Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hannibal, Missouri, and The Lincoln Museum, Springfield, Illinois

September 19, 2012

Hannibal, Missouri seems as if we were backtracking, doesn't it? We did cross back over the Mississippi River to get there, granted, but the bridge wasn't that long...............and we did go west, but just a teensy bit.  This is our third visit to Hannibal together, I confess.

OK, we went backwards a tad. Not ready to go home just yet.

I have to tell you that last night my husband drove into Hannibal with the help of Thelma*, and without any more aid from me or Thelma*, drove straight to the nearest whorehouse.

It's called Lula Belle's, and now it's a Bed and Breakfast and restaurant.  It's run by Mike Ginsberg and his wife.

Angel of Delight
We've stayed here before, in 2007.   Lula Belle's was an up and running brothel until the 1960's and didn't try to hide what was going on there, either. When the houses of ill-repute were forced to shut down then, it sat awhile until it was changed to its current use. Not your ordinary B and B.

Both times we've stayed here, we've been in a room called "The Angel of Delight." The other rooms are named "The Farmer's Daughter, Gypsy Rose............."  You get the picture.

Downstairs is a very elegant restaurant, and we shared a full slab of ribs for dinner . The place was full of local and tourist patrons. Lula Belle's is well-known for its fine food.

There's a certain amount of thrill staying in a brothel. Call it sleazy, if you must, but it's spicy, nonetheless. Bars of soap with signatures of former tenants rest on the tops of the window frames, the mirrors, and any place else that will hold them. Notes to the owners, thanking them for a fun night, stick out of the mirror frame. Some of the rooms have Jacuzzis, and all rooms have private baths. There is also WiFi, and it's clean and neat. It's actually one of the best deals in town.

Foam ear plugs in little sacks awaited us on the bedside table. They were labeled "Lula Belle's Train Mufflers."  Actually, we heard that train in the middle of the night, but both of us had childhood memories of railroad sirens as we slept, and neither of us did more than acknowledge the sound and go back to sleep.
This morning we awoke, went downstairs for our breakfast (included) prepared especially for us by Mrs. Ginsberg and served by Mike himself. Nobody else got breakfast, as we were the sole occupants of the brothel last night. We had eggs and toast, French toast and sausage, and lots of coffee and good conversation from our host, who obviously loves what he does.

We took a morning walk through Hannibal. We had done that last night, but since everything had closed up at 5 PM, we hadn't been able to get inside a single shop.

Hannibal is a memorial and tribute to the great American writer, Mark Twain, as this is his boyhood home. It is also a place to honor his most famous characters, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

We have, in other years, ridden on the Mark Twain Riverboat dinner cruise on the Mississippi River and attended a Mark Twain impersonator program. Both of these were wonderful experiences, and we'd highly recommend them.

We were saddened to find that the Becky Thatcher Book Store, which had been housed in the Becky Thatcher House, was no longer there. Becky, you remember, is the pretty girl that Tom Sawyer fell in love with in school. The house is still there, just no books.......This is where, in 1959, my dad bought me my first copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and in 1988 I bought the same book for my three children. Alas. "Progress." I found the previous bookseller in the drug store she now runs.  She sells books in the back of it, but somehow I think there ought to be a Becky Thatcher Book Store in Hannibal.

Tom and Huck
There is a statue of Tom and Huck at the end of Main Street, and a lighthouse is high above, on Cardiff Hill, which you can hike. A lovely park is on the riverfront. There is a statue of Mark Twain as a riverboat pilot, which he was, before he changed his name from Samuel Clemons to “Mark Twain.”  His Mark Twain name means to mark the depth of the water, a riverboat term.  On top of the highest hill, a statue of Mark Twain stands, looking forever over his beloved Mississippi River and the island that Tom and Huck explored, in his books.

Hannibal was also the hometown of the "Unsinkable Molly Brown," and you can visit her little birthplace and home  a few blocks from the riverfront. We did that years ago, and marveled at the difference between this little home and the house she lived in when she married her beloved Johnny Brown and lived in Denver.

There is much to do in Hannibal You can “paint” the fence that Tom Sawyer conned his friends into painting, visit the Mark Twain childhood home, walk the streets, shop, eat, or drink, as we did last night at the Main Street Wine Stop, where we sat outside enjoying the last few days of summer weather, with our drinks and other patrons.

We left Hannibal around noon, sadly.   It's in the heartland of our country, brought forth one of our most loved writers and humorists, and seems to be in my path whenever I go west or come back to the east. If you haven't been to Hannibal, GO!

Our audio book  reached the climax, and we held our breath as we drove east to Springfield, Illinois, the capital of that state, listening.

We've also been here before, and today we chose to revisit the fairly new Abraham Lincoln Museum. We saw it in 2007, but once was not enough.
The Lincolns Plus 2
We received a nice senior citizen discount, and such a deal! For the next two hours, we roamed again through Lincoln's boyhood, his life in the White House, saw his treasures, and watched two wonderfully-done short movies that told us the main events of his life. Life-size figures showed us how things looked. This is not your ordinary museum.

We saw Mary Lincoln dressed for a ball. We saw Lincoln lead a Cabinet meeting. We saw Abe and Mary sitting in their seats at the Ford Theatre. We walked by his casket, decked with white flowers.

This museum puts you INTO the event you are learning about, and lets you FEEL it as well as see it. We confess that there were tears in our eyes at the funeral bier.
I meet Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas
One of our favorite things was “The Civil War in Four Minutes,” which is a video presentation of a map of the United States which shows you in four minutes the Union and Confederate lines and how they moved, the battles, the death toll, and the finish of the Civil War. We watched it twice, then bought the DVD in the gift shop.  Amazingly simple explanation of the whole thing.

Springfield, Illinois, is also the place where you can see Lincoln's Home and his tomb. It can take you all day to see many of these places.................which is why we've been here at least three times together, .................lots to see. It seems to keep getting better each visit.

We settled into our motel on Frontier Drive, and met up with Randy's college roommate, Ed Doornbos and his wife, Marilyn. They treated us to dinner at D'arcy's Pint, a restaurant that seems to be quite popular. We had a nice visit over some local food called a “Horseshoe Sandwich,” which I enjoyed watching them eat. ( Google a picture of The Horseshoe Sandwich. It is enormous!)

Plans for tomorrow are not plans............................just that tomorrow will come.

Thursday, September 20 and Friday, September 21:

It's a long drive from Springfield, Illinois, especially if you're tired of riding in the car, and it is beginning to look as if a hoarder lives in it.

Thursday's drive involved the eastern half of Illinois. We enjoyed yet another Walmart fried chicken lunch at a little park in Brownville, Illinois, then got back on the road. (We began clucking shortly after that.) 

Indiana arrived, and nearly as soon as we'd crossed the state line, we developed Tired o' Sitting Disease, and pulled over in Richardson, Indiana at a great Comfort Inn. The highlight of the evening was shopping at a Menard's Store across the street, where we chose from a plethora of TV-dinner style meals, and then cooked them in the lobby of our motel. Cheap date, but fun! We sat in the hot tub for the previously mentioned “disease.”

Man Leaving Lula Belle's
Friday was more of the same, with almost no stopping. Now we wanted to go on home and BE THERE. Arrival was about 5 PM, and dinner at Applebee's to celebrate a fun trip.

Follow along on our next adventure!

*Thelma is our GPS unit, and Louise is my Rendezvous.