Sunday, August 14, started with a nice, 40-minute walk over to the group shelter area and one of the other camping areas. It was plenty early, so we were cleaned up and on the road by about 8:30 AM. Although we both enjoyed Kanopolis State Park, we were ready to get moving after sitting still for 10 days. Our route zig-zagged basically northeast up to Riley, Kansas, where we stopped for lunch at The Farmhouse. MW (Mr. Wonderful) had the Korv Burger, which had onion, potato, and some kind of seasoning mixed into the ground beef. (It was too oniony for me, but he really liked it.) I had a grilled chicken sandwich, and we both had the fries. The latter were hand-cut and had a good flavor, but oddly, were a little tough or rubbery. Back on the road, we continued east over to US-77 north, then hit KS-16 to just past Holton, then KS-116 to US-59, and into Atchison (which you may remember is the birthplace of Amelia Earhart). There we crossed the Missouri River into Missouri and immediately turned southeast on MO-45 to Weston Bend State Park. After setting up, we went back up the road a few miles to the town of Weston and the Tin Kitchen to meet our friends, Shawn and Laura Faulkner. (Shawn is an old high school buddy.) The food was delicious, and we extended our visit by heading over to O’Malley’s Pub afterwards. SIDE NOTE: Weston, Missouri, is really a cute town that I definitely plan to explore further. They came back to Petunia briefly to check her out, then we said our goodbyes for the night.
Monday was “new shoes” day for Petunia. MW was out at 6 AM removing the tires, then we headed into Leavenworth to drop them off at Firestone, where the new tires were waiting to be mounted. (We travel with a full compliment of tools, plus several jack stands and a few extra trailer parts, just in case.) I saw a bagel place on the map, so we headed there. Denied…it was on Fort Leavenworth. Dang! (Shawn later said we could have gotten on the base, but it is a pain in the tail.) Our second choice was The Depot, where our waiter, James, was awesome, and the food was, too. Plus, it’s in a really cool, old depot building with great stone and wood work and high ceilings. After that, we headed back to Petunia, scoping out laundromats along the way. Back at camp, I spent the day outside at my picnic table office, working on some bookkeeping. The weather was a little steamy, but not bad at all in the shade. While I was working, an ant crawled on my ankle, and I brushed him off. Don’t know why the question popped in my head, but I thought, “Wonder if I could actually let some bug crawl on me like in some movies?” A few minutes later, something touched on my leg again. I looked down, and freaked out, thinking that it was a big spider. I had my answer. I can definitively tell you that, HELL NO, I cannot let stuff crawl on me. I smacked that thing off, then looked around on the gravel to see what it was. It took me a few minutes to find him, but it was a stick bug about 4″ long. The dang thing started crawling towards my shoe again. I moved my foot, and he did a u-turn and went for the other one. He was REALLY working hard. He finally crawled over to the table leg and spent the rest of the afternoon unsuccessfully trying to climb on the metal.
Tuesday morning I was exhausted having not gotten much sleep. Despite trying hard to turn things over to God, sometimes my mind just won’t let go! They finished with the tires, and while MW went to pick them up, I took a good, long walk around the park. Then, back at Petunia, it was time for a little writing as the new shoes were being installed. Later, we both got cleaned up and headed over to the Faulkner abode for a lovely dinner with Shawn, Laura, and Nan, Shawn’s Mom. Nan likes to cook and lives alone, so she shows up at their house a couple of times a week to feed them. I need her to move to Tennessee…at least when we are in town!
Weston Bend State Park is really nice and very close to both Leavenworth and Kansas City. Located on the Missouri River, amenities include 10+ miles of hiking/biking trails, exhibits on both the Lewis & Clark Expedition and tobacco production, an event shelter, picnic shelter, picnic sites, a playground, a dog park, and a scenic river overlook (they’ve allowed too much stuff to grow up there, though, so you can barely see the river.) There are five tobacco barns on the property, one of which is huge! Another has been converted into an enclosed shelter that can be reserved. The campground offers a variety of sites including primitive, and electric with either 30- or 50-amp. There are also two family campsites, one primitive and one 50-amp. Sites include picnic tables and fire rings, and are fairly level and shaded. The bathhouse is centrally located, and there is also a vault toilet, both of which were clean. Both Verizon and AT&T had good signals, and there were lots of over-the-air tv channels. You do hear some road noise from MO-45, but it’s not enough to be a bother. Overall, it is a nice place, and we would stay again. For this stay in August 2022, we paid $86 for 3 nights, which included $10.50 in reservation change fees from having to shift our dates.
