The bus pulled into St Louis at around 1pm, some 18 hours after leaving Denver, although this included an hour layover in Kansas City. Tonight I’m staying out in the suburbs, in Belleville, due to it having the nearest affordable hotel in a safe location. Belleville is actually across the Mississippi River in the next state, Illinois. However it is also on the light-rail network of St Louis, Missouri. En route to Belleville I received a text from my Dad informing me of another Tranmere Rovers victory, making it the best start to a season in almost 100 years!
Just across the river from St Louis is East St Louis, a separate city from its much larger and famous neighbour. I’d heard about East St Louis mostly due to its notoriety, often topping surveys about the most crime-ridden places in the USA. Riding the light-rail though East St Louis it perhaps looked even worse than what I was expecting. The city centre has an eerie feel. It resembles a set from The Walking Dead or some sort of ghost town. All that seems to be left on the empty streets are abandoned buildings in varying states of disrepair. The Spivey Building would have been classed as a grand skyscraper when it was built but today just a shell remains. It’s somewhat sombre to look at. There’s no way I’d even consider getting off the train here. Later I read about East St Louis and there’s been attempts to try and revive its fortunes with the opening of a casino on the river and the light-rail passing through but clearly it’s been to little or no avail.
After the light-rail heads out of East St Louis (including through a station named after the local athletics hero, Jackie Joyner-Kersee) the socioeconomic status seems to improve and we arrive in Belleville. This is classic small-town America with wooden houses set in well-maintained gardens. The high street is pleasant enough with businesses that have probably been around forever and a day. In one such bar the waitress was keen to tell me that she’d visited the UK, as is often the case over here. When I asked her where she’d been and what she’d seen she said that all she could remember was Legoland as she was only four years old. But it was really good. That kind of killed off the conversation!