On the Road to... Memphis, St. Louis, Hannibal,
Eureka Springs, & points in between!

Day 1 - Walking in Memphis

Memphis Visitor's Center - As soon as we got to Memphis, the first thing that we did was to stop by the Visitor's Center. Not only does it have a wealth of information about the shows and events that are going on in town, but it also has brochures for all of the sites to see, and can give you the schedules for the places that you want to visit. You'll also find a couple of statues of Memphis celebrities: BB King, and another king, Elvis Presley. We got all of the information that we needed - and more - then began our day.

What in the world is Beale Street? Beale Street is a world-famous (or is that infamous?) street in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee, which runs from the Mississippi River to East Street, a distance of about two miles. It is a significant location in the city's history, as well as in the history of that wonderful music known as the blues. On many nights, Beale street is body-to-body with people - the music is blaring out into the street, and the beverages are flowing. On December 15, 1977, Beale Street was officially declared The Home of the Blues by an act of Congress. You may also remember the lyrics from the song by Marc Cohn - "Then I was walking in Memphis; I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale..."

The Pig on Beale, Pork with an ATTITUDE! As many places as we had to choose from for barbecue on Beale Street, we chose "The Pig on Beale." It was established in 2002, and quickly became a local favorite for "Memphis Style" Hickory Smoked BBQ pork shoulder and BBQ ribs. The Pig received Editor’s Pick from the Memphis Flyer in 2003 for "The Best BBQ Ribs in Memphis" as well as the 2003 Most Improved Restaurant from the Beale Street Merchants Association. The place had the accolades, so we decided to try their BBQ - and it was great.

Peabody Place Mall - Within a short distance of Beale Street and the Peabody Hotel we found an indoor mall that had a number of shops, eateries, a theater and more. We ended up walking around the mall for a while to check out everything, and it was a very interesting place... in some ways it was like any other mall that you'd find across America, but there were some Memphis specifics thrown in here and there. Apparently the mall was opened in 2001, and when we visited was going strong. Update: Apparently the mall has experienced some problems over the years. One report said, "As of February 2011, the mall remains accessible to the public, but is mostly empty. The only remaining stores are Coco and Lilly, a locally owned and operated juniors boutique, and Victoria's Secret. In addition, two vendors operate carts that sell Memphis-themed memorabilia. Only one store has relocated, a Maggie Moo's franchise, which now occupies space along Main Street, just one block away from the enclosed mall in another portion of the Peabody Place development."

The Peabody Hotel - The Peabody Hotel on Union Avenue was built in 1925, on the previous site of the original Peabody Hotel which was built in 1869. It was designed by Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager in an Italian Renaissance style. It's a very classy place, but is probably most famous for the Peabody Ducks. The five Mallard ducks, one drake and four hens, live in a "Duck Palace" on the rooftop that was constructed at a cost of $200,000 in 2008. Every day the "Duckmaster," an honored position at the hotel, leads the ducks into the elevator at 11 AM, and they go from there to the fountain in the lobby where they play in the water until 5 PM. At that time, the Duckmaster leads them back into the elevator, and they return to their penthouse suite.

Checking in at the Super 8 - We did something quite unusual for us when we're on vacation - we stayed in a chain motel. Now, in the past we've stayed at Super 8 motels and have had very good experiences. We hoped that this one would be the same, because we'd booked the evening at a Super 8 that was very near Graceland so that we could get an early start the next morning. From the time that we arrived, we knew that something wasn't quite right. The area around the main building was overgrown with weeds, there were 18-wheelers lined up in the parking lot like this was a truck stop rather than a family motel, and our room was filthy. I don't mean that it could have used some dusting, I mean that everything was dirty. Before we went to bed I took a photo of my socks, which you see below, and that is from walking around the room - they were clean when I stepped out of my shoes. That's how filthy the room was. We hunkered down for the night, and as we were leaving (quickly) the next morning, we saw some yellow tape tied to one of metal poles on the outside stairway (you can see it on the left-hand side of the third photo below). There's a closeup in the fourth photo, and it certainly appeared to be police crime scene tape... which made us very happy to get our of there unscathed. We've stayed in some wonderful Super 8 motels... but this wasn't one of them!!!

