Smithville Lake – North of Kansas City Missouri

We moved 200 miles north from south Missouri to Smithville Lake located on the north side of Kansas City. This is our favorite camping spot in the area which is saying a lot as we lived in Kansas City for a long time and had a chance to tour many campgrounds. We camped for 14 days at Crows Creek Campground as it had 50 amp electrical and water. I’ll add however, that most spend time closer to I-70 access when they come to town. Here is a link to my notes on Kansas City Campgrounds for those interested. Karen received wonderful flowers from our daughter for Mother’s Day, she spent a couple nights at our daughter’s home and we went to dinner at a fine restaurant. The campground is on a Corp. of Engineers Lake and managed by the county. The county park even included a large modern dog park with bathrooms.

Were in town to see our daughter and for me to testify in what I hope is my last murder trial ever. We have been back I believe seven times since I retired from law enforcement in 2019. Frankly I had not gotten over the feeling of leaving and desire to keep serving in law enforcement until the morning I drove to the prosecutor’s office for a pre-trial meeting. I felt I never wanted to see the city limits of Kansas City for the remainder of my life. Unfortunately, I still have one other serious trial I may be asked to attend as the lead detective. The jury recommended 61 years prison time for the mother of the deceased seven-week-old and toddler sister in this latest trial. It was not so much that the trial had to with the death of children that caused me to finally get past leaving law enforcement. I always and still do miss my co-workers but as the years have gone by, I just so much want to leave the old life behind and concentrate on this journey and look forward to the next. I also want to stop thinking about the bad stuff as I have learned the key to happiness is not a place but a way of thinking. Someday I should write a blog about what it’s like in the first few years of retirement as I know there are readers looking forward to it.

I did not attend the final date of trial which was the day of the verdict nor the sentencing recommendation and for that matter most of the later part of my career never did. After the final day a good friend called, Det. Mark Thomas and said he was heading toward me with his fishing boat. Mark and his son in-law took me out on the lake and caught a bag of fish. Good times. Mark’s
father, Sheriff Tom Thomas, and my father worked together which we are both very proud of. I had lunch with old friends from the department and many stopped by the courthouse to say hello. I will admit for a couple minutes I thought how it would be nice to instruct the younger detectives in courtroom testimony, especially the parts most don’t know are happening. Such as the
defense attorney playing nice in the hall trying to drop your guard or eyeballing you on the stand while testifying on behalf of the persecution. Or while the jury listens to recorded interviews and the defense attorney acts as if he is taking serious notes then telling you he only has a couple questions. All games on a stage. Of course the only thing one needs to do on the stand is tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

And for the first time that I can recall, Karen and I attend a party at the campground with a group of much younger adults. We were invited to the birthday party and made some good friends. One of the yard games we played was Toss Like a Boss which is portable and maybe a good one to carry in an RV. The next morning, we had breakfast with several of the younger neighbors and departed equal friends. I appreciated watching their laughter and good times and even hearing about their struggles and tragedy. If any are reading this. Thank you. We learned from you as much as you learned from us. Karen and I enjoyed the company and will add it to the positive side of our life’s experiences. Thank you for the friendship and feel free to text, Facebook or add a commit to the blog or let us know if you are near our travels for a met up (we will be in Branson for two months beginning 7/16/23). We enjoy staying in touch

James Gang Bank Robbery and Old Liberty Jail Where Joseph Smith Was Held

Liberty Missouri was settled in 1822. I worked on the county square for 16 years and had never toured two locations. The James Gang is believed to be responsible for the first daytime bank robbery in history and that bank is on the square as a museum. Jospeh Smith brought the Mormon people to Missouri and was directly run out of the state but only after he served a spell in the Liberty Jail. That restored jail is on the square and is now a special place Mormons come to visit as it serves as what they believe to be an important time in Joseph Smith’s trials of life. You can see plenty of other Jessie James stuff in Clay County.

I’ll not swap beliefs about the Morman faith. Frankly some of their beliefs include much of the way we can all live in peace. But there is a graveyard full of followers northeast of Liberty from the Mormon Wars when it was legal to kill them in Missouri. During the old Liberty Jail tour I was not pressured by the church to join and learned all the Latter-Day Saints Churches in nearby downtown Independence are not what the folks in Utah consider to be Mormon Churches which split apart, as most do, when they could not agree on theological beliefs. Come to Kansas City. Google “what to do close to me” and prepare to spend a couple months. Missouri is not a “fly-over state.” I’ll add to that in my next post as we are currently camped just off the trials blazed by Louis and Clark and what many followed from the start to Santa Fe New Mexico.

Sorry about the formatting of these photos – we have lots of fun stuff to do and fixing the position of photos in the blog is not among them 🙂

Above are photos of the restored Liberty Bank where the James Gang are suspected of holding the first time ever daylight bank robbery. Below is an eyewitness account of the robbery.

And below are the photos of the restored old Liberty Jail, encased in a building, where Joseph Smith was held. He never made it to Salt Lake City Utah. 


RV Related Advice

Started trading out some of the trim on the RV that covers screws. Check yours as after three years or so they will start to decay. It’s a cheap and quick repair. Hopefully I found a better product that will last longer in the sun.

And lastly, some travel with dog ideas. For the first time we called a mobile vet for Wyatt’s shots and have his ears looked at. There were many local vets, all of whom were booked more than two weeks out. Karen still enjoys using the $25-dollar cordless clippers for grooming while the more expensive cordless professional set stays in a drawer unused.

We are currently camped in Marshall Missouri, just south of the Missouri River. You may enjoy the next post as this is not an area most would think to travel.


Final Days in Sarcoxie Missouri – Moved to Kansas City Missouri Area

We finished a two month stay in Sarcoxie Missouri located between Springfield and Joplin off Interstate 44. Karen and I rested up after a hectic winter and were able to visit family on several occasions. For sure the slow pace of Southwest Missouri living was nice. We have moved 200 miles to the north side of Kansas City MISSOURI, for a two week stay at Smithville Lake.

If you were to pick Southwest Missouri as a destination stop on your route I would 100% suggest camping near Springfield as there is plenty to do there to keep you busy a week or two in Missouri’s third largest city. My sister lives there and says the KOA is a preferred campground. Springfield is a college town, located 45 minutes from Branson, Wilson’s Creek National Civil War Battlefield, Headquarters of Bass Pro and their city block of museums and aquarium.

There is not so much to do in Sarcoxie other than taking short drives to Carthage and Joplin Missouri where you can find a couple days of interesting tours or drive 40 minutes to Springfield.

I tend to write longer posts once a month rather than weekly which is a reason for the length.

Here is a first for us. The Campground Manager, Kim, at Beagle Bay RV Haven and Campground in Sarcoxie Missouri as taken from our dash cam, jokingly laying in the road not wanting us to leave. She is the best and it was our privilege to get to know her.

Meet Up with Long Time Friends

Our entire stay in Sarcoxie was full of campers arriving for nightly stops from all over the Northeast and Midwest mostly heading home from winter spots traveling Interstate 44 through Oklahoma to St. Louis and beyond. For sure there were plenty of out of state people to meet. We had wonderful neighbors and two visits from long-time friends we know from our RV adventures.

Our friends Ray and Charlotte with Wyatt’s best friend, their dog, Dixie stopped by on their way from Arizona to Michigan. Connie and Bill live near them. The two couples were traveling together. I’m so terrible at remembering to take group photos. We have traveled to visit them in Traverse City Michigan and spent portions of two winters with Ray and Charlotte. You can’t meet better people to spend time with. A couple of years ago while in Michigan Ray took me to meet Connie and Bill where I had a meal with their group of friends and family.
Charlotte, if you are reading this, Karen cooked a batch of cowboy stew. Thanks for the meal idea!
Thank you Kelly for sending the photo. I checked and it appears I’m able to post it before you. Bill and Kelly of the Bill and Kelly’s American Odyssey Blog stopped on their way to Springfield Missouri for an overnight visit. I’ve been reading their blog since at least 2016. There are several readers of this post who will know them. Finally got to meet Kelly in person. We attempted a meet-up in 2018 while the couple were in Topeka Kansas. We had planned a longer stop last year to meet-up in Pennsylvania before Karen’s mom took ill which caused us to reroute before last winter. If I heard Bill correctly, they have 70,000 miles on their trailer. Alaska and Ireland are among the places they have RV’d. They are the real experts around here so check out their blog for ideas. Currently they install solar systems on RV’s so if you need someone you can trust, you can find them at RV Solar Solutions. It took all of about two minutes to great one another and discuss life as good friends would.

Another “Why Moment”

In this lifestyle there are single moments that only occur because you are in a specific place at a specific moment. We have had many of what I call “why moments” as in why are we traveling fulltime in an RV? These places cause sensory overload in a good way. For example, standing in the middle of nowhere overlooking bald hilltops on the massive plains were American Indians roamed, feeling and hearing only the slight breeze while smelling the field of fresh spring flower blooms. Or looking down into the Grand Canyon for the first time which I’m still looking forward to doing. While in Sarcoxie we had a why moment. Some might consider it common. You would have had to be there with us and the four neighbors who came over to catch a glimpse to appreciate it.

One night there were several RVs arriving late to the park. Managment had the lights outside the office on which cast a beam through the branches of the trees at our nearby camping spot. The air was dead still. I happened to be sitting on a specific corner of our picnic table and looked up. This is what I saw. The Big Dipper silhouetted between two trees in full glory. Had I looked up earlier or later the scene would have changed with the earth’s rotation. Frankly, the evening sky view in Sarcoxie was often clearer than what we experienced in Montana. It might be the season or that I’m just paying more attention.

One of my favorite Pastors died a couple weeks ago. I Googled Dr. Charles Stanley’s most viewed sermons and found one among many. Twelve million have viewed Taking Control of Your Thoughts. Happiness is not found in a place; it is made from within the mind. How does that fit into the topic of why moments? Personally, I think more clearly during and after why moments, when all the bad stuff is for a moment absent from my memories and allow good thoughts to prevail. “The mind is the battlefield in every person’s life” says Dr. Stanley.

Spring Storms and RV Repairs

Spring and early summer tornados in southwest Missouri are a travel consideration just like hurricane season in Florida or south Texas. Fortunately, I spent most of my life living in Missouri and am very familiar with the weather patterns. We stayed in Tulsa Oklahoma the week we picked this RV up at the dealership in 2019. That first night was greeted with multiple tornado touchdowns in the area. To say the least, you become especially aware of storms while traveling in an RV. Karen found an excellent YouTube channel to keep up with tornado and thunderstorm reports. Rayan Hall, Ya’all YouTube does live streams and we find he forecasts tornados and serious storms well in advance of National Weather Service warnings.

