Day 27

Tuesday, June 21, 2005Thousand Hills SP, MO
Miles: 3356Bye, Ol' Man River
Today we headed out of St. Louis. First on the agenda: Confluence Point, where the Missouri and the Mississippi converge, and our latest road lesson. See, Confluence Point is on a gravel road. Ceridwen grew up on dirt roads, and is quite used to them. They are nothing like this gravel road. This gravel road created clouds of dust. Unfortunately, by the time we realized this, we were covered in dust. The van has no recirculation feature, so we were stuck. There was dust everywhere. Gross. We ended up driving back from the point with the windows up and the vents closed. We roasted, but the van didn’t gain any more dust.

Sadly, the point wasn’t really worth all the work that awaited us. The Missouri, which is fast running and muddy, pins the blue, slower Mississippi to the Eastern bank for quite awhile, and it’s cool to see the Missouri pretty much kick the Mississippi’s ass, but not worth spending an hour and a half with damp rags cleaning gray silt off everything, which is what we ended up doing later on. Like I said, road lesson. I thought that the van wouldn’t be too happy about it, but it doesn’t seem to be running funny or anything, so that’s good.

After this misadventure, we drove to Hannibal, MO, the boyhood home of Samuel Clemons, or Mark Twain. Hannibal is a cute little town on the Mississippi which smells really nice. Not like anything specific, just nice. We both noticed it and remarked on the oddness of anything smelling nice when it’s pushing 100 degrees.

In Hannibal we went to the house Sam Clemons lived in, the house that the model for Becky Thatcher (Laura Hawkins) lived in and the courthouse where Sam’s father worked as Justice of the Peace. These sites were a lot more interesting than the Scott Joplin site, since many of Twain’s works were set in a fictional town based on Hannibal. This made the place relevant. They drew a lot of parallels between Twain’s real life and the events in his books, which was interesting. So interesting, we bought a copy of his autobiography.

After checking all these sites out, we went to the museum and saw what the interior of a steam boat would have looked like during the time that Clemons was a steam boat pilot. It also told how he came up with Mark Twain. Steam boats need 12 feet of water to safely pass. Mark is 10 and twain is two, so when the person measuring the water said “mark twain”, it meant that the water was safe.

After some ice cream, we climbed a huge hill in the heat, nearly collapsed at the top, looked at the view of the Mississippi, which was very pretty, and went back down. We went to the river’s edge to bid it adieu, and then headed West, ending our week and a half romance with the big ol’ river.

We stopped for the night in Kirksville, MO in Thousand Hills State Park. Despite their confusing policies regarding taking possession of a site, we got a great site with a great view. We were very Goldilocks about the whole thing. This site smells too much like a dump station, this site is too close to screaming children, but this site, overlooking the lake and nestled at the end of a nearly deserted loop, is just right. We watched the moon rise red over the water and listened to various animals go about their business. All of this was after the Great Road Dust Cleanup of ’05, of course. Some raccoons came to visit us while we sat watching the fire die down (yay, campfires again!) and we had to scare them off with bright light. They behaved like housecats, coming right up to us. We went to bed, leaving the fly off the tent and slept beneath the moon. It was nice to return to real camping, though still quite hot, even at night outside.