Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Leaving the Lake of the Ozarks (Day 4)

Only picture needed that sums up day 4.  We were extremely lucky and thankful to get our trashy little trailer fixed and be on our way to the Land between the lakes in KY.  Only cost a couple hundred dollars and two hours out of our day.  Thank you QualityRv.

Getting a new brake assembly.  The wires were tore off the magnet on the old one causing a short.

Lake of the Ozarks Pictures (Day 3)

On day three we decided to have a chill day and just hang around the camper and go to the beach. We got up and had a morning fire and just hung out in the morning.  Everyone was a little bit irritable yet after our long day yesterday but after Becky and I got some coffee into us everything started to smooth out as usual.  Since we had the fire going we roasted hot dogs for lunch and then drove down the park road to the beach.  Everyone jumped right in but we didn't have sunscreen in our swim bag so off I went back the the car.  I took a different path then we came in on and noticed a little white sign posted to the bridge that stated SWIMMING IS NOT ADVISED.  Well what the... so I spent the time at the car and walking back to try to talk myself into it not being that bad... only twice the recommended amount of harmful Bactria... I'm sure we've swam in worse... but it wasn't working, no way I was going into that water.  I told Becky and we looked at the kids having a blast and making friends.  The data was from a few days ago so Becky checked for an update, maybe it's fine now. It rained really hard... oh says here that makes it worse.  On the site it showed a green flag on a beach right across the lake from us so we gave the kids a 15 minute warning to say good bye to their friends (and make sure to keep your heads out of the water) then off we went.  Took a little bit to get over there but once back in the water (sans poop) everyone had a blast again.  That night we got ready to head out and I tried unsuccessfully to figure out why I was getting a no connect error code on our brake controller.  The Munschs were going to need their first trip to the repair shop in the morning.

Marcus got a free tent from the bikers staying across from us.  They couldn't fit it into their pack so were going to leave it.  It smelled like booze so we made him air it out a day before playing in it. 

Hey kids remember when we let you swim in poop

Poop beach, Marcus was all in.

Kids making a hot tub at Clean beach

View of the muddy lake from clean beach

Poop or no poop, she chose not to swim

Clean beach

Becky trying out our new pocket billows for the first time. It's provided a lot of entertainment so far and is pretty handy to have around.

Last night at Lake of the Ozarks

DAY FOUR On Golden Pond. Kentucky not Maine.

When we woke up on Tuesday the breaks on the camper were still out. Dang it. As we took the treacherous road toward town, we could feel the camper pushing us down every hill (which is a lot). Once back to civilization, in a HyVee parking lot, I got on the phone to contact RV repair centers. The first guy only repaired the appliances in RVs. Kind of specialized if you ask me. The second place was crazy busy and suggested we find some fuses to replace the ones in the truckster that control the trailer stuff. I have no idea what the technical terms for any of these things are, but you get the picture.

Now in no hurry, because we thought it had to be fuses, we enjoyed coffee, donuts, and an omelet at Hyvee then mozied down to Lowes for some fuses. Of course, Lowes doesn’t have fuses, so we headed down the road to an O’Reilly store where we bought a large box of every type of fuse available. None of them made the breaks work so off we headed to the RV shop.

After quickly assessing the situation, they assured us that there was no way they could look at it until at least the next day. At this point, either my Jedi mind control or my visible and audible anxiety led the guy to pull it into the shop “for a minute to take a better look.” I don’t really care which it was, all I know is it got the job done, and within a couple of hours our camper breaks were once again functional, but, according to the technician, “Not great. You should probably trade this thing in.” The guy was awesome and went out of his way to get us back on the road toward Golden Pond, KY.

Once we were on our way, my two navigation apps and Jason’s all three disagreed. Again. I’m not sure why he’s so in love with his map app, but I think it’s terrible. It's not even online. In turn, he ceaselessly complains about how my apps (whichever I choose) take us all over the place. Whatever. We took one of my routes. It took us right through the beautiful Missouri countryside on shoulderless, hilly, racetrack roads. Some spots were reverting to gravel. I still maintained that we were saving time, even though secretly I feared for my life, sure that a deer was going spring from the forest right in front of us.