Day 2 - Graceland to St. Louis

Elvis Presley's Graceland - We checked out of the Super 8 (I should say that we quickly checked out), and went to visit the world-famous place, Elvis Presley's Graceland. I really think that every American citizen should make a pilgrimage to Graceland at some point in their life... Elvis is just such a part of our pop culture. There are two things to know about Graceland before you get there. The first is, it is much, much smaller than you have imagined; all things considered, it's not a big place at all, which really surprised us. The second thing is that the whole Graceland experience can take anywhere from a few hours to the better part of a day. Plan on spending some time there - but the whole thing is all very interesting! You can see some of the rooms from the tour in the photos below.

Lunch at Ruby Tuesday - We've eaten at Ruby Tuesday restaurants across the country, and they've always been delicious. To be honest, they remind us of a Chili's restaurant - in the food selection as well as the appearance of the place. Since we don't have any Ruby Tuesday restaurants in our part of Texas (at least not yet), we stopped for lunch here. The menu is very Americana - steaks, burgers, chicken, and all of the assorted accompaniments. Tami had a sandwich and I had a burger, and then we were on to destinations ahead. We drove from Memphis, Tennessee up to St. Louis, Missouri. It took about four hours, or just a little more.

Embassy Suites Downtown St. Louis - We decided to stay at the Embassy Suites because it was in walking distance of most everything that we wanted to do downtown. From our window we could see the Mississippi River, and we kept the drapes open to delight in the vessels going up and down the river. We had a two-room suite, and in the morning breakfast was served downstairs. We were very pleased with the hotel, and would definitely stay there on a return visit!

Day 3 - An Excursion to St. Charles, Missouri

Visiting St. Charles - About thirty minutes away from St. Louis is the city of St. Charles, and since we'd heard so much about the place, we got up early and drove over to check it out. It was founded as Les Petites Cotes (The Little Hills) by French Canadian fur trader Louis Blanchette, and from there Saint Charles grew into a thriving riverfront trading center for a young America. Today, it's still a riverfront trading center... but now for tourists! The riverfront and Historic Main Street features businesses that are open year-round. Each block features shops, restaurants and offices that visitors and locals frequent. We discovered wonderful places like Figuero's, Robyn's Nest, the Country Place, and many, many more.

Lunch at Trailhead Brewing - We love brewpubs, and even more, love to visit them when we travel. To our delight, we ran across the Trailhead Brewery during our visit to St. Charles. As a homebrewer, I had a ton of questions to ask about the various beers, and the staff was extremely knowledgeable about the world of brewing. To start out with, we tried their sampler (all the beers had their bragging points), and from there had some of our favorites: the stout, a robust brown ale, and even a red-amber that was full of flavor. For the meal, we made a simple order of burgers and fries, and reluctantly moved on from this wonderful restaurant. This is definitely a place that should be on your "must-visit" list when you venture down to St. Charles.

Daniel Boone House - The Daniel Boone Home is nestled in the rolling hills of wine country and overlooks the Femme Osage Valley. This beautiful setting represents life in the early 1800s from the adventures to the lifelong struggles. The Boone Home brings the legacy of Daniel Boone to life. Within the thick limestone walls, stories of a daring man offer a glimpse into family matters, risky adventures, and hard fought battles. Today the Daniel Boone Home overlooks the Boonefield Village which is a simulated town comprised of over a dozen 19th century buildings. Each building has been moved to the site from within 50 miles of the local area. Buildings such as the general store, school house, and grist mill offer a peek into life on the Missouri frontier. Of course, all I could think of while we were there was the song that I grew up with... "Daniel Boone was a man... was a BIIIIGGGGG man..." Seriously, though, it was a great stop during our trip, and a place well-worth the visit.

Dinner at "Show-Me's" at Laclede's Landing - After we got back to St. Louis, we found a wonderful place for dinner - great chicken wings, delicious barbecue ribs, and a bit of a resemblance to another wing-chain that we tend to frequent. The servers there were girls wearing black and pink outfits (instead of orange and white), and the restaurant had a selection of different flavors of wings, ranging from mild to some very hot ones. I tried their hottest variety, and they were not only mouth-burning, but were delicious as well.

Day 4 - Seeing St. Louis from the Arch

St. Louis' Gateway Arch - Most big cities have their icons - the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, New York's Empire State Building, Seattle's Space Needle, and more. When you go to St. Louis, the icon is the Gateway Arch... and it's awesome. To get to the top you climb into this little chamber (1st photo below) that ratchets its way up to the top of the arch. Since I have a bit of vertigo, the top of the arch really freaked me out - the floor is curved and the walls are angled, so there is simply no doubt that you're walking around in the top of the arch. There are long, narrow windows that you can look out to see the city, and my palms were sweating the entire time that we were up there. We saw an Arch employee who was walking around up there with the ease that I'd walk around my kitchen, and I couldn't imagine how they could pull that off. Although it was all perfectly safe, I was never so glad to get my feet back onto the ground.

The Museum of Westward Expansion - As part of the Gateway Arch experience, the Museum of Westward Expansion preserves some of the rarest artifacts from the days of Lewis and Clark. Through the exciting exhibits, you can explore the world of the American Indians and the 19th century pioneers who helped shape the history of the American West. The museum is located beneath the Gateway Arch, and the Museum of Westward Expansion is literally as large as a football field! The museum follows a circular pattern with galleries that tell the story of the United States' nineteenth century expansion from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean and interprets 100 years of American history. The museum contains an extensive collection of artifacts, mounted animal specimens, an authentic American Indian tipi, and an overview of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Artifacts, quotes and photographs fill the Museum and provide an excellent atmosphere for learning about this period of American history. Exhibits include African Americans of the West, American Indians of the Great Plains, Animals of the West, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and Pioneers on the Trail. And for me, the great thing was that it is located 100% on ground level!

Cherokee Street - Just minutes South of Downtown Saint Louis, Cherokee Antique Row is a perfect afternoon getaway offering six blocks of independently owned and operated Antique, Collectible and Specialty Shops, Art Galleries, Restaurants and Café’s. After spending the morning at the Arch, we figured that it would be interesting to spend some time on the place that Concierge Magazine called, Possibly the most famous section of St. Louis antiques dealers. Did we buy anything? Well, of course we did... and we're fortunate that we had our car on this trip, because a couple of the items couldn't have been shipped back or taken on an airplane! Each shop was very individual and unique, and we had fun exploring each and every one.

Lemp Mansion - By early afternoon we were famished, and hadn't seen a place to eat. When we asked at one of the Cherokee Street shops, they suggested Lemp Mansion. We arrived at the end of the lunch service, and were the only customers there... which gave us a great opportunity to explore the place. The mansion was built in the early 1860's and was purchased by William J. Lemp as a residence and auxiliary office for his brewery. Although it was already an impressive structure, Lemp used his massive brewery fortune to turn the thirty-three room house into a Victorian showplace. There are more than a few ghost stories about the place, and a couple of the rooms that we visited felt very strange, but we finally ended up back in the dining room where we enjoyed an incredible lunch - the food was delicious... okay, not just delicious, but incredibly delicious!

Botanical Garden - The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis was founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw. Today, more than a hundred and fifty years after opening, the Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display. It is widely considered one of the top three botanical gardens in the entire world, and after spending a few hours there, we would definitely concur with that. There were many things to see - not only flowers and plants of every type imaginable, but also ponds, fountains, architecturally unique buildings, over 4800 tress, a Chinese Garden, English Woodland Garden, Ottoman Garden, Victorian District, and much more. If you visit, plan on spending some time here!

Dinner at Morgan St. Brewery - As the tourist literature says, "Nestled on cobblestone streets polished by more than 200 years of commerce along the Mississippi River, Morgan Street Brewery radiates the charm that only history can impart making it a must see attraction on the landing. Morgan Street Brewery's rich architecture and warm interiors are highlighted by burnished wood and exposed brick and feature cozy nooks and corners. The main brewery building and adjacent Lodge, both more than 130 years old, are separated by a brick patio that is as perfect for cafe style dining as the popular outdoor dining patio along second street." We enjoyed having dinner there, and sampled some of their brewed-on-site beers.

