The May gathering of the Iowa Midwest Glampers is taking place at Lake Anita State Park in western Iowa. I arrived Thursday evening about 5:30 in a downpour. The strange thing about this campground is that all three of the one way roads in the campground run the same way instead of alternating ways. The only option to go from one road to another is a loop that goes out of the campground a mile or so and back in the other end. I found my site on the lakeside road right away but sitting in the middle was my picnic table. I tried to drag it but couldn't budge it. Still raining hard by the way. So I made two more loops out and back through the campground to find the host site or a ranger.
I found the host and told him my plight. He went down and moved the table while I went back out on the loop and around to my road again. Finally got parked and hooked up, but immediately while I was getting some things out to warm up supper, dropped my container of coffee in the stairwell, spilling the whole thing. I am camping after all and couldn't let a little dirt interfere with my morning joe, so scooped enough up for that. I managed, hanging down into the well, to get the bulk of the rest up.
Yesterday went much better. The rain was scattered, but the wind was very insistent. It produced an interesting effect in the lake, pushing lily pads up vertically. I wondered if they might not be the tops of aliens' heads who were crouched in the lake waiting for us to go to bed so they could invade. But we managed to get in some visiting in spite of that threat and a propane run to Atlantic.
Evening brought a charcuterie board and wine tasting. All of the group contributed to a wonderful spread.
Today we made an excursion to Elk Horn, Iowa's Danish community. We visited the windmill, a woodworking shop, and several other interesting spots. By the time we were done, we had contributed mightily to the local economy and all of us had bought some Danish Kringle. Tonight, if the rain holds off, we have a potluck scheduled and tomorrow home again. If the aliens don't invade.
The last days of our trip featured an internet black hole for me so another delayed post. Before we left Johnson's Shutins, we spent part of a day at nearby Elephant Rocks State Park. This unusual spot features huge boulders millions of years old that do sort of resemble a parade of elephants. For years, the rock was quarried for streets and buildings in St. Louis. A fairly easy walk takes the visitor around the biggest concentration of stones, with stops by the quarry and an old depot. Many of the trees have wrapped themselves around the boulders.
Then we visited Pilot Knob, Civil War battlefield. In many tourist spots in this pandemic age, visitors centers are either closed or have hours limited to the weekends. But as we milled around, a volunteer came out and gave us a very precise account of the battle. The earthen foundations of Fort Davidson still stand with a small pond in the middle formed when the Federals blew up the ammunition dump before escaping into the night. A Confederate general on the side of the mountain heard the explosion but thought there would be time to check it out in the morning. Bad decision.
On Friday, we hit the winding roads and headed back north to Mark Twain Lake, this time to a campground on the North side--Indian Creek. My site left a little to be desired in the leveling department but was quite secluded in the trees. The next day, we paid the piper for a week of pretty good weather and endured a morning of steady rain. When it finally broke in the afternoon, we decided to get our usual evening campfire in early, and then retired to our respective abodes. All in all, a great week. Now for the laundry.
Tuesday morning, it was time to continue our week-long trip through Missouri. Johnson's Shut-ins is a state park south of St. Louis, so named because one of its main features is a rocky gorge in the East Fork of the Black River where huge boulders force the river into torrents and pools. GPS gave us several routes from Mark Twain Lake to Johnson's. The fastest skirted the east side of St. Louis, but since our caravan consisted of five RV units and we wanted to stay together as much as possible, we opted for a two lane route.
We made a stop about halfway in a Walmart parking lot, which offered space for all of us to maneuver and park. Lunch and other necessities out of the way, we continued on, deeper into the rugged hills of southern Missouri. Part of our route was the through a section of the Mark Twain National Forest where the scenery was gorgeous and the rumble strips performed admirably to keep Agatha on the straight and narrow.
Ken and Harriet led the train and as we neared our destination, Harriet's GPS offered the "O" road as the most direct route. We soon discovered that the "O" was as in "OMG." The road became narrower and then gravel, punctuated by concrete dips to allow the water to run over the road and signs warning of high water areas and flash flooding. But, pioneers that we are, we made it.
The campground is fairly new because it was moved up the mountainside and rebuilt after a breach in the Taum Sauk reservoir sent 1.3 billion gallons of water cascading through the gorge, destroying much of the park facilities, in late 2005. No one was manning the checkin when we arrived so we were unable to get a campground map. We finally located our sites, but unlike Mark Twain Lake where we were lined up in a row, this time we are scattered through two loops. The sites are level but very wooded, so after set up it took some time to locate the others.