Finally, we reached The Land Between the Lakes and made our way to one of the most beautiful campsites we’ve ever had. Imediatley the boys ditched their clothes for trunks and went swimming at the beach which we have direct access to via a trail from our site. Additionally, the peninsula is home to about 250 species of birds, which sing almost non-stop. When the sun finally set we heard what sounded like a screaming goat. Being almost certain that there are in fact zero screaming goats in the area, we speculate that it may be an owl or a frog. Maybe it will scream again tonight and we can get a better look.

After a long day on the road, we ate noodles and sauce at 9 p.m. and went to bed, where we slept like dead horses.

**As a side note, we’ve repeatedly been warned about the mosquitos and urged to spray up. “The mosquitos are really bad here!!” Yes, we will use the spray, but honestly, these mosquitos are nothing compared to South Dakota mosquitos. Jason and I grew up in Aberdeen where getting carried away by the nasty little beasts was a legitimate concern. We’ve been driven to sit in cars to watch 4th of July fireworks even though we were wearing head to toe clothes drenched in mosquito spray and my dad has had the lawn professionally sprayed for mosquitos, and the association had sent its mosquito spray trucks through the roads. We are familiar with mosquitos. Much more alarming to me are the snakes and weird bugs that we are seeing. Is there a snake spray? I would feel much better if there were.    

DAY THREE “What do you mean we can’t swim at this beach?” - Sand Thrower

Finally, everyone slept in, and we lazily made our way to the beach. We set up, and Jason realized we left the sunscreen in the truck. Meanwhile, the boys swam and splashed and made a friend who liked to throw sand. In fact, sand throwing is not frowned upon here. Everyone was doing it. Moms, dads, children, grandmas. Fine, I didn’t actually see any grandmas throwing sand, but I assume they do based on the strong sand throwing tendencies of their youth. Almost as if on cue, my boys were also throwing sand. I could not take it and had to stick to my non-sand-throwing upbringing and scold my three even though the rest of the beach continued to assault each other. I got some strange looks, but come on, NOBODY like getting hit with sand. 

When Jason returned with the sunscreen, he leaned down and said, “It’s not recommended that we swim at this beach. The salmonella count is reaching a dangerous level.” Uh, what? I looked out to the boys frolicking in the water, mouths gaping out as they splashed and jumped. All I could imagine was poopy water flying into their smiling yell holes. I urged Jason to get them out of the water as I looked for a less gross beach in the area. He responded, “The damaged is probably already done. I’ll tell them we’re leaving in 15 minutes. Plus they found a friend.” “Yeah, but he’s a sand thrower,” I replied.

When Jason came back from delivering the crappy news to the boys, he said, “I told them that we can’t be swimming at this beach because of high bacteria levels. Then the sand thrower said, ‘What do you mean we can’t swim at this beach?’ I told him it was dangerous because of the level of bacteria. He and the lady behind me looked concerned.” However, no one else left the water. We proceeded to find a beach with almost no salmonella but plenty of screaming.

I am a loud person. If you do not know me, then understand, I am a yell-talker. I think it’s a mild case of voice emodulation which I passed on to all three boys. Anyway, even I was astonished at the amount of yelling happening at this beach. Babies of all ages were screaming and crying, older kids were bellowing at their parents, parents and grandmothers were screeching back. It was truly unbelievable, and I was a stay at home mom with three boys under four. We went to all kinds of ridiculous shouty places, but this was something special. I wish I could accurately relay all the super loud conversations being had, but writing won’t do them justice. It’s more of an in-person type of story.

