Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Bit of Mark Twain Along the Mississippi

With race plans made for Quincy IL and another one planned for the next weekend in Columbia MO, I cast about in search of a suitable place to "park" for a few days in between these two events.  I could book a timeshare at Lakes of the Ozarks, but it was too secluded from activities outside of the resort.  Or I could book a timeshare in Branson, but I quickly ruled that out when I realized it would add 500 miles to my trip.

I gave up on the idea that I could stay somewhere free, i.e. in a timeshare, so turned my search to finding a nice town with enough amenities to at least make my stay comfortable.  I wanted someplace small and quaint, maybe historic, not too far off my ultimate route to Columbia MO, with enough things to do and places to eat that I wouldn't need to always be getting in the car. 

Hannibal MO kept jumping out at me from the map I was poring over as I did my research, and I kept returning back to that town and looking at the lodging choices and things to do and places to eat.  Finally a plan was made.  There's a promising B&B just a couple of blocks from the downtown streets, with good reviews on 


The finish line for the Quincy IL race was down along the river in Bicentennial Park.  Great location but it meant I had to "claw" my way back up that ridiculously steep hill on Hampshire Street for two blocks to get to 4th Street and to my hotel.  Not so bad walking back up the day before the race, after taking photos of the bridges, but a killer of a hill after running 13 miles.  How steep was it, you ask?

Hampshire St. - pretty steep hill!

Then I scrambled to get showered and dressed and checked out of the Hampton Inn which was kind enough to give me a late check-out.  It was a short 20 or so miles to Hannibal and I found a KFC in town and had a good, greasy post-race lunch. 
Dubach Inn

As much as I wanted to set out exploring after getting checked in to the Dubach Inn, the really comfortable upholstered chaise chair in the sitting room of my suite kept calling my name (I really must get one of these for my home!).

But Sunday was a different matter!!  I woke up to a carafe of coffee delivered on a tray outside my door and then later had a fabulous breakfast, all part of that B&B experience!  Then it was off to Clarksville, MO about 48 miles south along the Great River Road.  I stopped at one of the overlooks just to take in the vista:

Further down the road toward Clarksville, I spied two juvenile Bald Eagles soaring along the shore of the river.  The river was well out of its banks and I drove by several areas that were flooded, but this region knows how to deal with it.
In Clarksville there was evidence of serious sandbagging on the side streets that dead-ended against the railroad tracks along the edge of the river. 

A very nice restaurant just south of town was my destination....Clarksville Station Restaurant at Overlook Farm.  I was meeting a fellow MTF member to give him a SPOT RAM cradle I'm no longer using and to have lunch.  Carrot soup to die for, and a slice of chocolate cream pie for dessert!  And what a gorgeous restaurant!  Beautiful outdoor patio areas, gardens...

Monday morning after another elegant and delicious breakfast, I walked down to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum to take the self-guided tour.  It's a collection of several historic buildings clustered together on one street block and consists of his boyhood house and other buildings that played a role in his or his family's life.  Soon after I arrived it began to rain...and then to rain even harder!  I made a dash between the buildings, and then dashed down to the next block where the Mark Twain Museum is located. 

Of all the memorabilia on display here at the museum, the most interesting to me was the complete collection of original Norman Rockwell drawings and paintings that were commissioned to illustrate the novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.   It's the first time that the complete set of illustrations has been together under one roof, ever since one of them went missing and later turned up at auction.  Of course, when I was finished with the museum, I stepped outside to sunshine.  Figures! 

Java Jive is right across the street!  Let's go check it out. I bought a bowl of chili and a cappuccino to take back with me to my room for lunch, all the while suspecting that I may become a regular customer of this great little spot.

At the Mark Twain museum gift shop I purchased a couple of postcards for my grandkids, so after lunch I walked down to the nearby post office to mail them and then took a little walk up 7th Street and meandered around between 5th and 6th streets, taking photos of some of the beautiful old houses.

Reagan's Queen Anne B&B, formerly the Pettibone Mansion

Robards Mansion

Rowe-Cochran House, 1886

News of the Moore OK tornado was hitting the airwaves that afternoon and I was transfixed, watching the news coverage on the weather channel the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening.  At 5:30 I switched to NBC Nightly News and within minutes local weather warnings were beginning to scroll across the bottom of the TV screen.  Uh oh! 

Then the tornado sirens started to go off in Hannibal and I leapt into action, gathering my things and placing them into the interior hallway outside my room.  The proprietor came up the stairs about that time to check on me and offered the basement as shelter if I felt more comfortable. 

One look outside my windows and I didn't waste another minute getting down the stairs and into the basement.  The wind was suddenly ferocious, blowing the trees sideways and the noise was deafening.  Soon we lost power.  Within minutes though, the noise stopped and I ventured back up the cellar stairs and took a peek outside.  It was still raining, but no longer blowing.  It was then that we could see the huge number of large limbs down in the yards and on the streets.

The entire town was without power through the night.  At about 5:30 in the morning power came back to the Dubach Inn and I was relieved.  I had lain awake much of the night doing contingency planning in case the power did not come back. 

The air was sparkly clean and cool after the storm the night before, so I got up very early and went for a little run before breakfast.  I got a better sense of the storm damage as I ran through the streets just west of downtown.  Downed tree limbs barely missing cars and buildings. Huge trees uprooted.  Bits of roof and awnings and fencing strewn everywhere.  Power lines down, entangled in downed trees and branches.   It was an all-too familiar scene for me, having witnessed such destruction at home in South Texas which is at the mercy of regular tropical storms and hurricanes. 

Old Federal Building
After a couple of miles I stopped back at the inn to grab some money and ran on into town to Java Jive.  What better place to get the "scoop" from the locals?  Here I learned from other folks chatting in line that about half the town was still without power, that the most hard-hit section seemed to be an area bounded roughly by Grand St to the east, Broadway Extension to the south, 61 to the west, and I-72 to the north.  I ordered a cappuccino and then walked back to the inn, sipping and enjoying the weather.

Cleaned up, dressed, and another sinfully good breakfast eaten, it was time to plan my day.  Maybe this is the day to take that trolley ride tour of town.  I puttered around town a bit, getting better photos of the Twain buildings, since the rain got in the way of accomplishing that the day before. 

Mark Twain Boyhood Home

Then I went back to my now-familiar and now-favorite place in town - Java Jive - and ordered a sandwich for lunch.  I sat outside on a bench and ate half, saving half for dinner later.  I bought a ticket for the Trolley Tour and at 1:30 PM....away we went, careening up hills, barreling down hills, driving past mansions, past the crews efficiently clearing the downed brush from the storm.  The one-hour tour was shortened by 15 minutes, but I'd had enough anyway.

I think I've seen enough of Hannibal.  That last evening I gathered my possessions, pulling them in closer to my feet so-to-speak, and began thinking about the next leg of my journey.  I leave Hannibal, grateful that I've been an avid student of Twain's many writings, but with a deep desire to again read some of those works I've not touched in a while and to give those works I've not read, their fair due.

Tomorrow:  Moving on down the road to Columbia MO.

...nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature  put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people. - Mark Twain


  1. I am glad that you managed to weather the storm and just lost power at the B&B. It was scary watching the news.

    I loved seeing the pictures of all those old houses. If they could talk - oh, the stories they could tell and things they've seen.

  2. very kewl...we might just have to make a trip to Hannibal now