Yesterday morning, Letha served a lumberjack breakfast and we organized a trip to the Shut-ins. A beautiful hike along a paved path and boardwalk led to spectacular views. Up a long flight of stairs, platforms gave us even more vistas and a look at the turquoise pool at the bottom of the shut-ins. After a stop at the Visitors' Center and a couple of short excursions, I welcomed a short nap back at my camper.
We have absolutely no phone reception here so this morning I will go to the campground store where there is WiFi, post this blog, and check messages. Later we will take in Elephant Rocks State Park a few miles away and a couple of other scenic hikes. No rest for the retired!
A week long trip to Missouri started out as a potential disaster for me. No, I didn't have a blowout or break down along the road or get accosted by Jesse James' Gang. The bad news came when we stopped for gas and I realized I left my billfold at home. With of course my license, debit and credit cards, and cash. Fortunately, my in-laws took pity on me and by the time we get back, I will probably have to turn over the deed to the house, but at least I didn't have to turn around and go back home.
We (four couples and myself) are at Ray Behrens campground at Mark Twain Lake. We did have a little difficulty upon arrival because the roads are not marked with the site numbers. When our caravan ended up filling a small loop, one of the campground hosts snagged us and tried to straighten us out. We do-si-doed back out of there, and after a couple of more wrong turns, found our sites. Mine is a nice, level, VERY long and narrow strip of asphalt. I managed the back-in with only a few (Well, maybe more than a few) corrections. Syd and Ken cooked the perfect camping meal for supper: burgers and brats, macaroni salad, beans, and of course dessert. Afterwards, a perfect campfire with smoke going straight up--for about 5 minutes until someone mentioned it. Then it swirled around, throwing us into a game of musical chairs.
This morning we decided to go for a 'little walk.' Since we didn't have a Sacajawea type scout, we did a little wandering, to the tune of about 3 1/2 miles. It didn't help that Harriet kept singing about a "three-hour tour." But we figured out where we were when we returned to a signpost that the carver had labeled 'Scout Trial'. That mispelling only seemed to be on one post. It was very beautiful with lots of interesting mosses and wildflowers. Now for a nap.
In the wind, I should add. The final day of SPARKS was warm, sunny, and WINDY! But that didn't stop any of the activities. Besides decorating hats for the Kentucky Derby, the crafters created coil bowls, decorated flip-flops and colorful dreamcatchers.
In addition to crafts, the day was filled with visits and even a little kite-flying by the 'Manpers', some of the intrepid husbands who brave these gatherings.
Viewing of the Derby was on my outside TV. I decided if football and other sports only lasted 4-5 minutes, I could become a fan.
After supper, we gathered for a final campfire and awards in the hat contest. This was held "behind the dumpster" on the only flat piece of ground on this peninsula of land where all of our campsites were. The group also posed for a sunset picture. After much deliberation by the judges and some questionable choreography by the contestants, the winner of the hat prize, a bright pink pony, was Kim from St. Louis with her black straw festooned with a red rose, a few pheasant feathers, and plume of black net. She had spent most of the day pretending she was Queen Elizabeth but didn't fool anyone.
The drive home yesterday was just as windy. It seemed to be from the west when I was driving north and I swear it switched to the south when I turned east. But a great weekend. A few of the vintage campers below. The wind prevented most of the usual outdoor decorations.
A good weather forecast for any trip always makes me a little nervous because it never seems to turn out that way. But so far, here at Smithville the prognosticators have been right on the money. Yesterday was beautiful. Many of the Glampers took advantage of the weather to hit the local yard sales. I abstained because 1) I don't need any more stuff, and 2) I had a book to finish. I did get a chance to check out one of the amazing campers here. Pictured is Sheryl's Gypsy Wagon which was built in Alabama.
During the day, I did manage to finish the first draft of the next Frannie Shoemaker book, Corpse of Discovery, something I have been trying to achieve for the last year and a half. Woohoo! And took a couple of nice walks. The others returned and a few of us Iowa folks pooled our supper fixings--jambalaya, tortellini, a shredded chicken dish, and pasta salad. A little heavy on the carbs but delicious.
There are about 35 here from Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois. Many were still coming in yesterday. So after supper, we gathered for a big campfire and made introductions. Entertainment was provided by the pets--especially Camper, a miniature Australian shepherd, and Miles, an indeterminate mix. Today there are lots of possibilities. There will be a hat contest in honor of the Kentucky Derby, and since two of us have outdoor TVs, viewing the Derby can be done comfortably and safely. There is also a concert by the KC Symphony in a park on the other side of the lake.
