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Travelog of Mark Twain Country, 2005
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Domination Journal #6: Operation Edgeland
Just two days after the successful completion of last weekend's Operation Red Football, the Domination of Eiler goes forth to conquer once again. The Domination Guard has assembled an armored and cavalry combined-arms expeditionary force to expand the Domination's borders.
The Domination has designated this operation as "Edgeland", because these new conquests are at the edges of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and the Domination itself. The primary target is the Mississippi River town of Hannibal-Missouri. That town is almost entirely dedicated to the memory of the pre-Domination writer, "Mark Twain".
Hannibal was chosen for occupation because:
- Its position is advantageous. Its occupation, plus occupation of the Quad Cities of Illinois/Iowa, will fill in a gap in the Domination's frontline, between St. Louis-Missouri and Dubuque-Iowa.
- Like the Quad Cities, Hannibal is convenient to highways. Interstate Highway 72 dead-ends near Hannibal. With that being Interstate 72's sole mission in life, Hannibal's gotta be good.
- Unlike the Quad Cities, Hannibal has several inns and museums.
- Popular sentiment among a small poll of associate-Eilers is, Missouri is cooler than Iowa - even if Missouri does contain Branson.
- Of course, associate-Eilers think Disney World is coolest. But the Domination has already conquered there, and it sees no reason to return.
- Besides, the Domination can always raid Quad Cities on the way home from Hannibal. In particular, the Rock Island Arsenal and Museum is a promising target.
Nighttime deployment out of the Core Territories toward Missouri was a concern, because traffic is lightest toward Iowa. (Go figure.)
- But fortunately, this is Spring Break week in most public schools. Judging from traffic levels during commuting hours, half of the Domination's citizens are taking the week off and going either to Hannibal or Disney World. Odds favor Disney World.
- Domination forces therefore left the Core Territories at 4:30 pm, and braved a rush-hour transit from the Core Territories' Chicago-Rockford axis to the Chicago-St. Louis axis. (Operational music "Close to the Edge".)
- Thankfully, this gamble worked. There was intense armored-militia opposition to Domination forces at Joliet, but no worse than any other way out of "Chicagoland". And, as ever, opposition evaporated after the edge of Chicagoland.
Domination forces were on station at Normal-Illinois, halfway to Hannibal, at 7 pm. Provider "Best-Western" on the north side of town was chosen for barracks.
- Unfortunately, this deployment seems to be a tactical error. According to barracks staff, the east side of town has much better restaurants, such as the widely-present "Damon's". All the north side has to offer, is the "Holiday-Inn" small sports bar where the finest food is a cheeseburger, and the finest draft beverage is the Miller Lite of Milwaukee, at hotel prices.
- But at least the Domination's chosen hotel is quiet, affordable, and has a pool and free coffee. And luckily, the Dominator remembered to bring his swim trunks.
The Domination force moved out in excellent order, and was conquering new territory west of Springfield-Illinois by 11 am.
In that sparsely-populated land, the campaign encountered resistance - but not the usual sort. Instead of turning out in force to oppose the Domination's advance, the residents hid themselves - and their gas stations. At one point, Domination forces had to stray five miles off the highway for refueling. And so was Pittsfield-Illinois raided.
- Pittsfield proclaims itself a proud Main Street Illinois Community, but has little to offer its tourists, other than hunting and campgrounds conveniently near Main Street.
- While visiting Pittsfield, the Dominator was wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and flying the United Nations flag in his car, as usual. The Domination Guard security force hustled him out of town for his own safety, shortly after refueling.
The weather also provided some opposition.
- The Domination's meteorologists predicted an area of heavy wind and thunderstorms the size of Greater Illinois, occupying same area.
- Fortunately, the Domination's forces avoided all rain until getting into Missouri itself. At that point, a two-minute downpour occurred, before the storms headed east.
Despite opposition, by 1 pm the Domination established its mission objective: a garrison in Hannibal-Missouri. (Operational music "One More Time".) Barracks "Hotel-Clemens" was chosen.
- Barracks seems to be the fanciest hotel in town.
- It is within trivial walking distance of most major attractions.
- Great price, at least outside tourist season - which apparently begins two days from now. As ever, the Domination's timing is impeccable.
- Barracks promise to be quiet, as long as the larval humans in the atrium swimming pool are kept under control. Hotel policy is, 10 p.m. pool closure. This is acceptable, if enforced.
