18th - 19th June 2008

We had to alter our planned route through Illinois and Missouri.   We had intended to head to the Mississippi River and follow its course northward, crossing into the state of Missouri at Hannibal in the north of the state, before making a turn west towards Kansas.    However as we approached the state of Missouri, we'd heard increasingly worse reports about the flooding spreading southwards down the Mississippi River from the north.   Day after day we heard on local news reports of levy breeches, causing large scale flooding and damage to vast areas of farmland and crop losses.     

As we made our way towards Missouri and witnessed some of the flood damage for ourselves, we made a decision to cross the Mississippi much further south than originally planned.  This turned out to be a good decision because the day we crossed, several of the northern bridges had to be closed due to the floods.   We crossed from Chester in Illinois into Missouri, where we discovered that the petrol prices were considerably lower than in Illinois.    This made us very happy as we had been running Harvey on fumes for quite a few miles, whilst searching for a petrol station.

Soon after arriving in Missouri, we found ourselves in the historic town of Sainte Genevieve.    However, first we had a small (very small) obstacle to overcome.    We came face to face with a railroad trestle with a clearance of only 9 foot.    We were unsure of Harvey's total height with all his roof fixtures but were sure that he wouldn't pass under a 9 foot bridge.  Needless to say, we quickly pulled out the owners manual to check.

Unfortunately the tourist information centre was downtown, on the other side of the bridge.    We parked Harvey safely on the "wrong side of the tracks" before making our way downtown on foot.  The friendly folks at the tourist office, pulled out a street map of town and after some deliberation, found us a Harvey-friendly route into the town.

Oops better stop this side!

Louis Bolduc House in Ste. Genevieve.

When originally settled in the 1740s, Sainte Genevieve was originally part of the territory held by France and the French colonial influence was still very apparent in the town.    The construction of the historic buildings was unusual in that they were built of logs set vertically, rather than horizonally, to form the walls, a style of building found not only in this town but also in Quebec and Normandy.

Of course, the Louisiana Purchase Agreement meant that the French-speaking settlers soon found themselves to be citizens of the United States.


After our enjoyable tour of Ste. Genevieve, we turned northwards to take us safely away from the floods.    Another good choice, as we later learned that route 79 along the river also had to be closed.   We consulted our map to find a Missouri state park with campground, where we could spend the night.    

One seemed ideally located, apparently close to the highway on which we would be travelling.   We set off for Cuivre (apparently pronounced Quiver) Lake State Park.    It was true that the park borders lay close to our route but by the time we had wandered along the meandering, winding lanes for miles until we eventually tracked down the campground, the park didn't seem quite so convenient.     By the time we found the campground, located a site and finished the checking in procedure, we were exhausted, with little energy left to explore.   However we did find the strength to cycle to the beach.    It seems that most inland state parks seem to pride themselves on their lakeside beaches, which are very popular with locals.   We guessed these inland beaches in states which lie hundreds of miles from the coast, would be the only ones many locals got to visit.

Early next morning we were underway again.   We made a quick stop at the original birthplace of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.   The cabin had been preserved inside a Mark Twain shrine about a quarter mile from its original location in the village of Florida.    The truth was that neither of us had read any of his work but maybe it was high time we did, now we'd visited his local neighbourhood!

Mark Twains Birthplace

The next and final stop on our flying visit to Missouri was in the city of St. Joseph, in the west of the state right on the border with Kansas.     We set off in search of the Pony Express Museum.    The Pony Express was the original "high speed" mail service to the west, taking mail from St. Joseph in Missouri to Sacramento California.     The museum was on the site of the original stables.    
Three entrepreneurs had established the service in 1860 in the hope of winning the government's $1 million mail contract.     After the mail had reached St. Joseph on a record-breaking 50 mph train, it was packed in the 4-pocketed saddlebag, known as the mochila, of the  pony rider for its journey west.     Relay stations were established every 10 - 15 miles, where the mochila was transferred to a fresh horse and the rider was allowed 2 minutes to take a drink.    At home stations, 75 to 100 miles apart, the mail changed riders to continue its journey.    The Pony Express riders had to face many perils on their journey across prairie, desert and treacherous mountains.

Tribute to the brave Pony Express riders

Hmmm, sounds like the ideal job - not!

Still, Phil decides to give it a try.  Isn't he missing something?

Despite the impressive delivery time of 10 days, with riders as young as eleven years old, the service was short-lived, due in part to resistance attacks by Native Indian Tribes bringing them close to financial ruin and finally to the introduction of the coast to coast telegraph service.

By late afternoon Harvey was following in the footsteps of the fearless Pony Express riders.    We though had the added convenience of a highway bridge, rather than a ferry, on which to cross the Missouri river into the state of Kansas.



Approaching the Missouri River Crossing into Kansas.

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