I am at Smithville Lake near Kansas City for the annual Midwest Glampers SPARKS Rally--the official kickoff of the season. There are about forty Glampers here or due to arrive today. The attraction is a large number of yard and thrift sales in the area this weekend. Fellow Glamper Carol and I caravaned down yesterday with no issues other than persistent high winds. The loop we are in has C-sites, with no surfaces except mine. I happen to be in a handicap site for no reason other than that it wasn't marked as such on the rather cumbersome Clay County website. So if they question me, I will play the age card. Two bonuses--I am much more level (well, my camper is) than last weekend. Also my big night shade that covers my front window is working again so I didn't have to rig a blanket up.
By the time I got set up, I was particularly glad I had leftover basil and shrimp fried rice to heat up for my supper. A small group gathered for a campfire at Lori and Randy's cute red and white trailer, Retro Ruby, and watched a lovely sunset. There are many here I hadn't met and several I hadn't seen for a couple of years. Diane from Nebraska is back on the circuit with her trailer, Violet, which had been out of commission undergoing a major rebuild. Diane also had knee surgery so it's great to see both her and Violet back and functioning. Jackie, also from Iowa, is here with her pink lady.
It looks to be a beautiful day and I am looking forward to meeting new friends and seeing several more glamped-up campers.
A shakedown cruise an hour away gave me an opportunity to discover plenty of items that I forgot to reload in my camper and also pinpointed a couple of glitches. But my blog had to wait for my return home because that park is an internet desert for Verizon--according to a young (and I assume very inexperienced) Verizon employee, because it's near a body of water. So, no phone except texting and no internet at all. But a nice weekend without storms, blizzards, derechos, or floods.
First, my site was very unlevel and the leveling blocks I had were not enough to offset it. The whole coach tilted toward the back, giving one a feeling of being in perpetual high seas. Fortunately the compactness of my camper kept me from taking any tumbles but the sense of imbalance was quite disturbing. So, more boards and levelers needed. I was also missing a can opener, tablecloth clips, umbrella, flashlight, and various other goodies.
We got in a couple of hikes, campfires, and lots of food (although I forgot to put the salmon filets in that I had planned to do in foil packets with lemon). I managed to dump the tanks more efficiently and faster than the guy ahead of me so that was a plus. Now to reload and supply the missing items and off the Missouri on Thursday for a big Glampers rally.
Yesterday, we made a short drive to Harper's Ferry, VA--a historical site that we had missed in several trips out east. This strategic location at the confluence of the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers changed hands several times during the Civil War but was best known for John Brown's famous raid on the federal arsenal, considered an inciting event of the war.
During non-Covid times, I act as a volunteer docent at the old West Liberty Depot, now a heritage museum. The guns that were used in the raid were shipped out of that depot and my son-in-law has ancestors that took part in the raid. So the event has a special connection. I was surprised that the engine house, "John Brown's fort', was much smaller than I had assumed.
An interesting place to visit in beautiful surroundings (even on a cloudy day. The red buds and dogwoods are in full bloom. Part of the old town has been maintained as museums depicting the retail stores of the time. Flooding has been a major issue for the town throughout the town's history and exhibits depict just how high the water has been. Farther up the hill are fun operating restaurants and boutique shops. A great place to visit!
So here I am in West Virginia at my daughter's--a trip I've been waiting to make for over two years. First my husband's treatment schedule didn't allow us to make the trip. Then Covid hit. A planned visit for Thanksgiving was cancelled due to the fall surge. At last yesterday, I flew from Cedar Rapids to Dulles in DC, with a layover in Chicago.
To me, flying isn't the last word in convenience or comfort. First there's the challenge of determining what you can pack and how you can downsize to fit the requirements. Is my shampoo too big? Is my suitcase too heavy? I decided to check my bag because I wasn't sure I could lift it into an overhead. It didn't matter on the first leg because they announced that the overheads weren't big enough for carryons or duffel bags.
I arrived in Chicago and asked where my next gate was. "Just down the hall to left until you get to security and take another left." So is Gate B10 right there when you turn at security? Of course not. Down several more loooong halls and too many turns to count. I reach my gate with about 20 minutes to spare before boarding. No food is being served even though the flight is over the supper hour, but there is a MacDonald's a few steps away. I have never been a fan of MacDonald's and that chicken sandwich didn't do anything to change my mind.
The plane engines are at least as loud as the motor in my camper. I was cramped and uncomfortable. I found myself thinking too often that if I was driving my camper, I could pull over and get up and walk around. I could make myself a good sandwich, and I could even go back and take a nap. Whe we reached DC, I think they actually landed us in Tennessee, judging from the walk from the plane to the baggage claim. I miss Agatha.
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.