One night of tornados back in 2019 when camped in Tulsa Oklahoma. They spin up near Oklahoma City and sometimes drift to northern Arkansas or southwest Missouri.

Last post I wrote about having to replace the Anderson Valve assembly in our wet bay after twisting off the hot water bypass handle when for the first time we winterized the camper before leaving it in storage for a few months. I received a new assembly under warranty, having to pay $245 in advance which was refunded by Anderson Brass Company when I shipped the damaged assembly back. There are a couple assemblies that most RVs have. Ours is all brass while some others have plastic parts which are being replaced with a new brass design. Eventually you will have a problem if you use the RV enough. The contact for warranty claims is Iris Causey at email 800-476-9876.

I used a black marker to number the water lines and location where they attach to the valve but found in our case I was able to detach one line at a time and reattach it to the new valve. There are small compression fittings inside each line where it attaches to the valve. I was able to reuse what we had. None are sent with the new valve so YouTube that to make sure you have all you need. I used plumbers’ tape although the existing valve had none. Just make sure to apply the tape in the same direction you are screwing the water line on (clockwise) and use your finger to smooth it into the threads of the valve or it will bunch up in the treads when attaching the water lines. While in the area of the basement I always check for other needed repairs. I once again replaced a connector on a hot water line that attaches to the back of the hot water heater which are prone to pipes swelling. I also taped up a gap in an air supply from the furnace as shown in the above bottom right photo.

Hints learned the hard way regarding the valves and water leaks: Exercise the handles every now and then if you don’t use them to help avoid the valve corroding up. I don’t turn these valve handles under pressure. In other words, unhook the water hose at the spigot to let off water pressure then turn the valve. I’ve got all quick disconnects for water so it’s no big deal. Get one or more water leak sensors and leave one in the basement or even under your sinks. Be afraid if you don’t already own a water leak sensor for the basement. If you are traveling a lot, any part dealing with water can be a constant concern. Buy the proper size connectors and tools to reattach pipes before you need them. Finally, I’ve shut off water at several neighbors’ campers and left a note on their door over the years after seeing water pouring out the bottom of their RVs. Shut off water at the spigot if you are going to be gone for very long.

I’m trying to leave out simpler RV tricks when writing blogs and concentrate on ones learned only after a few years of travel. Some simple tricks were fun to discover. I have been reducing the number of chemicals we haul around to save space and frustration. For example, I only use the red tacky grease and the heck with the other three or four they want you to buy. One duplicate chemical bottle I’ve kept is used to clean the BBQ grill.

The Weber grill cleaner pictured above is expensive. I like the way the soap foams when applied. So, I kept the bottle and refill it with a mixture of Dawn dish soap and water. Karen had been buying a bottle of Dawn soap which dispenses a pre-mixed foam but that was expensive as well, and I keep everything I use in the basement rather than tromping through her kitchen supplies. I foam down the grill, inside and out, then haul it over to the wet bay and use the hot water outside shower. Basic stuff for sure but maybe it will give someone else an idea.

Visiting Family and Historic Sites

I was also able to research more family history for a book I’ll be writing someday. Family settled in Southwest Missouri in 1866 after two brothers moved from Eastern Tennessee which was settled by their father in 1792. It has been wonderful to spend time in the area which I was never able to do when working or for sure not having access to an RV to live in. As I walked the same paths around town, near homesteads, graveyards, churches and schools from the 1800’s I can truly say I felt closer to those before me and the gap in time seems not so long.

In 1673 the French explored what we call Missouri. 1803 the United States purchases the area from the French as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1830 the Indian Removal Act expels Native Americans from Missouri and to this day there are no federally recognized tribes remaining in the state. Texas revolts against Mexico in 1836 and soon after the map of our country changes in a big way. Thirty years later my family makes it to what had been the great frontier.

I had a good time roaming the area near Sarcoxie hunting historical spots and places for the dog to run in open country. I also had time to explore historical locations lived in during the life of one of my favorite authors, Harold Bell Wright, whom while in the oval office President Reagan wrote the family saying Harold’s book The Printer of Udell’s changed his life as a boy, causing him to immediately ask his mother to take him to church to be baptized. A historian at the Pierce City Missouri Harold Bell Wright Museum told me Harold was known to say “don’t believe anything about me even if I wrote it.” He also said someday folks will not read his books as they become less relevant which was okay by him. Pierce City Missouri was the location of his church as a Pastor. He later moved to Tucson Arizona and made a name for himself then died in California.

The Herald Bell Wright Museum was as much about the history of the town as the author. A tornado took out many of the 1800’s buildings some time ago. While looking at the tornado display I noticed this fine person of authority dressed in uniform. He is my father, Doug Seneker.

We drove out to the countryside along narrow roads and found what locals call the Spanish Fort. Further research long ago revealed the location was actually an American Indian encampment dated between 1000 and 1500 where a tribe built earthworks piled five foot tall as a defensive wall. Then later moved on to Ohio which I would assume blazed the trail for future white settlers. In the area were graves of those white settlers. But the last grave was that of a man in recent times who kept the cemetery mowed and not forgotten.

Scattered around the area remain the old churches and schools from the 1800’s. You don’t see these around the more populated portions of the state. Long ago people tended to first settle along larger rivers then branched out to the countryside once it was safe from Indian attacks to settle there. Southwest Missouri is a ways from those rivers so the countryside was settled by Europeans long after cities formed along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

Typical 1800’s church still standing in Southwest Missouri. We have family buried here at Union Cemetary located just a rocks throw from Interstate 44. I’ll not go into detail, but my grandfather received the calling to become a minister when he was 9 years old within a similar church during his mother’s funeral. He heard the same voice with the same message at that church earlier in life. I found the remains of that old church, a dirt patch off a gravel lane, and stood in what I thought would have been the area he heard the voice from God telling him what he was to do. I never heard the voice which was disappointing but compels me to become a better person.
This will be interesting to family who read the blog. Great, Great, Great Grandfather Elijah Seneker/Schoenecker property near Mt. Vernon Missouri where house no longer stands.
Great, Great Grandfather Andrew Seneker home as of 2023.
Same house as above, Great, Great, Grandfather Andrew Seneker home with family.

Overnight RV Parking Being Built Hopefully All Over the Country

And finally; I have run across yet again two more RV parks being built this time along I 44. One is outside Rolla Missouri and the one below at the TA Truck Stop in Mt. Vernon Missouri. I hope this becomes a common thing as we are so in need of short-term RV overnight spots or places to stay when nothing else is available. The below RV/Truck Stop has full hookups, on concrete with a narrow grass area and dog park!

Sarcoxie Missouri

Assume you are wondering “why the heck are they in Sarcoxie Missouri, never heard of the place.” We arrived back from our winter condo stay in Michigan about three weeks ago. We drove directly to Joplin Missouri where we had stored the RV. A close RV park to haul the rig to is Beagle Bay RV Haven and Campground which we knew was under new ownership and was in the process of updating the campground. Second, this is a central point around which much of my family settled in the 1860’s having migrated from the Bristol Tennessee area. I’m in the process of researching for a book I intend to write. And lastly, there really is a lot to do in Southwest Missouri near the corner of four states. The view might not be Grand Canyon like but if one just wants to chill in a rural setting this is a good area. Most who come across I 44 however just stay overnight.

We usually stay at Coachlight RV Park in Carthage Missouri when in the area where we can get a weekly rate or stay for a month or more. Beagle Bay in Sarcoxie closed for more than a year so new owners could complete upgrades. They opened before the upgrades were completed and we got a monthly rate of $650 to include electricity. I have several RV repairs to complete and we needed the downtime after our stay in Michigan. It can be difficult to find a park that can piece together a spot that is vacant for a month or more without having to move sites within the park during our stay. At this point in our travels, we like to stay at least a week at each stop. The sites here are large and easy to get in and out. No need to research further if you want an overnight spot for a big rig. The I 44 interstate noise however is terrible, but we have gotten used to it. Management bought the park and are not from the area. This includes I’m thinking they have no idea there will be morel mushrooms somewhere in the 29 acres of woods they own. Lucky us as I intend to pick all the morels I can find.

Rvillage and Tiffon’s Fifth Wheel Plant Close Down

I have used Rvillage to keep track of where friends are traveling in their RVs. Rvillage is the social media site for Rvers. Today is the last day they are in business. I heard Thor bought the app a few years ago and have no idea why they are shutting it down, but assume it was competing with some other business they own. Our friends, Ray and Charlotte are on their way home from a winter stay in Arizona. They are stopping here in Missouri for a visit. Them and many others are going to be harder to keep up with now that Rvillage is gone. As a side note, Ray commented interstate 40 eastbound in Arizona is a nightmare of potholes. They saw many vehicles on the roadside with tire issues and friends they are traveling with broke a wet bolt on their suspension. That figures into our 2024 winter and spring plans, so I made a note.

Tiffon Motorhomes owns the fifth wheel division that built our 35′ Vilano as well as their higher end Beacon. Thor bought them and a few months ago decided to end production. Bob Tiffon’s grandson took over as president of the motorhome division, having started the fifth wheel division with the first Vilano built in 2015. I actually factored in financial considerations in the event Tiffon stopped building fifth wheels. Depreciation and to maybe a lesser extent, resale value, are part of the decision one has to make before selecting a fulltime RV rig. I’ve mentioned it before but will say again buying an RV from a financial perspective is a poor investment. The memories made while traveling is the reason to buy one. I don’t have as much faith in the grandson’s business abilities compared to Bob Tiffon who retired and will leave my comments with that. Years ago, when researching to buy I looked at several fifth wheels that were no longer built and if the conditions had been right, I would have no problem buying one.

Day Trips from Sarcoxie Missouri

Of course, we are spending more time with family then we ever had a chance to do while working fulltime. We have been to graveyards and landmarks relative to the family locations from the 1860’s forward. Two non-family adventures worth writing about so far are finding the Shepperd of the Hills grave and lunch at Roaring River State Park south of Caseville Missouri in the foothills of the Ozarks.

As a child my father said the book Shepphard of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright was the most read book, second only to the bible. Not sure if he was joking or not. The story is old and the book is far less read to be much of relevance. That still will not stop me from visiting the Harold Bell Wright Museum a few miles down the road in Pearce City Missouri. Most have heard Branson Missouri is a tourist town deep in the Ozarks. The book Shepphard of the Hills put Branson on the map as readers wanted to experience the place described in the book for themselves. Harold Bell Wright was a preacher and writer. At one time he moved to Mt. Vernon, Lawrence County, Missouri where he met several people whose personalities would become the characters in the fictional book. He and a guy named James M. Wood moved to an area called Mutton Hollow near present day Branson. Wright made friends with the Ross family (Old Matt in the book) whose homestead remains inside the fantastic Shepphard of the Hills attraction in Branson. Ross himself later wrote a book containing the real name of the actual Sheppard. In the book Sheppeard of the Hills, Harold Bell Wright assumes the role for himself. Ross described how the actual Shepphard (James Wood) died and where he was buried. My own father would years later form a “major case squad” of multiple historians to track all this down. I read my father’s six-inch binder containing the results of that investigation and with help from a cousin located the Sheppherd of the Hills grave in Williams Cemetery just outside Mt. Vernon Missouri. That was a fun and interesting project for the day. Now you know what few know – where the actual grave is located….

