On October 22, 2018, we departed from our cozy cabin home in Grand Marais, MN, for a 6-month tour in our RV (a 24-Foot Unity model by Leisure Travel Vans of Winkler, Manitoba, Canada). We’ve been talking about and looking forward to this new adventure since we got the RV back in April. We were going to do all sorts of research and lay out an itinerary for the trip. However, neither of us is very good at detail planning, and before we knew it, it was time to go. So we left, without making a single lodging reservation and with only a general notion of what we might actually do, leaving our youngest son, Brian, in charge of the homestead while we’re gone.
While I might be lousy at planning, I am certainly capable of documenting things after the fact. Therefore, I’ll be posting a series of articles with brief thumbnail sketches of where we’ve been and perhaps a few pithy observations about the joys and pitfalls of this nomadic existence. Here goes my first effort.
Oct 22 (Monday): Drove to the Twin Cities, specifically Brooklyn Park, MN for brief visits with my oldest son, Matt, his wife Shaina, and our middle son, Nick. We stayed overnight in Nick’s back yard just off the alley – in RVer’s parlance we were “dry camping,” or “boondocking,” with no electricity, water, or sewer hookups.
Oct 23-24 (Tuesday, Wednesday): Drove to Pine Lake State Park in Eldora, IA, just far enough south to find a State Park campground that was still open for the season. It was a lovely little spot next to a lake, the vibrant fall colors enhanced by a bright blue sky. We shared the park with about ten other campers scattered about the hundred-plus sites. There were no operating personnel in attendance – registration and payment of the super-cheap fee was self-service only ($22 for two nights per the Senior Citizen rate for an electric RV site). The biggest surprise of all was a 9-hole golf course just a short walk from the park; naturally, I walked over and played eighteen holes on Wednesday.
Oct 25-26 (Thursday, Friday): Drove to Watkins Woolen Mill State Park in Lawson, MO, located adjacent to a historic woolen mill first established in the late 1860s. This place had attendants who drove around in little carts to greet campers and collect fees. We were lucky to find one electric RV site available for two nights – the campground was essentially full by Friday evening. Again, the fee was quite reasonable ($28 for an electric RV site for the two nights). This senior citizen discount thing is pretty cool! The bathroom and shower facilities were outstanding compared with the more spartan Iowa version. On Friday we went to visit the old woolen mill site which was very interesting and educational.
Oct 27-28 (Saturday, Sunday): Drove to Eisenhower State Park in Osage County, KS. This place had hundreds of campsites located on five or six different loops on or near a large body of water called Lake Malvern. We had the option of registering with a ranger at the office or using the self-service method. We chose the latter, because they required a Social Security Number to establish an account in the office. While the ostensible reason given was to prevent use of the facilities by people who are delinquent on child support payments, I suspected a more nefarious purpose based on my opinion of the anti-immigrant views of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. At any rate, the park was excellent, and the fee was again very reasonable ($29.50 for an RV site on the “prime” lakeside Blackjack Loop, with both electricity and water supply – discounted for late season and, you guessed it – senior citizen rate). I missed the best picture opportunity – cloudless, bright blue sky as sunlight reflected off the white feathers of a flock of birds fluttering in front of a full, shadowy moon on Sunday morning. We spent a couple of hours biking around the park on Sunday after driving to town to get groceries – and succumbing to the lure of corn dogs at a Sonic drive in, our first meal so far not prepared in the RV. The Blackjack Loop was about two-thirds full when we arrived on Saturday, but when we departed on Monday, we were the only campers left.
Oct 29-30 (Monday, Tuesday): Drove to Boiling Springs State Park in Woodward, OK. This was our longest driving day so far, roughly 5.5 hours including stops. We had our first experience with something called Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF), a consumable fluid that minimizes pollution from a diesel-powered vehicle. A warning message appeared on the dashboard stating that the DEF level had fallen to 2.5 gallons. Pat read the operator’s manual as I drove, learning that once the DEF level falls to 0.8 gallons it is only possible to start the RV 12 times. After first unsuccessfully attempting to add DEF from a pump at a truck stop (during which process I splattered DEF on various engine parts and also warped the strut that holds the hood open), we went to an auto parts store and bought a 2.5-gallon container of the stuff. Once we arrived at our RV site, I poured in the DEF and cleaned up the mess I made at the truck stop. Now we’re all set, and we will be adding another 2.5 gallons once we’ve driven 4000 more miles.
The State Park was very nice, though slightly more expensive at $40 for an RV site with water and electricity for two nights. I guess the Oklahoma senior citizen discount is a bit skimpier than the other states, or they haven’t yet enacted off-season rates (although there are more deer than people here at the campground), and/or they are attempting to raise more revenue from campers. All was forgiven, however, since there is a nice, 18-hole golf course adjacent to the park. I played 36 holes on Tuesday while Pat enjoyed hiking the nature trails. I managed to hit some excellent wood and hybrid shots but was frustrated by generally lousy iron play. At some point during this adventure, I will obtain a new set of irons to remedy this problem.
Stay tuned as the adventure continues …