Motorcycle Road Trip 2011 – Day 42

Mark Twain Riverboat

Mark Twain Riverboat - Hannibal, Missouri

Day 42 of my motorcycle road trip. I started the day riding with a beautiful blue sky. A nice change compared to the last couple of days. Today was an unexpectedly fun day. I headed west on Highway 72 from Champaign, Illinois, passing Decatur and Springfield. Late morning I arrived in Hannibal, Missouri. I vaguely remembered it being the home of Mark Twain (i.e., Samuel Clemens), the author of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and other classic books. It was probably high school, the last time I’d read anything by Mark Twain. I discovered that Hannibal is basically a showcase of his life and works.

I stopped at the information center and the woman gave me a map, and suggested a walking tour of the town. She also suggested other activities, such as the Mark Twain Cave, that I might enjoy. I hadn’t planned on spending much time in Hannibal, but I decided to go exploring.

I started walking up a hill to the lighthouse. I reached what appeared to be the base of an old bridge, that no existed. There was a plaque commemorating the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge build in 1935. From here, I had a nice view of the downtown area, and the Tom and Huck Statue. I looked up at the stairs to the lighthouse, and decided not to climb them in my motorcycle gear and boots. So, I walked down another set of stairs to the Tom and Huck Statue.

 


 

Next stop was the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Interpretive Center. The Interpretive Center provided a brief history of Samuel Clemens’ life. An interesting man, that lived through some interesting times. One of these days I’ll have to read his biography. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home had been completely remodeled, highlighting the different areas of the house with Mark Twain statues, quotes and other memorabilia. For some reason, I was more interested in the fictional life of his book characters, than his real life. I moved on to the Huck Finn home, that was built based on descriptions from Mark Twain’s books.

After touring Huck Finn’s home, I walked over to the Becky Thatcher House and the Haunted House. Then, to the John M. Clemens, Justice of the Peace, Law Office. This was Mark Twain’s father’s law office. And, then passed Grant’s Drug Store onto Main Street. Most of these buildings were undergoing renovation, so I couldn’t go inside.

I walked up Main Street to the Mark Twain Museum. The Mark Twain Museum had information about Mark Twain’s life, the time in which he lived, and his works. I was particularly interested in the Norman Rockwell paintings featuring scenes from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn books.

Next was a walk to the Mississippi River to see the Mark Twain Mississippi Riverboat. The riverboat was just returning from a sightseeing cruise when I arrived. Good timing. Unfortunately, I could once again see dark clouds heading my way from the west. According to the weather radar, a small thunderstorm was very close. I decided to ride down Highway 79, over to the Mark Twain Cave. Where better to be in a storm, but in a cave.

When I arrived at the Mark Twain Cave, I had no idea what to expect. I vaguely remembered a cave in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I paid the entrance fee, thinking it would be a 5 or 10 minute walk around a big cave. I’m glad I didn’t know what to expect, or my claustrophobia might of scared me off. It was about an hour long walk through about 1/3 mile of the 3 miles of cave systems. Talking about claustrophobic. The cave walls were about 10 feet high, and the path about 3 feet wide. It was cold and damp. Surprisingly, it was quite fun. I especially enjoyed the tales told by the tour guide. He pointed out all of the cave features mentioned by Mark Twain in this books.

By the time the tour ended, most of the storm had passed by, just a light rain remained. It was 1:30 pm, and I was getting hungry. I decided to ride back to downtown, and have lunch at the Mark Twain Family Restaurant, and wait out the remainder of the storm.

By 2:30 pm, lunch was finished, the rain was over, and I was back onto Highway 72 riding west. I wasn’t sure where I’d spend the night, but there were a few small towns west of me that would be suitable. I ended up spending the night in Cameron, Missouri. Not much other than a hotel, gas station and restaurant, that I could see. I sampled a local delicacy for dinner, Chicken Fried Steak, then called it a night.

 

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