- Unfortunately, neither cell phone nor land line can provide local internet access here. Oh well, the Domination warned its coalition partners it might be offline during the operation.
Lunchtime mess hall at Lula Belle's Restaurant and B&B. This would have been an interesting lodging choice, were it not adjacent to an active railroad track. Sadly, Lula Belle's doesn't believe in draft beer.
Museum activities followed, with a Mark Twain theme, of course. Hannibal-Missouri is cashing in its Mark Twain meal ticket for all it's worth.
- The Mark Twain Museum has two buildings full of exhibits about him, his pithy quotes, and anyone who ever inspired him, plus three more buildings about life of the time.
- The Domination is impressed with how much respect a writer can get from a local museum complex. The Domination will henceforward assume that the same amount of respect exists for its own ongoing literary works, and begin plans for a Museum of Eiler.
The Hannibal Lighthouse was then conquered, along with a Missouri-stick for the Dominator's personal collection.
An extensive bicycle maneuver followed, penetrating five miles further on into Missouri, then returning and going two miles south. Objective was to find a dining establishment which served a draft beverage superior to the Bud Lite of St. Louis. Sadly, no such establishment was found.
Domination forces settled for the Riverview Restaurant at Sawyer's Creek Fun Park, south of town.
- There a pork loin and salad bar dinner was washed down...
- ... with the bottled Michelob Amber Bock of St. Louis,
- ... while the Dominator sat outside and enjoyed watching trains and barges roll by,
- ... as storm clouds receded in the distance,
- ... all to the tune of Olivia Newton-John's greatest hits. It was an oddly soothing combo.
Then, dessert at Lula Belle's, since the Mark Twain Dinette (home of Mark Twain Fried Chicken) was closed for the night, it being 8 p.m. and all.
The Domination plan was to spend two nights in Hannibal, while soaking up the sights. There are still more sights, but the restaurant selection's been exhausted.
Oh well, more time to dominate up the river from here. Local intelligence says, nearby Quincy-Illinois has great architecture and lots of wealth; it's just that Hannibal has the marketing. For instance, it was Hannibal which realized that TOM-AND-HUCK is a toll free number.
Objective for the day was to clean up outstanding targets in Hannibal-Missouri.
Prime target was the Mark Twain Cave, two miles south of town. The Domination recommends this target to all its citizens... but don't get there at opening time, because they'll just make you wait half an hour in the gift shop.
- But today, the gift shop yielded an amethyst rock to decorate the Domination's new Staff of Hannibal. Also many other rocks. Fill your tiny bag with as many shiny pebbles as you like for $3!
As for the cave...
- The cave is unique among all others known to the Domination. It's not just a big series of caverns, it has natural cross-tunnels.
- The pre-Domination author "Mark Twain" wrote much fiction about this cave. (Think, "Tom Sawyer"). But more importantly to Hannibal-Missouri, he wrote about the cave's natural features. Hannibal has been cashing in on that fact for cave tours ever since.
- But more importantly, the caves figure in the area's history, even outside of Mark Twain.
- The town government would meet in the caves, whenever the rest of town was too hot in the summer.
- At times, both governments and private individuals tried to shut off the caves for food storage (both 1800s and 1950s), gunpowder production (1860s), or medical experimentation (1840s). But this never worked, because no force on Earth could prevent the town's larval-humans (including young "Mark Twain") from playing there.
The Domination subdued as much of the underground structure as the native guide allowed. Then, the Domination Guard infantry force subdued the entire cave hill.
- Before the cave tour, the native guides noticed how well equipped the Domination Guard was (with the new Staff of Hannibal), and challenged the Domination to a hike up the hill along the cave staff's own trails.
- After the cave tour, the Domination took that challenge. The recommended trails atop the hill were largely covered with leaves and evaded Domination conquest, but the Domination Guard found its own way down the hill.
- Unfortunately, the Dominator's hat was left atop the hill, due to a wardrobe malfunction. By local rules, this resulted in a Mark Twain Magic Hat Treasure Challenge. But before that rule could go into effect, the Domination Guard took the challenge itself, went back up the hill, and recovered the hat.
The Domination then cleared up remaining resistance in Hannibal-Missouri.