A second fun day trip was spent at Roaring River State Park. Missouri parks are fantastic and free to enter as the state has had a special conservation tax since the 1970s and invest heavily in new and existing parks. My family planned a camping get together in the park for later in the year. Sadly, we will not be taking our big rig into the park located in a narrow cap between tall hills. But we will drive over again for a visit. After nearly 17,000 miles of pulling our fifth wheel I do have the confidence to get into the park and back into a spot. It just is not worth the risk of damage.

What you are seeing in the images above is a large opening in the hill from which a massive volume of spring water feeds into a retention pool. The state releases the water both down stream at Roaring River and into a trout hatchery located at the start of that river. Folks line up on the banks to catch fish while taking in the scenery. We packed a lunch, as we always do in case we find an interesting spot to eat. I recorded a video which came out bad or you would be able to hear the roar of the river. Our dog Wyatt barked at the fish, having never seen them splash in the water at close range. What a chicken.

RV Tips

I recognize todays RV tips are somewhat common sense. In my next post I’ll write about things more involved such as repairing an RV fridge heat sensitive switch that controls the external fans and replacing a group of water valves in the wet bay area.

For the first time in five years, we had to winterize the camper for the earlier trip to Michigan. This required pumping in RV antifreeze after blowing air through the water lines and then upon return filling the freshwater tank with bleach water and rinsing to sanitize the system. I usually only sanitize the freshwater tank annually and not the actual water lines which are used on a daily basis as part of full time RVing. The assumption being the water lines are kept clean just like if you used them every day in a stick-built house. As a side note, we have a fridge with an icemaker that had to be winterized. I learned how to cycle the icemaker to pump antifreeze through it. To de-winterize I made ice a few days until the lines were clear of RV antifreeze which is not a toxic substance. On our icemaker there is a cover to remove which exposes a set of gears you can turn to cycle the unit with freshwater.

Not wanting to drain 140 gallons of water from the fresh tank onto the ground at the campsite, I use a water bandit to connect to the freshwater tank drain plug then to a garden hose. Then to a sewer hose connected to the campsite sewer drain.

I use a portable water transfer pump to draw RV antifreeze from the bottle into the RV. I use the same pump connected to a 30 gallon collapsible water bladder to add freshwater to the tank when the campground has no water outlet at the site. This is one way we can stay a full two weeks in a campground without moving the RV.

I use aluminum foil folded into a ramp/funnel to drain the hot water tank into a bucket which saves water splashing all over the inside of the water heater or making a mess under the RV. And lastly, something I discovered for the first time. The photo on the above right has a small blue arrow pointing at drops of water coming from the corner of our fifth wheel front cap. This is caused by condensation inside the cap during periods of freezing nighttime temperatures and high daytime temperatures. I drilled a small hole in the hollow trim piece to allow for better drainage. Don’t drill into the front cap itself. Just the thin trim piece.

Future Travel Plans

This spring and summer we will spend all our time making a grand tour of Missouri lakes before heading towards Texas for fall and winter. I am also researching a route out west from Texas for the 2024 spring and summer trip. More on that later. I hate booking sites more than two months out! If you are spending winter in Texas next year let me know so we can meet up. We will most likely stop for two months then travel for the remainder of the winter.

Leaving Winter Behind in Central Michigan

At no time did I ever foresee spending winter in a northern state. We are heading south on or about Saturday March 4th. That is if we can dodge the next snowstorm that is sneaking into the area, promising to upset interstate traffic.

Family and friends will want to know we are scheduled to arrive back in Joplin Missouri to pick up the RV. Camping first, for a longer period, east of town at Beagle Bay RV Haven and Campground. Karen and I agree the condo stay in Michigan has 100% re-enforced our desire to be on the road in our RV. Myself, I can’t get over how eager Karen is to return to our mobile lifestyle given during the first couple years she was not as excited as I was. As you may recall we shifted directions back in November of 2022 as Karen’s mom was ill. This caused us to miss out on a portion of our last trip out east. We don’t plan to head back east for some time but are looking forward to a trip in the southwest. Probably after next winter which will most likely be spent in south Texas. So far, we have made no plans beyond two months in the future.

Karen’s mom, Mary, has passed away. Family came to town for a graveside service. Mary did not want a formal funeral but agreed to the graveside service with family only. I’ll miss her but know we will soon meet again in Heaven. She lived 89 years. And I mean lived… She was tooling around the assisted care living facility with friends right up to the final few weeks. You know, anytime one sees family or friends could be the last time! I’m glad our final conversation had to do with comparing each other’s understanding of what it meant when Christ asked why he had been forsaken just before death on the cross.

One of the greatest honors of my lifetime was being asked to conduct Mary’s graveside service. I’ve never done that before and understood the responsibility involved. It was cold outside, and I was asked to keep it short. I passed along the words I thought Mary would appreciate which totaled 174 seconds of speech.

Religion and politics are to be avoided when RVing, or at least to be careful not to upset anyone. There will be more later in this post so be warned.

We learned a lot while here. The Hospice nurse commented folks “die the same way they live”. If someone is always upset, moody, complaining, they will go out the same way. If they are happy, concerned about others, at peace, they will go out the same way.

We got the condo fixed up and prepared for sale. The first day on the market there were seven showings and three offers. Sold fast. I mentioned the last post I’d talk about methods used to downsize the belongings. Out of abundant respect for Karens’ family, I’ll not go into much detail. The condo rules do not allow for garage or typical estate sales. Facebook Market Place worked great, the other two common online services, Craigslist and OfferUp did not. We were close to a major metropolitan area full of buyers which helped. The folks we met during the process were amazing. I wish the family could have meet a few of them, like the recently married young couple who bought a small sofa that was stored upstairs. We told them about Mary. They insisted on holding hands while praying for her and the family while standing streetside in front of the condo. In a strange way, dozens of people got to know Mary when they otherwise would have never met her.

A friend back in Kansas City Missouri finished the same process and passed along another method. In his case, the real estate agent’s wife has a company that downsizes homes for a percentage of what is sold. She told the family to take what is important to them and never look back. She has lists of buyers and schedules appointments at the house rather than having dozens attend an estate sale. Once the furnishings are gone, she cleans the place up and her husband sells the house.

Spending all this wintertime indoors has been good in one sense, even if watching too much TV exposed me to more news of the world’s crap. I’ve had more time to study. I got it figured out why folks hate each other so much and there is so much division in our country. Finally, I’m finding peace with it. NO GOD NO RULES. Some feel they are free to do whatever as there is no penalty and all that matters is the present. Why am I finding peace with it? Because it’s supposed to happen this way for the bible tells me so. Glad I’ll not be around for the final seven years when it really gets bad.

Reflecting on Mary’s passing, and the current world views have renewed an urgency to study the bible. I also had a chance to finally read 12 Years a Slave and am half finished with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Finished off a few lesser-known books as well.

For years I’ve told people and they me, you know there is a God just by looking at nature. I am interested in the topic of Intelligent Design. The specifics of the term were new to me and might be interesting to you if you have never heard it. More specifically the science behind molecular biology. Inside all of us is a permanent and original chain of DNA that sends, for lack of better words, computer code instructing amino acids how to build proteins that come together, building a person. The process involves billions of tiny machines with mechanics like a Swiss watch and having the ability to move and join to others in very specific order. I’ve oversimplified it for sure.

An example of this is flagellum. Here is a drawing of one of the flagella machines inside our bodies.

Influential scientist, even those believing in a natural process where they think we have evolved into humans agree with the process cells are made and joined. They also admit not knowing where the first came from. This includes the process they insist make up our solar system in that there was a beginning or first particle/cell of “unknown” origin. News Flash – it was God!

Good that science has figured out the mechanics of how all this work. They used the process to create many of the vaccines for Covid. mRNA vaccines are said not to alter DNA but use the same process of sending code to the body to artificially build foreign protein molecules to stimulate an adaptive immune response or in other words to teach the body to identify and destroy a pathogen such as Covid virus or cancer cells.

On another note, wish we had time to stop at a few places before leaving Michigan and on the way to Missouri. Missed the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation outside Detroit. And because we are in a hurry to get back to our life, we will pass up the Creation Museum and Ark Experience in northern Kentucky but have them on the list to visit from the RV. Time permitting, Karen wants to swing by to see Jim the Wonder Dog exhibits in Marshall Missouri located between Kansas City and Columbia.

Thanks for reading and be safe out there.

Wheels are Kinda Turning in Michigan this Winter

Our current location is Howell Michigan where we have been staying in my mother-in-law’s previously vacant condo for the past six weeks. In case you missed the update in a prior post my wife’s mom, Mary is nearing her final weeks of life. We spent the summer at various locations in Missouri and having made two prior trips to Michigan the same year, knew time was nearing when we would need to spend more time with Mary. We left the fifth wheel RV back in Joplin Missouri where I found covered storage with power to keep the batteries up ($161 a month after 10% veterans discount). My best guess is we will be back the first half of February to resume our RV lifestyle. Mary is doing as well as expected and is now under the care of Hospice and her two daughters. She is able to remain in her assisted care apartment until the end. Thank you to everyone who responded in comments wishing Mary well or have kept us in your thoughts. I’ve read the same story in many of your own blogs. This has become another thing we now have in common. Life brings about changes in the route and in our case has resulted in a number of months parked in Michigan. I’ve had more time to sit around and think than I usually have. The wheels that have been turning are inside my head rather than down the road in an RV where I prefer to be.

Lucky you, or not, I have much time to write …

Karen and our dog Wyatt attend the morning exercise class. My mother-in-law Mary is shown in the wheelchair sometime in early November.

The facility and staff of the assisted care facility are top notch. The food is restaurant quality as is the dining room. The common area of the newer facility is setup like a large home to include a movie theater, sauna, game rooms, library and more. These common areas are duplicated at the corners of the building which I found creates a family atmosphere. By that I mean Mary attends events with the same people who live at the corner of her building, developing friendships. She lives in a one-bedroom unit that opens to a common hallway. Small details make a difference such as there is a shelf and wall area outside each room where resident can decorate however they want. I can tell this personal area aids residents with memory problems how to find their decorated front door. Everyone has a panic button around their neck that can be pushed for even the smallest request. One wing of the building is for memory care issues although I’ve never been in that area that I can recall.

