It was very sad driving out of Colorado and away from friends, but we were excited about seeing some new territory and meeting up with our other (but equally awesome) friends Deb and Steve. Plus, there was a section of US-50 eastbound that was absolutely beautiful. Seriously, one of my favorite stretches of highway to date, and it was completely unexpected. We drove through these beautiful canyons with blue skies, and I was awestruck.
Sadly, as soon as we left the Rockies the landscape changed. Eastern Colorado was definitely not my favorite landscape, and that continued when we initially entered Kansas. It was pretty sparse and barren, without much to look at, so I broke out the cross stitch to keep myself entertained. Because we were on a state highway south of an interstate we also needed to be very careful of when we got fuel. There were places to stop in small towns, but the spaces in between were just large fields. And many of the small towns were really desolate, no industry, ramshackle houses, and once I even saw a closed Dollar Store. Things are pretty rough when a town can’t keep a Dollar Store going.
Eventually we made it to Deerfield Beach Campground which was a $15 a night Passport America and we were both taken aback by what we found. (Shocked is more like it. – Lee) Lots of permanent trailers, no one on staff, a small man made pond which was where the “beach” came in, and it wasn’t even clear where we should pay, if we should pay, and how much we should pay. As we drove through what was essentially an open field, with a “road” that was nothing more than ruts from vehicles driving on it, and lots of deep mud puddles, we saw a fifth wheel trailer with the entire area under the nose fenced in, and about 12 live chickens, and that was enough for us. Time to move on. So we pulled out Ultimate Campgrounds and we found a fairgrounds in Garden City, so we decided to drive a little farther and check it out. Unfortunately it was an unmanned parking lot and although there were central electric boxes we had no idea if we were even able to stay there. Some folks would have gone ahead and boondocked, but we are just not that adventurous, so we punted and looked at our Good Sam App. There was another campground in Garden City that had OK ratings, and since it was closing in on 6pm we decided to stay there.
RJ’s RV Park was not great, and definitely not worth the $30 they charged. No one was in the office when we pulled in, and several of the sites were blocked with concrete blocks because the power didn’t work. We finally pulled into one open one and Lee found the breaker was missing, so we had to really search before we could find a 50 amp site that we could fit into. It was very run down and honestly the only interesting thing about it was it was right next to a wind turbine manufacturer and we could see the various parts of giant wind turbines next door. I love wind power and had never seen on of these on the ground, so that was pretty cool, but I never would have stayed there if I had any other reasonable choice. (The picture below makes this place look like it’s something other than a complete dump. It’s a really nice camera. The place is a complete dump. – Lee)
I know that whole story was a bit of a bummer, but I actually think it’s pretty cool. There was a time when we would have been freaking out, but we truly have learned to roll with it. Letting go of needing a “perfect” site every night was a big step for us and gives us more flexibility in our travel. We could have kept driving to Dodge City for example, but Lee didn’t want to cruise through that any more than I wanted to cruise through Moab. So it was only one night and although $30 is not great our budget does allow for the occasional more expensive stay. Plus when you are just eating dinner and then going to bed, as long as you feel safe generally not much more matters.
After Garden City we headed up the freeway and got on interstate 70. Things were much more pleasant along the way and we even saw this huge, square block festival in Scott, Kansas. We would have loved to have stopped, but we weren’t sure where we could park the rig and there must have been over a thousand people there. It was nice to see a small town flourishing though and things got better as we entered the center of the state.
I was actually excited to travel through Topeka, a place I had heard about but never been, but first we stopped for the night at Lake Shawnee Campground. This was a county park (our absolute favorite kind of campground)and since it had over 100 sites I was pretty confident we could get in even on a Saturday. Thankfully this was the case, after some initial confusion at the gate. The entrance gate was actually closed and since it was self pay we weren’t sure what to do, but eventually we just drove in on the exit side. The lake was really beautiful and the place was very popular and there were several spots available although most of them were too small for us. Eventually we decided to park in spot 17 which was right on the edge of the lake. The electric box and water were on the wrong side but Lee had enough hoses and cables to make it work. It was a tight squeeze, but we were in and the view was absolutely fantastic.
