On Sunday we finally got on the road headed back southeast at about 10:30 AM. Thankfully the antibiotics started working fairly quickly, and I started to feel better. The trip was long, but we did have a cool lunch experience. We stopped in Mountain View at Arnold’s 21 Burgers and BBQ, and that is pretty much what was on the menu. The burgers were great, but the attraction was Clover the pig. Yes, there was an actual pot-bellied pig in a nice pen in the adjacent gift shop. The owner came through as I was looking at her, and I asked him if it wasn’t a little bad to have a pig in a BBQ joint. He laughed and pointed out the signs at the entrance. The one pointing to the dining area read “This little piggy went to market.” The one pointing to Clover’s area said “This little piggy stayed home.” Cracked me up. He then took Clover out of her pen and had her do a few tricks. That little pig went in circles, sat, and opened the door to her pen on command. Too cool! As a side note, the guy looked a lot like my cousin, Bill Smith, except with a do-rag and tattoos.
After lunch we walked over to Apple Market in the same plaza to grab a few quick groceries before getting back on the road. We arrived at Lake Wappapello State Park at around 4 PM. This park is really big with cabins and lots of sites in two separate campgrounds. It was really wooded, and our pull-through site faced the woods, which was nice. The negative was that the grading was off enough to make it pretty hard to get Petunia level. In fact, we checked out most of the sites, and most had the same problem. I don’t understand why some places grade a relatively flat tent site, but don’t level the pull in. Then they advertise it as an appropriate site for a 35′ trailer. It takes a LOT of kneel to get our 31′ level on an incline. I don’t think it would have worked if it was longer. We had a reservation, but when we pulled up there was a bunch of stuff stacked on the picnic table with no vehicle, tent, or camper around. After we pulled in, the campground host came by and said a young man would be back to get his stuff. He had come through before us and out of an entire, mostly empty campground, picked one of the very few reserved sites to “hold” with his stuff. Of course, we didn’t know how empty the place was when we arrived, or we could have just selected another site. He just had to move his few things up the road a little bit, though, so it wasn’t bad. Once everything was set up, we settled in for the night.
The next morning I was slow getting dressed, spending some quality pajama time while working. After having lunch I finally got everything together, and we headed to Poplar Bluff to find a notary and a post office, then take care of the laundry. I worked on this blog while waiting for the clothes to finish, which really fills the time. When we decided to RV full-time, we had a discussion about whether to get a rig with washer and dryer units or not. I’m really glad we didn’t. People on the forums say that they are slow, only do very small loads, and require you to watch your grey tanks carefully. We can go out every 10 days or so and wash everything in about 2 hours. If I was doing loads in a small washer, it would be constant. After finishing up, we stopped in at Kroger for a few things before heading back to Petunia. We were overdue to catch up on Collinwood (Dark Shadows), so we spent a little time with that before turning in.
On Tuesday, we loaded up and headed out about 7 AM, but not without incident. I left one of the chocks under the tire, and it was destroyed. Ugh! Sadly, it isn’t the first time, but I swear I just did not see the bright red thing! I typically put one in front of the front tire and in back of the back tire, but MW put them both on the rear sides of the tires. I guess my brain didn’t see it where I expected it to be, so it ignored it. I just hate it when I do stuff like that!
On the way out of the campground, we were greeted by a couple of deer grazing near the entrance. The sky was grey, and before long we were in and out of rain, although there were only a couple of times of downpour. It’s really amazing how quickly the landscape can change in a few-hour drive. We started out in pretty hilly, densely wooded terrain, but soon found ourselves in wheat, corn, soybeans, and cattle on a flat landscape where you could see for miles. I LOVE weather, and being in the flats when storms are around is so cool. You can see entire cells moving towards you, sometimes a lot faster than you think they do.
Once we crossed into Tennessee, we caught the scenic drive north out of Dyersburg and skirted Reelfoot Lake. Indian legend says that Chickasaw Chief Reelfoot (so named for his club foot) was in love with a Choctaw maiden from further down the river who spurned him because of his deformity. He stole the maiden for his wife, angering the Great Spirit who stomped his giant foot. The Father of Waters, hearing the stomp, turned on his waters and flowed back over Reelfoot’s land, creating the lake and a watery grave for the Chief, his maiden, and all of his people. Geologists say that there was a great earthquake that caused the Mississippi to run backwards and fill in the basin. I like the first explanation better. It is a particularly beautiful lake with Cypress-lined shores. We stopped at one of the many parks to stretch our legs and enjoy the view.
Back on the road we continued to Union City where we stopped at Hops & Barley for lunch. We went for the special, which was a terrific burger deal. (No more burgers after this for me for a while, though!) After lunch we ran down to Tractor Supply to get a new chock and looked at truck tool boxes while we were at it. Then MW wanted to check out Dixie Gun Works, which is a store and museum for black-powder weapons. He really enjoyed it and saw a couple he might like to add to his collection someday.
