Home Away From Home, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee

Heading Home

August 22

Jerry had said he wanted to be on the road by 7:00 this morning so we scrambled out of bed at 5:30. Soon we were dressed and ready to leave – only one problem. It was still dark! We finally got slides in, jacks up, etc and pulled out of the campsite at 6:45. Then we had to stop at the entrance to attach the car, dump the tanks and fill up the freshwater tank. That took a long time as the water was running so slowly.

We finally left the campground at 7:40 and had our last view of the lovely Grand Tetons. Jerry had planned to get in a lot of miles today but when traveling in the mountains that is hard. From Gros Ventre to Dubois we climbed up to over 9500 feet above sea level. It’s difficult to make time when you’re going 35 or less!

After that, the ride was pretty uneventful. We stopped twice, once in Dubois, Wyoming for gas. We were able to easily pull in and fill up. Our next stop was a quick lunch at a rest stop in Sinclair, Wyoming. I had hoped we could make it to the Summit Rest Stop where the Lincoln statue is located but we were late having lunch so we just passed by it. It is quite large and very visible from the highway. Our only other stop was for gas at a Pilot in Cheyenne. Yes, a Pilot. Despite what I said earlier we have used Pilot stations again. There don’t seem to be many Flying J’s in the west but the Pilots have had a dedicated gas RV lane so for now, we’ll use Pilot. In the east, they do not have those dedicated lanes and are difficult to access.

When we left Cheyenne the weather ahead looked a little forbidding but we went on and ran into a pretty bad storm with heavy rain and hail. That will get your attention. There was a rest stop ahead so we talked about stopping there but just as we got there the storm seemed to pass so on we went to a Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska. I had called earlier to see if they permitted overnights and was told we could park with the Semi’s and boy were there a lot. By the end of the day, the lot was full.

There was a Pizza Hut across the street so we trotted over there – yep, trotted, we had to pass a semi-busy street. As we were waiting for our pizza I kept thinking we needed a to-go box as the sky looked a bit threatening. By the time we had finished eating it had started to rain so we “trotted” back to the RV. The wind was blowing pretty hard and the RV was rocking so since we were on concrete Jerry put down the jacks to help stabilize us.

August 23

Whew, what a day! We left Spencer, Nebraska at 7:10 for who knows where. For the most part, it was a very easy drive, easier than yesterday because of less road construction. The only somewhat difficult part was going through Lincoln, capital of Nebraska. Jerry’s Clarion was leading him right downtown and although my Garmin took us through Lincoln we were not in the downtown area. We stopped for lunch at a rest stop and then for gas. Jerry was feeling good, not tired and the driving was easy so we kept going. Our aim was Kansas City for the night and therein the trouble began. Traffic was pretty heavy at 6:00 on a Friday afternoon. We headed to the Flying J where we were hoping for an RV gas lane plus we hoped to spend the night there. There was no gas lane but we were able to get gas with no difficulty. It was a busy, busy station though. As I was pumping the gas Jerry walked around to see if there was room for us to park. Nope. The only space was a back-in and without unhitching the car we couldn’t do that. Onward we went. By this time I had called Walmart who said no and Cabela’s who told me it was fine but I needed to get permission from the city of Independence. Since it was after 5:00 that wasn’t possible. I tried to find a nearby Sam’s but no luck. I was out of options so I started looking for truck stops and there were two in Oak Grove, Missouri. We went to the first one, Pedro and it was full to the max. We headed over to Travel Center of America and it too was full but we did find a pull in site between some big semis. Jerry just didn’t feel good about it though so I started looking again and lo and behold there was a Walmart one mile away. I called and got permission and in just a few minutes we were parked on their perimeter. 7:30, 12 hours after we started and 569.2 miles later. Not our usual day. Thank you, Jesus, for getting us safely there.

We walked over to the store, made a few purchases and then returned to the coach. It was a little warm so we opened all of the windows and the door to get some air circulated. Jerry turned on the generator and the air conditioner in the back. I heated up our leftovers for dinner. Afterward, we both took showers, got ready for bed, turned the generator off and read in the dark. We were hopeful that the coach battery wouldn’t be dead when we woke up!

August 24

Sleeping with the windows open when next to a very busy highway didn’t give me a good night’s sleep plus when I woke up at 5:30 this morning the bedroom was dark meaning that the coach battery was dead. Drat. Nothing I could do so I closed the window and cut the noise and fell back to sleep for about 30 minutes. When I got up Jerry had the generator running. Before we left Jerry went out to check the battery on the car. It needs to be started a couple of times a day when it’s being towed. Well, it was dead. Not our day for batteries.

We pulled out of Walmart in Oak Grove, a very nice, quiet place to overnight – if you use your generator and don’t have your windows open! Our plan for the day was to stay somewhere around the Nashville area. Again we had difficulty locating a place to stay so after 600+ miles we finally turned into a Walmart in Murfreesboro, Tennessee along with several other semis and RV’s. It was a long day of driving. We surely have not adhered to our 330 rule these last three days (either drive 330 miles or stop by 3:30). Of course, we did drive longer today out of necessity since we couldn’t find a stopover and sometimes you just do what you have to do. At least we’re closer to Lawrenceville.