Day 5 - Grant's Farm & Anheuser-Busch

A Glimpse of the Mississippi Queen - We decided to sleep in, and have a barbecue brunch instead of an early morning breakfast. We woke up and had a lazy morning, and as we were getting ready, we had the curtains open so that we could watch the traffic on the Mississippi River. We saw various barges and such, when all of a sudden we spotted the famous paddle-wheeler The Mississippi Queen coming up the river. All that was missing was the sound of the steam calliope playing as it steamed along - it was quite a sight. We've seen the promotional material from the Great American Steamboat Company (the folks that operate the Mississippi Queen), and you can book a voyage on the Mississippi River for up to a week or more. After seeing the riverboat go by, it may be something that we want to consider in the future!

Charlotte's Rib - While on our never-ending quest for barbecue on this trip, we found a write-up in a local paper about a place called "Charlotte's Rib." Since the paper gave glowing reviews of the barbecue there, we simply HAD to check it out. The name apparently goes back a couple of generations to Charlotte Peters, the star of St. Louis' daytime television "The Charlotte Peters Show" which aired from 1947 to 1969. Charlotte's Rib was founded in 1977 by Charlotte's daughter and son-in-law. The restaurant continues on now with another generation. Charlotte's Rib took the Grand Prize for pork in the 1981 American Royal Barbeque Cook-Off in Kansas City. In 1982, their chili recipe was an award winner at the Regional Chili Cook-Off in St. Louis. As their restaurant flourished, the demand for their sauce grew. In 1985, they began marketing their original sauce. After eating their delicious St. Louis-style barbecue, we purchased enough bottles of sauce to take back home to our friends.

Grant's Farm - We didn't know anything about this place going into it, but we discovered that it was a fantastic place. We learned that Grant's Farm is a historic farm in St. Louis, Missouri, which was once owned by Ulysses S. Grant. The Farm is now owned by the Busch family, who used to own Anheuser-Busch brewing company. The farm is filled with many animals including buffalo, elephants, camels, donkeys, goats, peacocks, the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales and many more. Most of these animals can be seen on a tram tour of the Deer Park region of the park, while the Clydesdales are found in their nearby barn and pastures - when we were there we even saw some baby Clydesdales! The farm also contains a cabin built by Grant, which is the only remaining structure hand-built by a U.S. President prior to assuming the office.

Visiting the Anheuser-Busch Tour Center - The Tour Center for the Anheuser-Busch brewery was a highlight of the day. The brewery was designed, decorated, and landscaped perfectly - it was a feast for the eyes. One thing that I thought was hysterical was that you couldn't take photos in the brewing section, as if they were protecting the secrets of beechwood aging... but we could look right there and see it! Any competitor could simply take the tour and find out everything that they needed, and when one tourist snapped a photo of the beechwood aging and the tour guide jumped on them, I just shook my head and thought, "Really?" That aside, we had one heck of a great time on the tour. It was interesting, the guide was entertaining, and at the end we got to sample a few Anheuser-Busch products. Don't dare come to St. Louis without taking this tour!

Back to the Embassy Suites - It had been a long day, starting out with a drive across the city for the wonderful barbecue at Charlotte's Rib, then spending several hours enjoying the animals at Grant's Farm, and ending up at the Anheuser-Busch brewery for a tour and their hospitality. We were ready to call it a day, and so even though we were talking about several places to have dinner, we ended up stopping at a Subway, getting a couple of sandwiches complete with chips and sodas, and we carried them back to the Embassy Suites for an in-room picnic. We kicked off our shoes, settled in for the evening, and feasted... it was great.

