webster, where you can rejoin the Highway 44 at Berry Road, or lose yourself in the shady streets of Shrewsbury. During the worst times of bridge construction it was faster to take Ballas and much less hectic.

I saw a white F-150 with a cross-and-lilies and "In Loving Memory of My Wife and Mother" on the cab's rear window. The driver was a somewhat senior white man.

Was the truck purchased with proceeds from his wife and mother's demise? Does he drive to honor them? I have not seen anything like it before.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

One Crosstown Drive

Tonight I took Delmar east from the Loop, turned right onto Skinker, left on Forest Park Parkway, and then right on De Baliviere, winging around past the History Museum, following a train of cars who seemed to know quite well where they were going. Right again, then around the lovely fresh fountains below Art Hill, perfectly white; navigating the tiny arrowed lanes to turn left up the west side of the hill, to the Art Museum, behind the statue of Louis pointing his sword, around the Zoo's grid of bird cage and into the new roundabout and finally onto Hampton.

I cut through The Hill instead of charging down Hampton's stoplight-strewn curves. Sublette will take you past Cunetto's House of Pasta, a park where baseball is continously played, past the old State Hospital and the Crematorium; down to the boulevard of Utah, right on Brannon, left on Neosho, right on south Kingshighway and finally Gravois to Loughborough. Probably a twelve-mile trip.

I drove this random alternate route without thinking too much about anything other than staying off the interstate and avoiding the four-lane secondary roads. A good time for 30 mph driving, with the window open and the grassy smells of summer flowing in, and the houses hushed and lowlit.