St. Louis Trip – Day 2

Previously: Day 1

Friday we hit up the Endangered Wolf Center which is about half an hour outside of St. Louis. For $12 a person you get a brief talk followed by a walk down to the wolf area. There are five animals, Mexican Grey Wolf, Mane Wolf, Red Wolf, African Wild Dogs and Swift Foxes. There are 48 animals in total, all who belong to United States Fish and Game. The non-profit group that runs the sanctuary doesn’t get any money from the government though.

The Swift Foxes are super tiny and just had babies, so there was a lot of buzz, but our first time by they were all hiding. We did see a Mexican Grey Wolf shortly thereafter who came all the way up to the 2nd fence and was just a few feet away from us. We wandered down to see another Mexican Grey Wolf, an older adult male who is in his old area. He was just chilling. The African Wild Dogs were laying down by a pond and were kind of hard to see, although at one point one of them stood up and stretched before lying down again. We moved on towards the Mane Wolf pen. This species is from South America, and have very long legs. There were two of them and they came down pretty close to us at one point. There was one Red Wolf in the pen next to the Mane Wolves, but he didn’t come very close while we were standing there. He did go lay down near the fence in between him and the Mane Wolves. At one point one of the Mane Wolves was chasing a bug, or rodent and got to close to the fence, and the Red Wolf got intimidating. That was the most exciting moment of the day.

We did also see a deer that came out the woods and ran across the gravel road about 20-30 feet from us, but that was about it. On the way back the Swift Fox pups were out and we got a quick peek at them. When fully grown, they are only five pounds, so you can imagine how tiny the pups were. The tour lasts about an hour and a half and was pretty cool, but not drastically different than visiting a zoo (and from what I have heard the St. Louis Zoo is free).

On the way back, we stopped for lunch. We opted to hit up Pappy’s Smokehouse, a St. Louis staple (supposedly) that was featured on Man vs. Food at some point. A friend of a friend said he had heard good things but it didn’t seem that he had actually been there. It’s easy to understand why. We arrived a little after 11:45 and waited almost 1.5 hours to order. After ordering, your food is delivered in minutes. The place is very small. I would guess there is room for about 60 people to sit and eat, but it was packed the entire nearly two hours we were there. Growing up and living outside of Chicago, the BBQ choices are few and far between, so this was unlike any place I had ever been.

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We got a pulled pork, a beef brisket, spicy sausage, vinegar slaw, fried corn on the cob (!) and sweet potato fries. All of the meat comes without sauce and there were three choices on the table, regular, hot and sweet, and we tried them all. The brisket and pulled pork were both probably the best of either I have ever had, but the spicy sausage was just OK. The fried corn on the cob was good and something we might try to make at home. The sauces were good but not mind-blowing.

Both the people in front and behind of us were out-of-towners like us, and I got the impression that there weren’t a ton of locals there, most surely do to the extremely long wait time. My guess is that there are comparable, maybe slightly lower quality places with no wait times. Even though it was the best brisket and pulled pork I had ever had, I don’t know that it was worth standing in line for 1.5 hours. For $26, the food is priced fairly, but you could hit two other places in the time it takes to go here once. The ambiance is is OK, but because the line winds right down the middle of the place, it feels very cramped and crowded.

After lunch we headed back downtown to check out the museum under the Gateway Arch. It was free and is mostly about Lewis and Clark and their expedition to reach the Pacific Ocean. We watched the Jeff Bridges’ narrated movie about said expedition, which was 45 minutes long and $7 per person. It was OK, but nothing special and probably not worth the time or money. Once you watch that, the museum isn’t nearly as interesting because so much of it is dedicated to Lewis and Clark and essentially covers the same information. We took some pictures under the arch, but opted not to go up because of my phobias and also the lengthy wait times.

After taking a break at our hotel for a bit, we headed to Busch Stadium to watch the hometown Cardinals play the Pittsburgh Pirates. I bought tickets on StubHub for around $60. We took the MetroLink to get to the game, which is the rail system in St. Louis. The train drops you off right at the park, so it’s a convenient method to get to the game. We took some pictures in front of the statues outside the park before heading in.

We walked around the entire lower level concourse before finding our seats. It was very crowded about 40 minutes before game time, but this can likely be attributed to the extreme heat and the day’s giveaway, adult Carlos Beltran jerseys, which were gone 40+ minutes before the game started1 We got a couple of drinks as well as one of the Busch Stadium signature items, a bacon-wrapped hot dog. It was $9, but pretty large and came with a selection of toppings. I opted for BBQ sauce, dijon mustard, grilled onions and pickles. It was good and pretty filling, but it’s questionably whether it was worth $9.

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Our seats were down the third-base line, a bit past the bag and in the second level of lower level seats. We were in the first row of this slightly elevated section, which made it seem like we were actually further away than we were. The place was packed and the fans were into the game for a while. It certainly looked like a sellout. The park itself is very nice looking. The video board is big, and the information that surrounds it is big and legible. The outfield doesn’t have an upper deck and presents a great view of the city, including the Gateway Arch.

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The beer vendors were plentiful, but the only food vendors seemed to be cotton candy and Cracker Jacks. On the concourse there is a pretty typical selection of ballpark foods, and a healthy selection of beers scattered about. We had an order of build your own nachos which also ran $9, as well as a hot dog with potato chips that was $6.50. The nachos were pretty good, but nothing special and the hot dog was just OK.

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The Cardinals took a beating and the place had emptied out pretty well by the time we left. When we returned to the MetroLink platform, a train was just arriving but we didn’t rush because the platform wasn’t very full and we figured we would wait for the next one. Apparently we had made a quick exit because the next train didn’t arrive for at least 10 minutes and by then the platform was absolutely packed. I can’t imagine what the situation would have been if so many people hadn’t left so early. It must be a big mess normally.

Overall our 2nd day was a lot of fun and just as hot as the first. Busch Stadium is one of the nicest stadiums I have been to, but the food was just OK. Pappy’s was good, but not worth the wait. The Endangered Wolf Center was cool, but probably not better than the free zoo.

  1. To put that into perspective, I got a Carlton Fisk statue at the White Sox game a month or so ago, even though I arrived after the first pitch. []