It was much better than the night before and the price was right at $20 for water and 50 amp. Plus the view. You really can’t say enough about an awesome view. Yes, I know above I said it didn’t really matter if it’s just one night, but every time we do stumble across it it’s a very nice bonus. We got up bright and early and headed out because we wanted to get to Deb and Steve as early as possible. The dump station onsite by the way was one of the cleanest we have ever seen, and Lee actually said it was “lovely” which isn’t a word we associate with dump stations too often. Since it was early on the weekend we went ahead and drove through Topeka and ended up shaving 20 minutes off our drive. We also jumped on the turnpike which took us to Kansas City and although it cost $5.25 that road was fantastic, with free boondocking in the very large service plazas along the route. And there were lots of things in the east part of Kansas that I definitely want to go back for. We passed Eisenhower’s hometown where his presidential museum is, and of course have to go back and see Dodge City. So, no state sticker for us in Kansas, but we did dip our toe in the water and I made a mental list for next time when we can stop and see a few things.
Next we entered Missouri and Kansas City traffic was a little heavier but not too bad. 35 North was a very nice road and overall Missouri was much prettier than Kansas with rolling hills and more trees. The last leg of the journey went pretty quickly and in no time at all we were hitting Iowa. We headed up to Des Moines on 35 but took a detour about 45 minutes before in Osceola, took a right turn and ended up in Madison County. Yes, it was where the movie was made, and Deb and Steve chose it because there was some fun stuff to do in the area. After much searching they found walk in campsites at Pammel State Park and what a great choice. Not only was it priced right, $18 for water and electric, but we practically had the place to ourselves, only one other rig in the place. We did have to route ourselves in very specific directions though because the main entrance has a low 12 foot tunnel near it so we had to take some gravel roads to get in the back way. Truly it was incredibly sweet how much trouble they went to and although I would have been happy anywhere with them, it was nice being in such a great place.
As soon as we got there I put on a pair of shorts…it was hotter and more humid than I was used to, and we set up quickly. Then I gave Hurley a duck toy that he quickly devoured…lol. Hurley is a pit bull rescue and one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met. He single-handedly changed my opinion of pit bulls and we always love seeing him. Plus Deb keeps him in amazing shape with all the hiking they do, so I never feel guilty about slipping him snacks! Deb gave me a couple of presents she had picked up for me at a farmer’s market and I got a pumpkin, some yummy smelling goat soap, and a small loaf of pumpkin bread,it was incredibly sweet of her to think of us. I gave her some strawberry syrup I had personally made and canned in Oregon.
We were all chatting a mile a minute and getting caught up, and by 3pm we had finished setting up and had covered the basics of what had been going on with each other. Reading each others blogs and Facebook helps with that of course, but there are some stories you want to hear in person, and we hadn’t seen them since last April. Now at this point lots of people would have settled into happy hour and just chilled all night, but we all decided to go and do something. Steve works a full time job through the week and makes the most of his weekends, so we all piled in their truck and headed out to see a couple of the famous Madison County bridges. Steve and Deb also turned us onto geocaching, which is kind of an adult treasure hunt, and Lee and Steve were happily looking for geocaches near the bridges.
We all felt we had time to see one more before dinner was done (Deb and Steve were cooking a pork roast for us) so we went to a nearby city park. Turns out they moved one of the bridges to this beautiful city park and wow what a find that was. Winterset City Park is huge park, with it’s own small campground, which ran a close second in the campground choice. And the fact that there are two great campgrounds in such close proximity is a testament to what a great small town Winterset is.
We were all getting hungry, but Steve had one more surprise. I love when we can follow along with someone else’s plan once in awhile. Don’t get me wrong, I like exploring and finding new places, but it’s also great when other folks we meet up with have their own list. Different set of eyes find different things and this last place turned out to be amazing. It was in the city park and about a mile drive up a one way road, so we turned a corner and this is what we saw.
We really enjoyed it and then Deb got the idea for us to take a picture with each of us in one of the holes on the curved steps. It was truly a group effort as for the first time we figured out how to set the timer on the Iphone and Lee figured out the best place to put it. Love, Love, Love this picture and what a wonderful memory. Definitely Iowa State Sticker worthy!
We were all getting hungry, so we headed back to the campground and a yummy dinner of pork roast, asparagus, salad, and of course…..pie! We built a beautiful campfire and stayed up late talking and catching up. Once again we simply picked up where our conversation had ended back in April and it was like no time had passed. It truly amazes me how easy it is to reconnect with long-time friends and my favorite part is this allows the conversation to go from the superficial to deep, emotional subjects very quickly. We share a common interest and common problems, plus we all love each other, so they are great people to bounce things off of or simply vent. It was a great night and we are all looking forward to the John Wayne Museum tomorrow. Did I forget to mention that? Winterset, Iowa was the birthplace of John Wayne, and we are all excited about seeing the museum.
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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks You can preview the kindle version on Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes. It is also available in paperback.