A husband and wife live here as well as individual elderly males and females. The Activities Director plans no less than four events a day, some including trips on the bus to local shopping and restaurants. All of which are posted in photos and video on Facebook available to loved ones outside the facility. Karen makes sure to show Mary the posts to include comments from family. Months ago, before Mary became ill, we watched a video where Mary and friends took the bus to Hell Michigan. Mary is a member of the “lunch bunch” and they decided the one bar/restaurant in Hell was the place to go. It was charming to watch the bikers from the bar escorting old ladies off the bus – which was a planned event. Sometimes we tell Mary we knew she was out with her friends to which she insists she did not go on the trip as if not wanting to admit she was enjoying her new homelife. I really do think she lies on purpose at times. We don’t correct her and just move on to another subject. If she says she wants to move back home we tell her, you live her, this is the only place people are located that can take care of you. Karen was concerned that Mary would not use her oxygen when ordered. I said no worries; I’ve seen it before. Once they get scared, they will do what is required without argument. That’s a cold statement but it is the truth. They will also move to assisted care or agree to changes when they are scared.

Allow me to put out another truth for those wanting insight. During my 30-year law enforcement career I handled death investigations, more intently so during the final half as a Detective. In the 1990’s I wrote a paper on Crime and the Elderly. Research led me to many sources of information. Any C.O.P (Constable on Patrol) whom you might ask if they know Det. Seneker will be able to tell you the most important victim class for me are the elderly. I believe society as a whole can be judged by the way they treat the elderly! This all began sadly with the wrongful death of an elderly person and from then on I was hooked with concern for them. Of all the points I’d like to make in this paragraph I think the best would cut off a common area of concern when first considering the need to force the elderly into living elsewhere. Specifically, regarding court action to revoke their decision making. Rightfully Judges consider taking away anyone’s constitutional rights a serious matter. This includes the right to live where they want, to pursue happiness, to live independently. The average person would be wrong if they think just a few facts or events would be enough evidence for a Judge to incarcerate someone into a place they don’t want to be. Yup, they have the right to fall and die on the floor at home. This is controversial in that some laws allow arrest when a person is a danger to themselves or others. But eventually those arrests end up in court or release within a specific number of hours of initial detention depending on state law. Yes, doctors can be witnesses but getting one of them to court is difficult at best. The state or county Department of Aging, or whatever it’s called in your area, is the best resource and free to call. They have experienced caseworkers. But even their testimony during a court hearing is not automatically a reason to take away someone’s constitutional rights. We are caring family members and find a way to make it work for the best and don’t rely on a Judge’s decision that will most likely never come in a timely manner.

I’m adding the details for the benefit of family and those who will find themselves or loved ones in the same position someday. I went back and edited a few details that after second thought, were maybe too personal. Life is a journey, and we all know in the last trip, “from which no man returns” is one we will have to take alone. I believe Christ is a short distance down that road to quickly great me. Until then, we will do whatever is required to make life comfortable and safe for Mary. Karen’s dad passed a long time ago as did my own parents. The wheels turn in my head reminding me however the longest relationships in life are with our siblings and extremely important. Especially after the death of a parent. By the way, I had never heard this before: “Grief is Love with No Place to Go.” I talked to others and found they already knew that phrase, adding those with the most love to give can experience the most extreme grief.

Across the hall from Mary’s apartment is where Ester lives. She sold her house and moved in here three years ago. From the first day of arrival, she took a liking to Mary and a friendship developed, although Mary sometimes thinks Ester over does it. Ester is high energy and always smiling. She loves the place and makes sure to tell everyone. The first six weeks or so, as the doctor warned, Mary considered this a temporary home and talked about moving back to her condo. We followed doctor’s orders and told Mary this is your home. You see Mary had an automobile accident earlier in 2022 which caused lasting injury. Her daughters gave her a chance to live independent for weeks but that did not work out to include Mary forgetting to take her medication or taking it all at once rather than by prescribed dosage. Mary was a Registered Nurse and when the doctor told her she must live in assisted care or a nursing home she respected his orders. I can understand her wanting to “go home” and desire to live independently. This facility is as close to that as possible. I’ll not take the time to describe the services in full detail, but they ultimately include Mary being able to pass here at her new home in the care of her family and Hospice.

Finally comes the most wonderful thing about the place in my eyes. Everything is considered to be normal here in the eyes of the staff, some of which have adopted Mary. Events considered uncommon for the young occur daily in life for the elderly. I’ll give you few examples. Mary has a stuffed dog which sometimes one has to believe she thinks is real although she says it’s not. When the staff comes to get her when she did not show up at the dining room, they remind her to bring her dog. Her friends even pet it. One lady liked to walk and the staff was conscious that every now and then they needed to turn her around to walk the other direction. Not like a “crazy” person wondering the halls of an asylum but as if the lady had physical trouble turning or lost her way. The staff opened her apartment door for her eventual return. Or there was the old guy at bingo who literally yelled bingo after every number that was called while he was paying more attention to his cell phone screen at the time. I thought to myself, hey guy yelling bingo, when you don’t have a bingo is like yelling fire in a theater. No one in the room gave it a second thought because it’s okay. Accidents happen, sometimes you need someone to push the wheelchair back to your room, professional staff who make a habit to get to know family who visit by first name, letting Wyatt wonder and greet residents who have become fond of him, pausing exercise class while someone walks back to their room for a dog treat and most of all caring that you attend events with your new friends rather than rotting away alone in your room.

Every apartment has a paved patio outside that leads to a maze of sidewalks. Good for visiting others who live on the other side of the building. Typical winter sky here in Michigan. No sunshine sucks. And for the next couple months I hate all my friends who are enjoying it in winter quarters. Not really.

Mary’s daughter Kathy makes sure Mary has everything she needs from the store as a matter of bi-weekly routine rather than as a daily event. It’s important for Mary to live alone and the kids to continue their own life as best as possible. Also, nice to know the fire department is located just down the street for ambulance trips if needed. I’ll note this because it was new to me. Mary fell last week and dumped her head. She is on hospice which she qualified for as she was expected to die within six months and agreed to no treatment for her stage four cancer. She has a do not resuscitate order and durable power attorney vested with her daughter Kathy who lives six miles away. My wife Karen got the call about the fall and resulting injury when the staff member passing out medications in the morning found Mary. The fall had just happened, and they know this because the service at the facility includes routine checks on Mary which were later increased to every hour directly after the fall. My wife Karen, who had retired from hospice work reminded the staff they are to contact the hospice nurse and there would be no automatic trip in the ambulance to the hospital. Injury or illness are at a deferent level of concern compared to someone not on hospice care. Mary turned out fine with a black eye and bruised forehead.

Rest assured there are plenty of people with experience to give advice. It may be overwhelming at first but eventually turns into a comfortable routine for all. It’s only the end of the world for one person who for a relative short time, deserves to be the center of attention. Honor thy parents! That’s one of the 10 most important things we are expected to do in life.

First Winter with Snow and Christmas Lights in Four Years

This is our first Christmas outside our RV in four years. We added a few lights to our neighbor’s Al and Linda’s collection. Al decorated to include a Christmas tree growing outside our back patio door. It snowed maybe five times in November which I understood to be unusual. This latest snowstorm started three days ago and continues. The condo complex landscape team thankfully does a great job of snow removal. Being born and raised in the lower Midwest I found a few weather terms here in Michigan to be a little alarming. First there is the lake effect snow, which Karen had described in the past. Cold air moves across the warmer Lake Michigan and dumps snow east of there. Fortunately, most of it ends near their State Capital in Lansing which is about an hour west of us. Then there is the Alberta Clipper which is extreme wind that develops in Alberta Canada and blows through here. Most alarming of all were the pink rods I found sticking up at the corners of the driveway and sidewalk one morning. A neighbor explained eventually the temperatures drop and remain below freezing for long periods of time. The snow piles up and the snow removal teams use the pink rods as a guide to where the concrete is located and keep the plow out of the yard. And what they call snow flurries here we call heavy snow in Missouri. All this aside, it is oddly nice to get the full Michigan experience as is the same in all the states we live within long enough to get to know the individual state peculiarities.

This year our Christmas tree is alive out the back door.
100% how Karen and I are feeling about the down time out of the RV. We got hitch-itch within five weeks of arrival. Even the neighbors stayed inside but up north, especially the uppers (upper peninsula) folks are living their winter sports. There is a five-mile bridge between upper and lower Michigan. We that live below the bridge are sometimes referred to as trolls.

What I’m Doing When There is Not Much to Do

I’m not bored. In my opinion boredom is another word for lazy. I’ve got plenty to do. Heck, I’ll even make work for myself if necessary. Someday I’ll mature, then go into an assisted care facility and beyond. Think I’ll take my father’s retirement advise. I’m getting up every day and doing what I want and not doing what I don’t want to do. He also said getting old sucks. Everything hurts more and less people care.

I do care to improve my mind which started the wheels turning fast, especially as chances for fun became hidden under the snow outside or parked under an RV storage awning back in Missouri.

Did I tell ya already about our friends Ray and Charlotte stopping at a nearby campground on their way to winter quarters? They live up in Traverse City Michigan. I called Ray afterwards to tell him I hate him and his sunshine down south. Jokes aside, these are special people to us just as are the many we have gotten to know while living fulltime in an RV. We know what it takes to plan a stop while enroute to a destination. They kept up with all our sudden route changes due to family stuff and we really enjoyed the visit. Sorry, no photos because I forgot to take them. I’d love to see Wyatt chasing Dixie in the high snow like they did on that sandy Atlantic beach last winter.

I have been studying the life of Benjamin Franklin. His autobiography was actually the start of a letter to his son and an incomplete work. The two were at odds before the Revolutionary War. Franklin was a loyalist at one time before the revolution and his son remained one, causing a lasting divide between the two. Thankfully they got over it. Franklin had 13 ideas of what virtues make a person more able to do good for others. He trained himself to make these virtues part of his personality. Going as far as to focus on one virtue at a time and evaluating himself at the end of each day on a chart to see how he had done. He was 69 years old, the oldest in the room, when the United States Declaration of Independence was written. By then world leaders had already valued his opinion. I appreciated one quotation which is: “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.” Again, others may already be familiar with this line of thought and I’m just a little slower learning than others or just got time to improve myself. Should have done that when I was 18. Franklin only spent two years in school. He was a reader and self-taught. His master’s degree was earned however as he could have taught the college course based on personal experience. His two doctoral degrees were awarded and earned as well.

I have done nothing in my life worth writing about as a way of being remembered by others. So, if I follow Franklin’s advice, I think I’ll have to write something worth reading. And put my name all over it as the author. I’m strongly leaning towards the story of my family from Tennessee to Missouri. Then publish the works for the purpose of genealogy and sending free copies to as many libraries or online services that will take it. That would be a way to honor my forefathers as well, especially as much of the work is completed by research they handed down and never got around to writing it up.

