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.
It took a lot of snacks and coffee, a couple of bottles of wine, two raclettes, several laptops, a puzzle, food and a couple of days for six members of the Midwest Glampers to plan the upcoming season events in Iowa. The site was Tall Oaks Lodge at Quaker Heights Camp near Eldora. Raclettes, in case you're wondering (I certainly was) are two tiered table-top grills to enable very sociable cooking of delectable meals.
The lodge has a well equipped kitchen, spacious dining room, TV room with 17 or 18 recliners and nine bedrooms with private baths. It is well suited to such heavy and world altering planning sessions. The camp is located on a bluff above the Iowa River and provides some great (up and down) hiking.
The planning resulted in an event each month in various Iowa State parks, working around RAGBRAI, family responsibilities, and possible pandemic changes. Themes for each event were bandied around a bit. During the down time, numerous stories were told (some possibly even true) and a member generated version of the game "Things" generated almost heart-stopping laughter. It was a good time.
To most of you, this is a sports term, but for me it describes another season of widow's training. In the past year, I have faced quite a learning curve. I have learned to drive a small motor home along with tasks such as dumping the tanks; how to change the furnace filters in the house; how to prepare the outside faucet for winter; where the outside Christmas lights were stored and how to hook them up; how to check tire pressure; and other similar jobs. Some of this knowledge came the hard way; pictured are results when the outside faucet starts to leak in sub-zero temperatures. And I now know that when the furnace filters don't get changed, the furnace can overheat and shut down during the coldest week of the year.
Then there's my motor home, Agatha. I had backed her in last fall as usual, but that leaves her nose pointing north on the exposed alley. The heavy snow and ice storms earlier this year did a number on one of her windshield wipers, requiring a trip to the mechanic after the spring thaw. I think a different arrangement and some sort of cover is in order for next winter. Or just go south.
But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the worst of the winter is over and it's time to DE-WINTERIZE! Agatha is excited. I'm excited. First I decided to make up the beds. I hauled four totes and two garbage bags of bedding from the attic to the camper. I made up one bed--a feat for which being on the US gymnastics team would be useful--only to realize I had forgotten to put the foam pad on first. So, do-overs. Fortunately, before I did the second one, I remembered that the drain valve for the freshwater tank is under that bed, so best wait until the dewinterizing was done.
Suffice it to say that Google and I have become very good friends as I have spent hours researching the process on line. There are instructions for dewinterizing most RVs but Thors might be a little different than other RVs and Vegases might be a little different from other Thors and 24.1s different from other Vegases and 2014s--well, you get the idea. Today my big accomplishment was step 1: Finding the water heater drain plug and replacing it. The rest of the process can wait until the weekend when it's supposed to be about 35 degrees warmer than today.
Meanwhile, I have started to make reservations and several trips are planned with the Midwest Glampers and our old camping group. I've made my lists and am checking them twice--don't want to forget a veggie or spice. I know, pretty bad. But I think a little giddiness can be forgiven in light of the past long, pandemic winter. I know the pandemic isn't over but camping has been rated one of the safest activities and I intend to take advantage of it.
In less than 24 hours, this memorable year will come to an end. Because it has been so traumatic, many of us have assigned an unprecedented amount of power to the turnover of the calendar. Deep down, we know that tomorrow the pandemic won't disappear, the economy bounce back, and all of things and people we have lost won't be restored, but there's a tiny corner of our minds that hopes that at least one of those things might happen.
What a year! I'm sure someone keeps track of new words or new uses for old words introduced to the language; if so they had to be busy this year. Most have been pandemic related: social distancing, coronavirus, zoom meeting, quarantining, virtual learning, masking up, online classes, herd immunity, to name a few.
And the weather. There was the derecho in the Midwest in August. Winds of over 100 miles an hour raced through the Midwest, particularly devastating the city of Cedar Rapids but also twisting corn bins like corkscrews, flattening cornfields, and uprooting trees throughout the area. Hurricanes and wildfires wreaked havoc elsewhere.
I can imagine a zoom meeting earlier this week with Mother Nature and several of the gods. (A little cross-cultural imagining here.)
Mother Nature: I don't think we want the year to expire without one more flourish. How about a snow storm on Tuesday?
North Wind: Definitely. I can whip something up.
Mercury (side-note: The God of Travelers but by virtue of his name, I'm giving him control over temperature) Everything's so upside down this year, let's have the temperature go up in the night and down during the day so everything will refreeze.
Thor (brandishing his hammer) And some thunder snow! I'll get to work on some lightning flourishes.
Poseidon: And we could make the Mississippi run backwards! Hasn't done that for a couple of hundred years! Some flooding will really put the cherry on top.
Mother Nature raises her hands. Wait! That's overkill. Six to ten inches of snow, some rain, freezing rain, and thunder will be fine. Let's not overdo it.
She gets up. See you next week.
I can't imagine that anyone will be sad to see this year go. There has been so much profound loss. In my own life, the personal losses have not been as a result of Coronavirus but the virus has made dealing with those losses much more difficult. The stories on the media about people lost from the virus and the first responders working around the clock are heartbreaking. We will be a long time recovering from all of the devastation and need each other more than ever.
May we all have learned something and may 2021 be better for all of us because of what we have learned.
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.