The journey South on Saturday continues until I find myself nearing Kansas City again, to avoid running smack dab into it a merge East onto I-70 is in order. Consulting my laptop back in St. Joseph earlier in the day I have discovered that Harry S. Truman park isn’t far from Kansas City, and it’s generally in the direction I want to be heading to get to Coffeyville next week. Oh, and it should have WiFi, all compelling reasons to make that my next stop.
While getting gas along I-70 the planets align in my favor and I discover a KOA just across the road. I don’t plan on staying there the night – my method of stopping at truck stops on my travel days has worked well so far and is far cheaper – but I still don’t know how much propane I have in my single tank, it hasn’t been filled since I bought the Casita back in March and I’ve been relying on it to keep my fridge cool since I started traveling.
The couple running the KOA are nice folks. Jim* is more than happy to show me how to unhook my propane tank, point out where the empty weight is listed on it (it’s 18 pounds), and weigh it for me, explaining that that is the best way to know how much is left. Sure enough, I’m down by over 3 gallons, I’ve got maybe ¼ of the tank left. After refilling it for me, I hook the tank back up myself with Jim’s supervision and then he runs off to get some new arrivals squared away while I pay his wife inside. I have no idea what to expect the propane to cost, but am pretty happy when my bill comes to $17.50ish, that isn’t so bad.
As I roll out of the KOA, I see one of the new arrivals is a van pulling a cute little teardrop, and I hope the owner doesn’t mind when I snap a picture of it.
That night the parking lot of a TA in Concordia, MO is my resting place. I’m excited to see that there is a McDonalds across the frontage road – free Wifi!- but before that I cough up $12 for a shower. See when Julie and I truck camped in the back of Bertha down in Florida this past February we stayed at a TA one night and Julie really wanted a shower so she got one at the truck stop. She assured me that the shower was very clean and quite amazing and totally worth the twelve big ones, so in the name of new experiences I decide to give it a go.
I probably took more pictures of the shower room than were strictly necessary, but I wanted to capture it for posterity! It reminded me a lot of a hotel room, and I was quite amused. Will I shell out $12 for a TA shower in the future? Probably not because that is an awful lot of money, but I definitely think it was worth doing this once for the novelty of it.
9/23/12 – Sunday
At 4:11am I awake to the sound of a car alarm going off. After making sure it’s not Bertha, I check the time on my phone and am greeted by this cheery message: “SIM card failure”. Wha? I quickly discover that my phone has no cell signal, and voice mail, text messaging, and 3G internet access all aren’t working. It takes a long time to fall back asleep, but eventually I do. Tomorrow, err… later today I can decide what to do.
Luckily the morning brings with it clarity and I simply try turning the phone off and back on, and that seems to fix the issue. I was getting myself all worked up for nothing. So instead of driving to find a Verizon store I’m free to continue on to Harry S. Truman park, I arrive at about 1:30.
It pays to drive around a new park before you pick a spot to stay at. I learned from the young man at the fee station that the WiFi hotspot is located in shower house 3 – which is at the Buck Ridge loop. Having WiFi right at my campsite would be quite convenient, so I head on out there and choose a site carefully, turning on my computer and checking signal strength before unhooking the Casita and driving back to the fee station to give my site number and tell him how many nights I want to stay.
Before long, all is unpacked and it’s time for more hiking! This is the Bluff trail, just under two miles in length and as you might guess, it follows along the bluffs of Truman lake. It teases me with glimpses of the lake far below through the trees for quite a ways. Gray and fox squirrels are all over, and while I never see one, I can hear the unmistakable chattering of chipmunks as I pass by.
The view when I finally make it to the lookout is breathtaking. I sit there on the rocks for quite a while, soaking it in and grinning like an idiot. This is what I went full-timing for, to see things like this.
It won’t always be like this, driving from park to park and being amazed by the natural wonders this country has to offer. Once I start at Amazon I’ll be taking as much overtime as I can manage and probably won’t have the energy on my weekends to go out and see stuff.
But that’s a price I am perfectly willing to pay to get to experience views like this on occasion. On the way back, the forest abruptly shifts from mostly red oaks to pine or maybe hemlock of some sort. It seems to be an elevation thing, because once I’ve climbed high enough again it’s back to the oak.
9/24/12 – Monday
My old health insurance is now canceled, and I get my South Carolina license plates down to the local Post Office in Warsaw nearby to send them back to SC. There are some more odds and ends to do too – things that need tying up from my old life. But there is also enough time to take the one mile savannah and glade walk at the park too that is located near the entrance. Lets face it, it has nothing on South Dakota’s open fields, so I cut off from the path down to the lake to get some pictures of the dead trees.
It looks like Truman lake rose in level within the past few years, submerging all of these trees along the shore. There is a dam on the lake at one end, so it was probably a man-made decision. As I’m snapping pictures a fisherman in his motor boat arrives on the scene and pulls in close to the trees, I bet they make good hiding places for fish.
Here the shoreline isn’t steep like on the bluff trail, but it is still very rocky. I find several neat rocks, gray, white, or orangey on the outside with purple centers, some have rings and some don’t. I also find the sacrum of a raccoon-sized animal, but decided not to post that particular picture up here.
It has warmed up over the past couple days, and as I pick my way back up the rocks to the trail I’m feeling it. The rest of the afternoon I sit at my campsite in the shade of the oak trees and enjoy the light breeze and quietness of the campground as I read my Kindle. Life is good.
9/25/12 – Tuesday
Sleeping in in the Casita is great. I can open the blinds of the window at my head and stare up at the trees as I take my time waking up. The clouds are already rolling in high above, today is suppose to be even warmer than yesterday, and there is a 80% chance of thunderstorms.
I putter about the RV for a while, take care of some online things and call Poliseek to make sure they got the e-mail I sent with the signed forms for my insurance, and to give them my South Dakota driver’s license number since I had set the policy up days before I left Bluffton with my SC one.
Around five the sky darkens and the thunder is getting closer. The camp hosts pull up in a state park vehicle and inform me that there are heavy storms headed our way, some of which have been producing nickle sized hail and wind gusts up to 50 mph. They’ve been sent out to let all the campers know, and to tell them where the nearest shelter is in case it gets bad. A good service for people who don’t have weather radios or smart phones. I thank them and they head on down the line.
The lightning makes a great show, but there is little wind, no hail, and barely any rain. At least so far. It’s suppose to continue going over night so I’ll probably get a good opportunity to test the water-proofness of the Casita sooner rather than later. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving Truman park and continuing south, possibly to make Roaring River my next park stop. After that one it’ll be about 2-3 hours West to Coffeyville and Amazon on October 2nd.
* I don’t actually know if Jim was his name or not, he just seemed like a Jim so for the point of good storytelling I’m calling him as such. If you happen to be reading this Jim, and your name is not Jim, please let me know and I’ll fix it.