Back during the 2020 riots, or whatever you want to call them, I started a letter to my daughter as well. After about six pages I threw it away and never sent it. I had worked with three generations of law enforcement. The first was the 60’s cops and what came out of those experiences was often passed down from the senior officers. Then my own generation that was different and then the next and current which are way different than the others. I wanted to provide better understanding of current events and ease any worry or concern my daughter was going through regarding some attitudes towards law enforcement. I wanted to set the record straight, especially from the perspective of someone like myself who loves this country, our system of government and its ability to be modified without throwing it out and as a police officer with a strong belief the constitution is the greatest law of the land. I threw the letter out because ultimately, I did not feel qualified to write it. I felt the letter would get out and criticism would come from those who have issues with law enforcement and from cops who are currently on the job. The letter was not all about racial issues or whatever. Much of it was about hope and how over time the best decisions tend to be made.

The wheels kept turning so I took on a little more study work during the down time here in Michigan. I’ll not go much into detail because I care not to bring politics into it. I was born in 1963 and became politically aware in sixth grade. My first male teacher, Mr. Dempsy handed out a writing assignment, which as I recall was to be completed over an extended school break. He taught us how to take notes. Then we were to watch the presidential debates and take good notes to be graded later. I located Mr. Dempsy yesterday and gave him a call where he lives in Maine. Thanked him for all he had done for me and how it affected my life the past nearly 50 years. Once I was asked how I knew my police reports were a true and accurate representation of the events. I’m a good note taker is my replay – thanks to Mr. Dempsey. It was nice to have an adult conversation with him regarding what became of him and ideas he had for us as children. He did something in his life worth writing about. Or even a short video by one student which was not me.

Jeol Dempsey, born 11/24/45, my sixth grader teacher. A man worth writing about. He was 29 when he taught me at Prairie Village Elementary on the Kansas side of Kansas City. Real professional.
He lives near Cushing Maine and is now 77 years of age. He invited me to a play he had written in August. Sorry, can’t be there as we are probably heading towards the southwest before then.

I know specific events that happened during the Vietnam War, which shaped the army I joined in 1982. In the 60’s I recall not everyone had a television. So being able to watch TV at a friend’s was a big thing. I recall my grandmother crying as she watched the news about Vietnam where my uncle Richard Nelson was serving and would earn three purple hearts and the silver star. I later learned what were considered honest news reporters although some feel Walter Cronkite was wrong in his assessment of the Vietnam War. The Tet Offensive did ruin the enemy’s ability to fight due to losses. He however feared the war was unwinnable and went on national TV saying the same. So, fast forward to now and me wanting to fill in the gaps in knowledge.

So, I’ve been studying the folks that called themselves the New Left back in the 60’s and when the term New Right was coined around the same time. I have also become more familiar with the Federal Communications Commission’s policy called the Fairness Doctrine and the historical aspects.

Winston Churchill believed that if you want to look into the future, you have to study an equal amount of time from the past as both are on the same road. Seemed reasonable what is going on today that is causing hate and division started a long time ago and is molding into other forms despite someone thinking they invented any great new concept. I’ll end it there and hopefully have not disclosed which way I lean because that’s not the point. Do your own research. Why study this? To gain control of my surroundings and be able to pass along well worded advice to my daughter. I don’t want to be the crying grandparent I witnessed standing around the campfire years ago up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She said her granddaughter no longer talks to her even after grandmother promised to not talk politics. Sometimes I know my own limitations. I’m not the best communicator and I guess a little lazy in trying to convince others verbally to consider a different opinion. I’m no Benjamin Franklin.

Good thing Jesus Christ did not hate the people that disagreed with him. Guess that’s my Christmas part of the blog.

P.S – an RV thing. Got a new wheel from the manufacturer under warranty. We have had a very slow tire leak since the rig was new. Turned out to be a very tiny crack in the aluminum wheel which is common. Also ordered a new set of water valves for our wet bay because I broke off a handle when winterizing the first time. That’s replaced under warranty due to a flawed design. Got all this sent to me in Michigan while we are stopped long enough to get it. Stuff like this becomes mundane after the first year or two of fulltime RVing so don’t lose your mind, like I did when I was less experienced or at least had worse things happened to compare against.

Carthage Missouri for a Month

Carthage is located in Southwest Missouri just outside the city limits of the larger town of Joplin. Many snowbirds pass here on I 44 heading towards Oklahoma City on their way to Texas. I 49 also intersects here heading south through Fort Smith Arkansas where much has recently been done to complete I 49. There is a tunnel north of Fort Smith for those of us who wish to avoid them.

Time with Family

I noted in an earlier blog that Karen and I decided to spend more time in Missouri, the State we were both born in. Why not take advantage of this full time RV lifestyle to explore areas closer to “home” you never had time to do while working fulltime. I think advice I’ll give others when asked where to take the RV will be – closer to home to see everything you have missed. I was born in the Kansas City Missouri area where I lived for 56 years. Karen was born outside Rolla Missouri (half-way up I 44 between Springfield and St. Louis). At the time her father was in the Army stationed at Fort Leonard Wood which us Army guys refer to as Fort Lost in the Woods. Her family moved from there to Michigan. My mother-in-law hated the heat, and all wanted to be closer to their family.

My ancestors settled in Southwest Missouri having migrated from Eastern Tennessee in the 1800’s. My cousin Kathy and Stepmom Harriet invited me to one cemetery to pay our regards. Located in Jasper County is the Cave Springs Cemetery. An important spot for much of my family to include the Henry side. The nearby schoolhouse was rebuilt after the Civil War as it had been damaged during fighting. Nearby Carthage had been burnt to the ground. The war was different in this area in that it was a heavily contested boarder area. Families fought each other on both sides. It was not uncommon for Bushwackers to pay a family a visit while avoiding Home Guard Militias assembled to protect the town.

That’s me outside the historic schoolhouse at Cave Springs. On the left is a hand water pump which is reported to be directly over the cave
Ancestor Moses Duncan. They married into the Seneker family
Great Uncle Brice Henry is on the cemetery marker of civil war dead. He had joined the militia while brothers took family to Kansas to avoid Bushwackers.
Lucenda Henry was married to Brice. My cousin Kathy brought along photos of family. This is Lucenda with their child. Not too happy a face on those photos. I learned several stories to include how Lucenda was busy loading guns one day while Brice fought off 20 – 25 Bushwackers who had come to kill him as he was loyal to the Union. He survived only to have Brice killed latter in battle. I have a copy of the book titled Cave Spring Henry’s which is well formatted. I have decided to write up our family history from Tennessee to Missouri and have been researching formats for a possible book.

After the visit with family at the cemetery we had lunch in Carthage.

Mt. Vernon Missouri – Apple Butter Days at the Cabin and Family Reunion

Before traveling to Carthage from Branson Missouri, I attended our family reunion which has been held since the 1930’s. It is always located at a church the family formed on the Ozark Prairie at nearby Mt. Vernon. Karen and I will be buried there a long time from now, next to six generations of my family. The reunion took a twist during the pandemic as it was continued online. This was the first meeting in person after the covid thing ended. We talked and after next year we may hold the reunion in person every other year and online in between.

We attended the annual Mt. Vernon Apple Butter making days which is a homecoming for many. My sister Mary and I continued the family tradition of conducting living history at an 1850’s cabin, restored by my father and uncle and lived in for a 100-years by shirt-tail cousins. My father would never have allowed us to have skilled artists setup in the yard of the cabin when it is open for display. Well, he in no longer in charge and we moved on to make things more interesting for visitors. This year we had a flint napper, pioneer era broom maker with machine, blacksmith and wood carver all setup on the porch or yard. We had a special visitor as well who had been born in the cabin.

Sister Mary cooking. Remember to sit sideways at the fire so you don’t set your dress on fire. Those stones for the fireplace were disassembled during reconstruction, piled up with numbers written on them to put them back in order. The numbers wore off but fortunately a retired man was a master stone mason. With the aid of many they built two of the best fireplaces ever constructed to include six feet of concrete under the hearth stones so the fireplace will not move over time.
If you count Canada, this gentleman is an internationally known flint napper (makes arrow heads). He is originally from the area and agreed to put on a display. I was fascinated to no end by his skill and devotion to the art. He made a living traveling to shows around the country and also collected his materials from original sources. He made a knife out of volcanic rock he dug from Oregon. It was fun watching his old classmates meet up with him for presumably the first time in a lot of years.
The lady on the left was born in this cabin. Her mom visited years ago and told the story about the birth to include it was so cold that night a bucket of water froze inside the cabin. The visitor had never heard that story. She delayed a trip home out of state to be around the place although she has little memory of it.

Not Everything was About Family at this Stop in our Travels

We toured the area of Joplin which was once a lead and zinc mining town. An interesting note is that Stephen F. Austin, a founding father of Texas, moved with his family to Missouri from Virginia as his father was in the lead mining business and ore had run out at their claim in Virginia. Karen and I might be among the few Missouri people who now technically call Texas home and have visited Stephen Autin’s hometown in Virginia and purposefully traveled the landmarks in Texas as well. Although Stephen settled in the Southeast corner of Missouri known as the boot hill.

One famous person who did “settle” in Southwest Missouri was George Washington Carver. The national monument in Joplin is a well-done place with a huge museum and walking trail, much of which consists of paths made from a rubber like substance. George Washington Carver is a fascinating man and worth the read if you care to research his accomplishments. During an RV trip we had tried to visit George’s grave in Tuskegee Alabama, but the college grounds were closed because of covid at the time. Geroge’s mom was a slave and purchased at the age of 13 by Moses Carver. I did the math and at the time Moses paid the equivalent of one third the value of his farm to purchase her. Apparently, it was common for slaves to be stolen. George, his mom and sister were stolen. Moses Carver paid to have bounty hunters track them down. Sadly, only George was found and remained separated from his family forever. Moses raised him and taught him the value of education. George developed his love of plants while a child walking trails at the farm. He became a famous inventor and educator and was known for more than his discovery of how to make a living from everything made from a peanut.

George had a very high voice for a man. So cool to find video of him speaking during an internet search. Just thinking this man went from slavery to international fame. His national monument was the first for any African American in the USA.

We enjoyed walking George’s trail through the farm and contemplated the meaning of several of his quotations displayed on signs.
Wyatt earned his Bark Ranger Badge by following all the dog rules.
I was concerned upon arrival and finding three school buses in the parking lot. Turned out we enjoyed following the kids around, like here at the Moses Carver house. Park staff had set up multiple displays of pioneer crafts for the kids. Good thing our dog Wyatt likes meeting new people as the kids practically mauled him.
We know to always pack a lunch for the trail. There is always a picnic table nearby. These become memorably moments at times. Maybe not in this case, but in others the table is setup at a scenic viewpoint.

