THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Dubuque to Hannibal, via the Field of Dreams and our first speeding ticket
New friends, new experiences and some scary moments

Down day, but fun

On our way to breakfast
Leaving, only to return later
The Quarterback's softer side
Becky Thatcher
Mr Twain
Local biker
Painting that fence
I could not resist this from the gift shop
Black Beauty had a real puncture. She had picked up an historical nail that was holding the air in her tire while still, but brushing the tarmac and opening a gap to release it while in motion. I cannot believe how cheap it was to fix it. The owner of our B&B called a tire place in Hannibal and got us an appointment this morning. Within a couple of hours, the problem was sorted (nail removed and high-performance tire fixed) for $20! 

 By the time it was sorted (a) we had lost the morning to car maintenance, (b) though we had elaborately said goodbye to it and its owners, we were reluctant to leave our B&B and (c) we had decided that Memphis was too far to go in an afternoon. So, over drinks in Main Street Hannibal and over my very first meal of catfish (delicious, as long as pond-reared) we decided to stay another night and really "do" the city and its Mark Twain museum.

We met Julie, our splendid B&B hostess, in Main Street where she also runs a store, and arranged both that we would stay another night and that she would feed us so we could have a serious drink. She put the Q and I into a comfortable cottage in the grounds of the Inn. She fed us, right royally, and she also arranged the most amazing tasting of flavoured vodkas. The Americans have taken to importing French vodka and flavouring it with the taste of bubble gum, various fruits, caramel or cake. I know it sounds both disgusting and the sort of thing a pedophile might use for grooming victims but - amazingly - it was marvelous. My new favourite drink is cake, caramel and cherry flavoured vodka combined into an alcoholic liquid dessert. It intoxicates more than it fattens and tastes way better than it sounds!

Twain is one of my favourite authors and was the means by which I first found out, through reading Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, that there was such a place as America.There is a very well-organised (and entirely privately-funded) museum dedicated to his life and works in Hannibal. There is also a group of buildings (some in their original location, some moved to be nearby) comprising the great man's childhood home, the home of the man on whom Huck Finn is based, the law office of Twain's judge/lawyer father, and the home of the girl on whom Becky Thatcher is based. The famous fence is there, and the Q and I (both of whom read and loved Sawyer and Finn as boys) posed for a photo with a whitewash brush - as everyone does.

Canadian and Englishman were united in our affection for that great - and wise - American Mark Twain. Just seeing the size of the Mississipi River across the levee from his boyhood home put the stories into a new context. I am sure I mentally pictured it as a far more modest waterway when I was reading the books.

The day was hot. We cooled down with a walk along the banks of the mighty Mississippi and returned to our cars to find some locals inspecting Speranza. I was in fine spirits and opened her up to allow Bubba, the child of the party, to sit in her and rev her magnificent engine. The kid was ecstatic and his family appreciated the attention I gave him. He was shy at first but, flushed with the sound of an Italian V8 shaking muddy foundations for miles around, he said, with enormous passion, "I want want of these". 

Back at the splendid Garth Woodside Mansion (I am not sponsored to say this but give the advice freely in gratitude for John and Julie's excellent hospitality, come to Hannibal if only to stay there) we had an amazing evening. Great food. Great drink. Great company. If I am to adopt a critical stance to America in order to make a photobook about my tour that will be taken seriously by European intellectuals, it won't happen today.