Next it was on to Paris Landing State Park at the south end of Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee River. This campground was odd. Our site required quite a bit of maneuvering to get into, and the electricity and water were on the wrong side near the front of the trailer, with the water fairly far away. Since it was a back in, there was no other way to approach it, but we were curious about what they were thinking when they set it up. After we got everything set up, MW went for a walk while I was talking on the phone. Later in the evening we walked down to see what he found. First, there was someone (in the other section, thank God) who had their tent set up and the doors open on their truck with the radio blaring. Every once in a while you could hear the guy yell “woooooooooooooooo”. MW said there was no alcohol allowed in the park, but I don’t think Mr. Wooooooo was following that particular rule. We walked on down to the marina where he showed me the ships. They had replicas of the Nina and the Pinta of Columbus fame docked. The tours weren’t open, but he checked into it. Apparently the ships were made in South America and now spend their time traveling around and giving tours. It would have been neat to get on them, but just to see them was pretty cool. On the way back up the hill, we walked up to what appeared to be several large enclosures to see what was there. We were surprised to find bird habitats with a Bald Eagle and several owls. After that we headed back to watch a movie and turn in so we can get up early and head out tomorrow. Mr. Wooooooo was still going strong, but our site was over a hill, so we couldn’t hear it.
We hit the road and started our day with a drive back into Kentucky up through Land Between the Lakes (LBL). This is a really beautiful stretch of road with a lot of wildlife along the way. We saw rabbits, deer, turkeys, buffalo, and elk. Yes, I said BUFFALO and ELK. There was a large herd on the South Bison Range. I always wondered why it was hard to hunt buffalo on the open range, but they do almost disappear in tall prairie grass. We also saw a huge iron ore furnace built in the early 1800s that closed down after only 2 years because they ran out of ore in the area. After that we went into the Elk and Bison Prairie, which is worth every penny of the $5 per car entry fee. We saw buffalo and a lot of turkeys, but only one, lone Elk buck resting in the grass at the edge of the woods. The project here is to allow the prairie grasses that covered this area before to come back and flourish. It is a pretty nice little drive.
We exited LBL on US 68 and headed over to Fairview to check out the Jefferson Davis State Historic Park. Boy were we surprised. (Once we drove miles out of our way to see the J.E.B. Stuart birthplace only to be greeted with a field and a couple of cornerstones were a house once was. We don’t get our hopes up on these things since then.) A few miles before we got there, we knew this was different. In this flat landscape, the monument stands out. Davis was born on the church site adjacent to this park, and this monument was conceived and built by the Orphan Brigade. They were a unit from Kentucky, which was a Union state, that joined the Confederate Army. Unlike soldiers in the Confederate states, these folks were declared traitors by their state and the Union, which mean’t they might never be able to go back home. Construction on the monument began before WWI, but was not actually completed until the early 20s. By that time Kentucky decided it was okay to honor their famous son, so they contributed the last $15,000 to finish the project. The monument is an obelisk similar to Washington’s, but only about 2/3 as tall. However, this one is constructed with only concrete (no steel reinforcement), and at 351′ is the tallest unreinforced concrete structure in the world and the 5th tallest monument in the U.S. We rode to the top in the original elevator, which was installed in the 1920s after the monument was completed. The maintenance man who took us up was quick to say that the cables had been changed out several times, though. The view was spectacular, and the structure, amazing. We also checked out the little museum and store before heading out again.
Back in Tennessee, we found the Depot Bar and Grill in Springfield. People were waiting for tables, but the hostess found us seats at the bar. I don’t think the bartender stopped running the entire time we were there. This place was hopping! Before we ordered an old man sat down next to MW and eventually started chatting. He was a local cattle man, and by the conversation he owns a LOT of acreage. (He even said something about donating a bunch of land for a parkway coming into town and a high school. Also, while we were sitting there a young man approached him about another potential land deal, which he was pretty casual about.) Lunch was amazing. Taking the recommendation from Yelp, we shared the duck quesadilla appetizer, which would have been a great meal. I had a grilled chicken salad, and MW had a chicken salad sandwich. We ended up taking plenty of leftovers with us, and were really glad we stopped here.
Springfield is a really pretty town and could even be a destination. They have a nice little downtown area and a beautiful courthouse. (MW said it would make his courthouse book if he ever gets around to putting it together.) It’s very close to Nashville without feeling like a suburb.
We continued east on the scenic drive across northern Tennessee. Before we arrived at Celina the terrain switched back to foothills and trees, and the roadway cut through had huge rock walls where they blasted to make it level. Our destination was Standing Stone State Park, and MW remembered instructions from the confirmation saying to enter from US 52 instead of TN 136, which was a little confusing. Turns out they mean’t to turn onto TN 136 from US 52 and not the south end. There is a one-lane bridge that is very narrow with sharp tight turns at each end and will not accommodate vehicles over 30′ long. Coming in we noticed that there were only three other people in the campground, and none on our end. (One was an old school bus with “Gus the Bus” spray painted on the side. We never saw anyone there, though.). We LOVE when we feel like we are there alone! Once at our site, and the challenge began. It was a tight turn to back in with a wooden post on one side and a tree on the other. The distance between the two was about 12′, but looked a LOT shorter when you are trying to bend a trailer into it. MW did a great job, though, and put her where she needed to go. It would have been much harder if there wasn’t an open area to use across the road. The site here is very steep, so we had to extend the legs just about to max to get her off of the truck, then pull them all the way in to get her level. Thank goodness for power landing gear! When everything was settled, we rode down to see what all the fuss was about the bridge. They weren’t kidding! The approach to the bridge on both sides is a right angle, so getting onto it with a long trailer or bus would be impossible. MW said he thought we could do it with the fifth wheel, but we are NOT going to find out! We went back to Petunia and relaxed for the evening.