We Have Stayed in Carthage Twice Before

We have made Carthage one of two stops near family in south Missouri when in the area. We tend to stay a week or two. This time we spent five weeks. Coachlight RV Park had a reasonable monthly rate and if one decides to stay a day or week later, they will extend the monthly rate of $20 per day with full hookups and a concrete patio. In other words, if you stay a month then you pay far less than the daily or weekly rate even for a day or two extensions. It is very uncommon for RV Parks to do this.

This is a quite park and easy to get to off the interstate. There are no amenities other than it’s a favorite for RV rallies who make use of the meeting hall. The place was fully booked when I called a couple months before arriving. Great – how can I get a monthly spot when they are full. So nice the manager remembered us and said come on out, you may have to move spots, but we will fit you in. There are several large RV Dealerships in the area with the RV Park being next to one. The dealership sometimes uses spots in the park to setup rigs recently purchased. Management gave us one of those spots and never had us move. Nice to slow down and have the mail delivered from Texas and get a couple parts delivered for warranty work on our rig. We were in town for the Carthage Maple Leaf Festival which we stayed clear of because of the crowds. The fall colors were again wonderful this year.

We enjoyed the fellowship with neighbors and our good friends Dean and Cheri (Travels with Bentley Blog) drove over for a visit. The couple are a fine example of the good people you will meet while traveling fulltime in an RV. They are selling their fifth wheel and bought a nearby home. Currently they plan to downsize to a travel trailer as they still enjoy traveling at times. If it were not for our life fulltime in an RV we would not have had the chance to meet people who will surely be among our longtime friends.

First time in 20 years that we had trick or treaters for Halloween. Two bags of candy were gone quickly when the neighbors brought the kids over before departing for town. Their mom is a traveling nurse from Georgia.

We crashed a rally being held at the park. This one was a blue grass music rally where the RVers are from nearby Oklahoma. The Kansas boarder is also just a few miles away in case you want to knock out three states for your RV travel map!

When the Leaves Fall – We leave!

That’s our motto. We usually move a couple hundred miles south when fall is ending to enjoy the milder weather and get a chance to see another round of fall colors. Not this time. The RV is in storage, and we took the truck to Michigan. Karen’s mom is not doing very well, and we are staying near her for a few months. The doctors gave my mother-in-law three to six months and three have passed. I have always loved my mother-in-law. I’m thinking she does not hold me to the same standards as others because I can’t recall a single time she was not smiling when we visited and has always made a place in her home for me. We have never had a disagreement.

Found a covered storage spot with electricity in Joplin that has good security for $180 a month. Another reason to stay longer in Carthage was to find the perfect storage place. We took time to drive the route to the storage facility, sign the month-to-month contract and have management show us the easy back-in spot before we moved the RV. I also had two court trials to attend as a result of my old past job in Kansas City. Yet again both trials were postponed. These cases are from 2018 and having to setup near Kansas City or an airport is getting very old.

More on Michigan later. Yup, it has already snowed a little. Karen said she would make things fun on snow days, if you get my drift. Can’t wait for it to snow again.

This morning in Howell Michigan I found all these pink rods around everyone’s driveway and sidewalks at the condo complex. Neighbor says they are placed as markers so they know where to snowplow. Bet they were laughing if they noticed the Texas license plates on my truck. Damn, I have only begun to wish we were in Florida or Texas again for winter. Guess it’s a good thing the other neighbor has left for Arizona so we can use his driveway. My truck is two feet longer than the garage, so I’ll have to move it to the neighbors in time for the plow to catch our driveway. Damn again….

Today’s RV tip is minor but hopefully something new. Most who live fulltime in an RV give up on their black and grey tank gauges working. We are just happy not to have a sewer clog or smell. On the Vanleigh RV Owners Forum folks have been discussing the issue after a vendor attended a rally during which they offered waste tank cleaning and advice. This includes to stop using black tank treatment which turns everything to a pasty slug. They say, and we all agree, use a lot of water when flushing. They go on to suggest if the waste is suspended in water, it will exit the RV easier and even using two ply toilet paper is not an issue although I’ll not chance that. The vendor, suggests if you want to use a waste tank treatment then mix Pine-Sol with Calgon Bath Beads. Costs maybe $10 for 50 treatments of the mixture. I’m going to try this the next time we setup the RV. We have always used Happy Camper as a treatment. If you are looking for a side job while on the road, Kleen Tank can set you up as a dealer.

Branson to Pomme de Terre State Park Missouri

We had lost about five weeks during our 2022 spring and summer trips after rerouting to Michigan due to Karen needing to spend time with her aging mother. No worries, we decided why not enjoy a long stay in the state we lived in for so many years – Missouri – rather than cramming in a long trip over thousands of miles elsewhere. We had not taken advantage of the mobile lifestyle to enjoy Missouri as much as we wanted over the past three years. So, the spring/summer trips turned into short distances between southwest Missouri towns.

During the last post I wrote about our first month in Branson. We wrapped up the second month and moved to Pomme de Terre Lake State Park to spend time with family and enjoy one of our favorite lakes in rural Missouri. We then moved on to Carthage Missouri where we are now parked until November 1st while I drive on to Kansas City Missouri for a week or so regarding old work-related stuff. Our current plan was to go back to the Branson area to meet friends and more trout fishing then on to Texas via US 65 in Arkansas. However, there is a better than average chance of returning to Michigan for even a longer stay to be with Karen’s mom during her final weeks of life. And if so, we may spend much of the Michigan winter indoors while the camper stays in Missouri.

For now, this is the way our fourth year of travel begins!

Final Month in Branson Missouri – Touring North Arkansas

Yes, Branson Missouri does have a bit of carnival feel to it in terms of tourist stops such as go-cart rides, wax museums and such. We enjoy the diversity beyond the corporate sites like the Titanic Museum or Ripley’s. Two unique amusement parks showcasing the history of the place have been here for years, the Shepherd of the Hills and Silver Dollar City. Although live music shows prevail. Outdoor sports such as trout fishing, hiking in the Ozark Hills and driving across the state line to the Natural State of northern Arkansas allow for a change of pace.

Campgrounds are plentiful, located near tourist attractions a state park or the other side of Table Rock Lake in a more rural environment. Branson itself is a smaller downtown area surrounded by fulltime and seasonal homes somewhat centered between the main tourist areas, all of which are easily navigated on a well-thought-out system of roadways. Banson is an older example of Missouri history, occupied by “hillbillies” for generations with a strong belief in family values and patriotic support of our veterans. With a little planning one can spend a season of camping throughout the state of Missouri while other Rv’ers unknowingly miss it, thinking Missouri is one of the fly-over states with little to offer. Missouri was the Gateway to the West with many cultures having established themselves here before migrating westward. I encourage the reader to explore the state beyond Kansas City or St. Louis.

Downtown Branson. Resting alongside Lake Taneycomo known for trout fishing which begins at the Table Rock Lake Damn. The city run Lakeside RV Park is in the area and within walking distance of downtown.
Downtown outside the Five and Dime store which is a must visit.
Branson Landing near downtown
Hollister Missouri downtown area down the street from Branson. Hollister would be a good community to live within.
I know, not much worth posting, but a picture of a unique indoor mini-golf course indoors and out of the heat. It was attached to a restaurant my mother enjoyed during her last trip to Branson before she passed away. My sister Mary and I took a day to drive around and remember.
The main tourist area on 76 Highway. One long road that is easy to avoid (traffic) taking other routes around town.
Just throwing this in for those that know Branson. This was a unique place we had not visited before. Shrine of the Holy Spirit.

We toured communities in Northern Arkansas as well, all within an hours drive of Branson. Don’t miss Eureka Springs if you are near.

Beach at Holiday Island Arkansas, about five miles from Eureka Springs. Karen really liked the condos for sale here. This is west of Branson about an hour. Scenic drive and plenty to do in the area.
Flippin Arkansas, home of Ranger Boats. I had to stop for a photo and stick my head inside the open door to the factory. We both want to settle down near a lake after this part of our journey is done. So far either in Texas, northern Arkansas or Southern Missouri.
View of Bull Shoals Arkansas Lake. Big, quiet and scenic lake. About 10 miles outside Mountain Home Arkansas which is a remote retirement home area. This is east of Branson and no reason to really come here other than to go to the lake or retirement communities.
White River below Bull Shoals Damn Arkansas. Several damns make up a chain of lakes along the White River where my great-grandfather was a well-known sport fisherman.

Karen Finally Got to take a Fly-Fishing Trip

Last year while in Buffalo Wyoming we tried to hook up with a local guide to take a fishing trip up in the mountains. The water was so low the guides were not working. So, Karen’s bucket list item to use a fly rod had to wait. For her birthday I arranged a one-on-one trip with just her and the guide as he would also be teaching her to use a fly rod. Lake Taneycomo outside Branson is more like a wide shallow river which is cooled as water comes off deep Table Rock Lake Damn. I asked her to keep four trout which we had for dinner that night.

Girl Power!!!! Karen spent five hours with a guide learning to catch trout with a fly rod.

Moved to Pomme de Terre Lake in Central Missouri and then back south to Carthage Missouri where we are parked for five weeks.

Because we had the opportunity, we arranged a small family get together near Hermitage Missouri at Pomme de Terre State Park. My sister Mary also joined us during the two week stay in her vintage camper. My sister Donna and family came out on several occasions. Michael and his lovely wife from Branson came up for a day. Michael is a staff member at America’s Best Campground in Branson where he had stayed and became friends. Spent the $$ and bought a yearly out-of-state fishing license which paid off as the white bass ran closer to the shore at dark. I had no luck, but had fun, fishing out of the inflatable Sea Eagle kayak as well. This may be our favorite lake in Missouri although its small with little to do in town.

Site 405 Hermitage Area, Pomme de Terre Lake State Park. Missouri was first explored by the Spanish then the French settled in before selling out during the Louisiana Purchase. Pomme de Terre is “potato” in French. Someday I’d like to visit Ste. Genevieve Missouri far east from here along the Mississippi River. That’s a very old French settlement with many remaining buildings.
Full gallon of fresh fish for the wonderful fish fry we had before leaving.
We met new friends! Terri and Chris came to the lake for a short and well-deserved vacation. They have spent 30 years traveling to Pomme de Terre and told us about the local area and places to visit. Thank you for taking us out on your boat, the campfire conversation and enjoying a meal together.

Final thoughts and RV tips

As I said, we are parked in Carthage Missouri until November 1st. We will take some time to find a local RV storage just in case we have to go to Michigan over part of the winter. This has been a good town for us in the past as there is easy access back to Kansas City where I’m headed for a short time to attend court – again – as part of my prior life as a police detective. We hope to meet up with other friends while in the area.