Day 6 - Union Station, Steak 'n Shake, and Kimmswick

Union Station - From its magnificent 65-foot, barrel-vaulted ceiling in the Grand Hall to its Victorian-engineered train shed totaling more than 11 acres, St. Louis Union Station remains one of our nation's true architectural "gems." Built at a cost of $6.5 million in the 1890s St. Louis Union Station was designed by German-born architect Theodore C. Link of St. Louis who won the prized project in a nationwide contest. In the early 1980s, the Station underwent a $150 million restoration to turn it into one of the most extravagant shopping destinations of the region. In it you'll find many storefronts that you recognize as national chains, and many others that have strictly local flavor. It's a place that you can explore for hours!

Route 66 Brewery - While going through Union Station, we noticed that it was lunch time and we were getting a little hungry. As luck would have it, we found the incredible Route 66 Brewery. There were handcrafted beers brewed on premises, and the menu was much like a Chili's or other American bistro. Everything sounded great, and Tami had the grilled chicken sandwich and I had their grilled burger and fries. We also had the sampler tray of their beers, just to get to try all of their selections. We ended up choosing some of their dark ales to accompany our meal, and the experience was a culinary delight. After we finished our meal, we went back to walking the corridors of Union Station, and we found some great places to shop.

Steak 'n Shake - After all that shopping, it had been a while since our meal at Route 66 Brewery. We left Union Station, and then made an interesting discovery. We'd lived in the Dallas area since 1983, and in 2002 moved to Jefferson, Texas, so in all that time we'd never been near a Steak 'n Shake restaurant. There was a local Dallas radio disc jockey who extolled the virtues of the restaurant for years on end, though, so when we discovered that St. Louis had Steak 'n Shake restaurants we knew that we had to try it, at least for one meal. I had an Original Double 'n Cheese Steakburger, a plate of cheese fries, and a classic chocolate shake. Know what? We'd been hearing about the Steak 'n Shake food for years, and when we finally had a chance to taste it, well, it was as good as advertised! A wonderful meal, even for a chain, fast-food restaurant.

Kimmswick, Missouri - About twenty minutes south of St. Louis is the city of Kimmswick which was established all the way back in 1859, where there are many places to visit, and a visitor center that welcomes tourists to the town. There is also an active historical society that sponsors many events in the city. As they say, "Amid the hustle and bustle of modern daily life, visitors are welcomed to enjoy the quaint and historic atmosphere of the small river town..." There are fantastic restaurants, a wide variety of goods in the many gift shops and galleries, and even museums in which to browse. Forty-four buildings in the commercial district are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It was an enjoyable place to explore, and some of the photos that we took are below.

Day 7 - Exploring Sainte Genevieve

Sainte Genevieve Museum - We woke up the next morning and headed out for the city of Sainte Genevieve. In French settlements in the New World, the typical village centered around a "Place de Armes" or square that faced the natural boundaries of a river. The Sainte Genevieve Roman Catholic Church was located on the upper side of the square, and the civil and military authorities flanked the other sides. In Sainte Genevieve the square was DuBourg Place, named after the Bishop of Louisiana, and was the center of the village. In 1935, as part of the town’s bicentennial, the Sainte Genevieve Museum was erected. The museum contains many items of interest relating to the town’s history such as artifacts from the salt works at Saline Spring (photo right,) the town’s first industry, can be seen. Other items include weapons, prehistoric and historical Native American relics, old documents, and memorabilia of the mid-1800s.

The Anvil Restaurant & Saloon - We'd had an early breakfast back at the Embassy Suites, so by the time that we made the hour drive to Sainte Genevieve and looked around for a while, we were getting hungry. We had a couple of people point us in the direction of The Anvil. The atmosphere was great... part rowdy-looking bar, part fine-dining restaurant - just our kind of place! We had their signature hamburgers, served on kaiser rolls, and since the waitress recommended their onion rings we ordered them as well. We had an incredibly delicious meal!

The Bolduc House Museum - Their motto is "Making French Colonial American History Fun!" ...and that's a great description of this place. The museum actually consists of three historic houses in Sainte Genevieve. They are the Louis Bolduc House, the LeMeilleur House, and the Linden House. The Louis Bolduc House has been owned and operated since 1949 by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Missouri. The organization acquired the Linden House in 1960 and the LeMeilleur House in 1970. The Louis Bolduc House is a National Historic Landmark and the winner of the 2005 Preserve America Award. We had a wonderful time exploring these places - it was educational as well as entertaining!

