Spent the night in Quincy, Illinois in preparations for visiting Hannibal and seeing Mark Twain’s stuff. I’ll tell ya, EVERYTHING in Hannibal is about Mark Twain. There’s Becky Thatcher Fudge, Mark Twain Gas and Go, even Mark Twain Fried Chicken. The pretty little main street in town is wall to wall tourist places where I met some very nice people and sampled Becky’s Fudge.
But, I wanted to see something I hadn’t seen before, so I moseyed over to Mark Twain’s Cave to see some underground wonders. The cave was discovered around 1819 and was a favorite spot for the local kids to play – although there is some danger. At the time, light was usually supplied by candle – which wasn’t much. Here’s a map of the cave:
It wouldn’t be hard to get lost in these caves and Mark Twain’s book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has lengthy parts about Tom and Becky getting lost and eventually meeting Injun Joe.
After a short video, we headed into the cave…
There were lots of narrow passages and some geological formations that had cute names:
It was a cool 52 degrees which felt great after the 90 degree heat outside. At one point, the guide turned out all the lights to show how incredibly dark the cave is when there is no lights at all for the eyes to get used to. Of course, it scared the hell out of the little kids on tour, so she quickly turned them back on.
Up until about 1972, they encouraged people to sign their names in the caves:
They said that Jesse James really had been in the cave and his name was written in pencil in one of the off-limits areas. They were afraid that people would end up erasing the words just by wanting to touch them. The oldest found signature was from 1820 – just a year after the cave was discovered.
Overall, the tour took about an hour. It was an easy walk and some of the rock stuff was pretty interesting. The worst part was when they shoved us all in a room at the end while one of the owners rambled for about 10 minutes about all the touristy stuff to see in the gift shop and surrounding buildings. All in all, worth the trip – especially if you’ve never been in a cave before.
As I traveled through the U.S. by backroads mostly, I often passed through towns that were county seats. They almost always had a beautiful county courthouse surrounded by various monuments and streets lined with little shops. They truly were town squares. Two of my favorites were Troy, Kansas, and Pittsfield, Illinois.
Troy had one of the Peter Toth Indian Sculptures. Toth (rhymes with oath) was a Hungarian born sculpture who wanted to honor the Native Americans by creating a sculpture in each of the 50 states. He completed the last, depicting a Polynesian, in Hawaii in 1988. It was statue #58 (some states have more than one and there are two in Canada). These things are amazing.
As with most courthouses, there were war memorials and other items of interest:
Pittsfield, Illinois, was much of the same. A beautiful county building:
It gave me a surprising amount of pleasure to pass slowly through these small towns and see the obvious pride the local people took in their surroundings. I never met a single person who didn’t beam with delight when asked a question about their town or their lives there.
It felt good to be in America.
Today’s Travel: 271 miles
Total Travel To Date: 11, 802 miles