Mark Twain – Day 62

Mark Twain

Day 62 – June 1, 2003 – Sunday

Month three begins.

Today was a pretty uneventful day. It took me a lot longer to get out of the greater St. Louis area than I expected. In Alton, Illinois, I saw the life-sized statue of Robert Wadlow, the 8-foot 11-inch world’s tallest man. I then rode on not one but two ferry boats as I crossed the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers from the long peninsula area that extends down toward St. Louis — unusual area. I spent some time in Hannibal, Missouri seeing the Mark Twain sights. Iowa became the 18th state we’ve visited. I was also in Louisiana today — Louisiana, Missouri. As always, I met a number of very nice people.

Unfortunately, today will rank as one of the least enjoyable days. Nothing bad — just long and pretty boring.

In Alton, I drove to the campus of the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine because it is home to the life-sized statue of Robert Pershing Wadlow, the 8-foot 11-inch world’s tallest man. Robert was born on February 22, 1918, and weighed a normal eight pounds, six ounces. He drew attention to himself when at six months old, he weighed 30 pounds. A year later at 18 months, he weighed 62 pounds. He continued to grow at an astounding rate, reaching six feet, two inches and 195 pounds by the time he was eight years old. At 16, he was 7’10” and weighed 374. He reached 8’11” and 439 pounds when he was 22 years old. His height of 8′ 11.1″ qualifies him as the tallest person in history, as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records.

His clothing required three times the normal amount of cloth, and his size 37 shoes cost $100.00 a pair (a lot of money back in the 1930’s). His shoes were later provided free by the International Shoe Company. When he turned 20, Robert traveled for the shoe company, visiting over 800 towns and 41 states. His father had to modify the family car, removing the front passenger seat so Robert could sit in the back seat and stretch out his long legs. The father and son team traveled over 300,000 miles on their goodwill tour for the shoe company.

Robert’s unique size was attributed to an overactive pituitary gland, which produced much higher than normal levels of growth hormone. Today’s medical science can compensate for such problems – but in the 1920’s, there was no therapy available.

As a youth, Robert had enjoyed good health, but his large feet had troubled him for many years. He had little sensation in his feet and did not feel any chafing until blisters formed. While making an appearance in Manistee, Michigan in July 1940, a fatal infection set in when such a blister formed. Robert Wadlow passed away in his sleep on July 15, 1940.

Robert’s body was brought back to his hometown of Alton for burial. The 1,000-pound casket required a dozen pallbearers, assisted by eight other men. Out of respect for Alton’s Gentle Giant, all city businesses closed for the funeral. Over 40,000 people signed the guest register. Robert’s gravestone simply reads “At Rest.” Robert Wadlow holds a special place in Alton’s history. He is remembered as a quiet young man who overcame a unique handicap, and who was an inspiration to all who knew him.

Just outside of Alton, Illinois, I saw a home built to look like Noah’s Ark. This proved to be one of the major sights that I saw today. Yes, it was a snoozer.

The car and I rode a ferry across the Mississippi River from Illinois to Missouri. This ferry crosses the Mississippi River near the small town of Batchtown into St. Charles County, Missouri connecting with Route 79. I wanted to ride the ferry for the experience and to save some miles. I met a number of nice people before getting on the ferry.

I made my way to Hannibal, Missouri — Mark Twain’s hometown. Mark Twain is one of the world’s most beloved authors. I saw the Mark Twain Riverboat, Mississippi River, Mark Twain Memorial Bridge, Mark Twain Lake, Huck Finn Mall, Mark Twain Home, Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse, Mark Twain Cave, Mark Twain‘s childhood home, statue of Tim Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and more. Tom Sawyer’s fence was a highlight. Just about everything in downtown Hannibal is Mark Twain-related.

I climbed up to the top of Cardiff Hill to see the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse and to get an overview of Hannibal. Steep hill.

When I drove through Nauvoo Illinois, I saw a big church, and I pulled over for a photo. I met two young boys (probably 11 or 12 years old) on the side of the road. They told me the church is a Mormon temple and that Nauvoo is a big Mormon town.

I learned that in 1839, Joseph Smith and his followers, the Mormons, settled in this area after they were forced out of Missouri by religious persecution. Within three years, Nauvoo was one of the largest cities in Illinois and the tenth largest in the United States. Nauvoo was famous for its beautiful homes, its many fine shops, and its magnificent Temple on the bluff overlooking the city and the river. Soon internal dissension, religious antagonism, and the fear of the political power of the Mormons exploded into a fury. In 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother were assassinated, and the Mormons were forced to evacuate the city in 1846 when the temple was burned.

In April 1999, Gordon Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced that the Church would rebuild the Nauvoo Temple on the original site on the Hill in Nauvoo. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October 1999 and a cornerstone ceremony was held in November 2000.

Iowa became state #18. I saw some barns and a nice sunset, but there wasn’t much to see in eastern Iowa. There also wasn’t anywhere to eat dinner. I finally settled for Mr. Quick’s Hamburgers in Ottumwa, Iowa. Mr. Quick in Ottumwa, Iowa is now the #1 contender for Worst Meal. And I can’t imagine how any place can top them for absolutely the worst service!

I finally stopped for the night at the Comfort Inn in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Pat suggested Wes’ Restaurant for pie for breakfast. Pat also told me where I should have eaten a “loose meat sandwich” in Ottumwa. Loose meat sandwiches are a special cut of ground beef cooked with special spices, and the ground beef is cooked and put on the bun “loose.”

I was reminded today of the lyrics of a John Denver song, “some days are diamonds, some days are stones.” Today was a stone. No problems, just not exciting.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
World’s Tallest Man — Hannibal Missouri — Mark Twain

Donut Shop in Louisiana – Day 13

Day 13 — April 13, 2003 — Sunday

Donut Shop in Louisiana

We had absolutely nothing planned for today except to drive from New Orleans to Houston and do the wash.  Other than one nature trail scenic drive area in Louisiana, the page was clean.

We got some rest while in New Orleans, and I was able to get the website work brought up to date.  We both wanted beignets, but we didn’t want to walk back through The Quarter to stand in line at Café DuMond, so we were pleased to learn that the Fairmont Hotel had beignets.  Kathy was our waitress.  We split an order of four (three for me and one for Boz), and they were very good.  The coffee was strong.  The little straps that I am now using on my sunglasses are great, but I haven’t mastered eating with them hanging around my neck.  The inside of the lenses were filled with powdered sugar from the beignets this morning…and assorted other items over the last few days.


As we carried our bags to the front of the hotel to wait for the valet to bring our car, we overheard one of the bellmen, Michael, say that Richard Pryor was checking out.  I had my camera poised and ready.  We introduced ourselves, but he turned out to be a white guy named Richard Pryor.  I took a photo of Richard and Michael.


We met a nice couple in the elevator, Norton and Summer from Walker, Louisiana.  We discussed how more people should speak to each other in elevators.  And we met two University of Texas students – Liz and Bryan — while waiting for our car.


We got lost while trying to find our two-lane road as we left New Orleans.  I’m convinced it was a signage deficiency that should be charged to either the State of Louisiana or the City of New Orleans…certainly not an error to be charged to Ace Navigator Bozzie Jane.

Once we found Highway 90, it turned out to be a four-lane divided highway.  We drove on it for a while, but we were seeing nothing, so we made a mid-course correction and headed for a nearby two-lane road.  The scenery improved dramatically.


