On Monday, April 3, I woke up stiff and sore, but ready to go. You’d think giving Petunia a bath wouldn’t be such a big deal, especially considering Mr. Wonderful (MW) does more than half. My body always says otherwise, though. We took one last look at our little valley, then left a little before 8 AM. It was all familiar territory over to Harrogate, Tennessee, near the Cumberland Gap. If you have never been to this part of Tennessee/Kentucky, you should definitely put it on your list. The Appalachians, while not as tall or rocky as other ranges, are beautiful in all seasons. There are incredible views of rolling farm and ranch land climbing right up into the steep hills and ridge lines that look like the backs of dragons, hill after hill after hill as far as you can see. I LOVE seeing other places, but these mountains sing to my soul. We turned west on TN-63 and hit fresh road. A little further and we found LaFollette, a nice-looking little town that appears to warrant further exploration. (We could do that in a day trip from the barn.)
We continued over to US-27 north and headed up into Kentucky. The Bluegrass State, which is technically not a state at all but a commonwealth, was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1792, making it number 15 with the capitol in Frankfort. It is synonymous with bourbon, horses, and coal. But I was fascinated to find that nothing relating to any of that is in the top exports. Aircraft parts, vaccines, mid-sized diesel trucks, large cars, mechanical seals, transmission shafts, and electronic integrated circuits are all in their top 10 overall, and from an agricultural perspective, soy beans are their big seller. I was also amazed to find out that the ONLY domestic site for low-grade uranium enrichment is the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in my former home. That, along with coal production, contributes to a quarter of total US electricity produced. There are plenty of great things to see and do in Kentucky. Some of my favorites are the Bourbon Trail, Kentucky Horse Park, the Ark Encounter, and just driving around in the mountains of the eastern side.
At Stearns, we caught KY-92 over to Monticello, then KY-90 to Glasgow. There we stopped for late lunch at Gondolier Italian Restaurant & Pizza before driving the last few miles down to Barren River Lake State Resort Park. A glitch or two along the way had us a little concerned…a weird clanking noise when stopping that we struggled to identify and a front right brake squeal that was most likely signaling time for new pads. We stopped in a large lot to check things out. The clanking appeared to be the safety chain hitting the hitch as it was hanging in a different position than normal. MW decided we were okay to roll on for the time being, but made plans to tackle the brakes soon.
Although the morning started out grey and chilly, the drive across northern Tennessee and southern Kentucky was simply beautiful and relaxing. The sun broke through a couple of times and it got much warmer, but was pretty windy at our destination. Our peaceful, “we’re on the road”, vibe disappeared when we got to our site at Barren River Lake State Resort Park in Lucas, Kentucky. You’d think that the folks that lay out campgrounds would be engineers, or at least campers. Often, though, sites appear to have been designed by anything but. Our reserved site was so tilted side-to-side that, despite lifting the driver’s side by about 7 inches, we were still off level by more than 3/4 bubble! That is REALLY off!! (Petunia doesn’t have auto-leveling, so it’s all me. Ugh!) After futzing around with that for a while and getting a bit frustrated, we gave up and moved to another site. By the time we were finally set up, my head was throbbing. (I can’t tell you how often I thank God for rizatriptan!) Such an inauspicious beginning MUST mean that this trip is going to be fabulous, right?! That’s what we were going with. On the plus side, we pulled in Grit TV on the antenna, so it wasn’t all bad. Seriously, how can you stay upset when you get to watch Rory Calhoun and Gene Barry?!
Because we had crossed into the Central time zone, my body thought it was time to get up at 4:30 AM on Tuesday morning. The night had been pretty quiet and relatively cool, which we both enjoyed. I spent the morning on a bit of writing, then we took a nice walk around the campground. Later, we headed over to Scottsville, Kentucky, to run a few errands. While there, we grabbed a bite for lunch at Griddles, where the food was nothing to write home about, but the service was pretty good. Back at the park, I spent the afternoon doing taxes while MW relaxed. He also ordered brake pads for Brutus from a local Chevrolet dealer. Sadly, the weather had taken a turn for the hot. The overnight low was only going to hit 72 or so, which meant we actually had to…GASP!!… turn the air on!
SIDE NOTE: While in Walgreens, MW overheard an employee say to a customer, “Excuse me, Ma’am. Can I help you with something, or are you just going to shoplift?” What???? Clearly they knew each other well, but another customer was taken aback and asked, “Did you just ask her if she was going to shoplift?!”
Wednesday was, once again, an early morning that started with writing. I’m determined to get this stuff all caught up so I can get on a consistent schedule. Unfortunately, tax season is putting a dent in the amount of time I can devote. Later in the morning, MW helped me make adjustments to my bike so I could take advantage of the trail in the park. This park is the perfect example of why I needed an e-bike. The hill to get out of the campground area was pretty steep, even to walk. I would never have been able to ride up it, but adding just a little juice worked fine. I had a good, 6-mile ride with almost no incident. You know how people say “it’s just like riding a bike”. Well…yes and no. Getting going has been no problem, and I’ve adapted to how it responds when adding power, shifting gears, etc. It is that odd stuff that gets you, though. In this instance, I was on an uphill, curved approach to a trail crossing on the park road. There were no cars coming, but a golf cart turned off of an adjacent path, and we were going to be at the crosswalk at the same time. I opted to stop, which would normally not be a problem. What I failed to notice was the extra 7″ or so drop on the right side from the paved path to the grass. As my foot went down to catch the bike as I stopped, my balance was completely thrown off, and I ended up face down in the grass. The park employee on the golf cart leapt off and ran over, apologizing profusely for not stopping at the crossway. I don’t know whether he should or shouldn’t, but I told him I really needed to be able to stop the bike without falling, so no worries…lesson learned. I know he was thinking “OMGosh…I’ve hurt an old woman!” He helped me get upright again, and offered to hold the bike while I got going again. I pictured him running along behind saying “You’ve got it. Keep pedaling!” as I rode away. I declined. Seriously, I have to have SOME dignity! LOL
Back at Petunia I cleaned up, then we headed over to Glasgow to pick up the brake pads at Don Franklin Chevrolet. MW was in a burger mood, so lunch was at Colton’s Steakhouse & Grill…pretty darned good burgers. Then it was back to Petunia to work on taxes and await the coming storms. A huge line came through in the afternoon which, we found out later, had some pretty serious tornado activity in Missouri south of St. Louis. For us, there was a lot of wind and occasional heavy rain, but nothing we couldn’t handle.
Barren River Lake State Resort Park is a large park that offers plenty of opportunities for fishing, boating, basketball, golf, hiking, biking, and shuffleboard. There are also two permanent orienteering courses, and five playgrounds. Facilities include a marina, lodge with restaurant, meeting/event spaces, and a gift shop. It is truly a beautiful park, and would be a great place for a lodge stay or day use. The campground is open seasonally, and it is not so hospitable. While the bathhouse was nice and clean, the campground itself is poorly laid out with many extremely un-level sites (more than 8″ off side-to-side) and lots of very tight turns. There were quite a few back-in sites around the edges that were perplexing…very small, paved pad areas with no tent pads or parking that would only fit the smallest of trailers. Very odd. There were some full-hookup sites, electric-water combos, and some tent with electric only or nothing. The roads in the campground area were in pretty bad shape, and there was a huge hole at the dump station. Unless we just had to be in the area for some reason, we would not opt to stay overnight here again. For this stay in April 2023, we paid $89 for 3 nights in a water & electric pull-through.
Still not adjusted to the time, Thursday morning was also a 4:30AM wakeup. I was able to nap a little in the chair, though. With the passing of the front overnight, temps were cool again, and rain was predicted for our departure time. Thankfully, it was only a slight drizzle, and we were able to get on the road by a little after 8 AM. The drizzle continued for an hour or so, but then it was just high clouds for the rest of the drive. Our route took us through Scottsville, then up US-231 to the outskirts of Bowling Green. Then a short hop on I-165 took us up to KY-70, then KY-109 through Madisonville. In Clay, Kentucky, we stopped for lunch at Jeri’s Cafe , a basic diner. Back on the road, we continued through Sturgis and up to KY-56 west. The drive was mostly farm fields with some cattle. We passed TWO bald eagles in separate fields about 30 miles apart working on some lunch. I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to give you those pics, though.
At Old Shawneetown, we crossed the Ohio River into Illinois. The Land of Lincoln became the 21st state on December 3, 1818. Then, in Harrisburg, we stopped for groceries at Kroger, before driving the last 30 miles or so and arriving at Ferne Clyffe State Park about 2 PM.
While setting up, we ran into the next in our series of rough start setbacks. As I lowered Petunia after raising her off of the hitch, there was a loud pop, and the driver’s side landing gear gave way a bit. Definitely not a motor issue, so that left the cross bar and leg as options. A little testing proved it to be the latter, which would mean replacement. The legs are hollow, square tubes with a threaded rod running up through the center. It is not uncommon with a lot of use for the rods to get bound up or have the threads stripped. After our first leg replacement last year in Tulelake, California, I’ve been more careful about pulling them up too far to help with stress on the threads. However, this leg is original to the trailer and has been through a lot. Thankfully, we had an extra onboard. (This isn’t our first on-the-road repair rodeo, so we keep things like an extra slide motor, landing gear motor, and landing leg on board.) Because we were frustrated and our friends, Lori and Jimmy, were already set up nearby, we opted for a temporary fix. MW jacked up that side on the bottle jack to get her level side-to-side and made sure she was stable, then quit for the day. We were going to be sleeping slightly head high, but that would be fine for one night. Time to relax!
Lori wasn’t in the mood to cook, and she knew I wasn’t. We decided our first night together would be dinner out and headed up to Marion, Illinois, and 17th Street BBQ. (The ribs were a little dry, but the guys’ smoked sausages were spicy and very good and my BBQ nachos were the bomb! On the dessert side, the bread pudding was too dense, but the banana pudding was awesome.) Full as ticks on a hound dog, we headed back to camp to visit for a while before turning in.
