St. James, MO
Montgomery City, MO
Towing our 30 foot trailer – B
Dumping the black tank – J
Places we visited:
Vacuum Cleaner Museum
Maramec Spring Park & Museum
Starved Rock State Park
Cool, 1950’s vacation-esque tablecloth
Towing a 30 foot trailer across 2 states – B
Dumping our black tank – J
Backing into a campsite – B
Feeding carrots to bunnies – A, F, C, B
Feeding rainbow trout – A, F, C, J, B
So, I’m writing to you from my cozy master bedroom (I love it!) and trying to sum up our first week—so many emotions: sadness (we left our family and friends!) relief (we’re finally on the road!), stress (is that sound from the truck normal? Where will we stay next week? Is our trailer going to roll down this hill?? More on that later), happiness (we’re on the road! We’re livin’ our dream!), frustration (there’s no cell signal! How will Jimmy work??), enjoyment (just hanging out with each other is nice), discombobulation (sleep, work, play—we’ve gotta find our family rhythm!). I know a lot of this will work itself out as we travel further and explore more and continue to get used to our truck and trailer. I’m also looking forward to spending extended lengths of time in one place (right now we’re moving every few days, but we’ll be staying 6 days at our next site!). We’ve met some nice people along the way (and our last RV neighbors were from St. Charles, IL—not far from where we used to live in Geneva! And they also gave us eclipse glasses!! Swew! Still didn’t know where we’d pick some up—thank you, Julie!).
So, a quick recap of what we’ve done and where we’ve been:
August 14 – 16: Our road life begins! Surrounded by family and friends (Waves! Hugs! Tears! Well wishes! Wait! Where are my keys? Hugs again!) we left Elmhurst, IL for a short two-hour drive to a KOA in Utica, IL outside of Starved Rock State Park. Nice little campground and we were near the pool and playground (which the kids loved). Met a fellow air streamer and veterinarian who was on her way back from Canada (just her and her 6 dogs!). I took the kids to Starved Rock for a morning of hiking (they loved French Canyon and learning about the history of Starved Rock). Our first set-up and take down went smoothly and wasn’t as tough as we thought it’d be.
First Spot in Utica, IL
August 16 – 17: Met up with my sister, Eve, and her husband, Chris, at Springfield Lake in Springfield, IL for some lunch and stone-skipping (great to see you two! Thanks for meeting us!) on our way to Kamper Kompanion in Litchfield, IL. We stayed for one night—small, private campground just off I-55 (literally, just off I-55 but it was super clean and had a playground so Cass was happy). Also had a nice little laundry room—first two loads of road laundry: done (and I can no longer leave the clean laundry in piles on our ottoman because, A. We no longer have an ottoman and B. There’s no other place to put it but folded and in the drawers. Everybody pitched in and took care of their own—love it).
Storms rolling in the background while the kids have a little screen time in Litchfield, IL
August 17 – 20: Headed through St. Louis into Missouri and then a bit southwest to Bourbon to pick up solar panels in anticipation of some boondockin’ out west (yeah, we’re learnin’ all the RV lingo—that’s “dry camping” for all you landlubbers (aka no hook-up to water and electric)).
Then we continued on to Pheasant Acres in St. James—a small, private RV park run by Sherry—an awesome lady who clearly loves where she lives and what she does. She helped us back into our spot (first time! Took about 30 minutes (good lordy!) but we made it) and set the kids up with sidewalk chalk and carrots to feed her bunnies (the kids enjoyed the chalk more than feeding the bunnies—bunnies can be scary, y’all! And somehow I got roped into giving the sweet Josephine her bunny antibiotic?!?!) Anyway, Sherry recommended we head down the road to Maramec Spring Park so we could feed the trout (???), visit the retro playground and take an historic drive through the grounds. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I took the kids Friday morning and we had a great time—the park is incredibly beautiful—wooded and quiet. The kidst absolutely loved the retro playground; it was full of all the metal equipment Jimmy and I grew up with that’s now deemed way too dangerous for kids. Then we went to feed the fish. The fish sanctuary is a winding stream spanned by small bridges and, armed with sandwich bags full of fish food pellets from Sherry, we peered into the water and were amazed by the thousands of Rainbow Trout we saw (100,000 trout hatchlings are brought in every year). The kids tossed handfuls of pellets into the water and the fish swarmed to gobble them up, flopping out of the water to gulp the food. We did that for about an hour. It never got old. We also visited the museum in the park and learned about the Iron Works that used to stand on that site—Aidan now wants to construct an iron forge.
