Snowy Range Pass

Snowy Range Pass

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hannibal then and now

After leaving Keokuk, we headed to Hannibal, MO for a quick stop.  This has been on our list since we started full timing in 2006.  Back in 1981, we stayed here while we were making a cross country trip from Oklahoma to Ohio in a small four seat airplane. For any pilots out there it was a Beechcraft Musketeer. As often happens on this kind of trip, we were forced to stay in Hannibal for three days due to weather.  Since we did not have a car, we spent the full three days wandering the streets of Hannibal and eating in the same diner.  Now we wanted to see how the place might have changed.

We found that not a lot has changed and the changes are not an improvement.  Our first stop was the airport where we arrived all those years ago. It remains a small but active field. The boyhood home town of Mark Twain has a few attractions depicting the early life of Mark Twain.  New is the Mark Twain walking tour and museum.  Also new is the removal of several of the large waterfront commercial facilities that have been replaced by parking lots for visitors that were mostly not there on this Sunday in July.  We noticed a lot of closed businesses including one of the largest building in town, a former bank, were the sale sign says it all.  The long standing outdoor historic play venue closed a few years ago.

If you have not been here, it is worth a visit if you are a fan of river history and the works of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and his depiction of American life along the Mississippi.

I found a few of the slides that were taken during our stay in 1981 that allow a then and now look.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Keokuk and Nauvoo

At the end of the Winnebago rally, we decided to head south to Keokuk, Iowa for a bit of time along the Mississippi River.  From Keokuk you can take a 50 mile Great River Historic Loop that crosses the Mississippi twice and covers several interesting towns and many great river views.  The second bridge crossing is on the Santa Fe Bridge, which is one of the last remaining toll bridges on the Mississippi. It is also the longest and largest double-decker, swing span bridge in the world!

Keokuk sits on the southeast corner of Iowa, across the river from Illinois and just north of Missouri.  This geography has played an important role in the life of this city for most of its existence. Named after a Native American Chief, it was heavily involved in the Civil War. It was a center for treating both Union and Confederate wounded soldiers that were brought to here for treatment.  Many of those soldiers died there and are buried in Iowa’s only National Cemetery. 

In the early years river commerce was the driving force and as the city grew, the important people of the area lived on Grand Ave, which still reflects the lifestyle of that bygone era. There are a few people that lived here that would be known to the average person still today.  Mark Twain lived here for two years after he came to visit his two brothers.  He had his first literary works published here, reportedly to mixed reviews.  Howard Hughes grandfather served as Mayor, a state Supreme Court Judge and President of a railroad.

The other reason we stopped in here was the look at the ACOE lock and Dam #19.  This is located downtown and can be viewed from a walkway that used to be part of a train and vehicle bridge across the river.  

Today the city seems to have fallen on hard times with many stores closed and lots of the downtown buildings in disrepair.

The river loop has many pull outs on the Illinois side, many noted as bird watching areas. 

 Near the north end of the loop is the town of Nauvoo, IL.  This is a historic village largely known for its Mormon history. The Mormons moved to this area after experiencing problems in different locations with other local residents.  They remained here for several years building a temple and the village. Their leader Joseph Smith and others were involved in several businesses including a bank that had difficulties resulting in the bank failing.  This caused the already strained relationship with the other residents to become a crisis.  Joseph Smith and his brother were arrested and killed while they were in jail in Carthage, IL.  The Mormons were essentially forced to leave the area.  This began the Mormon Trail which ended in Utah.

The village has restored buildings available for touring and there is entertainment, carriage rides and a visitor information center. There is also a rebuilt Temple on the site of the original temple which was completed in 2002.  This can only be entered if you are a member.  Others may walk around the site.

There were a few other places that could be visited in the loop tour including a reconstructed fort in Fort Madison but it was just too hot for anymore sightseeing!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Planes and automobiles

The Winnebago National Rally does a good job of providing entertainment and other things to do.  Last Sunday, the Forest City police had a benefit omelet breakfast at the local airport.  This was a fun event that even included a pretty good omelet.  Just like a restaurant, the quality of the omelet was somewhat dependent on the skill of the volunteer.  I picked a good one.  In addition to the rally participants, it was also a fly in for airplane pilots.  This was a great flashback for me, as I spent many years flying small to large aircraft.  I attended many such fly-in events for an expensive breakfast.  In fact, there were at least four planes attending this breakfast that I have many hours in.  

After breakfast, we walked the flight line and enjoyed the well maintained aircraft, including a 1945 Howard that was used as a military ambulance.  It was in pristine condition and had a little note reminding folks to look but not touch.

Later in the week there was a very popular event, the classic car parade.  This is always well attended with state parties along the parade route and everyone taking the opportunity to talk with the many car owners’ about their special vehicles.