Wednesday, August 17, started with me heading out early to take care of the laundry detail at the The Laundry House in Platte City, Missouri. On the way out of the park, there were several deer in the campground and a large flock of turkeys up by the entrance. Love it! The laundromat was, no kidding, SPOTLESS! They had lots of washers and dryers, and NOT ONE was out of service. (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before.) I particularly liked the table with chairs in the middle of the room, but the prices were near the top end of my informal, nationwide survey. Oh, and there was a separate little hair salon inside the laundromat. Unusual. I was alone for the first 45 minutes or so, then the lady that runs it came in. The first thing she did was make coffee at a little coffee bar FOR THE CUSTOMERS. Then she jumped on cleaning lint filters, dusting, swiffering floors…she barely stood still for the rest of the time I was there. Her kids own the place, and she keeps it spic and span and does the drop-off stuff, which she seemed to enjoy.
We were still playing catch-up from sitting still for an extra week in Kansas, so we would be hitting the road two days in a row. (Neither of us enjoy that!) I was back at the park by 9:30 AM, and took a quick ride around for pics. Then we finished hooking up and headed out, but hit a log jam at the dump station (pun intended). The same little conversion van that was there when we came in earlier was STILL at the single-holer! Wow!! We had stowed everything and hooked up Petunia in that time. There was also a guy behind him with a honey wagon to empty. The van guy was totally through dumping with everything stowed, but oblivious. His wife and one kid were walking over to the nearby bathhouse, and he appeared to be cleaning trash out of the van and waiting for them. Our back end was blocking the road, so I asked the wife as she passed if they were done. “Oh yeah, he just finished. He’s moving.” Dude finally got the message several minutes later when the poop cart guy rolled it up to the dump hole and started his process with the other guy still sitting there. In all fairness, he may have been new to the process (although his wife said later that they were at the end of a month-long trip, but seriously…finish the stuff that requires the little hole and MOVE YOUR ASSETS!
When we finally got on the road, it was 10:30 or so. We headed back over to Platte City to get on I-29 south, then skirted the northeast side of Kansas City on I-435. Near Liberty, we pulled off for a quick bite at Steak ‘n Shake, then continued south to I-70 east. That would take us all the way past Columbia, Missouri, to New Florence, where we exited on MO-19 south down to Hermann and the Hermann City Park Campground, a rare, one-night stopover for us. After setting up, we headed into town for supper at the Concert Hall & Barrel, which was built in 1878 and is the oldest continually operated tavern west of the Mississippi. I had the catfish, and MW went for the bratwurst platter…no surprise there. Both were very good. While there we noticed a sign for Wild Turkey Longbranch. What??? How did we not know they had another one? We’ll be keeping an eye out for that. Hermann has a little Bavarian flavor and several festivals during the year, including Octoberfest. The area is full of wineries, and downtown there are both a distillery and a brewery, plus lots of shops and historic buildings. After supper we walked around a bit. Outside of the Hermann Wurst Haus, MW found a MEAT VENDING MACHINE. You know, for those middle-of-the-night wurst emergencies. He took home a couple of items to try later.
What’s wrong with the picture below? If you know MW at all, you understand why I checked him for fever. And let me just put a halt to some of your first thoughts right now…I was NOT driving at all today! We stopped for gas on the way back to the campground.
Hermann City Park Campground is a great little stop for a quick overnight. There is quite a bit of road noise during the day, but it does quiet down, for the most part, at night. As the name states, it is located in the city park, and is near tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts, a soccer field, and the public pool. We didn’t explore the park at all, but from a distance, it looked very nice. There is only one bathhouse, located in the aptly named Bathhouse Section. It is older, but clean. The campground has 51 sites of varying lengths, with 48 back-in and 3 pull-through. Sites are full-hookup, but become electric-only in the off season. There are also some tent sites. Reservations are taken on weekends, but sites are first-come, first-served during the week, with the exception of festival times. There are no picnic tables at the sites, but some in the Bathhouse Section have fire rings. Both Verizon and AT&T had good signals, and there were plenty of over-the-air tv stations. For this stay in August 2022, we paid $35 for 1 night.
