Monday, July 03, 2006

Where to go: 4th of July

Though parades and fireworks can be seen and heard all over the country on the 4th of July, there's not a more all-American place to spend the nation's birthday than in the heartland: Hannibal, Missouri. Here in the hometown of writer Mark Twain, the traditional 4th of July activities and events take place as part of Tom Sawyer Days, a weeklong festival of fun and games inspired by Twain's fictional creations. (One of many events is a fence-painting competition, remembering the scene where Tom Sawyer persuades his friends to do his chores for him and even to pay for the privilege!)

Hannibal not only has Mark Twain, it also has the Mississippi River on its doorstep, which makes for a great summertime drive. Known collectively as the Great River Road, a network of scenic roads winds along the river, heading south to New Orleans and upstream as far as the headwaters in Minnesota. North from Hannibal, the Great River Road takes in the fully recreated historic Mormon community of Nauvoo, once the largest settlement on the Western Frontier. Beyond Nauvoo is the river town of Davenport, Iowa, where a pair of all-American adventures await you. All summer long, there's minor-league baseball in a historic riverside stadium, (where the Midwest League All-Star Game will be played June 20th!), and at the end of July, Davenport's rich musical heritage is celebrated in a four-day festival named after native jazz player, Bix Beiderbecke.

Other roads to drive this month:

The largest 4th of July fireworks show in the country, fittingly enough, is held at the heart of the nation's capital, at the National Mall in Washington D.C. The array of monuments and memorials around D.C., and the diverse collections on display in the Smithsonian Museum, make the city an even more ideal place to spend the 4th--and if the weather gets too heavy, you can head east on US-50 to the many different coastal resorts, like Rehoboth Beach in Delaware or bustling Ocean City in Maryland. Just two hours from D.C., but another world away on the idyllic Eastern Shore of Virginia, the town of Chincoteague holds its famous Pony Swim on July 26th, in which dozens of wild ponies are herded across the marshes of wild and beautiful Assateague Island National Seashore.

Way out west in Colorado, the towering mountain Pikes Peak inspired the song "America the Beautiful," but every July this mountain sees a compelling contest between man and nature: the Pikes Peak Hillclimb, in which daredevils on motorbikes and in cars race up a gravel road to the 14,110-foot summit. A few days later, and 300 miles west of Pikes Peak via the amazing "Million Dollar Highway," the Wild West mining town of Silverton celebrates the 4th of July with a big Main Street parade featuring cowboys and bikers, a fun run and fireworks show, and a huge water fight between rival Volunteer Fire Departments.

Each month, I've suggested a number of great drives in the "Driver's Almanac" pages of my Road Trip USA website , so check back here again soon and see some more great places to drive.

Happy Independence Day!


Blogger Americana Mark said...

Great stuff Jamie. You've inspired me to start the planning of an adventurous road trip through Hannibal , Missouri and up to the Field of Dreams! Looking forward to your upcoming blogs!

11:17 AM  

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