However, there was one incident that was particularly fascinating. A woman, her mother, and her four children arrived and sat directly in front of me. The woman kept shouting at her mom that the children wouldn’t come to her because they preferred the grandmother over herself (probably because she scared them with her loud, angry voice). At one point, a little boy about 14 months old had toddled back up to the grandmother, and the mother pitched a fit. Samus, oblivious to all things around him, happened to be standing there staring into the distance. The grandmother started shouting, “Young man! Young man!” Although they were only a few feet apart, Samus had no idea she was talking to him. After the grandmother's voice took on a pitchy, frantic tone, Samus finally looked, and she said, “Young man, will you pick up this here baby and take him down to his mama?” Samus looked at her like she was completely insane. “He doesn’ bite. Jus pick him up under the arms like a cat and take him down to his mama.” Although he appeared completely freaked out, he did as he was asked and took the toddler down to his mother. Then he promptly ran away. It was a fantastic show to watch.

After swimming, we returned to the camper and Jason whipped up some delicious breakfast burritos. Wanting to get an early start, I broke down the camp as Jason messed with something to do with the camper breaks. As I finished up, I asked about the breaks. Apparently, the camper no longer had them. Ugh. It was bound to happen sometime, after traveling over 10,000 miles around the country, but it was still inconvenient. Not to mention horribly dangerous.

We went to bed with the intention to get up early to find someone to fix the breaks.   

Lake of the Ozarks Pictures (Days 1 and 2)

Here are some pictures from our trip to the Lake of the Ozarks and the first day there.  The drive down went pretty well.  Hit some real heavy wind and rain through Omaha but besides that we missed the worst of it.  Luckily we decided to stop by the Battle of Lexington site which allowed us to miss a huge storm that passed through our campground.  On the way to Lexington Becky's phone lead us on quite a journey down some backstreets to a dead end and told us to park on the road and walk.  Now being stuck on a dead-end road with the camper in tow is not my idea of fun so I was not my best self for a few minutes.  But we were able to make a u-turn at the end of the road and only drove on their grass for a few feet.  Man I was mad at Becky's phone but truthfully a sign of some sort would have helped us out tremendously.  Anyway the battlefield was interesting and we had a good time walking around and learning about the battle.  Next stop was our campground, we we stayed at Lake of the Ozarks State Park.  It was a nice park and when we pulled in we were told they were without power, which since we had a non-electric campsite wasn't a big deal.  Then they informed us that meant the water pump was out so no water, Ugh.  Since our campsite was pretty flat we just left the camper hooked up so it's be easy to pull out and fill in the morning.  At our campsite someone was parked there when we pulled in, I went to talk to them and they were in their boat on the water when the storm hit so pulled up to shore under a tree off the site.  The boat was still floating but just barely as it was full of water, they got it started and one putted away in it and the other drove off to meet him at the ramp.

The next day after we got water in the camper we decided to hit some of the sites in the area.  I had a few things in mind but nothing concrete, we ended up hitting all of them in one day.  The Ozark Cavern and the swinging bridges were the highlights.  We got home exhausted (dead horse style), we probably should have eased into our first day.

Ready for our SE Adventure.  This is the map hanging in the camper we track where we've stayed. The South-East is wide open

Walking up to the Plantation house/Hospital

On the gounds

Just pulled into our campsite

View from our campsite of the lake.

Stopped to look around before going over the main swinging bridge

Driving over it was scary.

Hiking around the Ozark Caverns waiting for our tour

Marcus pouting...  He got in trouble for running way ahead of the group.

Playing in the stream during our hike

The Castle

View from the castle

Group selfie at the castle

Natural Bridge at Ha Ha Tonka

The Spring, the amount of water flowing out of there was impressive

Now up the steps from the Spring

Had to climb 316 stairs

Lucas checking up on us

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

DAY TWO Let's do all the things in one day.

Well, Marcus continues to be the peppiest morning person I know. And he likes to pop out of bed like a scared armadillo as soon as the sun comes out, so that’s even better. I’m sure if I were a morning person this behavior wouldn’t seem so odd to me, but I am not a morning person. My peak time is between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. That’s when I really shine.

After a cinnamon roll breakfast, which I chose not to eat and subsequently got yelled at for (Jason is also not a morning person), we set out for an unknown destination. From experience, we should know that having no plan, is a bad plan, but away we went, everyone except Marcus with a scowl on their face. