Saturday, June 9, 2012

Spring Tour- 2012

Spring Tour 2012 – Hannibal Missouri – Hosts Ken & Kathy Smizinski – May 4-7

It was early morning as the birds flew into the parking lot of the McDonalds\BP on I55, just south of I80. As we all gathered to grab some vittles and prepare for the journey, Kathy Smizinski our Tour Hostess, handed out our Hannibal Spring Tour packet. As 8:30 am approached, Tour Leader, Ken, announced it was time to hit the road, for our journey was to begin. The weather was cloudy and a bit cool, but we hoped for a rain free journey and no breakdowns. Our caravan started out with 17 cars and as we rolled down I55, an additional 5 cars were sitting along the Dwight ramp waiting to join in our caravan. Our first stop was Funk’s Grove, a rest area 99 miles from our original meeting place. As we stretched and mingled another ‘Bird flew in with its feathers a little tattered. Debbie Powless and her daughter, Vanessa had had a long ride from Byron with their lil bird having a few issues on the way. But with a few adjustments - and fingers crossed - we hoped she would be able to continue on as we departed the rest stop. Since Mike and I were bringing up the rear in the caravan (we were the parts and tools truck), we kept an eye out on the t-birds and watched the radar on our IPad. The radar looked ominous wth large storms moving through central Illinois, but we were lucky and dodged the storms with just a few light showers. Our journey brought us to our lunch destination in Jacksonville. As we drove through town, many locals stood on their porches to watch the parade of T-birds drive by. We stopped at Lonzeretti’s which is an Italian Restaurant located in the old train station in Jacksonville. We had a choice of several menu items ranging from Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan, Pork Tenderloin sandwich, Hamburger and more. Everything was excellent, kudos to Ken & Kathy for finding this quaint restaurant in a great setting with delicious food.

Our tummies were content for the final 70 miles into Hannibal, but now it was time to make sure our birds tummies were as well. We all tanked up and met along side Market Street by I72 for the final leg. We flew into the Best Western parking lot in Hannibal a little before 4pm. With 44 club members in attendance and 23 filled parking spots (13 classic birds, 5 new birds, 1 90’s bird and 4 non birds), we all checked in occupying 23 of the Hotel’s rooms. We now had a little time to settle in before the evening activities began.

We met in the hospitality\breakfast room area for pizza and drinks. We sang “Happy Birthday” to those on the tour who were celebrating May birthdays and Doug Rogers presented Kathy Smizinski and Irene Vinyard with characture pictures. Pete Kramer made a few announcements and Kathy asked everyone if they could make a small donation to “Tom and Becky” who were to be our guests for the evening. Well, “Tom and Becky” never showed up. They must have been playing in the caves and lost track of time. But we all still had a great time conversing and it was decided to that our donations would go towards the Food Pantry that the Werth’s help out with.

On Saturday (Cinco de Mayo) we had the day on our own. After breakfast many of us walked into town to see the various shops and look around the historic district which contained the homes of Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, the J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office (Mark Twain’s dad) and Grant’s Drug Store, along with the infamous fence that Tom Sawyer and crew painted. You could tour some of these structures along with the Museum. There was also the Hannibal History Museum, which houses 13 original Norman Rockwell Pictures. Throughout the day many of us took the hour long Trolley Tour which provided us with the History of Hannibal. The Trolley took us around downtown Hannibal and then headed out of town past the “Unsinkable Molly Brown’s” Home/Museum (Titanic) to Riverview Park which had winding roads through wooded scenery and a 250 foot drop off the cliffs along the Mississippi. At the top, overlooking the River, was a statue of Mark Twain.

During the day, Pete Kramer and the Kelly’s drove about 15 miles out of town to the Starlight Alpaca Ranch and had a tour of the working ranch along with its 100+alpacas and a few new babies. Debbie Powless and her daughter, Vanessa went to the Mark Twain Cave. This cave was discovered in the winter of 1819-1820 when Jack Simms and his dog went on a hunting trip. His dog chased a panther, which was the sport in those days, into a small opening on the side of a hill. Since it was late in the day, Jack blocked the entrance, came back with his brother and torches the next day and found the cave. No one knows the outcome of the dog and panther though. Mark Twain wrote about this cave in about five of his books. The entrance on the side of the hill was in his book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where Tom and Becky were being chased by InJun Joe and went into the cave to try and escape. Debbie and Vanessa said walking through the cave was very interesting and that the temperature was a constant 52 degrees.

That evening we met at the Mark Twain River Boat for a dinner cruise down the Mighty Mississippi. Our cruise consisted of drinks and a buffet dinner, along with entertainment. The buffet was great with beef and chicken as the main course, and chocolate brownie in a cup for dessert. After dinner we all went to the upper decks to watch the sunset and view the scenery. Several of the guys went in the wheelhouse to help the captain navigate down the river. We went by the island that Mark Twain went out to and cruised down the Illinois side and up the Missouri side. After we docked, several of us took pictures of the Super moon rising up into the sky.

We headed back to the hotel for more conversation and merriment, with our hosts for the evening being Ken & Kathy. Though we did not partake in any Cinco de Mayo activities or fare, I guess you could say we stayed in the spirit with the guacamole dip and salsa and chips back in the hospitality room. So, all was not lost.

Sunday morning brought a couple of hours of free time. Mike and I headed to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse. The lighthouse was located at the north end of Main Street and overlooked the town and the Mississippi River. This was a quest for many of us to see if we could climb the 244 steps to the lighthouse and view the scenery. Well we made it (as did the others who tried)… of course we were huffing and puffing and gasping for air all the way up. The easy part of the adventure to the lighthouse was coming down.

