The Trip of a Lifetime: Pondering from St. Louis to Kansas City

I am never closer to heaven than when I am camping and television and cell phone reception is poor or non-existent.  Camping is my time to get away to relax, read, write, and enjoy nature.  Other than contact with family, the world can do its thing without me for a few days or weeks.  However, there are drawbacks.  One drawback is poor or no cell phone reception means there is also poor or no Internet connection, and that means it is difficult to impossible to post blogs.  As a result, I have been unable to post updates for my trip as frequently as I had planned, but I am not giving up.   Whenever and wherever I find an open network or hotspot, I will add a new post, so for those of you interested, stay tuned.  After a week on the road, things are beginning to get interesting.

The worst part of traveling anywhere is getting there, and The Trip of a Lifetime has been no different.  Mile after mile of mile markers, billboards, and nondescript highway scenery slowly peeling by leaves both the butt and mind numb.  After a while, just before the wife grabs you by the shoulder and shakes you awake, even Florida Georgia Line begins to sound good on the radio.  That is scary!  FGL has never sounded good on anything.

A week ago, my wife and I, along with another couple, left home pulling twenty-four-foot travel trailers, and thanks to the two wives the trailers are literally loaded with everything but the kitchen sink.  The deal is simple; the guys drive and the ladies feed us every evening.  To some, relegating the men to driving and the women to cooking the meals is a bit sexist, and maybe it is, but we are headed “out west” where men are men and ladies with the culinary skills of our wives make happy men.  Therefore, my buddy and I drive because we want the ladies well rested at the end of a long day, so while we are leveling the campers, hooking up electricity, water, and sewer hoses, they can concentrate on the most important event of the day – the evening meal.  Honestly, there is nothing sexist about it; it’s just how things break down when camping.

This trip is by far the longest camping trip either couple has undertaken.  The most nights either of us have camped consecutively prior to this trip is five nights, but for this outing we will camp somewhere between fifty-five and sixty-five nights.  Therefore, a certain amount of stress is a given on the trip.  In addition to stretching our endurance to the max, this trip is sure to take a toll on everybody’s nerves, especially mine.  For me, the biggest stress factor is backing the camper into a campsite at the end of the day without destroying the camper.  When it comes to backing a travel trailer into a camping spot, I may be the worst “backer upper” of all time.  However, during my years of camping, I have found the perfect solution for backing a camper – pull throughs.  Pull throughs, remarkable campsites where you simply pull your rig onto the campsite – no backing required – were designed by a camping angel.  The campgrounds that get the highest ratings from me are the ones that provide these gifts from heaven.  Therefore, a major part of planning for the trip was reserving pull-through campsites, which we managed to nail down for all but a couple of the campgrounds we will be visiting.  Die hard campers might say that is cheating, but no, that is smart.  Knowing your limitations and preparing accordingly is much better than arrogantly flaunting your ineptness, especially if you are married.  Most women marry a man despite his many areas of incompetence, but that does not sanction a man to rub his wife’s nose in his ineptitude.  There is nothing more trying on a marriage than backing a travel trailer into a campsite without running over the sewer disposal or the fire pit.

When backing my camper, I do my best to refrain from dirty words, nevertheless I tend to foam at the corners of my mouth and spit vilified words through my teeth when confronted by a cantankerous trailer that refuses to understand where I want the dang thing to go.  My wife, bless her heart, tries to help, but invariably she becomes a mark for my slobber casting fits, which creates a coldness that often extends to supper and beyond.  Of course, I could resolve the whole issue, and let her back the “damn” trailer up, which she could do with little problem, but oh no, we are headed out west where men are men, and turning over the reins to a filly is not a viable option.

Another situation that can cause undue stress on a trip is being in a rush.  One of the worst things a person pulling a travel trailer can do is try to get to the destination in a hurry.  If getting to a destination quickly is a priority, take a car or better yet, take a plane, but do not take a travel trailer, motorhome, or fifth-wheel although I have witnessed quite a few motorhomes and fifth-wheels flying low.  Although there are people who pull travel trailers and fifth-wheel campers at seventy-five and eighty-five miles an hour, I am not one of them.  I am much more concerned about arriving safely than I am about getting to the campground in five hours driving eighty miles per hour as compared to six hours driving sixty or sixty-five miles per hour.  Also, I am not one of those “dice throwers” who insists on driving eight and nine-hour days to get to a destination in three days rather than four days.  I am simply not into that kind of needless stress.

It may not be cool or manly, but my friend and I decided to follow a simple travel rule – “three or three-hundred.”  This means we stop for the night by 3 p.m. or 300 miles, whichever comes first.  By following this rule, we increase our chances of arriving safely, we never worry about setting up camp after dark, and we have time to unwind and relax before hitting the road again the next day.  We have just completed the first week of our trip, and this simple rule has proven to be a deal maker for all of us.

I am pleased to say, so far, the “three or three-hundred” rule has worked well. We are fifteen hundred miles into the trip, and we are making steady progress across the United States, we are not yet drained and exhausted, and the four of us are still best friends.  One of the great things about not being in a rush to get where you are going is there is time to observe the landscape and see unique things that at a faster pace you might miss.  For example, while traveling across Missouri, I was intrigued at the pairing of firework stands and adult book/novelty stores every ten miles or so from St. Louis to Kansas City.  If I had spotted a lone firework stand or adult paraphilia store every few miles along Interstate 70, I might have thought little of it.  However, seeing firework stands and adult book stores sitting side by side every few miles started me pondering.  What do these two have in common that would cause their owners to place them side by side?  Was there a connection?  Why this combination?  Why not a bicycle shop and an adult store or a firework stand and a medical emergency facility?  What was the significance of fireworks and adult books and toys sold in the same parking lot?  Did it really matter?  I had a lot to ponder from St. Louis to Kansas City.

There is a lot of pondering time involved while driving three-hundred miles anywhere, but especially hauling a travel trailer up and down the rolling hills of Missouri.  On more than one occasion, as I passed a firework stand and adult book/novelty store sharing the same parking lot, I saw multiple motorhomes and trucks pulling travel trailers parked in the parking lot.  As I approached and passed one of these places, an elderly gentleman with a cane helped an elderly lady climb out of a super large motorhome, and the couple walked arm in arm toward the adult book store.  About ten miles down the road, I witnessed a similar event – an elderly man and woman holding a brown package walked from an adult store to the firework building next door.  What was going on?  What was the attraction of combo firework stands and XXX book stores to elderly RV (recreational vehicle) folks?  Being a trained researcher, I decided I needed to pull into one of these places and conduct a survey.  How else was I going to solve the mystery?  As soon as I flipped the turn signal, my wife slapped me on the back of my head bouncing my forehead off the steering wheel and bringing me back to my senses.  I never conducted my study, but that did not stop me from pondering as I drove Interstate 70.  By the end of the day, I was pondered out.  All I could figure was whatever those old folks were buying in the adult stores gave them reason to also buy fireworks as well.  Maybe, now I am only sharing speculative ponderings, they bought an adult novelty as the result of road fatigue or maybe, to get the hanky panky juices flowing.  If the latter was the case, maybe, they bought fireworks to celebrate if it worked.  From the number of campers parked at those places, it must have been working.

When traveling there is no telling what you might see, but I am happy to say we have finally made it to the Badlands National Park and the National Minuteman Missile Historical Site.  We spent all day visiting both today, and I am overwhelmed, especially with the underground tour of the Delta 1 mission operation center.  I have never been so proud of the young men who serve our country, and scared to death for our nation at the same time.  I’ll tell you all about it soon.  Thanks for listening!

JL

©Jack Linton, July 12, 2017

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