While driving from Oxford, Ohio to Fulton, Missouri I stayed on state highways and county roads allowing me to pass a few County seats, a plethora of small towns, and corn fields waiting to be plowed. Enjoying the change in the landscape from the hills of Kentucky, Southern Ohio and Browne County, Indiana, I rode on towards my first expanse of flat, I mean F-L-A-T land. I liked the drive and was glad of it, but as I know there will much more of this geography, I’m curious if after Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma I’ll still be singing the joys of flat land. But for now I was content and taking in sights of the Midwest.
It was mile after mile of farm land with houses and barns set far apart and an occasionally small town whose grain elevators were their towering landmark. In Ohio, I came across a drive-in theatre that’s already open for the season and it flooded me with memories of my oldest daughter going to the drive-in with family friends who would pack a conversion van with kids. And memories of Sunday drives with my folks came back to me when I went by a small town ice cream drive-in. It was never hard to convince my dad to make a stop for a cone.
In Indiana, I passed by the hometown of Ernie Pyle, the WWII correspondent, where a section of the highway and a rest stop are named in his honor. There’s even a small museum in this otherwise empty town. In Greencastle, Indiana I drove thru DePauw University. A stately looking campus with historic buildings, that seemed booming with several construction projects. Arriving during a change in classes and I witnessed that quintessential moment of college life when the campus is swarming with young people. The energy of the students was palpable and I drove off with a very positive feeling about DePauw.
Once into Illinois the road stretched out for as far as I could see. There were fewer crossroads, fewer towns, and more acres between the farms. Illinois offered a few sights and sounds I don’t experience in the Boston area such as billboard signs advertising camouflage wedding bands for both men and women, road signs encouraging me to visit the website gunssavelife.com, and a 90 degree longitude sign informing me that I am 1/4 way around the world.
Crossing the Mississippi River for the first time on the trip was a thrill as it makes me believe I’m making some progress on this trip. I know I’ll be back over it when I visit the State of Mississippi next week but I try not to dwell on that detail and instead stop in Hannibal to have a look around. Hannibal, in this April when spring is late, is a rough looking river town; I think I know why Mark Twain wrote Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in his beautiful home in Hartford and his summer place in Elmira, New York. Hannibal has seen better days. There’s a statute to Tom and Huck at one end of the historic Main Street, several Twain era shops ready to sell trinkets and t-shirts to tourists, a little park along the river to launch boats and an oval circuit to walk and a Mark Twain cave that looks ready to take your money and give you a hokey experience in return. While I was in town and as I drove out, I wondered if Hannibal wasn’t suffering from a meth problem. I learned that it had a significant meth problem as do many rural Missouri towns. Although, I enjoy Twain’s writing and had almost finished listening to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I won’t be returning to his hometown nor encouraging anyone else to visit. I ended my day’s adventure outside of Fulton, Missouri so as to be ready for my visit to the National Churchill Museum in the morning.