On Monday, I departed St. Louis much later than my normal routine. It had been raining all morning, so I did not exit Michael and Mary Ann's house until sometime around noon.
(I arrived on an overcast day, and I left on an overcast day.)
The night before my departure we enjoyed Mary Ann's delicious meatloaf leftovers; however, the highlight was a 1961 Bordeaux.
I am still in shock that Michael was so generous to share that bottle with me.
Not really sure what a bottle like that might cost now, but that cherry cobbler delight had a price tag of just under $60 (back in the day).
The wine was the oldest I have ever had; it may be the oldest I will ever have.
Following our meal, I packed and read some from that novel (the one I picked up in New Harmony).
Saying goodbye to my magnanimous hosts and my lush accommodations was tough.
Knowing that I had a key to stay on my way back down made the departure less torturous.
Mary Ann helped me with directions just before take off.
I was able to ride through the black part of St. Louis. Sorry if I piss some people off here, but segregation is still alive and well in many parts of our country.
I took Kingshighway Boulevard to Florissant Avenue to Riverview Boulevard which then turns into Riverview Drive (an industrial section).
My route was basically through quite a few black neighborhoods.
I especially loved the stretch just after the Calvary Cemetery -- a line of middle class, two-story, uniform brick homes. Double triangles and fireplaces in the front; driveways on the right. Welcoming sidewalks and pathways.
From Riverview Drive, I jumped on 270 (entering Illinois) and took that to 3 North which took me to 143/100 (Great River Road).
When you drive along Great River Road from Alton to Pere Marquette State Park, you have views of the Mississippi River on one side and jutting rockscapes on the other.
Taking a photo along this stretch is challenging because there's literally no place to park.
The best I could do was this portion where the Native American dragon legend Piasa was born.
Etchings of it were found near this structure in the late 1600s.
Unfortunately, as you can see from the barricades in the back, you cannot enter the quarry due to falling rocks, danger, and so on.
As I entered Grafton, I reloaded on fuel and continued on 100 towards Kampsville.
When I reached Kampsville, I took 96 West/North towards Atlas.
At Atlas, I jumped on 54 West back into Missouri then onto 79 North into Hannibal.
The stretches of 96, 54, and 79 consisted of farm land, conservation areas, curves, elevation, and...
Sometimes, I would pull over just to hear the birds, the insects, and the wind.
Part of these roads were so beautifully desolate that I found myself completely engrossed in random thoughts and ideas -- so much so -- that a few times I became startled when I would notice a car gaining up on me in my rear view mirrors.
It was as if these four-wheel beasts crashed some sort of invite-only gala I had had with nature.
When I reached the Mark Twain Cave Campground, it was just ten minutes before 5 p.m.
A nice woman named Linda checked me into my tent site: $19 a night plus tax totaling $20.68.
Driving to the site, I set up the tent and immediately headed into town. The question was whether I wanted to stay one or two nights.
I opted for two nights due to my late start.
Plus, it was a bustling little town with museums and shops and restaurants to spend money.
First, I walked to Nipper Park where I could see the Mississippi River up close and personal. To the right of this photo, a mom with her two daughters was there fishing.
Later a group of girls walked along that gravel-looking path to the end of a little island.
If you walk further along the concrete stretch, you will find this Mark Twain sculpture.
His beloved river lies just behind him.
Like Cape Girardeau, Hannibal has many private places to sit and reflect alongside the Mississippi.
The railroad also runs adjacent to the Great River, and it is LOUD.
Definitely not a city to live in if your ears are sensitive to trains.
As I continued along my walk, I noticed a contemporary structure where giant stainless steel vats could be seen (thanks to the large windows).
I entered the Mark Twain Brewing Company not knowing I was about to have some of the best craft beer while on this trip!
Honestly, the food was nothing to write about... but the beer... let's just say I finished that flight with very little effort.
This place has three brewmasters (one of them is a woman). Whatever they're doing, they need to continue to expand their efforts.
I had an interesting time at the bar chatting with Tim (a craft beer aficionado) and the bartender. Tim's theory is that the colder the climate, the better the beer.
Something about having winters for plenty of trial and error.
I asked the bartender why every business seemed to have Mark Twain's name attached to it.
She laughed, saying, "You should see my resume."
Hannibal is quite overt in its cannibalization of one of our country's most famous authors.
Tim, the bartender, and I had grand chats about craft beers located in St. Louis and the Twin Cities region. I was also encouraged to stay in St. Paul over Minneapolis.
The former is more authentic than the latter.
As Tim put it, "When you see two grown men fighting with light sabres in an alleyway, that's when you know, something's wrong."
He had that wry sense of humor you don't realize you miss until you meet someone who navigates it with ease.
I said my goodbyes, and headed for a cool walk along random downtown streets.
Before heading back to my tent, I opted for a Hollywood blockbuster -- the newest Star Trek -- to relish some final air conditioning. I was the only one in theater five on Tuesday night.
Breaking my rule of not driving at night, I motorcycled three miles back up the valley to the campground just after midnight.
Unfortunately, I tossed and turned due to my primitive accommodations.
Time to get used to being on the road again...
Until we meet again, my friend!