We brought Jimmy back that evening so he could feed the fish and he was as enthralled as we were. Then, before heading back to our campground I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we could take that historic drive through the park?’ So we hopped in the truck and followed the signs aptly marked Historic Drive. The small road wound through forest, up and down hills—it was beautiful but I wondered where the history was? Then we crested a hill and came upon a small cemetery studded with moss-covered, crumbling headstones and dotted with dozens of bright white crosses. Just as I was explaining to the kids that this was probably the cemetery for all the villagers who lived around and worked in the Iron Works, Jimmy took a closer look, “those crosses are made out of PVC pipe. . . .” Yep. All those quaint little crosses were assembled PVC pipes. Hmmmmm. Not very historic. But as we rounded the corner past the cemetery we came to a sign that read Open Mine Pit. Now that sounds interesting! About a half mile later we crested a hill and I slowed the truck. . . and stopped. We’d come to the top of a very, very steep hill. Peering over the dashboard was like staring down the long drop of the American Eagle roller coaster. Not only was the drop into the valley super steep, but the valley itself was super short before the road careened straight up the other side. It basically looked like this: U
“Don’t you dare,” Jimmy looked at me.
“Do it!” Aidan chanted.
“Seriously,” Jimmy was not kidding around. “We’re gonna get stuck down there.”
“Do it!” Aidan begged.
I considered it. Buuuuuuuuut, decided to do a three-point turn instead and return down the Historic Drive the way we’d come. Yeah, that’s a less dramatic ending to that story than you were hoping for, but it’s probably best we didn’t make our own history on that route and have to utilize our roadside assistance 5 days into our trip.
The next morning we planned to visit The Historic Daniel Boone Home (he’s one of the historical figures we’re studying) but realized we were an hour and a half from Defiance, not a half hour as we’d thought. Soooo, we went to The Vacuum Cleaner Museum instead! Boy, did it suck! (Sorry! But I know all you punners chuckled (Dad! Sue! I’m lookin’ at you!) It was kinda cool, though—walking back in time and seeing how vacuum cleaners (and our society’s views on women and cleaning) have evolved since the early 1900’s. (Thanks for the recommendation, Dad!)
August 20: We left Pheasant Acres and took rural roads back north (Missouri is hillier than we thought! (Thanks, Kurt, for talking Jimmy through the usage of the air brakes on our truck—it’s helped!) A couple times, with a pile-up of cars and trucks behind me, I felt like Desi Arnaz in The Long, Long Trailer—thanks for showing us that movie, Dad!) to the campground we’re currently in: Kan-Do. We’ve renamed it No-Kan-Do or, for short, Kan-Don’t. I will explain. . . .
So we pulled into the campground here in Montgomery County and were excited about our wooded surroundings until we noticed a big, dead tree hanging over our site. It reminded us of the time we were tent camping in Mississippi Palisades State Park and a dead tree came down during a storm, narrowly missing my brother. (Dave, Bobby, Emily, Kurt, Tim & Alisa, do you remember that stormy night??) They call that a once-in-a-lifetime experience because twice-in-a-lifetime would be once too many.
Anyway, given that storms were in the forecast, we went to talk to the management who hopped in their golf cart to come inspect the tree and assured us, “that tree ain’t comin’ down tonight.”
And I replied, “but it’s gonna come down sometime, so. . . .”
And they said, “knock on the tree—It’s not hollow. And those branches haven’t come down in a while either.” Despite all the dead branches littering the ground. . . .
We asked for another site and they offered us. . . the site right next door (aka the one on the other side of the dead tree).
There really wasn’t another place for us to go so we backed the trailer up a bit and decided to stay.
Well, the storm came through and a branch came down on our trailer. We haven’t been able to inspect for damage yet but we’re hoping there isn’t any! Oh! And did I mention we’re on a hill? Like a jacked-up-stabilizers-fully-extended-used-every-leveling-block-we-own kinda hill—like an “I hope we don’t roll down this hill in the middle of the night” hill. (See the photo at the top of the post).
Needless to say, we booked a different campground for tomorrow and we’ll be blowin’ this pop stand a day early.
Hoping to catch the eclipse tomorrow if the rain and clouds move on their merry way. . . .
p.s. thanks to my sister who, because she’s plowing through a brutal recovery after hip replacement surgery last week, was awake in the wee hours of the morning and texted to reassure me we weren’t going to roll away. Love you! Hang in there!