- A bottle of Missouri blackberry wine was conquered at Sawyer's Creek Fun Park, since the wine shop there was finally open. The bottle was filed among the Domination's other campaign trophies, for later subjugation.
- The peak "Lovers' Leap" south of town (complete with a suitable Indian legend) was subjugated.
- There, the Domination force decorated its new hiking stick (newly proven upon the Hill of Mark Twain) with miniature Missouri-shaped carvings, also usable as finger grips.
- Larval-humans were in attendance. The Domination resisted the urge to say, "Hey, kids, come here, I have a big knife"... but it might as well have said it, because the kids came anyway.
- Also, some adult militia staff were found to take a picture of the conquering Domination force with its mighty Hannibal-Staff.
- The Mark Twain Haunted House and Wax Museum had evaded conquest the day before, by declaring the start of its tourist season to be today. The Domination called them on it. Today, they no longer resisted.
- The Wax Museum is comprehensive of Twainism. Look for the labels near the feet.
- The Haunted House is indeed scary, but only if you're not deaf.
- The gift shop needs more extra-large coonskin caps.
- Ask not to carry one of those annoying narrative tape decks, and you'll get a discount!
Secondary target for the day was Quincy-Illinois. Domination forces re-crossed the mighty Mississippi River to subdue Quincy from the east.
- Barracks "Stone Creek Inn" was chosen, for its convenience to such fine dining establishments as "Ruby Tuesday's". Said mess hall was later found to exceed all of Hannibal-Missouri, due to having the Michelob Amber Bock of St. Louis on draft.
- But first, the Domination Guard mounted up for bicycle subjugation of downtown Quincy. The town responded in rebellion, by closing its main tourist bureau and its town museum.
- The rest of downtown Quincy was found to be an odd underpopulated mixture of civic centers and thrift stores. Scary, for a bicycle force.
- However, the Domination forces found the fortitude to occupy O'Griff's Irish Pub for dinnertime. Said pub turned out to be the only brewpub between St. Louis and... probably Minnesota. Tasty!
Unfortunately, much of the Domination's mission time was occupied by some particularly whiny cyber-coalition partners who occupy the Domination's web space but can't live with each other and seem to need the Domination's strong hand.
- Currently the Domination of Eiler operates this cyber-enclave as a Protectorate of the Domination of Eiler. Which is to say, the Domination will protect them and grant them its resources, but they are left to manage their own affairs as best they can, without threat of the Domination's judgment. (Certain large-company software projects are occasionally managed the same way.)
- It seems that a reassessment of this cyber-enclave is in order, until such time as responsible self-government is restored. JUDGment!
Domination day of rest. But still, several conquests.
Before leaving Quincy-Illinois, the Villa-Katherine mansion was subdued.
It actually looks prettier without furniture.
Passport photos were also conquered before leaving town. One never knows when one might have to cross a nation-state border.
Primary target Nauvoo-Illinois. Domination armor drove in to town up the Great River Road. (Operational music "Remember the Future".)
On the plus side...
- The Great River Road immediately south of Nauvoo, is the single most scenic road in Domination territory west of the Appalachians.
- Nauvoo has a historical village, a winery just outside of town, and many hotels.
But note, the history of Nauvoo is all Mormon history. The town is even more dedicated to the Mormon cause, than Hannibal is to Mark Twain.
- It seems that Joseph Smith, the Mormon founder, had an active 3000-man militia and was wanted for crimes against Missouri. In the end, he died by mob judgment in the next town over from Nauvoo... which is part of how Mormons wound up leaving Illinois and dominating Utah.
- But Mormons (and their offshoot, the "Congregation of Christ") are resurgent in Nauvoo. The town is actively garrisoned by them, complete with a rebuilt temple and numerous tour groups.
The tour guides in the historical village were very polite, but had nametags, "Elder".
- The Domination of Eiler considers Mormons to be a rival organization, only less subtle than the Domination. Which is actually inspirational to the Domination's future efforts. If Mormons can get so damn powerful, anything is possible for the Domination of Eiler.
- Still, Domination forces were not hopeful that Mormon hospitality would meet Domination standards. In particular, it was not certain that Nauvoo could supply the Domination's daily alcohol ration.
Domination forces therefore chose not to establish a garrison in Nauvoo. Instead, the armored force drove upriver to the target-of-opportunity Fort Madison-Iowa... which is garrisoned by an Iowa State Prison. As such, Fort Madison's ambiance is somewhat less creepy than Nauvoo's.
