Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. We got married in July, 1976 because “everyone in the family gets married in July”; it was a very hot and humid day. It was a nice wedding in a small town in a small church stuffed to overflowing with guests. Barry’s cousin married us and asked, “Do you Sharon …. uh …. Susan take this man?”, and I laughed out loud! All our family and friends were there and went to the church basement after the ceremony to enjoy cake and punch. Barry’s uncle took the photos and many of the guests left before we could join them downstairs. Afterwards, we changed into our polyester wedding clothes and drove to St. Louis for a night in a hotel.
Our marriage has been just like that; nothing flashy or showy, just comfortable for us. We fight and laugh and like and dislike together. We have 3 sons, 1 daughter-in-law and 1 grandson. We have loved and lost some of our grandparents and parents. We have lived in 4 houses and, now, 1 RV. We have had 8 dogs, 1 rabbit, 1 chinchilla and 1 parakeet as well as 25 different cars (we would probably be richer with less of those). We have had 10 different jobs and more part-time ones.
Last year was our big year: we both turned 60 and celebrated our 40th anniversary. Truthfully, we did not really “celebrate” last year, we just recognized those days. This year was different. We drove to Kansas City and ate dinner at Chaz on the Plaza located in the Raphael Hotel. Years ago, Barry surprised me with a weekend getaway to the Raphael; it has great memories for us. A delicious dinner in an intimate setting reminded us of the good parts of our marriage.
I think we will keep counting anniversaries for the rest of our lives.
After leaving Des Moines, we moved for the weekend to south-western Iowa, just outside the town of Creston, to Green Valley State Park. First, after a few days with just electric hookups, we were happy to have all the services: 50 amp electric, water & sewer! All the sites here have some sort of lake view, there is a small beach, boat ramp, hiking & biking trail, and even some cabins to rent. But the best part about this park was the peace and quiet and darkness! Even as the park filled up for the weekend, it was still a nice quiet park. Birds calling all the time.
The lake here is a man-made lake with many campers bringing their fishing boats out in the morning to fish for large mouth bass.
Most of the fields are planted with corn or soybeans; but a few have been left to grow beautiful Black-eyed Susans……
A slough is a good place to raise a family……
Clouds in the west can’t stop a sunset on the water!
Once, a long time ago, we picked wild blackberries and I came home with chiggers and seed ticks every where (they like to go in all your creases, around your ankles, behind your knees, and further up, if you know what I mean!). So, no matter how delicious or thick they look, we don’t go in to pick them any more!
As we left town today for another campground, we had to go through this underpass:
I purchased lowclearances.com map download and got to use it today! Our coach is 12’9″ high up to the top of the old satellite dome on top……this train bridge was not a problem! But we still held our breath as we drove under it! One of the troubles I have run into is finding a good GPS program for us. I have researched and read all about Garmin and Rand McNally and everyone else without coming to a good decision. Every one of them has mixed reviews and in the year 2017 I feel that there should be a GPS that has more good than bad reviews! In the meantime, I map our route the night before we leave on Google with the low clearances layer added. After I determine the safest, easiest route, I use Waze while we drive; Waze is a live traffic/navigation app that gives great clear directions and live updates (police ahead, construction, hazards, etc.). Little things that make a big difference!
Just north of Des Moines, Iowa is a Corps of Engineers lake and several campgrounds…….we stayed at one of them, Cherry Glen Campground on Saylorville Lake. Now, we have lived in the St. Louis, Missouri area for most of our lives and are familiar with the Iowa weather: winds blow across most of the time, it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and winter ice and snow are frequent problems. This week was no different; but we had good strong electrical hookups and our A/C’s work well. They issued an Extreme Heat Warning for this part of Iowa as the temperatures were always in the 95º range for the week……at nights only cooling off to the upper 70º’s.
But while we were here, we discovered the neighboring town…. well not really anything for us to discover but this:
We also made time to visit with some of our eldest son’s friend and family while we were here. They have 2 boys, one is 8 and the other is 2; it was fun to see them and meet the boys. We haven’t seen them since the 8 year old was about 3 years old! Sadly, I forgot to take a photo with them……too hot for my brain I guess!
We spent a working week in St. Louis. Mom and I had doctor’s appointments, Barry had office appointments and a couple of guys in from Athens, Georgia, and I had work to do at the house. I took the last load of things to be donated to the D.A.V. (At least I hope those were the last loads!). Barry & I moved all the packed boxes of things we are keeping into the garage to get them out of the house. I vacuumed the entire house. We got a bid to trim the front yard trees hanging over the house…..$900……and they could not schedule that for a month……so, we got our very big ladder out and I got on the roof and cut the most egregious ones myself. Lots of scratches, bruises and sore muscles later, I was down on the ground and cleaning up the mess. I so wish our house would sell.