Sainte Genevieve is Closed! - We live in a tourist town back in East Texas, so we're well-aware that stores that are open all weekend often close on Mondays. When we were in Sainte Genevieve, though, the fact that most every shop that we came upon had a closed sign in the window became an amusing thing. I started snapping photos, which you'll see below. Don't get me wrong - we loved the town, just don't go there on a Monday expecting to shop!

The Old Brick House - Before heading back to St. Louis, we decided to have dinner at the Old Brick House. The house was erected in the year 1780 by John Price, a local merchant and ferry boat operator between Ste. Genevieve and the town of Kaskaskia. It's the oldest brick building west of the the Mississippi River. As the story goes, the bricks were brought from France in boats and were used strictly for ballast. It was the scene of a duel that took place on the steps of the building in 1816, while it served at the territorial courthouse. William McArthur and Auguste DeMun squared off, fired, and DeMun, a native of France and son of one of the founders of New Bourbon, fell mortally wounded. He expired shortly thereafter and was buried in the Old Catholic graveyard on August 28, 1816. Tami had the charbroiled chicken breast, and I had the sirloin (the "Pride of the Old Brick"). Great food, great history, great atmosphere. We finished our meal and made our way back to St. Louis.

Day 8 - Mark Twain's Home: Hannibal, Missouri

The Mark Twain Dinette - We checked out of the Embassy Suites Hotel in St. Louis, and headed out for Hannibal Missouri - the birthplace of Samuel Clements, otherwise known as Mark Twain. It was about a two-hour drive, so after a quick breakfast at the Embassy Suites, we were on the road. The drive was beautiful - we passed through corn fields and past farm houses that had probably been there for generations. When we finally arrived in Hannibal, we were starving, and saw the sign for the Mark Twain Dinette. It had wonderful home-style cooking: chicken, gravy, potatoes, green beans, and much, much more. It was a genuinely delicious meal, and would have made old Mark Twain proud.

Becky Thatcher House - "Becky Thatcher" was actually Laura Hawkins, who lived in Hannibal in the 1840's and attended school with young Samuel Clemens. She was Sam's childhood sweetheart, and was immortalized in print as Tom Sawyer's Becky Thatcher. The Hawkins's house is now maintained as a museum property by the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in this famous river town where Sam and Laura grew up. There is a gift shop on the first floor where souvenirs and books of all kinds can be purchased. Laura’s room upstairs is decorated brightly, with a beautiful fireplace and items from that era that are typical of what might have been seen in her room. Perched on the mantle are three china dogs which were actual gifts that Laura received on her tenth birthday. It's a wonderful place to visit on the Mark Twain trail.

Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum - The word "museum" is a misnomer, since the entire complex contains a number of different buildings to see & tour - plan on spending some time here, because it is all fascinating! Included are the Mark Twain Boyhood Home, Grant's Drug Store, the Becky Thatcher House, the Huckleberry Finn House, an interpretive center, and much, much more. The Museum Gallery has interactive exhibits for five of Mark Twain's books, there is a steamboat pilot-house, artifacts from Mark Twain's life (such as his Oxford gown and one of his famous white suit coats), one of our favorite things - the Norman Rockwell gallery. One ticket gets you access to everything, and it was the highlight of our stay in Hannibal, Missouri.

Molly Brown Birthplace & Museum - This house was the birthplace of the "Unsinkable Molly Brown," one of the survivors of the Titanic disaster which occurred at 11:40 p.m., April 14, 1912. The house in which Molly was born was located in an area of Hannibal then known as "Irish Shanty Town." The dirt streets were lined with small cottages like Molly's house. Butler Street (then called Prospect) was not paved until the 1960's. After Molly got married and went off into the world, her parents moved to Colorado. The house was empty for decades, until it was acquired by the Marion County Historical Society in 1964. Although literally was on the verge of collapse, it was saved from demolition and was open to the public. Some rooms have been restored as living areas, while others are museum-type galleries chronicling Molly's life, and the Titanic disaster.