Friday morning after a fairly sleepless night, I was up and out about 7:30 AM. Our closest neighbors were a family group in three or four sites, and one didn’t arrive until about 11:30 PM. When they were still visiting outside at 12:30 AM, MW went and asked them to quiet down. That didn’t help me get back to sleep, though. I headed over to the Wonder Wash in Anna, Illinois, to take care of my weekly chore. (I have to admit, I’m happy when we are on the road, because I can’t stand taking all day to do the laundry at home!) When I returned around 10 AM, Jimmy was gone to their house (about 35 minutes away) to pick up a couple of things. MW worked on changing out the leg while Lori and I visited. The neighbor came over and apologized for being noisy the night before. They own a restaurant and couldn’t make it in earlier, then got caught up reacquainting with family. He was very nice, and we ended up chatting a bit. (After that, they were good about watching quiet hours, which is about the best you can do in a crowded campground.) Lunch was potluck, after which MW and Jimmy walked down to the waterfall. While they were gone, I attempted to do some tax work, and accidentally fell asleep. Totally unintended, I promise!! For supper Lori fixed chicken fajitas, which were awesome. We stayed up a while longer to visit a bit more, then turned in.
Saturday morning I woke up with a migraine, so was a little slow getting started. I did manage to make cinnamon rolls and Neese’s sausage, while Lori scrambled eggs, and Jimmy cooked bacon. Well, Jimmy also cooked some hash browns with sausage in them, but those ended up in the floor of their RV. (Shhhh…don’t bring it up with him. He’s a little sensitive on the lost sausage subject.) When we all got our acts together, we headed about an hour away to Garden of the Gods Recreation Area for a little hiking. While totally different from Garden of the Gods in Colorado, this place is spectacular. We took the loop trail out to climb around on the rocks and enjoy the amazing views. It was beautiful, and the clear, sunny day was perfect. Plus, by the time we finished our walk, my headache was gone. Bonus!!
SIDE NOTE: It is always interesting to me how many parents allow their fairly small children to wander around and get out of arm’s reach in areas with drastic drops. One woman was laying on her back on a boulder with a baby too young to walk. He was rolling around and trying to crawl, and she was only half paying attention despite there being a pretty deep crevasse a few feet away. I don’t believe in bubble-wrapping our kids, but it does seem that common sense should prevail. Several people have died at Garden of the Gods, including adults who just got too close to the edge.
Back at the campground we sat around the fire for a little bit, then MW grilled steaks for supper. Lori and I added sweet potatoes, green beans, and Texas toast for a perfect meal. Later I pulled out the Basecamp cards, and we laughed and told stories while answering oddball questions like “Would you rather speak whale or read babies minds?” (We’ve pulled those things out twice now, and both times it was hilarious and eye-opening. I have the original and second editions. There is a kids edition, too, but our boogers enjoyed the two we had as well.)
Easter Sunday I woke up with another headache, but still amazed at how blessed we are that the tomb was empty! Hallelujah!! We headed down to Paducah to attend Lori and Jimmy’s church, 12 Oaks Baptist Church, for a beautiful, uplifting, and joyous celebration. Afterwards, we met their youngest son Connor for lunch at Cheddars Scratch Kitchen, which was delicious but way too much! Back at the campground, I took a bike ride while everyone else relaxed. (Anyone who thinks you don’t get exercise on an e-bike needs to ride up the hill from the waterfall in this park…the top assist level and I STILL worked my tail off. That’s a good thing, though. I am feeling like a kid again every time I get on that thing!) When I was walking over to Lori’s, one of the kids next door gave me easter eggs. Apparently they dyed more than 6 dozen for their egg hunt, and now just wanted them gone. LOL. For our last afternoon and evening together, we sat around the campfire, where we enjoyed Lori’s chili for supper…YUM!! We have been lucky enough to hang out with the Grimms twice a year or so for the last few years, and the time always goes by too fast. It is always filled with lots of fun and laughter, and we miss them when we leave.
The 2,430-acre Ferne Clyffe State Park is very nice and within driving distance of Marion, Illinois, and Paducah, Kentucky. For a quick run, there is a Dollar General and a hardware store in Goreville a few miles down the road, too. Filled with rock formations and lots of ferns, the park has over 26 miles of trails to keep you busy, some designated for horses. Other activities include bank fishing on the 16-acre lake, hunting in season in the 1,750 acre habitat, picnicking in one of seven different areas with tables, grills, toilets, and parking. (Several also have shelters, drinking water, and playgrounds.) The property has modern, primitive, group, remote, and equestrian campgrounds. Deer Ridge is a nicely laid out, wooded campground with graveled, level, electric sites for tents and RVs of all sizes. Most are back-in, but there are a few pull-throughs as well. Potable water is nearby, and there are also a playground and nice, clean bathhouse. We stayed in site 35 and would definitely visit this park again. For this stay in April 2023, we paid $86.87 for 4 nights.
Well, that’s it…week one is in the books. I’m still playing catchup on a few things before our departure, so expect to see an out-of-order post or two. We’re getting there, though! Next up…more Illinois and into Missouri. See you on the path!
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