At the end of the week, we headed north to Keokuk, Iowa. We won’t be back in St. Louis until mid-October after traveling around Iowa and Kansas for a month then heading west to Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas! Until then, it was a weekend in Keokuk at a little RV campground, Hickory Haven. It is a small park with gravel sites, no WiFi, bad phone service and some standing dead trees, but had full hook-ups. It was a good chance to wash the dust and dirt off the lower portion of the coach accumulated from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri rains.
Keokuk is a small/medium sized river town with many interesting things to see. There is a very interesting National Cemetery here. I just imagine they chose the location as it was not really farm-able; very hilly and uneven with large trees scattered throughout. It was established in 1862 and is one of the 12 original Federal Cemeteries. It is divided into 2 sections, one with the very oldest graves that borders Oakland Cemetery (est. 1851), and the more recent era graves further back. Oakland Cemetery has beautiful grave sites hanging precariously off the steep slopes. (By the way, I have a deep love and respect for old cemeteries!).
Keokuk has an older section of town with lovely large homes overlooking the might Mississippi River. Many have interesting architectural elements……..I am not sure what to call this style of cut rocks, but both of these homes are majestic and beautiful.
There is a beautiful old power plant on the Mississippi River here…… the actual name is U.S. Lock and Dam #19. It was built between 1910-13 and, when completed, was the largest electricity generating plant in the world! There are great views of it if you drive across the river bridge near downtown or from Rand Park.
We found a nice restaurant downtown, Angelina’s, that earned two visits from us…..otherwise, unless you love to look at corn and soybean fields, there is not too much to do here………but relax! Our next direction is North West toward Des Moines…..we really will head West soon!!
Although it was still a holiday week, we moved to Hidden Valley Outfitters Campground (HVO) near Bennett Springs, MO. I have never been to this part of the state and looked forward to visiting the springs. However, due to the holiday, Barry was not able to book any appointments in Springfield or Joplin. Instead, we found time to visit with family and relax!!!
First though, the campground: a Good Sam campground and a discount! It has a funny little entrance to the area — they are currently in a little metal building and nearly finished with a new big building across the way. It looks like an old-style Old West building with a long front porch, but will include a water feature out front……worth returning to see the finished project. After you check in, you drive between the Niagua River and a big field before the campground comes into view. There are about 4 rows of campsites in this area with 50 amp, FHU’s, a campground, picnic shelter, river access and a nice shower house. Continuing along the road and over a low-water bridge into another campground for tents and smaller campers with 30 amp electric. In this area is also a little chapel and another nice playground and shower house. Up the hill is a third camp area for “extended stay” units — this is a huge property. We stayed here for 7 nights; but had to move from site #38 after 5 nights to site #37. Site #38 is the first site as you come into the campground and faces the river. It was a wonderful place to relax with the first shade every afternoon and the view of rafters floating down the river. And the fishermen…….everyone comes here to fish for the trout released just upstream at Bennett Springs State Park.
There is so much to see and do at the state park; fishing, shopping and eating in the lodge, trails, lots of wildflowers, multiple campgrounds (those reservations are as hard to get during Trout season as the ones in the Florida Keys!), pool, playground, even the Bennett Springs Church of God. We ate breakfast at the lodge one morning and it was delicious; the lodge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930 from stones and timber frames. The state introduced 40,000 mountain spring trout in 1900 and purchased the spring and surrounding property in 1924-25.
I was not always an outdoor person, we never camped as we grew up and I did not take my family camping……so these moments are all new to me. I have never been on a river float trip — until now! HVO offered float trips and we booked a Saturday morning time! Barry and I met other floaters at the picnic shelter and were picked up by their van driver. People brought coolers and float tubes and more coolers and sunscreen and music players and more coolers! It seems that loud music and drinking are major parts of floating on the river! We drove back up north of the state park for about 7 miles until we reached the drop off site. A couple of men were there with rows of rafts, canoes, and kayaks lined up along a gravel bar for us; one pointed to two kayaks, made sure we had paddles and life jackets and walked away while we loaded up our water bottles and sunscreen and pushed off. Poor Barry was a bit unsteady and fell right into the water as he tried to get into his kayak (!!). I was already paddling into the current and paused to just float until he caught up to me. Our trip was wonderful!!!! The water was comfortably warm and kept us from getting too hot. We saw wildflowers, huge trees, fish, turtles, snakes, lots of birds and many other floaters. We floated by tall old trees, towering cliffs, dead tree snags, with bird songs accompanying us. We stopped a couple of times to get out and swim in the warm water. We finally came up to the spot where Bennett Spring met the river……the water dropped from warm to so very cold! Then we came back to the HVO gravel bar and landed our kayaks there with the waiting boat team. We walked back to our coach, tired and hot and happy.