Normal outside awning maintenance includes checking to make sure no screws have loosened nor are any wires used for lighting rubbing on anything. Found a couple places on the awning fabric that need attention at the seams.
Clear awning tape. Has held up excellent now for two months. It is also used repair tears which thankfully we have none.
Please click here if you need to buy any repair tape. Amazon gives me a small reward if anyone clicks on a link from my blog to Amazon and then buys something.
Noticed these bags used to attract and kill flies while we were parked at a horse camp years ago in South Dakota. They work very well but be warned they start to smell like a dead body after a few days so may be best to hang away from camp.

Branson Missouri – First of Two Month Stay

Branson Missouri is located 45 minutes south of Springfield Missouri off US 65. It is just north of the Arkansas border and next to Missouri’s largest lake which is Table Rock. This is part of a region called the Ozarks.

We moved into America’s Best Campground about a month ago and are enjoying the longer stay. Plenty of time to visit family, tour sites and take extended day trips across northwest and north central Arkansas through the beautiful Ozark Mountain Region. There are plenty of choices for RV campground throughout the city and I know from experience that travel from here down to Texas for winter is an easy drive. Even if your style of travel is constant moving, I’d still suggest booking a monthly stay here which for us reduced the per-night cost with electricity to about $25 on full hookups. I’ve been all over Tennesse to include destinations similar to Branson such as Chattanooga, Sevierville or Pigeon Forge. If I had to choose one to visit, it would be Branson because of the diversity of what it has to offer.

Site 112 America’s Best Campground. No problem getting a monthly spot here. The campground is managed by a family who recently bought it. Easy access to town. They are currently putting in a major internet upgrade. Leveling can sometimes be challenging but that’s to be expected when camped in the hills. Roads are paved, parking spots are gravel with a concrete patio. Monthly rate added to 50 amp metered electric charge comes out at about $25 a night which is a huge discount. I’ve seen several RVs parked near cabins scattered around the campground spending time with family who don’t own an RV. Campground staff are the best. So good, Karen, myself and sister Mary are buying pizza for the crew on a Friday when most are here.
Big storm – got to love sideways rain! Good thing the trailer weighs half again as much as the truck. My sister Mary was at another campground at the time and sheltered in her vehicle behind a bathhouse. No tornados this time of the year but the temperatures have been in in the upper 80’s or low 90’s most of this past month. You get used to it and the swimming pool is refreshing. Lots to do indoors in Branson to stay out of the heat.

Some may be unfamiliar with the Ozarks Region, so I’ll summarize what the area is. First the Ozarks are a region of the country extending to east Oklahoma, across portions of south and central Missouri, with the tallest hills and most natural areas being northern Arkansas. Geologists have a definite criterion for what they call the Ozarks. Locals call themselves Ozarkians or not, depending on family history or what the town they live in believes. The area was settled by Germans and Scotch Irish, like my family who came here in the 1850’s. Mountain music and traditions, as well as sometimes the accent in their speech and slang words are somewhat unique but similar to Tennessee where many migrated from.

The Ozark Mountain area formed millions of years ago and is older than the Rocky Mountains. Portions were uplifted from below by the earths building process and some was folded over forming mountains. Over time the area was eroded by water and wind creating hilly areas and deep valleys. Springfield Missouri remained a flat plateau. No worries about mountain driving now as they eroded down with enough remains to make the wooded forests and tall hills an interesting site to experience. Locals can’t wait for the fall colors as most of south Missouri and northern Arkansas forests remain. Here are a few of the views in the area of Branson:

As I recall, there are three larger hills when traveling between Springfield and Branson on US 65.
Several lakes were created along the White River to include Table Rock. In view is Lake Taneycomo or what I call a wide spot in the White River. Taneycomo is known for trout fishing. More on that sometime in the future. If things work out as planned, we are staying on the river part of November.

We were blessed with visits from family with more to come. My sister Lisa brought my niece and her new Class B to a campsite. My big sister Mary has been camped next to us for an extended time in her renovated 1960’s RV. It had been 10 months since we last camped in Missouri. We made a day trip to Springfield to visit a civil war battlefield and a niece in town. COVID shut down the past two organized family reunions in Mount Vernon Missouri but not this year. Although the gathering was smaller than usual, it was nice to see those who could attend. The reunion for this side of the family (Orr descendants) has been held annually since 1937.

My sister moved her rig to Old 86 Corp of Engineer Campground on Table Rock Lake. Was nice to spend the day at the campground visiting without moving our rig. We can book a spot at any National Park or Corp. of Engineer Campground at a 50% discount using our lifetime America the Beautiful Pass. Also, free admission to National Parks and Monuments for everyone in the car. Old 86 Campground is big rig friendly but there is a steep hill getting in and out for a short distance which does not stop anyone.
Old 86 Corp of Engineer Campground Table Rock Lake
Family reunion location – Ozark Prairie Church outside Mount Vernon Missouri about an hour from Branson.
Behind the church is my eventual and six generations of family burial sites. I bought six spots a few years ago. Karen and I are to be buried sideways to take up all the spots and piss off the guy that mows around tombstones as ours will be positioned sideways 🙂 As a child at the reunion I recall eating off the back of a hay wagon. Now we have an airconditioned meeting room attached to the church. Sad the new generation of kids will never know the difference.

Branson is a befitting place to spend our third anniversary of fulltime RV travel as it was one of our earliest stops after selling the house in August of 2019. Here is the post from that visit. I hinted last month we are looking at stops a little different these days. Every place may be a place we want to settle down. I’m of the opinion, based on lifes experiences, most will retire close to the grandchildren because that’s the only way they will see them with any regularity. Some may stay in an area familiar to them. We don’t have any grandchildren and prefer to be within at a few hours of driving time from family.

I lived 56 years in the Kansas City Missouri Metro area. Other than visiting our daughter I care never to set foot inside the city limits again. New journeys are my thing. I got to thinking, too deep for a shallow brain like mine I’m sure, but why bother to take these journeys when they will become a faded memory or eventually, I’ll be planted at Ozark Presbyterian Church with the rest of the family. Because life can be hard to live through. Stumbling upon joyful moments when traveling and new experiences makes life more bearable.

While stopped this month we have taken day trips between northwest and north central Arkansas looking at communities as possible places to call home someday. As well as all the towns within proximity of Table Rock Lake or Branson. So far, I’m thinking Karen and I most liked Bull Shoal or Holiday Island Arkansas. Branson would be okay if we lived in a lake environment just out of town. But not this year or maybe not even this place. There is hopefully a little more to do and see before we slow down. At this point our winter plans would be moving around Texas and are watching for any changes in Karen’s mom’s health up in Michigan.

Branson had 9.1 million visitors in 2019 compared to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park at 12.5 million or the Grand Canyon at 5.97 million the same year. That’s a lot of visitors in a town of 11,000. You might think the roads are packed. That’s not the case. The city and state have done a wonderful job building routes around congestion much of which is scenic. We attended one show, hiked, spent time at the pool and drove north 45 minutes to see a Civil War battlefield this past month. In addition to putting miles on the truck on tour through hilly roads in north Arkansas which unfortunately I have little photos of.

Site and Sound Theater – For the Story of Jesus. This is a main attraction in the area and only a couple miles from our campsite.
Had to grab this photo from the internet as none are allowed during the theatrical performance. At the stage area is the world’s largest LCD screen where video is woven into the live performance as the two-story set extends down both sides of the theater. Amazing….

After the theater – To Fall Creek Restaurant which has the most amazing catfish meals and live entertainment. We had a window view by the water. It would take a year to dine at all the places in the Branson area, many of which are unique or themed.

Two and a half mile paved walking trail from the Table Rock Dam Visitors Center, a site to see in itself, along the lake coast to the State Park. We are meeting friends from Michigan at the State Park in November when we return to Branson after a trip to central Missouri. I’d think we would walk the trail and maybe, if they want, catch a cruise on the large paddle boat docked in the same area.

Wilson’s Creek Battlefield – Springfield MO Area

Before I get into visiting Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, I’d like to thank all the readers for spending money at Cabela’s, Bass Pro, Ranger/Tracker/Triton Boats. Because all companies are owned by the same parent company headquartered in Springfield Missouri. The founding owner of Bass Pro spends the earnings creating the most unique and scenic destinations here in the Ozarks. It would take a full blog post to list the locations. And for those looking to send a child to college with zero debt you might check out the College of the Ozarks where kids work their way through school. This area is proud of its Christian values.

April 4, 1861, the first shots are fired at Fort Sumter. Just two months later a battle is held on 6/17/61 in Boonville Missouri where Union General Nathaniel Lyon moved into the area hell bent to take the state capital in Jefferson City Missouri where martial law was declared so that Missouri would not enter the Confederacy. Lyon was not very popular after a public statement when he said he would rather see every man, women and child dead in Missouri before they left the Union. It was rumored that President Lincoln stated he may not have God on his side, but he must have Missouri. Then on 7/21/61 the first major battle is fought outside Washington at the first Battle of Bull Run. Two months later on 8/10/21 the first major battle west of the Mississippi was held at Wilson’s Creek Missouri.

Caisson, or ammo wagon, for a cannon. Nice full display of all the parts. I was a member of an artillery crew for a couple years reenacting civil war battles in my youth. Fun to fire those monsters.
Asked a Ranger what was the most interesting artifact. This was John Brown’s telescope. Then Major Robert E. Lee of the United States Army hung John Brown in Virginia. Brown was part of the Bleeding Kansas activity which led to fighting between Missouri and Kansas well before the official war started. John Brown now resides in hell.
Cool hay bales wrapped in US flag.
Near here is where a great-great uncle of mine, John Essary, claimed he was one of three Confederate sharpshooters tasked with shooting down Nathanial Lyon who earned the right to be the first Union General killed in the Civil War. His army, in full retreat, left the body on the battlefield. But the Confederates gave it back for burial elsewhere – I would think so that Lyon’s evilness would not infect the ground water. My father passed on a family story which was John Essary being so upset when the Confederacy surrendered that he refused to take off his hat at the table or cut his hair for the remainder of his life. The army in Missouri was not part of the surrender and moved to Mexico, attempting but failing to reform their ranks. Don’t get me wrong, I had family fighting on both sides. I’m glad things turned out the way they did with the end of slavery and perhaps a little more focus on states’ rights.
At the end of the fence row is an original well house. There are a couple structures on the battlefield to tour as well.

Minor RV Repairs and Maintenance

And finally, as usual, a couple RV related items.