Standing Stone’s one negative is that most of the sites are not level. Other than that, it is a GREAT park. There is a campground with two loops with well-spaced, water and electric sites, several clean bathhouses, and picnic pavilions. A walk up the road took you to the Camp Office with a little store and a large picnic area with pavilions. A little further up the hill were cabins, meeting/event rooms, a pool, tennis and basketball courts, and a recreation hall with a marble yard outside (apparently they are famous for marble tournaments) and foosball, pingpong, shuffleboard, and several other games. When you head down the hill to the lake, there are rental canoes, johnboats, and paddle boats, as well as more picnic and pavilion areas, volleyball court, several ballfields, playgrounds, and access to the river on one side of the dam and the lake on the other. There would definitely be a LOT to do here with kids.
On Thursday we were up early and out to hike down to the river. When I say down, I am not kidding. The campground sits up on a bluff, and the trail goes past the cabin area, then into the woods to zig-zag down the steep side of the hill. We made it down, but I slowed the process stepping carefully. (It’s been a year since my last knee replacement, but downhill still feels tentative.) The hike back up was easy on my knees, but wore me out! The hike was a good hour’s worth of exercise, though, and I need that for sure. Later, after we cleaned up, we went to Livingston. I think MW picked there because it would require a drive across that dam. LOL. He dropped me at McDonald’s to upload pics while he drove around to see what he could see. He picked me up a little later, and we went back to Dollar General to get a couple of movie sets he found. Back across the dam, we went to the opposite entrance to check out a country store we passed the previous day on our way in. It turned out to be a mini-mart with a food counter, although the food looked really good. They also had ice cream! By then it was time to head back to Petunia and relax a bit. Back at the campground we found that a new neighbor had moved in a couple of sites up, but one of the motor homes had left. Sadly, the weather has been too steamy hot to sit outside for a couple of weeks. We had no TV reception and were not in the movie mood, so we played Rummy for a while and listened to music. (There was a really good classic country station out of Livingston/Monterrey.)
After we went to bed, it began to drizzle. A couple of hours later I was awakened by the great awning dump. It fills up with enough water to weight down one side and dump out, causing a nice banging noise that scares the crap out of you. The solution to this is to tilt one end of the awning down and tighten it so that the water can drain off. MW did that when we arrived, but apparently it was a little breezy while we were gone, and it loosened up. In any case, the bang and dump had me wide awake, but didn’t rouse him at all. I laid there for several minutes trying to figure out how to fix it without waking him up. (I sleep so poorly lately that I value the ability to do so.) There was just no way for me to reach those rails, though. He got up, took care of it, and was back asleep in less time than I had been agonizing over waking him up. MEN!
Once the rain started, it was consistent through the night, occasionally coming down in buckets. We got everything together and hooked up in the downpour. Our routine is typically me handling the inside while MW lifts the stabilizer jacks and unhooks water and electricity. Then I come out and raise Petunia. He backs her under the hitch, and gets out again to connect the security chains and emergency brake. I lower her onto the hitch, connect the lights, and engage the hitch lock. Then he jumps back into the truck and follows my instructions for getting the chocks and leveling blocks out. We do a wheels rolling and light check, and I lock all of the compartments and check one more time to make sure the hitch lock is engaged. We can typically get out of a site in about 10 minutes. In this case, I was holding an umbrella in one hand, which was fine until it came time to get the leveling blocks out. Because of the site slope, we also had to use the long board, which is a little heavy. I took all of the chocks and rubber pads to the front, then went back to get the board (2′ x 8′ x 6′). I picked it up with one hand and made it to the rear of the trailer before dropping it and narrowly missing my foot. Still holding the umbrella, I bent over to pick it up before realizing the I was standing directly under the trailer’s downspout. Water went all down my back and into my pants. I was soaked, and now quite grumpy! I picked the board up again and got around to the storage bin, only to find that MW had closed it (I guess to keep water out). Really irritated at this point, I threw the umbrella on the ground, opened the compartment, and stowed the board. Harrrumph! Then opened it again to throw in my gloves. Ugh! Then stomped to my seat. So much for fixing my hair. (In all fairness, MW had told me earlier that it was pointless.) I am now going to get a rain hat. Maybe one of those that has an umbrella attached or an Asian straw hat that is really large. Something, for sure!
MW got us out of the tight site without incident, and we were finally on our way.
See you on the road!
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