Rockcliffe Mansion - High on top a rocky knoll in Hannibal, Missouri is an enormous mansion. The original owner, Mr. John J. Cruikshank, wanted a house to richly display the finest woods and furnishings money could buy, yet one that would emanate warmth and a feeling of quiet dignity. His dream became a reality in the year 1900 and the family, consisting of his wife and four daughters, moved in, residing there until his death in 1924. At that time, the family vacated the house and it was boarded up for 43 years. Two weeks before the once lovely home was to be razed, leaving nothing but memories amid the rubble, it was saved by three local families and restored to the beauty of its historical past. Today it is privately owned, but you can tour the mansion, and even stay the night there. It's a beautiful place with gigantic rooms, halls with palladium windows, and ten carved marble and tile fireplaces.

Cardiff Hill - The historical marker placed here reads, This is the foot of Cardiff Hill, made famous in Mark Twain's books "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn." On the hill, Tom, Huck, and their gang played and roamed at will. Today a statue of Tom and Huck stands at the top of the hill, two boys romping and playing in the wild abandon of youth. The monument was donated in 1925 by George A. Mahan, an attorney and former president of the Missouri Historical Society. Mahan selected Cardiff Hill because it was a favorite spot for the antics of Mark Twain and his boyhood friends, and it served as inspiration for Twain’s stories of boyhood along the Mississippi.

Mark Twain Cave - The earliest documentation of Mark Twain Cave claims its discovery in the winter of 1819-1820 by a local hunter, Jack Simms. Mr. Simms dog chased an animal into a small hillside opening south of current-day Hannibal. Upon investigation with the help of his brother and torches, the small opening was found to lead to a large underground labyrinth. The cave proved a popular diversion for Hannibal residents in the mid-19th century, especially children, including a young Samuel Clemens. These childhood explorations would later reappear in five of Mark Twain's books. One odd, even macabre, event in the caves' early history happened in late 1840s when Hannibal physician Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell purchased the cave and used it for several years as a laboratory for experiments on human corpses. His most notable experiment involved an attempt to petrify the remains of his deceased daughter. This was supposedly the cave that inspired the stories of a lost Tom and Becky... whatever the case, we really enjoyed our visit there.

Dinner at the Ole Planter's Restaurant - This place was recommended by a few shopkeepers that we asked for recommendations, and it had delicious home-style cooking. The menu featured barbecue, catfish, grilled chicken, and many other things that sounded equally delicious. They had a salad bar to get things started, and to finish things off, some incredible pies. We were hungry when we walked into the restaurant, and stuffed by the time that we left. It was a great choice for dinner.

Lover's Leap - All lovers should go take a look at Lover's Leap, because it has such a tragically romantic story. According to the legend, the story varies according to the teller of the tale, but the main elements are that an Indian brave and an Indian princess from warring tribes were prevented from marrying by their parents and tribes. One evening when the Indian brave landed his canoe in Bear Creek, he was observed meeting and walking with the Indian princess. A treacherous observer revealed this to the father of the princess who was the Chief of the tribe. The angered father offered an otter skin to anyone who would kill the brave. A number of the younger warriors started after the brave. When the couple realized they were being chased, they climbed Lovers Leap hoping to elude their pursuers. Cornered on the rock prominence, the brave knew that he was about to be killed. The princess also realized this, and decided that life would not be worth living without her man. The two embraced, and then threw themselves off the top of Lovers Leap to their deaths. Lovers Leap is thus a memorial to these two young Indians who sacrificed their lives rather than be apart, according to legend.

Staying at the Hannibal Holiday Inn - We had booked a room at Hannibal's Holiday Inn, and it was a nice, clean, new facility. It was relatively close to all of the attractions in Hannibal, so we were able to find it with no trouble at all. Since we were heading out of town the next morning, the desk clerk was very helpful in giving us maps, providing instructions, and getting us set up for the last leg of the trip. Many thanks to the good folks at the Hannibal Holiday Inn!