Southern Louisiana isn’t very pretty, and there isn’t a lot to see, but today was more like the “Pie Trip” as we originally envisioned it.  We were just driving from small town to small town, so we enjoyed the heck out of it.  We saw towns with little or nothing in them.  We saw some industrial towns.  We saw a sugar town and a hot sauce town.  We saw a lot of snow cone stands.  In the town of Paradis, we saw a number of old parade floats stored in yards along the highway.  In Morgan City, we saw a monument to the first offshore oil well in Louisiana (completed November 14, 1947 — 43 miles to the south), and we stopped to get donuts from Amber and Sarah.   Then we came across an area with beautiful antebellum mansions and real honest-to-goodness pre-Civil War plantations.  I didn’t realize bears inhabited southern Louisiana, but we saw a bear crossing warning sign, though the only bear we saw was 200 miles down the road in front of a casino on the Louisiana-Texas border.  During the day, we happened upon what must be the world’s largest spark plug as well as the world’s largest crawfish.


When I bought donuts at The Donut Shop, I asked Sarah and Amber what life was like in Morgan City.  “Boring.”  Sarah and Amber looked like they were 16 or 17 years old.  Amber appeared to be a trainee; she was wearing a hair net.  I asked what they did for fun, and they couldn’t come up with much.  I told them a little about the trip and the book, and it seemed exciting to them.  They seemed pleased that their names would be in the book.  I told them I would take a picture of the shop as well.  Barbara noted that Amber quickly removed her hair net as I stepped back 50 feet or so to snap the photo.  I regret that I didn’t get a good close-up of them.  I also regret that we didn’t stop to buy snow cones for every youngster we saw on a bicycle at or near a snow cone stand.  We can and will fix these mistakes as we travel on!

Once again, the sights, sounds, and smells reminded us of vacations and trips we took as children.  The look of a bridge or a small town; the sound of a train whistle that, in Barbara’s family, meant you got an ice cream cone; the smell of freshly-cut grass and food being cooked.  Neither of us are sure why so many memories of our childhood are being brought to mind, but we are mighty glad they are.


I received an email from my Dad (84 years young), and here was were his thoughts:

“Okay, so I’ve finally gotten caught up on the Journal.  A wonderful account of your unique adventure.  Makes me recall the trips we took when you were a kid, through many of the same areas, but paying no attention along the way, only interested in the destination.  Are we there yet?”


We are paying attention, though we could spend far more time in each area.  Life is full of trade offs, and it’s hard to justify spending more time as the trip will take over 100 days as it is.

The sun set before we crossed from Louisiana into Texas.  I wish we could get our hands on some of those night vision goggles that the troops have in Iraq as we hate the thought of what we may be missing alongside the road as we drive after dark.  I am going to extend the trip by a few days so I can break up some of the longer days to give us more time to see the sights and explore.

There was no Welcome to Texas sign on the highway — so much for the plan to have 50 of those signs in our photo portfolio.  🙁


We’ve told ourselves “no regrets,” but it’s impossible.  “Few regrets” is a much better approach.

We stopped in Beaumont at the Crockett Street Entertainment District.  We had a very good Mexican dinner at Rio Rita’s.  We rolled into Houston about 10:30.


Boz and I are having a lot of fun.  We are really relaxed.  Since we aren’t looking at a calendar or watching TV, we sometimes are confused about what day of the week it is.  As we drive, we talk and reminisce and laugh a lot; we’re just enjoying each other and everything about the trip.

The lesson we took from today is the value of realistic expectations.  We didn’t have any particular expectations about today; we viewed it as basically a travel day.  Not a lot happened, but we really enjoyed what we saw and experienced.  If we had psyched ourselves up to be expecting more, today would have been a disappointment.




We’re saving a shampoo from every hotel/motel.  We think we’ll sell them on ebay.



The 13th 30875 12 noon. We met Liz and Dave from UT; we took their picture. We also got a picture of Richard Pryor, and we talked with Michael the bellman who helped us. (Michael is the black guy, Richard is the white guy).

I’m going to start collecting a shampoo from every hotel we visit. We’ll just fake it on the 12 days that we’ve missed. It’ll be a great photo at the end to show the pile of shampoos.

We’re on I 10 looking for Hwy 90 and Bozzie’s scanning the horizon and saw half a lobster coming over a building. Unfortunately, it’s a construction zone, we’re on the wrong side of the highway, and there’s no way to get a picture of that. So if anyone is reading this from New Orleans, if you could send us a copy of that lobster we would much appreciate it.