After a lovely week, we packed up and drove back to St. Louis for some family time.
For many years, we enjoyed sharing a “lake house” with my in-laws. Nothing fancy, just all full of used furniture, discounted carpeting, and comfortable love. But as our sons became men they moved away from Missouri and the house became our burden……upkeep and yard work and lack of time. And things change and we sold the house. We have not been back to the Lake of the Ozarks for at least 5 years and, with our RV, we really did not intend to go back. But the Fourth of July was coming, we needed to move, and I found a campsite at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park.
The Lake of the Ozarks is an engineered, hydro-electric dammed body of water fed by many area rivers and streams. It is set in the middle of Missouri in the Ozark Mountains (the only “mountains” between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains). The area is hilly and rocky and hilly and dry and hilly; well, you get the idea…….I looked online at every site in the park and checked the slope on each one to find the most “level” site before settling on a 1.8″/10′ slope and hoped for the best. This state park is cut into several sections, some separated by long lake fingers of water and the campground is away from the main body of the lake on the GrandGlaize arm. It begins at the highest point along a ridge and falls down rapidly to lake level with 5 separated campgrounds along the way. The first campground has the only 50amp sites long enough for big rigs, but there were no water/sewer hookups. The park is very nice with history and hiking/biking trails, horse-back riding, an airport, playgrounds, camp store, boat launch and 2 sand beaches (man-made). The shower house near Campground #1 was just nasty…..funny story though…….as I was entering the ladies side to shower one morning the door was latched from the inside. An older gentleman and his wife came to the door, unlatched it and left together —- whaaaattttt?
We did have fun during the weekend meeting up with friends we haven’t seen in a year or so, checking out some of our previous hang-outs and just relaxing. No more coughing, feeling better every day.
We spent about 5 days outside St. Louis at Babler State Park; we were there for doctor’s appointment and business calls. Luckily (or really unluckily) I had gotten bronchitis the week before and really needed to see my doctor for my annual physical which turned out to be a sick visit. Cough medicine & antibiotics in hand, I spent most of the week in the RV resting/coughing. Barry also started coughing and his doctor gave him the same regime. We did not get to see our family or friends this week, we were just too sick………so, we got ready to leave the area
But, not before we spent a day at our Favorite RV repair shop! Chris at The Motorhome RV Store in Eureka has proven to be worth his weight in gold for us! Remember that wiper motor that we tried to get North Trail to replace? Done! Wipers facing up and down? Fixed! All in one day! I have learned my lesson and will only use Chris to work on my coach from now on!
While in St. Louis, we also sold 2 of the remaining Big Three Things to Sell: 2014 Subaru and 65″ Samsung 5K TV! For the last 7 months, I have advertised the Subbie and had only limited offers; sadly, Barry turned down the early offers in the hope we could get more money, we just cleared enough to pay off our loan. Finally, a guy contacted us from my cars.com ad and I was able to sell him my 2nd favorite car (I loved my 2000 VW the most!).
He had also vacillated about selling the giant TV. I bought it before he had knee replacement surgery 2 years ago to help him recuperate better. He had high hopes he could, somehow, configure the RV to get that beast in it. I knew otherwise…….it would be like have a drive-in movie screen outside garage…..just too big! A friend of our son, Drew, contacted me from a FB Marketplace add and bought that giant beast the next day! Add to that the $$ we got from our friend who sells our stuff on Craigslis and we are getting closer to our goal of full-time RV living!
The last thing of the Big Three Things to Sell is our home. We have discusssed our house with so very many people and, after interviewing a third realtor, decided to get more realistic about that sale. Here are the issues:
3.35 Acres — Young families want a subdivision for their kids
No Basement — Many St. Louis area natives feel they Need a Basement. The fact that we have so much storage space everywhere and it is dry does not count for much.
Baby Boomers — We are at the end of the Boomer Generation and no one our age wants a big house, they are all down-sizing also.
Millinials — This is our target audience….someone who wants the seclusion of acreage, the room for teenagers to spread out, and the convenience of being close to St. Louis amenities.
Price — We started at $400,000 at the advice of two different realtors….and have gradually moved it down to $375K. The third realtor, who specializes in homes on acreage, added up the above factors and feels we are still too high. 🙁
We have dropped the price to $367,000 and driven away…….hopefully Someone, Somebody Special, will come to love our house as much as we have done.