A job that I had a couple of years ago required some business travel to St. Louis, Missouri. On several occasions I combined business travel with a few days of personal leave, driving from St. Louis up to Iowa City to visit the Malloys before driving back to St.Louis to catch my flight home. That drive has very fond memories for me. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone this morning in Iowa City, but I was looking forward to once again being on the stretch of highway I remembered so well. And this time Lee would be along to share it with me.
Well, I thought I knew the stretch of highway, but just when you think you know something, you find out you don’t know as much as you thought you did. We didn’t even make it out of Iowa City before we found ourselves going in circles downtown trying to figure out how to get back on the highway. Lee had wanted to go by the post office to mail a letter before we left town. All the time over the years that I have spent in Iowa City I guess I never had occasion to go by the post office. And after we mailed the letter and turned down a street I was suddenly in a part of town I didn’t recognize. I managed to get a map up on my smart phone but I wasn’t smart enough to realize that we were pointed south, not north. That meant that when I was looking at an upcoming intersection on the map and deciding that the street we wanted was to the right I should have been telling Lee to turn left because the map orientation was pointing north, not south. Oh well, we finally made it back to the highway.
Rather than going on into St. Louis, our plan was to take a slight detour in Missouri and check out the town of Columbia, Missouri, as our overnight stop. We didn’t have a Missouri map, but on my drives from St. Louis to Iowa City my favorite place for a rest stop was the Hannibal, Missouri, Visitor Information Center. I knew they would have maps there, as well as the tourist brochures that Lee likes to collect. I told Lee to just keep straight on the highway all the way through the town of Hannibal and the visitor center was on the south edge of town. Couldn’t miss it.
But miss it we did. Or rather we simply couldn’t find it because we got lost trying to get through town. I wasn’t paying close attention when Lee said he saw a sign that said the visitor center was the next left. “Maybe they decided to make a new route around the main part of the town” was what I thought as he made the left turn. But before we knew it we were on an interstate crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. We knew that couldn’t be right and found the next exit to turn around and go back into Hannibal, where our troubles were just beginning. Nothing looked familiar. This time the smart phone was not getting good coverage or there wasn’t good map data for Hannibal because I couldn’t get any street names to show up. We finally stopped at a gas station and I went inside to ask directions. But I gave up in frustration when I couldn’t get anyone to help me. Just about that time as we drove up the next block I saw a sign that got us back to the highway that we had come into town on. From there I knew I could get us to the visitor center.
After we saw that the visitor center was called the Missouri Welcome Center we realized that the sign for “visitor center” that Lee had seen was the visitor center for all the downtown tourist attractions of Hannibal. There are a lot of those because Hannibal, Missouri, is famous for its part in Mark Twain’s life and stories. So I did get to see a side of Hannibal that I hadn’t seen on any of my previous trips through there. Not to mention, that as we backtracked while still lost along the river, Lee took a notion to follow a sign up a road that promised a viewpoint of the town from the famous “Lover’s Leap”. We joked that Lee was lucky I didn’t shove him over the Lover’s Leap after all the frustrations of getting lost today.
One of the nice things about our casual method of travel is that we don’t have any planes to catch or schedules to meet so the length of time that it takes to get from one place to the next doesn’t really matter. We had some daylight left when we got to Columbia late this afternoon, but will have more time tomorrow to explore. Columbia, Missouri, is home to Missouri State University and has nice parks and bike trails to check out tomorrow, depending on the weather. After checking into our motel we walked through part of downtown before enjoying a delicious dinner at a Thai restaurant.