Yesterday, we escaped from Iowa and at least a quarter-inch blanket of snow. A tailwind and sunny skies lifted our moods and once into the middle of Missouri, blooming forsythia began to appear. We followed Highway 19 much of the way, which is very twisty and turny, but a beautiful drive. We're big audiobook fans, but this trip was a departure from our usual John Sandford/Michael Connelly fare with It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. It's been about 50 years since I read Main Street and I am really enjoying his wonderful writing. Not to mention the timeliness of the subject.
We are camped near the town of St. James, and hoping not to visit the Infirmary. Our campground has a sort of post-Apocalyptic feel. It's very nice in a wooded area, but even though most of the seasonal sites are full, owing to the weather and time of year, I have only seen one other human being. As you might surmise from the photos, I had an ulterior motive in demanding this route. The next Time Travel Trailer book involves Route 66 so this is research. This morning we headed back east to the town of Cuba. Not often you get to visit a town named after your dog. Anyway we stopped to see the World's Largest Rocker (40 feet tall) in Fanning. The adjoining trading post is for sale in case you're interested. This kind of curiosity is part of the lore of the Mother Road.
The town of Cuba is known for its murals. There is also a typical old Phillips 66 station that has been wonderfully restored and now it's a cafe, but unfortunately not open on Sunday or Monday. But my main target was the Wagon Wheel Motel, which has been in business over 75 years and hence very suited to the plot of my book. The owner was very helpful and allowed us to tour one of the guest units. All of the buildings are beautifully rendered in native stone and have been well-maintained and updated. I don't think they originally had Jacuzzi tubs in them.
Our day trip also took us back west of St. James to the Mule Trading Post near Rolla. If they don't have it, you don't need it--new or used. We finished off with a visit to Merramec Springs just a couple of miles from the campground, which is a gorgeous park on private land and the site of an old iron works. Drizzle was beginning so the photos are kind of dreary but it was still very enjoyable. Then back to the camper for hot soup and a quiet evening--no TV reception here. Tomorrow, on to Arkansas!
When you think about it, that sounds pretty uncomfortable. But I've been doing more food planning and prep for our upcoming trip to the Southwest than usual. There are several reasons. By the time we get to a campground and set up, we usually aren't much inclined to either find a restaurant or search out a grocery store. And I'm not much for convenience foods.
I am a great fan of crockpots so when I spotted a link on Facebook to an article about 'freezer crockpot meals,' I thought what a great idea for camping. This week I put together several: chicken noodle soup, French stew, honey parmesan pork roast, and beef stroganoff. Those will be great when we are stationary for a day or more, but many times we will be on the road for most of the day.
Sidebar: when we first started camping, I read about "stew in the sink.' You fix a meal in your slow cooker, put it in the sink, secure the lid with a bunge cord and plug it in while you're traveling. I tried it several times with good results. What I didn't realize was that, since I usually started it at home and we were only traveling short distances, it stayed warm and continued to cook--even though the outlets in the camper don't work while we're on the road. Ooops.
So for those days that we are traveling, I stocked the ingredients for several quick 'skillet meals. And marinated some chicken and pork chops to grill. Altogether, I have about 14 possible evening meals. For me, this eliminates thinking all day while we are sightseeing or headed to another destination about what I will come up with for supper--one of those decisions that drives me crazy. And, although we usually have simple breakfasts of cereal and fruit, I also froze some homemade whole wheat buttermilk waffles that can be heated in the toaster, and made two dozen Veggie Pancakes--much tastier than they sound. Yes, that is ice cream in the photo.
Now for clothes, which will be another challenge. The first couple of weeks will probably be cool and the next couple quite warm. With limited storage space, it will take some finesse.
Our first stop, Saturday and Sunday nights, will be a campground near St. James, MO. We plan to do some exploring on Sunday of sites along Route 66. If I can just get our state taxes filed and other chores around here done in the next three days, I will be ready to travel. And eat.
So I've noticed...
All the leaves are brown
And the sky is gray.
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day
But if I was camping
I wouldn't stray
On such a winter's day...
My apologies to the Mamas and the Papas. But now that we finally have our camper back, the itch is upon us. We will be meeting up with friends in early March for the big Tucson Book Festival so time to map out that trip. The next Time Travel Trailer book will involve Route 66 so we will follow part of that through Missouri, head for Texas through Arkansas, visit the chilluns in the Dallas area and then to Arizona, stopping at Monahans Sandhills State Park in western Texas and Leasburg Dam in southern New Mexico. After several days in Tucson area, we'll spend almost a week in Mesa--lots of friends and relatives in the area--and weather permitting, take in the Grand Canyon. The route back will probably follow more of 66.
Soon I can start planning menus and haul the staples back out to the camper. But I know I'm not the only one. I see posts on Facebook about how many days until the first campout, photos of new campers just purchased, and plans for group gatherings. We will soon be making reservations for camping weekends around a first birthday and two niece's weddings. I'm also looking forward to meeting members of the Serro Scotty association who have invited me to join them at Maquoketa Caves--a location they chose because of Bats and Bones! The Midwest Glampers will be at Backbone in July and we haven't been there in several years. So here's to a great camping year and a look back at some special times last year. And to more of the same!
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.