…and Molly Brown too!

Greetings from Hannibal, MO! I’m posting this from Java Jive, the first coffee house west of the Mississippi. Well, that’s what they claim on the door! It’s within 2 blocks of the Might Miss so it’s a logistical possibility. This place is so “not Starbucks” with mis-matched furnishings, laid back barristers, and a big morning crowd of RV (recreational vehicle) park regulars. As it’s pouring rain (again) I might order a second cappacino and get really comfortable on one of the sofas.

I should provide something of an update from my last posting. I got a late start out of St. Louis around 11:30 am. I Up at 5 am and thought I could be on the road by 10 but…I kept finding things to pack in closets I forgot I had. I had to ship a box of odd items to Texas as the only space left to fill by 11 am in the car was the driver’s seat!

Starbucks let me down on making a WiFi link before I headed across the river to catch the Great River Road (IL Route 100) which explains the lack of news until now. Weather was grey with a nice breeze along the river. A bit of compensation for the draining humidity of these days in Missouri.

Had a late lunch just north of Alton IL.  The river was choppy with no traffic to speak of except for a lone catfisherman. The gloomy skies made driving easy with no sun transits to battle.

My next stop along the route was to pay honor to my good buddy and data dude Don Hardin. I crossed the Illinois River at Hardin IL on a old drawbridge. It was down for my first pass across but I did get a second chance to watch the bridge work due to a navigational miscalculation (wrong turn).

I was so excited about finding Hardin that I, first, ignore the sign for Rt 100 north and, second, I stopped, took a picture, called Don, and toured the town for 5 minutes. That time allowed me to double back twice and count the extensive collection of bars and package liquor stores. All that was missing was a sign for a local AA meeting. Sorry Don.

Due to my spin around town I headed south of an unmarked route through a nature preserve along the Illinois River. The drive was so enjoyable that I didn’t realize I was backwards (remember lots of clouds, no sun, no traffic except the occasional pair of bikers) until I came to sign for the ferry to St. Charles, MO!

A mid course correction got me across the Illinois via ferry boat…did anyone else besides me think that ferry boats were extinct?…to…Route 100! It all looked just as nice the second time especially getting to cross the Illinois River on the drawbridge at Hardin. This time it was open for traffic. Unfortunately I wasn’t close enough to get a good picture but it was worth the 15 minute wait.

Speaking of pictures, I do have a number to share but I need to work on reducing the file sizes. I shot them all at 8 meg (great resolution) which is rather chunky for blog use.

More driving took me to Route 72 west heading back to Missouri and Hannibal. The skies had cleared so I had a great view crossing the Mississippi at Hannibal. The preservationist have done a respectable job of restoring the “look” of a 19th century America small town. The romantic in me took a quick mental trip back to a time of shoeless boys, girls in pigtails and ribbons, and yards of fences in need of whitewash.

I’ll wax more later on the feel of the place but I do have to get to the really exciting part of the trip so far. I checked into the Tom Sawyer Campground and Cave around 5:30 pm. The humidity along the river was greater than the 85 degree temps and all I really wanted was a shower and a nice meal in an air conditioned tourist eatery. Instead, I spent an hour trying to raise my pop-up tent for one and finally had to seek the assistance of the camp manger. The instructions did say, in small print, that this one person tent required TWO people to set up. We had it up in 3 minutes or less and I quickly hit the communal showers hoping to wash off some of the red in my face.

I wasn’t the only “tenter” on the campground but I certainly was one of the most primitive. Some folks had multi-room deluxe accommodations with gas stove grills and adjacent tents for the kiddies. The real pioneers, however, were the RV mansion owners that occupied the major portion of the grounds. From the simple to the Romanesque or Tuscan villa motif, the RVer’s ruled. One grouping of RV gypsies shared a double set of satellite dishes! And this was all to be envied UNTIL…

 …the STORM came! Forget dinner (I ate pizza), forget rubbing down in bug juice at bed time, forget the sound of kids on a snipe hunt (Uncle Steve can explain this one). Everything was prelude to the Big One that hit at 1:30 am.

It started out as rumbles and lots of wind of the normal variety; 20-25 miles an hour. Then some brilliant lightening and some drizzle. My tent was well staked, I thought, and even had a fancy rain cover for just such contingencies. What I didn’t have was enough weight to keep the tent on the ground when the gale started! Yes sir…all 200 pounds of me got turned a good 15 degrees and I swear I left the ground by 2 inches at the very heart of this tantrum of nature. The wind lasted for a good hour along with driving rain. I made it through with just a few leaks. Nothing was trashed except for a towel (gone, very gone, like next county gone) that was hanging over my canvas chair. Most of the tenters survived with minor damage. Not so of the RVers. Remember those folks with the dish TV? Not today! The Italian garden was uprooted, the fancy mobile patios were relocated, and many an awning was just twisted aluminium. The insurance people were out and about this morning when I finally summoned my nerve to unzip and crawl out.  Lots of dazed looks although the tenters near me were already getting breakfast going (real campers for sure!)

I elected to clean up both myself and my campsite as best as resources allowed and headed off for breakfast at Mark Twain’s Dinette (I don’t recall him owning one of those ;-). I also hit the local Huck Finn Shopping Center for replacement towels.

And I am back to where I started. Java Jive, first coffee house west of the Mississippi…Oh, did I mention that the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” of Titanic fame lived in Hannibal?

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4 Responses to …and Molly Brown too!

  1. suzanne says:

    Woohoo! Welcome to camping! Sounds like the beginnings of a great road trip. Hope you have less navigational corrections to make…but if past is precedent…well…I won’t mention your little trip to Austin via San Antonio…LOL

  2. Denise in NC says:

    Well you haven’t lost your ability to share a good story! Good God, gale force winds uprooting the one man tent that required two men to set up! Will ya just make your way to NC for a visit?

  3. Sally says:

    While I have a difficult time imagining you camping (in a tent, at that), your experiences to date have obviously not dampened your sense of humor (yeah, really bad pun intended). 🙂 I look forward to reading more as your journey continues. Safe travels!

  4. Kevin says:

    Well looks like Hannibal put out the welcome mat for you! All the places you mentioned are places we use to hang out. My grandmother lived on Mark Twain Ave – actually right across the street from Molly Browns home on Dinkler (related) alley – stone house (between hotels now a book store) and we use to explore Hannibal and all the places – cave – Mark Twain Dinette! Memories!

    Good luck on your journey!

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