If your RV Gas/Electric refrigerator is located in a slide out, there may be ventilation fans behind it. Those not in a slide are vented above rather than out the side of the slides so don’t require fans. Don’t think ours ever worked. The fans are loud so I might run a switch inside the RV. The fans are installed to be controlled by a heat sensitive relay outside.
Ram truck and most all others I’m sure, have holes in this area near the wiper blades where water drains into the wheel well. Fulltime RVing means parking under a lot of trees and these holes get clogged, allowing water to run inside the truck onto the carpet. I drilled the holes slightly larger and make a point to keep the area clean. Problem solved after twice replacing cabin air filters that were wet and blocked the flow of ventilation where our truck AC was not working very well.

As we are parked for two months, I’ve been checking off maintenance items. I’ve got an involved list. This will save you a lot of time if drafting your own. For those who don’t have a copy, here is the most recent version. From the menu you can print or save it:

Our current plan has us leaving Branson on September 11th for central Missouri. Then back to Branson before heading south to Texas.

Tennessee to Michigan to Missouri

Here on July 20, 2022, I’m sitting at our daughter’s kitchen table in Kansas City Missouri making use of her Google Fiber internet. We took a side trip from Branson for a quick visit. It was a long road to get here beginning in Nashville Tennesse with a five-week side trip without the RV to Michigan, back to Nashville then on to Branson Missouri where we are staying for two months. Got to love it. What other lifestyle allows one to remain in a popular area or with family for as long as you want?

After the side trip to Michigan, we would begin the trip to Missouri from the north side of Nashville, we traveled I-24 into southern Kentucky. You have to watch the bridge crossings around Paducah Kentucky when towing a big RV. I suggest taking the interstate bridges and not the local highways across the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. We always try and take US 60 in Missouri beginning at Sikeston Missouri off I-55 west through the Ozarks which is a very pleasant drive all the way into Springfield Missouri. If you are traveling south from St. Louis and want to see wonderful views in south Missouri over an easy highway, I highly suggest the US 60 route which takes you through the Ozark hills and valleys beginning in Popular Bluff.

From Nashville to Howell Michigan on Family Business

“Family comes first” is a phrase I’ve heard more than once spoken by fulltime travelers. Sometimes plans got to change. I mentioned in the last post we came to Howell Michigan (45 minutes west of Detroit) as Karen’s mom moved to assisted living. She was involved in a motor vehicle crash some time ago and for the most part recovered back to her usual self. However, there was enough injury to her brain things were just not to be the same as before. Karen’s sister is an amazing person and stepped up as usual to take care of her mom. I suggested we uproot and go to Michigan; canceling travel plans we can always recreate later. So, we parked the RV at a safe lot on the north side of Nashville and drove the truck to Michigan where we ended up extending our stay for five weeks.

Karen’s mom is living in a wonderful place in a newly constructed assisted living facility with progressive care as needed. She is happy and attends almost all the buildings events meeting new friends. We can keep tabs on her as the facility post everything on Facebook for family. I’ll summarize by saying we should all be as lucky to find as wonderful final home someday. We were there for Karen’s sister, the caregiver, as well and I think we helped. We completed a goal which was to prepare her mom’s condo for sale should they need the finances. We plan to be back for an extended stay after next year’s spring RV trip. On a personal note, during the entire visit I thought of Karen’s father, Don, who passed away some time ago. I’m married into the family of course and would never want to voice my opinion during family decisions beyond what is appropriate. I thought of Don often and hoped I was doing right by him and being as respectful as possible.

The trip to Michigan turned out to have an unexpected benefit. Karen and I had not thought about it prior to arrival but spending five weeks in a sticks and bricks home was a way to judge if we missed it. In short, we were glad to be back in our “real home” later which is our RV. We did enjoy the community and visits with neighbors while in Michigan. Karen misses being part of a community and I don’t particularly enjoy route planning/driving and move days in the RV, often being happiest when we have arrived at a destination for an extended stay.

Front yard of the condo. The truck has not been parked outside a sticks and bricks for this long in the past three years.
Back yard at the condo. Who knew Michigan had birds this big this far from the lakes? These walked through every now and then.
Got lucky in being able to watch the annual balloon competition from the front yard.
Last year, one of the balloons crash landed in the street. We got to know the neighbors and the community during the five weeks stay, one provided the photo.

Michigan War Dog Memorial

I searched Atlis Obscura and found the Michigan War Dog Memorial was close to our location. The neighbor was from the area originally and had never heard of it. What a great find. Some of the messages on the various working dog tombstones was emotional. I had no idea 4,000 dogs were used during the Vietnam War and never came home. Someone that reads this blog had one of those dogs. This one is for you Russ!

Names of every dog left behind in Vietnam

Dog lovers can relate. I can’t imagine spending a year at war with a faithful dog by your side, only to step on a plane home leaving him behind.

Back to Nashville for the RV and then on to Missouri

Well, we spent as much time in Michigan as possible causing us to travel fast (for us) from Nashville to Branson Missouri. Two stops to include an over-nighter. Others I’m sure would have made the drive straight through. We missed out on a lot moving so quickly but did discover south Illinios is nothing like we imagined. We stayed near the Shawnee National Forest. The area was similar to the hills of Kentucky. Sorry for the lack of photos. Here is a link to their tourist site in case you happen to be in the area.

Our first stop was the Shawnee Forest Campground (RV Park) in Vienna Illinois.
Wyatt had a chance to chase his frisbee at Shawnee Forest Campground. We had a nice corner lot with real grass!

Then on for just one night in Willow Springs Missouri in the Ozarks. For those who know US 60 through the Missouri Ozarks many stay at the Lauria Ingalls Campground in Mansfield or the not so nice a place in Popular Bluff. Here is another option – The new Campground at Willow Springs. This used to be KOA park that set vacant for 20 years and was recently reopened. The owner is gradually making improvements.

Yup, no big mountains or shinny lakes in view, but a good place to stop for the night. If anyone is traveling through Missouri and should want travel advice, feel free to ask.

I’ve got a lot to pass along in my next post to include we finally have the urge to start looking at places as being somewhere we might want to settle down someday or not. Day trips to northwest Arkansas as well.

While we were in town a North Kansas City Police Officer was gunned down on a traffic stop. Rest in peace Officer Daniel Vasquez. You are a hero and will be missed by a community, thousands of officers and your family.

The “Secret City” – Oak Ridge Tennessee

There were three locations around the country involved in design of the atomic bomb known as the Manhattan Project. Oak Ridge Tennessee was one of those locations and still remains an area for nuclear development.

We made our way west from Bristol Tennessee on I-81, eventually picking up westbound I-40 through Knoxville. I’d been warned Knoxville traffic can be terrible. We took the interstate directly through town rather than the north loop around town. It was bearable but for sure was a crowded highway with heavy truck traffic. The hills up and down were no problem. Later we would make our way on to Nashville where we found the decent down the mountains into the Cumberland Plateau area to be no issue for the truck nor my nerves.

We stayed at the Soaring Eagle Campground west of Knoxville. Originally built in the 1970’s for campers coming to the World Fair held in Knoxville, the sites are close together and the interstate noise from nearby I-40 was terrible. But the campground is well run by the family who built it. A large tent area in the woods was not being used and offered a relaxing hike. Our dog Wyatt also had an opportunity to swim in the small lake attached to the campground.

Oak Ridge for us was not a destination stop, it just happened to be within our daily travel limit of 200 miles and showed up on our radar as a place to visit. Oak Ridge is about 75 miles from the Cumberland Gap if you care to visit there as well. I looked into staying between Oak Ridge and the Gap for day trips but decided against it for no particular reason other than we wanted to head west sooner, so we spent less time in the area.

I recommend your first stop in Oak Ridge Tennessee should be the Visitors Center located inside an old elementary school. You will find an informative children’s museum and the park office which is a single desk with an employee. Grab a map of the town which highlights the many locations scattered around as well a description of what is at each stop. Get in the car and drive to whatever looks interesting. I asked the staff to show me where the restricted access areas were located around town so I would not take any roads that led to contact with security officers. That turned out not to be an issue. We skipped most of the old buildings in town but enjoyed the drive into neighborhoods full of 1940 style homes. Unfortunately, several sites were closed such as a scenic look-out as you enter town and the city’s museum.

Inside the Children’s Museum/National Park Visitors Center. Had to use the men’s room which was the old boy’s restroom full of short stalls.
Outside the Visitor’s Center – A place to walk the dog.

Of course, the Manhattan project was secret government work to build the atomic bomb during World War 2. Oak Ridge was a small town at the time and was selected as the place to locate 30,000 employees, their families and everything they needed to live in a community such as homes, schools, shopping and churches. Along with facilities for atomic research and nuclear reactors. Existing families were relocated to quickly build a new town within the 59,000-acre area. The Atomic Heritage Foundation web site located at this link, explains it all.

After driving around, we stopped for lunch and then found the Museum of Science and Energy which can take a couple hours to see all the displays in detail.

This is an example of how sites to visit are scattered around town. I should have done more research before we arrived or at the visitor’s center in order to better select sites of interest.
This gentleman was a scientist in Oak Ridge for 30 years and answered every question less, I suppose, the top-secret stuff. He explained how at Oak Ridge today they are using a modern reactor to create nuclear energy from what was nuclear waste material.
I was surprised not to see hydrogen listed as an energy source. I suppose because it is hard to quantified what is required in terms of resources.

I am a member of the same Masonic Lodge President Truman attended. An older lodge member once told me the story about having met the President after he left office and returned to Independence Missouri (outside Kansas City). The lodge member went to see Truman at his office as the President wanted to donate money to construct a new lodge building. He wanted to thank the President for making the hard decision to drop the bombs. He was one of many on ships waiting to invade the Japanese homeland where we were expected to lose 100,000 soldiers. He thanked Truman for saving his life. The President then said had he not ordered the bombs to be dropped, he could never have faced the American people if they knew he had a chance to end the war without the cost of so many American lives. I’ll add, if you know the history, the allies had already been firebombing Japanese cities in mass which was terrible but necessary. Between 80,000 and 100,000 Japanese were killed just in Tokyo as a result of the firebombing which involves dropping incendiary bombs and starting massive firestorms as the wood cities were burnt. Wish they would have surrendered earlier.

And yes, the Oak Ridge Boys are from the area. The original band members entertained the town during World War 2.

As usual, I’ll include a tip for RV travel. In this case the best video I’ve ever seen teaching one to back up a trailer. It is worth the time to view even for experienced folks.

We are currently located in Howell Michigan (west of Detroit) visiting family. We left the 5th wheel in storage in Nashville and drove up as Karen’s mom was moving to assisted care. We are leaving in a few days, then on to Branson Missouri for the summer. Regrettably, we had to re-route and missed three meetups with RV friends in order to extend our stay in Michigan. As they say “family comes first” in this lifestyle.