176 miles. That’s all it was. “I just have to finish my blog then I can drive.” That’s what I said hoping the response would be “It’s ok I’m only joking.” Sadly not. 176 miles to reach St. Louis, Missouri….

Mile 1. “Are the lights green?” “No.” “Well I’m over the line so I’ll just have to go. It says yield on green I have no idea if I’m near to go or not but I have yielded to three cars now so obviously it’s my turn to go?”

Mile 2. “You’re driving too close to the hard shoulder.” “You drive then.”

Mile 5. “You’re too close to the middle of the road, I can touch the lorry.” “You drive then.”

Mile 10. “You can at least try to enjoy it.” “No. I’m not used to having to concentrate or check my mirrors or use my indicators. I can’t multi task on the best of days and right now I’m struggling to talk and drive.”

I have never concentrated so hard in all my life. I actually had to use mirrors and indicators which are two foreign concepts for me! It only went further downhill from there. 

Mile 80. We pull into a rest centre. When we go to leave I put the car in drive. “Why am I going forward?” “Because you’re not in reverse…” stupid automatic car. 

Admittedly the journey only consisted of about 3 roads but still. I was in an automatic, on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road panicking when the speedo hit 71!! I started to relax around mile 90, casually cruising along the highway singing my heart out to a mixture of Taylor Swift and Bring Me The Horizon. Using my indicators every so often to overtake vehicles at 75mph (such a rebel I know!) manoeuvring in and out of the lane, trying to remain in the middle and not make friends with the hard shoulder or the truck in the other lane! Nathan sleeping soundly in the passenger seat, me comfortable behind the wheel, all was good. 

“Are you going to get a photo of the sign?” I shout waking him up. “What sign?” “Too late you’ve missed it. Wouldn’t have happened if I was in the passenger seat.” Again, admittedly I was already passing the sign when I woke him up. And then Florence the second happened. All I wanted to do was get to Gateway Arch. I could see it but I had gone wrong three times in the space of 5 minutes, whilst following the sat nav! I kept going to use my left foot to do something, brake change gear anything to help me somehow get to the arch! I was getting stressed out big time. “Can you please wake up and help me. I want to get to the arch.” Clearly sounding like a petulant young child. Nathan woke up and put it in his phone. I follow his directions. Now, allegedly, he told me there was parking but I didn’t hear him. Instead we ended up driving over a bridge further away from the arch. “Clearly this isn’t the way is it?” “It’s where the satnav is taking us.” “Well then it’s wrong isn’t it.” 

I swerve into a gas station trying to figure out where we were and needed to go. I hate being wrong but at least I’ll admit when I am. We went back over the bridge and I saw the parking sign this time ๐Ÿ˜”. God damn that humble pie….

We parked then walked to the arch, much in silence haha! We had missed the last tour to the top by 15 minutes. I’m really not good at driving in cities in foreign countries we’ve learnt. I was absolutely fine on the highway, and parking, once I’d learnt the difference between reverse and drive!! The city, nope. I said to Nathan that when I drive again I’ll pull over 5 miles out from the centre and he can do it. I’m better at directing and he’s better at driving in those situations. It’s all about using your strengths ๐Ÿ˜‚. 

The arch is 630ft tall and 630ft wide. It was built as part of Thomas Jefferson’s vision and St Louis’ role in Americas westward expansion. Jefferson was the champion of the Louisiana Purchase and sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition west. The expedition in 1804 until 1806 was the first to cross the western part of America. It began in St Louis, passed the continental divide and reached the Pacific Coast. Their task was to,al this newly acquired territory, find a practical route across and make the American presence known. They also had to study the geography and ecosystems as well as establishing trade with the Natives. It sounds like quite a fun task really! The arch is 18 degrees off pointing exactly North and South. 

After a 45 minute wander round the park we moved onto Kansas City, our home for the evening. We pulled into Best Host Inn Plaza car park and went to check in. The guy was just casually sitting there on his phone and eventually acknowledged us with the usual rigmarole of, ‘where you from?’ ‘What brings you to America?’ ‘I like your accent.’ To which we have our standard response…’England, we’re travelling through and thank you.’ He then informed us our room might not be great because he got left a whole list of things that didn’t get done because it was ‘so busy.’

