American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
In Celebration of Mark Twain's 175th Birthday
As a child, I loved the fact that my birthday, November 30th, always fell between Thanksgiving and Christmas – it made the holiday season seem even more special to me. As the years passed, and I discovered my passion for travel and literature, I was even more delighted to realize that one of my favorite American authors (and indeed quite the traveler) was also born today.
On November 30, 1835, Samuel Langhorne Clemens arrived in the town of Florida, Missouri, the sixth child of Judge John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens. In 1839, the Clemens family moved 35 miles east to the town of Hannibal, a port city on the banks of the Mississippi River. During his teenage years, Clemens served as a printer's apprentice, an editorial assistant, a printer, and a river pilot's apprentice. In 1858, he became a licensed river pilot; a few years later, he began working as a newspaper reporter. Eventually, of course, he became one of the country's most famous writers, known around the world as Mark Twain – a river term used when determining the depth of water. Appropriately, “mark twain” refers to a depth of two fathoms, meaning it's safe to navigate.
By the time he passed away on April 21, 1910, Twain had published numerous short stories, letters, sketches, and books, from The Innocents Abroad (1869), a European travel memoir, to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), one of my favorite novels, to Letters from the Earth (1909), a wonderful collection of satiric stories, essays, and notes. Today, fans of his work can celebrate his life by visiting the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum (120 N. Main, Hannibal, MO, 573/221-9010, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Nov.-Mar., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Apr.-May, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily June-Aug., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Sept.-Oct., $9 adults, $7.50 seniors 60 and over, $5 children 6-12, and children under 6 free), which, besides offering a self-guided tour of the author's childhood home, features an interpretive center, a museum gallery, a gift shop, the Huckleberry Finn House, the Becky Thatcher House, the J. M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office, and Grant's Drug Store.
As an alternative, travelers can visit the Mark Twain House & Museum (351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, CT, 860/247-0998, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5:30 p.m. Sun., $15 adults, $13 seniors 65 and over, $9 children 6-16, children under 6 free), where Twain lived with his family from 1874 to 1891 – and where, incidentally, he wrote some of his most famous works, including The Prince and the Pauper (1882) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Today, visitors can take daily guided tours of the 25-room, Picturesque Gothic-style mansion that Twain once called home. In addition, the museum and visitor center presents rotating exhibits about the author's life and legacy.
For a truly interesting experience, consider taking the “Mark Twain's New York” walking tour (917/620-5371, $20 pp) of New York City. This one-of-a-kind, two-hour tour, led by writer and Twain expert Peter Salwen, begins in Lower Manhattan (Broadway and Spring Streets), where Twain met his future wife, Olivia Langdon. Along the way, participants will encounter numerous places where Twain once lived, worked, or had other notable experiences. Unfortunately, though, Salwen only offers a handful of tours annually. In celebration of Twain's 175th birthday, there was a tour earlier today, and according to Salwen's website, the next public tour will take place on Sunday, May 1, 2011, at 1 p.m. – though private group tours are also a possibility.
Die-hard Twain fans may also appreciate the annual Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee (Frogtown, 2465 Gun Club Rd., 209/736-2561), which takes place in Angels Camp, California, between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. Since 1938, when the county fair and frog jubilee were combined into one event, this lively spring celebration has lured thousands of attendees to northern California. Although it's now grown into a significant regional event, featuring the world-famous frog jump, it owes at least part of its existence to one of Mark Twain's first short stories, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” The next Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee will take place on May 19-22, 2011.
For more information about the regions that Twain once inhabited – or at least influenced – refer to the following Moon travel guides: Moon St. Louis, Moon New England, Moon New York State, and Moon California. In the meantime, happy 175th birthday, Mark Twain – and thanks for fostering in me (and lots of others) a love of travel, an appreciation for satire, and a passion for old-fashioned storytelling!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and my Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of the Mississippi River / Text © 2010 Laura Martone