Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, is regarded as one of America’s greatest writers. While he wrote many letters, essays and books, I am most familiar with his novels “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” & “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” which I find are just as fun to read now as when I was in 5th grade.
Hannibal is only a 2-3 hour drive from Saint Louis and varies a bit, as I found out, depending upon which road is chosen. Last Saturday we got up early and loaded up our SUV for a family outing. My own interest in the rediscovery of the writings of Mark Twain was infectious with my family and my wife suggested the day trip. She called and made sure the town was open to visitors as the Mississippi River had recently flooded many communities in Iowa and Northern Missouri.
We were well on our way up the Interstate and heading west when my wife asked me if I bothered to look at a map before we left. While I had a general idea of where we were going, I thought it best to answer her question in the affirmative. I bailed on the first exit that I came to that had a state highway that ran north and south. If you are keeping score at home, that would be Highway 79. We drove from town to town on a narrow and winding road. We were amazed to see the devastating effects of the recent flood. Some buildings right off the highway had mounds of sand bags stacked 8-10 feet around them. Other buildings showed an 8 to 10 foot mud stain on the side indicating severe property damage. Much of our drive towards Hannibal ran parallel to the Mississippi River and looking out our windows to the right, we could see the massive and mighty and very muddy river.
We arrived in Hannibal around 10:00am and decided to go for the one hour sightseeing tour on the Mark Twain riverboat. We had to wait for 30 minutes or so before we could baord so we just walked around the riverfront. We could see the flood damage first hand and it was not at all pretty. Dried mud was everywhere. The shrubs and grass and flowers that would have made the waterfront colorful in the spring and summer were wilted and brown. The dirt that had filled massive landscaped retaining walls had been liquefied and oozed out through the brickwork leaving huge sinkholes. The huge flood gates and levy had protected the downtown area leaving only the water front exposed to be ravished by the river.
The one hour excursion was a wonderful experience. It was heating up to be a very warm summer day and it was good to sit out on the deck and enjoy the weather and the scenery. It was interesting to hear that a cruise to Saint Louis from Hannibal would take 24 hours going downstream but to come back against the current, it would take almost a week.
After the cruise, we walked around downtown Hannibal and stopped at the Mark Twain dinette for lunch. We toured the historic boyhood home of Sam Clemens which has been turned into a museum. There is also the “Huckleberry Finn” house”, the “Becky Thatcher” house, the “J.M. Clemens Justice of the peace” office, and “Grant's Drug Store”.
We also went to walk through the Mark Twain cave before we left that afternoon for our drive back home, this time using Highway 61. The ‘straight and level’ four lane expressway allowed us to return to St Louis in nearly half the time. I have to remember that for next time. .
Oh yes, while browsing the gift shop I noticed many of Mark Twain’s books were available for purchase. One particular title caught my eye . . . it was called “Life on the Mississippi”. I purchased the book and made another note to myself to change the title of my blog.