I mean clearly it was so busy that he was sat playing some sort of game or checking Facebook on his phone when we arrived! We eventually got our keys and a nice little welcome basket featuring white wine, crisps and chocolate. Just what we needed, and headed to our room. The reason I picked the hotel was because it had laundry service. The hotels over here really need to sort the lingo out. There was no laundry for us to use at the hotel. It meant laundry of the hotel room etc. I’m going to need a translator at the rate we’re going! So no laundry was done unfortunately but Nathan did go and swap the wine whilst I was trying not to cough sneeze and splutter over everything in the room. That camping really did my hayfever the world of good ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚!! Air con blasting at a cool 61 degrees  sleep was welcomed. 

Ice box. The room was an ice box. The thought of getting out of bed to turn the air on off wasn’t a pleasant one but a necessary one. Hot hot shower needed. This morning consisted of a road trip to visit Harry S Truman’s home on 219 North Delaware Street, Independence. He was the 33rd President of the United States of America, after the death of Roosevelt during World War II. He was married to Elizabeth after a 9 year courtship and they had one daughter, Margaret. 219 North Delaware Street was the home of Elizabeth, affectionately known as Bess, that she shared with her mother and grandmother. Truman moved in with them. They went on to have 4 grandsons and remained in the house until their deaths in 1972 (Harry) and 1982 (Bess). Both are buried at his presidential library, so he “could get up and walk to his office if he wanted.”

He is most known for his launch of the Marshall Plan which rebuilt to economy of Western Europe, leading the Cold War, establishing the Truman Doctrine in 1947 which contained Communism, the creation of NATO in 1949 as well as intervening in the Korean War. He loved being at home in Independence with his family and referred to the White House as ‘the big white jail.’ He would go home whenever he could. He was President from 1945-1953 when he returned to his home in Independence with his family. 

It was the first time we had used our America the Beautiful Pass and we collected more stamps for our national park passport so it was an incredibly exciting morning so far! We watched a short film about his and Bess’s life then proceeded a lookout point 10 miles away in Quality Hill. We stopped in Clark Park. 

The views weren’t as impressive as I thought they’d be especially as it was a sunny day! The park appeared to be the dwellings of a homeless community but the views were ok nonetheless. 

Our third stop today was to be Mark Twain’s house and museum in Hannibal, Missouri. His works include ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’ We had finally found a decent radio station (99.7) playing a mixture of music when the signal went so we were back to good old fashioned country music. Thankfully lunch was calling us so a visit to Applebees was imminent. 

The waitress wasn’t very good. We ordered mozzarella sticks and chicken wontons to start (small potions) and then Nathan ordered the all you can eat ribs with Texas BBQ sauce and I ordered tacos. Starters. Fine. My main. Fine. Nathan ended up with wings instead ribs and some sort of sweet Asian sauce instead of Texas BBQ! Not ideal when the offer is on the ribs not the wings. Still, we didn’t get charged for drinks so it wasn’t too bad. It’s kinda awkward though when you go to pay on their flashy tablet-style devices and the customary tip percentage of 20% comes up and the waitress is stood at the payment station as you decrease it to 0% ๐Ÿ˜ณ. 

Onwards to Hannibal. Two u-turns on the highway and we arrive at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. We arrived at the museum first where there was a collection of artefacts and some chapters from his story made interactive. Mark Twain was born Samuel Clemens in 1835. His family moved to Hannibal when he was four and the small town was in part the inspiration behind his works. He moved to New York aged 18 to work as a printer. He became a river boat pilot until the civil war in 1861 when he joined a confederate army for all of two weeks. He then moved to Nevada where he worked for Orion who was the secretary of the Nevada territory. 

He first used the name ‘Mark Twain’ when writing a humorous travel account in 1863. He met and married Olivia Langdon and they moved to Hartford, Connecticut. This is where he wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. 

Twain was born two weeks after Halley’s Comet and died one day after its closest distance to Earth. He had predicted this and said, “Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together”. He also foresaw his siblings death when their boat blew up. Crazy. 

Within the houses are some preserved artefacts with a statue of Twain in each room. There is even a paint pot and brush outside the infamous white fence!

Onwards now to Illinois…state number 22 ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Until tomorrow…