Yesterday, we crossed the Mississippi River and entered Missouri. Heavy rainfall had flooded the river, and several streets in Hannibal had been completely submerged in murky, muddy water.
With only 40 miles on the cue sheet, we were able to get into town by early afternoon, giving us plenty of time to explore. Though Mark Twain was born in Louisiana, Missouri, he grew up and spent most of his childhood in Hannibal. Walking around the historical downtown district was like stepping back in time. Everything was old-fashioned, preserving the attitude and ambiance of Twain’s time. We stopped by for some delicious gelato before DM-ing tickets to the Mark Twain Museum.
Afterwards, we visited Samuel Clemens’ boyhood house, as well as Becky Thatcher’s and Huck Finn’s homes, which were based on the descriptions from Mark Twain’s books. Aunt Polly’s whitewash fence lined the storybook street. I’ll let the literary genius describe Hannibal in his own words:
“After all these years I can picture it just as it was then; the white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer’s morning…one or two clerks sitting in front of [the] stores, with their splint-bottomed chairs tilted back against the wall…hats slouched over their faces, asleep… a sow and a litter of pigs loafing along the sidewalks… two or three lonely little freight piles scattered around the ‘levee’…[and] the great Mississippi, the majestic, the magnificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along, shining in the sun.” (MT, Life on the Mississippi)
Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer made an appearance during dinner and even performed a scene from the book. We learned that, though Hannibal is mainly known as being the setting for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huck Finn, it’s location along the river made it an extremely profitable city back in Mark Twain’s time.
One man who spoke to us at the church, Todd, explained to us that certain members of the church had been assigned a rider to pray for throughout the duration of our trip. It was a surprising and joyous feeling to know that someone who didn’t know me, and might never know me, would put me in his thoughts and prayers. If you’re reading this, Steve, thank you.
This morning, we set out on a 90 mile ride to Moberly. The morning’s mercifully cool air quickly turned into hot and dry wind in the afternoon. The town names in Missouri began to take on an international tone, as we passed by signs pointing to Mexico, Columbia, and Paris.* Our lunch stop was at Buzzard’s Roost in Mark Twain State Park. The rest of the ride was hot and monotonous. I added two more flat tires to my count.** Dinner, again, exceeded all expectations.
Close to the end of our ride, Emily, Sarah and I stopped to take a break under a tree in someone’s front yard. We met a woman named Vicky, and told her about our interesting journey across the United States. Vicky and her husband, the residents and owners of the home, then generously donated $40 to our cause.
*All small towns in MO, in case you didn’t get that.
**Now totaling 15.