In the afternoon, we flew up the Hill from the hotel to Rockcliffe Mansion. This mansion was built between 1898 – 1900 by lumber baron John Cruikshank, this 30 room, 13,500 sq ft mansion over looks Hannibal and the Mississippi River. Back in the day this mansion was of grandeur, using only the finest of woods,(mahogany, oak and walnut) throughout the mansion and Tiffany Crystal for some of the window areas and light fixtures. Mr. Cruikshank and his wife and four daughters lived in the mansion from 1900 to 1924 when Mr. Cruikshank died. Mrs. Cruikshank moved out of the mansion soon after into the home next door where her daughter lived. The mansion stood vacant for 43 years and survived being destroyed when a few Hannibal families purchased the property in 1967. They started to renovate it and bring it back to its grand luster. Most of the antique furnishings have been preserved and are still in the Mansion. We divided into two groups to go through the mansion. Now this mansion is known to be haunted; they believe it is Mr. Cruikshank. Though, when you ask the tour leaders about the mansion being haunted, they really don’t want to talk about it. Guess it might scare off the bed and breakfast visitors. Though we did get our tour guide to say “Yes it was haunted”, and said that she had lived in the mansion for several years and had seen the ghost of Mr. Cruikshank. We went up two the second floor where she showed us the various rooms and pointed out a baby buggy in the hall, close by the stairs. She said that the buggy was originally on the 3rd floor in the play / grand room area but one morning when they came in several weeks ago, it mysteriously appeared on the 2nd floor. We then ventured up to the 3rd floor to the Grand Room, which she mentioned was the hot spot for Paranormal activity. As we were up there, Dan Mrozek’s son went to a little nook area and opened a small door to see inside. Well all of a sudden there was a loud bang that came from behind. A bit later, when the door was moved, there was another loud bang. Maybe Mr. Cruikshank was letting us know he was watching us.

After our tour we headed 2 miles out of town to Sawyers Creek Fun Park. There we ate at the Rustic Oak Riverview Dining. They served a large buffet consisting of Fried Chicken, Beef, Frog Legs, mashed potatoes, green beans and much more. Ken made a few announcements and brought up Madeline Zambon and mentioned about how her Joe had loved Frog Legs, so in honor of Joe we ate Frog Legs. Well at least most of us did. After dinner we went through the gift shop and then headed back to the hotel. Three members bid a goodbye to make their journey home, while the rest of us prepared for our next event.

That evening we met for our Haunted Hannibal Tour. Two trolleys came to the hotel to pick us up and take us on our spooky adventure. Our narrators for the tour were Lisa and Ken Marks who wrote the book “Haunted Hannibal”, and are the curators at the Hannibal History Museum. We drove around Hannibal and learned about the history and secrets of many of the haunted sites in Hannibal. They talked about both past and present stories which included murder and mischief during the time of Mark Twain. They told us about the ghosts of the mansions on Millionaires Row, the old church in town and the Labinnah Restaurant (Hannibal spelled backwards). We then ventured out to the Old Baptist Cemetery to find us some ghosts. Lisa and Ken explained how to use “dowling rods” which they said can draw paranormal activity. We then ventured off amongst the graves with some of us using the “dowling rods”. To the amazement of some, the “dowling rods” started to move about, pointing or pulling us to gravesites. Ken was pulled to a grave that had the date May 5 on it. Mary Kiel was pulled to a grave that had her birthday on it. My rods crossed and I was directed to a gravestone that had “Mary Coleman” on it. I asked if this was Mary and said to straighten the rods if it was and slowly my rods went straight, at which I said did you live in Hannibal all your life, if yes cross the rods and slowly the rods crossed. At this point I was a bit spooked so I said goodbye to Mary and quickly handed the rods over to Mike and told him to talk to her. Debbie and her daughter Vanessa said they encountered a teenage girl at an unmarked grave. They asked several questions and found the girl was never married and had had no children, they also found out that her family knew she was buried there and then dragged them to the edge of the cemetery with their dowling rods pointing to the house across the street. After the cemetery we continued on back to downtown Hannibal where they showed us where the red light district was and that on one restaurant Lulabel’s the red light still glows. Back in the hospitality room, Dan Mrozek’s son was looking through the pictures he had taken at the cemetery and it seemed that on his rapid shots, one picture had a round orb in it and the other one didn’t. So it was a very interesting evening.

Our journey home Monday was a bit rainy. We took the same route back, with our first rest stop in Springfield, we then continued onto Culvers in Bloomington, where many birds either tanked up and continued on or ate and then continued home.

A “BIG” thank you goes out to our hosts Ken & Kathy Smizinski who did a wonderful job planning and coordinating the Spring Tour. A great time was had by all. Those in attendance for the Spring Tour were: Ken & Kathy Smizinski, Len & Irene Vinyard, Dan Mrozek & his son Dan, Bill & Liz Werth, Rudy and Janet Budach, Debbie Powless and her daughter Vanessa, Joe & Sandy Kraatz, Len & Mary Keil, Ed Levin & Rose Kovalenko, Joel Greenberg & Annie Luginbill, Pete Kramer, Tom & Judy Bruin, Doug & Soon Hee Rogers, Madeline Zambon and her friend Carol, Pete & Lisa Ekstrom, Mitch & Pat Mitchell, Jerry & Doreen Michna, Larry & Karen Kelly, Jim Wilson, Jerry & Pat Peterson, Bob & Barbara Sroka, Bob & Helen Hoge and Mike and Laura Cielenski.

Submitted by:

Laura Cielenski

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