August 25

On Sunday we only had 200 miles to go to get to Lawrenceville but we had to go through Atlanta. Not fun at all as we were stuck in multi-lanes of traffic due to road construction. Let me tell you there are some crazy drivers out there for sure! We arrived at National Indoor RV around 2:00 and fortunately, there was an available space. After a quick set up Jerry suggested we go get something to eat. I think he’s beginning to be as tired to processed meat sandwiches as I am. We got lunch at a Panera Bread, hot soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Delicious. We returned to NIRV for a restful afternoon.

August 28

We stayed in Lawrenceville through Tuesday and realized that our coach was not going to be ready by the end of the week so we loaded up the car with as much as we could and headed for home. We stopped at the North Carolina border and when I got out of the car I realized my keys were in the motor home – in Georgia! Wonder what else I forgot!

We arrived in Kinston around 6:00 glad to be home. It was an absolutely grand trip, a once in a lifetime trip and we saw indescribable beauty but eight weeks is a long time to be gone. It was past time to see our loved ones.

Home Away From Home, Illinois, Missouri

A Spur of the Moment Trip to St. Louis

Yesterday we decided that we had about “Lincolned” out and wanted something a bit different for today. While talking with one of the members of the brass band yesterday he mentioned having gone to St. Louis the night before. That remark got me to thinking about the Gateway Arch so I asked Jerry about going to St. Louis for the day. He readily agreed so off we went. I always do a lot of research before we visit somewhere but on this day we were shooting in the dark. Knowing nothing about the arch, the park, the museum, the lake we decided to wing it.

We left about 8:30 for the 100 mile trip. It was an easy drive, a lot easier in a car! I did some research as we were traveling and found a parking deck that seemed to be near to where we wanted to be so we headed there. Turns out we were quite close to the Arch.

As we were walking to the Arch we chatted with a couple who lived in St. Louis. They gave us some ideas of what to do and emphasized that we should ride the tram up the Arch. That was definitely on my list of things to do.

We got to the main building, bought our tickets for the movie and the tram. The river cruise was not opened because the river was flooded. We only had a few minutes before the movie stated so we headed that way via entrance in the museum. Of course, we had to go through a security check and all of the men had to take off their belts. I was hoping Jerry’s pants didn’t fall down!

Soon it was time to see the movie which explained the building process with original video and pictures. It is truly amazing to watch the process and also to realize that no lives were lost as they forged those tremendous heights and dangers.

The original intent of the Gateway Arch National Park was to bring something to St. Louis to fight a flagging economy that had been changed due to railroad use rather than shipping. The idea was presented by lawyer, Luther Ely Smith. He thought St. Louis needed a big national memorial on the old riverfront. Smith won over Mayor Bernard Dickmann and in 1934 they formed the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association (JNEMA) to develop the riverfront. Dickmann found political support in Washington and the local project turned into a national one. President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Jefferson National Enterprise Memorial by presidential proclamation in 1935.

Sometime later a contest was held to determine a winning design for the monument. Eero Saarinen, an immigrant from Finland was the winter and received $40,00 for his efforts. He went on to become a noted and respected architect for his designs. Prior to the contest he was most noted for his furniture design, particularly the tulip chair which is on exhibition in the museum.

Construction on the Arch started in 1962 and a mere two and a half years later, in 1965, it was completed. It rose to 630 feet, the tallest structure in the United States. Not only is it 630 feet tall but it is also 630 feet wide.

A view from the top, a Cardinals game
The trip to the top via the tram takes four minutes rising at a rate of 340 feet per minute. I had my ticket and was planning to ride but admittedly I am claustrophobic. I thought I could handle it though until I saw the capsule – and that’s being generous – that only five people could fit in. Just as I was about to bend over to step in, I realized that I just couldn’t be closed up in that small space even for four minutes. I quickly apologized and backed out. What a disappointment. Jerry went on to enjoy the ride up, take a few pictures, one of the Cardinals paying a game and then the three-minute ride down. Meanwhile I sat waiting for him feeling sorry for myself. He was quickly down and reminded me of the horseback ride he backed out of at the last minute when we were in Amararillo. That made me feel just a midgen better.

The top of the Old Courthouse
We walked over to the domed Courthouse next and spent a few minutes there. Simply put, it is stunning. A series of kites depicting Lewis and Clark were hung along the balcony of the second floor.

By this time we were pretty tired so we headed back to the car and Springfield. Our GPS got a little confused so we circled the block a couple of times before we got on the right highway. We arrived back in Springfield just in time to go see the Old State Capital Historic Site. It was interesting to note how Lincoln’s political stance emerged throughout his tenure as president. I had questioned who his vice president was and who took over upon his death. Amazingly, a couple of people I asked seemed to have no idea and were surprised at the question. It was Andrew Johnson from Tennessee, a southerner who Lincoln hoped would help balance his ticket for re-election.

A quick run to the grocery store and we were done! It was time to start thinking about leaving in the morning headed for the next leg of the journey to South Dakota. Plans are to spend tomorrow night in Hudson, Iowa.