Day 9 - Meramec Caverns & Down to Eureka Springs

Meramec Caverns - Meramec Caverns is the name of a cavern system almost five miles long in the Ozark Mountains, near Stanton, Missouri. The caverns were formed from the erosion of large limestone deposits over millions of years. The cave is reputed to have been used as a hideout by the outlaw Jesse James during his days in the state of Missouri. Guided tours by rangers are conducted along well-lighted walkways, and visitors get to see both the rarest and largest cave formations in the world. Meramec Caverns is the largest commercial cave in the state of Missouri. Missouri is also known as the Cave state, hosting home to more than 6,000 surveyed caves. Meramec Caverns is open year round and offers a great time to its visitors... we certainly enjoyed it!

Checking in to the Crescent Hotel - One of our favorite places to stay in the entire world is the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs. It has a lot of atmosphere. After all, it was built back in 1886 as a resort hotel for visitors to come and experience the healing waters of the city. When it closed, it became a girls' boarding school for some time, where young women came to complete their education. After that, a man named "Doctor" Baker bought it and turned it into a cancer-curing hospital... the only trouble was that he had no actual medical credentials, and was finally arrested and jailed. Today it is a historic hotel, and we absolutely love to stay there.

Rogue's Manor at Sweet Spring - Down on Spring Street (next to Sweet Spring, as the name of the place implies) is one of Eureka Spring's fine dining restaurants, Rogue's Manor. We decided to have dinner there, and although the prices are very upscale, the food is delicious. This would probably be the most elegant meal of the trip, and not something that we'd do every night. Foregoing the appetizers, I had the 12 oz. New York Strip, Tami had the Fettuccini Alfredo, and both of our meals were excellent... delicious, and cooked to pure perfection. We also had a glass of wine or two with the meal to round out the experience, and enjoyed our dinner at Rogue's Manor very much.

Day 10 - Eureka, and then Home...

Quigley's Castle - This place, just outside of Eureka, is hard to describe. It's a house, not a castle, but it has a story as interesting as anywhere else that you're likely to find. Stones that Mrs. Quigley began collecting as a girl became an important part of her house as an adult. Working tenderly for three years, Mrs. Quigley covered the outside walls with a collection of fossils, crystals, arrowheads and stones selected from the creek beds for their beauty. A perennial garden surrounds the house. The inside of the house is a collection of family antiques and mementos that express Mrs. Quigley's love of nature. Especially spectacular is the "Butterfly Wall" that is beyond imagination. Her grandchildren live there today, but they share the Quigley home with visitors to Eureka. It's well-worth a visit. Some photos from Quigley's Castle are below...

Lunch at Sparky's Roadhouse - It was approaching lunch-time, and after driving around town to look at possibilities, we finally stopped at one of Eureka's best beer and burger joints... Sparky's Roadhouse. This incredible restaurant has been around since 1994, and combines a delicious menu with a party atmosphere. Their burgers have won awards, and there are ninety-nine beers on the menu... twenty-five of which are available on tap. We'd give Sparky's Roadhouse two big thumbs up!

Blue Spring Heritage Center - Blue Spring is named for the large, natural spring that pours an unbelievable 38 million gallons of cold, clear water into a trout-filled lagoon every day. The area has been a tourist attraction since 1948 - because of the powerful spring, there is evidence of prehistoric civilizations that have lived here, American Indians who stopped here on the Trail of Tears, and even remnants of a mill from an old settlement that made use of the water. In 1993, the 33 acres of the park were transformed into the Eureka Springs Gardens with exquisite arrays of plants and flowers. in 2003, the rich history was blended with the beauty of the gardens to form the Heritage Center that boasts artifacts, old photographs, and a historic film. This is a place of natural beauty, and one that we greatly enjoyed visiting.

Grabbing Sandwiches at Subway - Well, we'd been gone eleven days, and had a lot of things to consolidate packing-wise, so we opted for a carpet-picnic in the room for our last meal. We went by Eureka Springs' Subway, and I picked up a roast beef sub while Tami got one with chicken and cheese. We do this quite often as we're on a trip that's winding down. In this case, we took our meal back up to the room, packed everything for the trip home, and then sat and ate our sub sandwiches while we reflected on what a wonderful trip it had been. Thanks for coming along with us!

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