Thursday we got on the road early, taking MO-100 southeast over to Washington, then turning south on MO-47 and east on MO-30 over to Festus. There are only a few places to cross the river, so we headed south down to Chester. You may remember our visit there before. It is the hometown of E. C. Segar, the creator of Popeye. If you are ever in the area, it is worth a look. They have statues of quite a few of the Popeye characters and a mural and little park downtown celebrating the artist. We stopped in at the Tequila Mexican Restaurant for a bite before making our way to the east side of the Mighty Mississippi for the first time in 5 months. We headed south on IL-3, the Great River Road (another drive well worth taking), and turned east on IL-149 over to Murphysboro. Then we turned south on IL-127 to Alto Pass and took Skyline Drive over to US-51 south. It doesn’t take very long after crossing into Illinois to find a “Pritzker Sucks” sign. The people in the rural areas REALLY hate their Governor! We also found a nice little gem on a gas pump that I shared below. MW laughed out loud at that one. Finally, IL-146 east took us to our destination, Dixon Springs State Park. Our friends Lori and Jimmy Grimm showed up a little bit later. Neither of us were in the mood to cook, although we brought enough food to feed an army! We ended the day at Shotgun Eddy’s a few miles down the road in Eddyville, Illinois, for supper. Both the food and service were very good, and as always, hangin’ with the Grimms was a great time!
Friday started with a 40+ minute walk around the park, then cooking. I made some Cowboy Queso for later. It’s just a little nauseating to make beer cheese at 7 AM, though. After finishing that up, I made my breakfast mix, which is spicy sausage, eggs, grits, and cheese, which we had in bowls and burritos. The weather was just a bit muggy, but plenty cool to enjoy it outside.
Later we got cleaned up and headed out to Cave-in-Rock State Park, one of Illinois’ coolest secrets. It’s a pretty nice park with a first-come, first-served campground that Lori and Jimmy will be taking advantage of soon. And yes…there is a cave. Along the Ohio river at the base of the cliffs sits a limestone cavern that is 55′ wide. Created by both erosion and the New Madrid Earthquake in the early 1800s, its history is filled with speculation about ruthless outlaws hiding out, as well as early pioneers taking shelter and steamboats stopping for tourists to visit. The cave has also had its 15 minutes of fame. The 1962 film “How The West Was Won” includes a scene filmed there. There were plenty of signatures in the cave, even on the high ceiling. We speculated that they were done during high water from a boat, but who knows. The new ones were just painted on, but some of the really old ones were etched in with some pretty fancy lettering. Too cool.
Next we headed over to the Shawnee National Forest to check out the Illinois Iron Furnace, the only remaining iron furnace in the state of Illinois. Well, we thought it was the actual furnace, but it turned out to be a reconstruction built in 1967. Seems the original furnace was partially dismantled in the 1930s so the rock could shore up the embankments of the Hog Thief Creek Bridge. This one is solid, unlike the original, but does give you the feel of its 32′ and does have the hearth. In 1850, this area would have been bustling for the 6-9 months each year that the furnace was “on blast”. The creak of the waterwheel, the whoosh of the bellows, the roar of the furnace, shouting, wood chopping, horses, and wagons could be heard 24-7, all working to turn ore into crude iron. The furnace was closed in 1861 due to a lack of workers. In 1872 it was started again and was used intermittently. By 1883, advancements in iron production and richer ores in other areas shut the old furnace down for good. On the way back to the campground, we were FORCED to stop in at The Chocolate Factory. I mean, it is JUST OUTSIDE the entrance to the campground. We were really expected to check it out, don’t you think? Plus, we are big on the BUY LOCAL movement.
Saturday Lori and Jimmy made breakfast…eggs, bacon, and pancakes…yum! Then we sat around for a bit enjoying the weather. About 11:30 AM, we headed over to Paducah, Kentucky, about 25 minutes away, to play tourist. First, though, we dropped Lori off at the house for a quick shower while Jimmy took us over to check out his old stomping grounds, Paducah Water. He retired several years back, but got us a tour at the plant, which was pretty cool. Water from the area comes out of the Ohio River, and there are quite a few steps to take it from river water to drinking water. The muddy stuff goes through settling ponds and pools and pipes where things are added and/or extracted. One pretty cool additive is a polymer that attaches to the minute particles of dirt and other stuff. The pools where that is added and mixed are a nasty, brown color. Blech! Then, as it continues through the process, the polymer sinks to the bottom, and clear, cool water flows out of the top. Further down the pipe, other things are added like chlorine and flouride. The water is tested every 2 hours to ensure the system is working properly, and the entire process from river to tap takes 4-6 hours, depending on how much water they are pulling in. It was fascinating, and between Jimmy and Dale (our tour guide and 20+ year PW employee), we learned a lot about water. Where does your municipal water come from? Go take a tour…it’s pretty amazing! After thanking Dale for letting us look around, we headed back to the house to pick up Lori and have a quick visit with Jeannie, her Mom, who lives next door.