We met a nice man named Keith at the Shell station. He and his family are getting ready to go out in a nice big boat. They tried to help us with directions to where we need to go.

30888 12:29 We’re still trying to figure out how to get out of New Orleans. We are, however, conveniently next to a Palm and Tarot card reader.

We took Hwy 310 off of 10 because Bozzie Jane’s pretty sure it will hit 49. That’s the BPS, the Bozzie Positioning System.

We’re in the town of Destrahan. We have no idea if we’re supposed to be here.

The convertible top is now functioning and totally affecting our trip. We’re going over a big giant suspension bridge over some unknown, unnamed body of water. My best guess is that it is the Mississippi.

30901 12:46 Our navigator is a star. We’re coming up on the road to Bootahoma—Hwy 90. We drove about 2 hours in order to get here, but we got here. I’m just teasing on the 2 hour part; it was just a half hour or so.

Paradise 20907 12:53pm

We saw an interesting road side display that apparently was a tribute to somebody’s who’s back. It said “guess who’s back…” It looks like poster boards mounted on wood. At first we saw about 7 or 8 of them, then we saw another 15 or 20. Somebody went through a lot of trouble to welcome somebody in or near Paradise back.

This is an oil and gas area of the country. There is equipment with flames burning and stuff.

I took a picture of a parade float sitting on the side of the highway in Paradise.

Desallemandes 30912 1:11 We sat on the side of the road for 10 or 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get our top down.

We’re going over the Bayou Desallemandes 30913 1:12

We’re passing The Grand Isle State Park and we’re at the exit for Raceland 30922 1:25pm

20926 We’re seeing some cattle on both sides of the road on farm and ranch land.

We’re feeling kind of short changed on Hwy 90; It’s a four lane divided highway with absolutely nothing to see. I don’t think there’s a lot of roads down in southern Louisiana. We pulled off in Chokahula because we liked the way it sounds and we’re going to kind of check out its downtown area.

We took a picture of an old abandoned gas station in Chokahula but that’s about it.

81 degrees 30947 1:49 We’re exiting Chokahula.

30957 1:57 We’re exiting Hwy 90 which is very boring, and we’re cutting over to 182 because our navigator determined it travels the same route and appears to be a two lane.

We’re going on Louisiana 662 to connect to the 182.

We appear to be in West Gibson according to the water tower. 30963 2:05pm

We’re going over a bridge and an unidentified body of water 30966 2:09pm All of a sudden we’re in an industrialized poor area. That may have been the town of Amelia.

Barbara “I have found it very interesting that you can pull into these little towns, scruffy or not, and they’ll have basically a gas station, probably some sort of a postal facility, and an adult paraphernalia store.”

Morgan City 30972 2:18

We just stopped at the donut shop in Morgan City, and Amber and Sarah helped us with some donuts. I told them about the trip and gave them a business card. I took a picture of the shop. Barbara was sitting in the parking lot and noticed that Amber had a hair net on. When I took the picture, she pulled her hair net off. Although, I was about 20 feet away and you probably can’t even tell she was in the shot. I asked her how life was here in Morgan City, and they said “fine, but boring.”

In Morgan City we took a picture of a statue commemorating that the first off-shore oil well was built about 30 miles or so south of here.

We’re going over the Achafalia River on a narrow bridge. 30974 2:33pm

As you go over these bridges in Louisiana, they’re of course all dedicated to Hughie P. Long.

Just outside of Morgan City we saw a bear crossing sign for 9 miles. I never would’ve thought there would be bears in the swamps of Louisiana.

Patterson 30980 2:48pm

Patterson was the winner of the 2002 competition for the state’s cleanest city.

Calumet 30983 2:51pm

Ricohoc 30986 2:55

30989 2:58 We seem to be in kind of a plantation area. We’re obviously driving along where the slaves lived, not the plantation owners.

Verdunville 30990 2:59pm

30993 3:04 We stopped to take a picture of a gorgeous plantation home, Bocage circa 1845.

