I am a planner. I love to research, organize and generally plan which is a valuable skill/trait to have when organizing camping trips for a group of people.. I would say that most of my planning leads to camping trips that go off as smooth as a babies bottom. However, some times even the best laid plans can be interrupted and we experience moments that are are rocky and full of challenges! Memorial Day Weekend 2016 was one of those types of camping trips.
Our plan was to travel 275 miles one way from Kansas City to Onondaga Cave State Park in Leasburg, MO with four families, four diesel trucks pulling four campers and thirteen people. Reservations were made way back in the middle of winter (Black Friday to be exact). We knew about road construction and made alternative driving plans and secured a meeting spot. We were on our way by 9:30 a.m. Friday, May 27.
I did not plan to encounter a Non-RV Friendly WalMart:
Our first pit stop was scheduled for Sedalia, Missouri were we selected the Wal Mart to pit stop at because every RV’er knows that WalMart’s are camper friendly and we could access a variety of restrooms and businesses. What we would never have imagined is that the Wal Mart in Sedalia, Missouri is not camper friendly. They have large steel overhead barriers set at 12’6″ over every single entrance which is problematic if your fifth wheel is 13 feet. Imagine if you will: traffic backing up as you have to reverse yourself back under those overhead barriers that you nearly got stuck under. Then, imagine, if you are lucky enough to find the delivery entrance then you are left to maneuver rows of cars, pedestrians in a bustle to shop, or random stop signs strategically placed throughout the parking lot. Note to my future self: when planning a pit stop don’t make the assumption that all WalMart Shopping Centers are camper friendly.
I did not plan for us to be impacted by flooding:
We stopped for a late lunch in the small town of Freeburg, Missouri. Freeburg is half way between Jefferson City and Rolla on Highway 63. We have been making the same food stop for the past several years because the small cafe has a really big parking lot. Big enough to hold four big trucks pulling four big RV’s and still plenty of room to maneuver. Shortly after we ordered our food, cell phones began to ring with an automated message from the campground we were heading to: “The campground closed due to flooding. Our money has been refunded.”
We were homeless for the night; except we were not. We were driving around with our home on wheels with no place to park them. We we found ourselves trying to finding a place to camp late Friday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend. Thankfully the good folks at the cafe allowed us to connect to wifi and the cell phones went into overtime. By the end of our meal, we had secured four sites, in the same park, we were no longer homeless! However, we never shook the threat of flooding, it hung around us all night long. The new RV park, despite granting us refuge, warned us that the Meramec River that ran through the property was swollen to its limits and was threatening to overflow. Which would result in the flooding of the campground.
I did not plan to find a new hidden gem in the Ozarks:
Because our plans changed so drastically in such a short time, we were forced to explore outside of our state park comfort zone. We found a potential hidden gem in the making. Indian Springs Family Resort is the type of tucked away quiet place we would like to camp at again and perhaps even enjoy a canoe trip down the Merrimack River.
I did not plan that we would not be able to enter the park:
Saturday morning dawned with no more flooding. We also received word that our desired campground had reopened. Excitedly we packed up and set about moving from one location to the next. Our excitement quickly vanished when we arrived at the desired park and learned their main entrance was still flooded and we would have to access the campground via a secondary entrance. The secondary entrance consisted of a 90 degree turn with a dip between the blacktop and the entrance.
Lined up we took our turn attempting to make the difficult entry into the park. One camper made it through, the second lost a stabilizer jack, the third camper came inches from bottoming out, and the fourth camper did bottom out on the dip, losing a spare tire. After two attempts from two different directions, it became obvious to all that the fourth RV was not going to enter the park through this secondary entrance. With the assistance of a park representative, we explored potential solutions. Quickly we eliminated driving through the flood waters that blocked the main entrance (it was estimated to be 5 to 6 feet deep). The only solution left was to drive that huge fifth wheel off the side of the road and through a muddy field, I wish I would have caught that on video! Instead, let me just say, it was a sight to see.
I did not plan to meet total strangers and invite them to our campsites:
We had selected Onondaga Cave State Park because we wanted to see the caves and since we were able to get tucked away all nice like in our camping spots, cave exploring is what we wanted to do. The first cave tour we went on required a 1/3 mile hike uphill, an hour long hike inside the cave, and of course a 1/3 mile hike back down the hill. It ended up being too much for one of our friends who gracefully excused themselves for the second tour. That lead us to meeting new friends who were visiting Missouri from Rhode Island. Their son is active duty military stationed here in Missouri and was celebrating his 21st birthday. We had such a great time meeting them that we invited them back to our campsites to have a birthday adult beverage. We never planned to get a private lesson on how to play bocci ball and share many laughs with our new friends.
I never planned for the trip home to take 9 hours:
Monday afternoon as we began our travel home, a few of our friends decided to leave early. The rest of us had planned to play on Route 66 a bit before we committed to driving north. Just about the time we hit Cuba, Missouri and Historic Route 66, the text messages started. One of our friends was broken down along side the road. As we made our way over to him, our other friend texted us to let us know he was also broke down on the side of the road. Both of them were experiencing malfunctions with their turbo’s. When we reached the couple closest to us, Allen was able to diagnose that the induction hose had come off the turbo. He quickly fixed it and we were all three on the road. He called ahead to the friend who was broken down much further down the road and coached him on checking the induction hose. His had fallen off as well. Both vehicles were up and going and we were once again heading northwest towards home. However; the friend traveling with us, kept losing that induction hose and we kept stopping every 11 miles or so. When we reached Jefferson City, we pulled over and unhitched so we could go to an auto parts store for a new clamp. The new clamp did the trick and we were able to make the rest of the way home; going 60 miles an hour so as not to tempt fate.
I never planned to spend an hour at the Missouri State Highway Patrol Headquarters and locate an old friend:
The last place we lost the clamp holding the induction valve on was just outside Jefferson City. We pulled into the first place we could find that looked large enough to hold three RV’s and it was the Highway Patrol Headquarters. We camped out in their parking lot for close to an hour. They were so polite. The officers assured us they would rather we be broken down in their parking lot than on the highway. They allowed us use of their bathrooms. They even gave the kids (and maybe adults) a sleeve badge! And….I even found out that a dear friend of mine from college, whom I have long ago lost contact with, is stationed at that headquarters!
Sometimes plans do not go as planned. Life is going to throw us curve balls. The best advice I can give you is to go with it, because sometimes life will give you a moment to remember forever, introduce you with a new favorite, create new relationships, or strengthen old friendships.In the midst of challenging times you can still have a wonderful time. Memorial Weekened 2016 was just like that for us (full of unplanned events and challenges) but in reflecting back, all thirteen of us agreed, it was an amazing weekend and none of us wanted to leave Onondaga Cave State Park.