Next we drove around town for a little bit, checking out old houses and buildings. The city has changed a lot since I lived there. Back then, the downtown area had businesses and stores, but wasn’t really a place to come hang out. Now it is full of cute shops, artsy stuff, museums, restaurants, and things to see. We walked around a bit before heading to Grill 211 for an early supper. MW and Jimmy had the smoked meatloaf, while Lori and I both had the appetizer egg rolls, which were a southwest style. YUM!! (The caps are definitely necessary!) We all had the Brussels sprouts. Double YUM!! The guys also went for a turtle cheesecake for dessert, but Lori and I were saving ourselves for ice cream later. In addition to terrific food, this place had one of the nicest atmospheres we’ve enjoyed in a while.
After dinner, we walked to Lori’s preferred ice cream shop, but it was closed for the high school football game that night (big rivalry). It was somewhere around that time that my migraine began. Ugh! We checked out another ice cream shop near the waterfront, but didn’t find anything appealing. Then headed over to see the waterfront and new murals being added to the flood wall. Paducah’s flood wall is filled with paintings that depict the town and area’s history. (More Paducah pics from an earlier visit here.) A couple of interesting bits: 1) General U. S. Grant arrived in Paducah in 1861 with his Union troops, who occupied the town for the duration of the war. 2) Clara Barton was in Paducah in 1884 during the first major flood relief operation of the American Red Cross. 3) The Tennessee River flows northward from southern Tennessee to join the Ohio River near the present day Carson Center. 4) The first successful submarine cable was laid here in 1847, reaching from the foot of Campbell Street to the Illinois shore. 5) Western Kentucky has the greatest concentration of navigable rivers in the world. You can leave Paducah, travel up the Tennessee River through Kentucky Lake, traverse the Land-Between-the-Lakes Canal, travel down the Cumberland River through Barkley Lake, join the Ohio River and end up back in Paducah, thus making an 80-mile loop.
Our original plan was to head over to another restaurant/bar to watch one of Lori and Jimmy’s friends in a band. By the time we left the waterfront, though, it was clear my head wasn’t getting any better. Before heading back to the campground, we stopped in at Bob’s Drive-In for the ice cream Lori and I had been looking for. Then it was back across the bridge to Illinois.
Sunday was a lazy day for all of us. I was feeling a little better first thing, but the headache started coming back by midday. I made a cinnamon apple bake for breakfast, then we spent the day visiting, watching a couple of movies (Rock of Ages and Yesterday), and playing a game similar to Sequence and the card game Sevens. The Grimms are royalty in the game department, and we learn a new one every time we visit. Then we turn around and share them with the kids when we are together. For supper, Jimmy cooked some brats and dogs on the Blackstone to go with my meaty baked beans.
Dixon Springs State Park has a lot of potential, but the maintenance and planning departments are missing the boat. Located in the Shawnee Hills near Golconda, Illinois, you won’t find a more beautiful park anywhere. There are beautiful grass areas, waterfalls, climbing rocks, and forests. Activities include fishing in several stocked ponds, hunting, picnicking, swimming during summer in the pool with water slide, and hiking on 2.7 miles of trails. Lodging options include cabins, group and primitive campgrounds, and 30-amp electric sites in the Cedar Grove Camping Area. There is no bathhouse, and the vault toilets are terrible. (I went in one right after the cleaning guy finished. He basically just hosed the place down with cleaning solution and left. Nothing was wiped off, and the little flies you sometimes get in a vault toilet were stuck to the sink and toilet seat in the cleaning fluid.) Most of the sites were very un-level. Jimmy had to lower his nose so far the tongue was almost on the ground. Both of our picnic tables and fire rings were a ways down the hill, and completely tilted. The ground under our fire ring was so eroded that you would never have been able to cook a hotdog on it, assuming you could even build a fire. Our electric was not up to par with any of the other 30-amp sites we’ve been in, either. (We can typically run both air conditioners or one and other stuff. Here we had to really be careful or it would kick off. Don’t know if it was just old or what.) With the park’s amenities and proximity to Paducah and other things to see, this could really be a destination park, but they need to have someone level out the picnic and fire ring pads, upgrade the electric poles, and keep stuff clean. Adding a bathhouse wouldn’t hurt, either. Both Verizon and AT&T had coverage, and there was plenty of over-the-air tv. For this stay in August 2022, we paid $78.70 for 4 nights.
Well that’s it. Another week down and another visit with great friends. Up next…more Kentucky and barnward bound. See you on the path!
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