The next home we took was the Frances Plantation circa 1810.

We’re in Garden City 30995 3:10pm

Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge Area

We just passed a house with a badminton court which is a 50’s, small town, go-to-your-grandma’s house.

We just saw the Arlington Plantation circa 1861, and we just entered Franklin 30997


We were stopped looking at one of the plantation homes, this gentlemen walks by, turns around and says “hey, have you seen the governor’s house?” He gave us special directions to turn off the road and see it.

Franklin Historic District It has cute little old tiny looking lights in the middle of the street. There are gorgeous trees and a bed-and-breakfast called Handsome House.

This town was named after Benjamin Franklin.

We’re in Baldwin 31003 3:32pm

Snow cone stands are a big deal in this part of the world.

We took a picture of the snow cone stand in Baldwin. It’s a very patriotic city with flags flying from every light pole. This is clearly another area that has porch swings and rockers on the front porches of the houses.

When you see a water tower, you know you got a town but we don’t see a sign.

We haven’t seen a lot of trains or even that many train tracks. We’ve been gone 13 days and have only seen 3 trains, and one of those might have been at an amusement park.

We hit the big time, we’re actually hearing the train noise.

31012 3:48pm We just took a picture of the Spooky House.

Jeanerette 31013 3:49pm

Every little town of some size seems to have a lot—elk, moose, Society of Woodmen. What do these things do?

We just passed by Movie Magic. Little towns like this just don’t have Blockbuster. They have a local place that looks like it was hand painted by a grade schooler.

We took a picture of the Jeanerette Sugar Mill. We commented today that today is really more of what the pie trip was supposed to be all about where you just drive around to small towns and see what you see, think what you think. Once we got off 90 we’ve seen some interesting things. We’d especially love to know what the story is behind that Spooky House. It would be a great movie set.

New Iberia 31023 4:06pm 82 degrees There is completely clear blue skies and sunshine.

In New Iberia we took a picture of what could be the world’s largest spark plug, and Barbara said the gorilla was a bonus. The city has a great row of lovely century type homes and has a nice feel to it.

We took the Evangeline Theater in New Iberia’s downtown. We stopped at a mobile station in New Iberia after we got lost. Mary hand wrote out on a sheet of notebook paper the directions for us to get back to where we needed to be. How sweet.

We’re in Era  31048 5:03

Abbeyville 31053 miles 5:09pm

Bayou Vermillion 31056 5:15pm

Nunez 31062 5:21pm

Kaplan 31065 5:24pm

Wright 31075 5:35pm

Gueydan 31080 5:41pm

Lake Arthur 31093 5:57pm

We took a picture of a coffee sign on the wall of a building in Lake Arthur. We just took a photo of what may be the world’s largest crawfish at Knox Corner Seafood and Deli in Lake Arthur.

Hayes 31113 6:23pm

Bell City 31116 6:27pm

Freshly cut grass in the country is a definite old time, family vacation smell.

Holmwood 31124 6:36pm

Lake Charles 6:51pm

Sulfur 31144 7:05 pm

Vintas 31160 7:19pm

Pine Hurst 31175 7:38pm We have not seen a Welcome to Texas sign.

Orange 31175 7:38 Only 857 miles to El Paso if you are going straight.

We just crossed the Cow Bayou and we’re in Vidor 31185 7:46pm

Rose City 31192 7:53pm

Neches River 31196 7:56pm

Vermont City Limits 31196 7:57pm

31198 8:01pm We stopped to get downtown Beaumont.

We had dinner at Rio Rita’s. Jaice was our waitress; she was not very good.

We’re off at 8:45pm

We just crossed the Taylor Bayou 31218 9:04

Turtle Bayou 31242 9:25pm

Trinity River 31249 9:31pm

Lost River 31251 9:32pm

We just crossed the Cedar Bayou 31258 9:39pm

We’re passing by a bunch of oil refineries.

San Jacinto River 31268 9:48pm