- Fort Madison's best hotel is the Kingsley Inn, on the riverfront, conveniently near the Lost Duck Brew Pub. Upon the discovery of a brewpub between Quincy-Illinois and Minnesota, the Domination forces immediately stopped to establish a garrison. The inn is like a Bed-and-Breakfast, only bigger. Quarters are Domination-grade.
- Fort Madison's waterfront is dominated by a reconstructed wooden fortress, named after U.S. President Madison. The fort was burned down by Indians in 1812, and reconstructed much later as a tourist attraction... open May - October. This being April, the fort repelled the Domination's assault.
- However, the brew pub was more than accomodating. Pumpkin beer on special, $2 a pint! Also, beer & bratwurst special, $5. The Domination senses the love from Iowa, and returns it in measure.
It is always a pleasure for the Domination Guard to swap stories with its local militia - in this case, newly-enlisted Domination militia at the Lost Duck Brew Pub. And the Domination has to admit, it got pranked today.
- The barmaid (Militia Staffwoman Billie) told a story of how Betsy Ross once lived in Iowa, two blocks off the river. (Just barely vaguely possible, if Ms. Ross was related to French traders.) And so Domination forces, after 4 pm mess hall, went off in search of the Betsy Ross House. And it seems there actually is a Betsy Ross House in Fort Madison! ...Only, it was built in 1858, and the famous seamstress's daughter Betsy lived there. April Fool!
- Barb and Eileen from the bar crowd say, John Ringling of the famous circus used to live just up the hill from here. Turn right at the gas station, and go behind the prison!
- Bill from the Amtrak train between Chicago and Kansas City stopped in. He was saddened to learn John Ringling had died. But Bill says, Amtrak had to get Subway to bring in sandwiches today... and Bill has the Subway bonus cards to prove it. Boy, he had a lot of bonus stamps to lick. And let's not get Bill going on the Federal plot to destroy Amtrak.
- If you come to town, ask to meet Lady the bar dog! She's a stray who adopted the bar. She was observed guarding some of the fermentation chambers tonight.
Domination mission reserves of Eiler-Hours are getting low, especially since this could be one of those vacations whch requires a vacation to recover from. Also, evil enemies of the Domination are stealing an Eiler-Hour tonight, due to Domination Sunlight Time (a.k.a. Daylight Savings Time, or DST). When the Domination comes to formal power, it'll be DST all year, and its citizens will be grateful to never lose an hour.
Operational targets have been re-evaluated to account for diminshing vacation time. Goal is, an easy drive tomorrow.
The armored force therefore advanced the Domination's frontline to the southeast end of the Quad Cities, but did not penetrate to the Rock Island Arsenal. Instead, Dixon-Illinois (being on the way back to EilerBase) was chosen as the day's primary target. Boyhood Home of Ronald Reagan - Free Admission!
Nearby targets of opportunity then emerged.
- Grand Detour-Illinois yielded the John Deere Historical Site, which teaches the lesson, never underestimate the value of good farm equipment.
- Oregon-Illinois is practically in the middle of nowhere, but is convenient to several state parks and has some little inns.
"Paddle Wheel Inn" of Oregon was chosen for barracks, due to the magnificent concrete statuary presence of Giant-Size Chief Black Hawk across the Rock River.
It's said to be the second largest concrete statue in the world, behind (one guesses) Jesus of Rio. The Domination splurged on a room with a view.
"Blackhawk Steak Pit" for dinner. It has a noisy Greek proprietor who doesn't believe in draft beverage or in fine American beer. And he had to be introduced to the concept of dining at the bar. The pork chops are certainly tasty, but would have been more so if the Domination had splurged for the mushroom sauce.
"Maxson's Riverside" for dessert. Its ambiance is fancier, but its menu and pricing is much like the Steak Pit, only less Greek content. And it has the Honker's Ale of Chicago on draft!
The Domination's expeditionary force is now just over an hour away from EilerBase. Tomorrow's operation should be trivial.
Domination day of resurgence. Today's operation was trivial enough, that the Dominator surprised his coalition partners by showing up for 10:30 am Kingdom-of-Heaven obeisance in the Core Territories.
As ever, Domination of Eiler forces return triumphant, all praise to the One Maker.
(signed) S. Dominator Eiler for the Domination of Eiler.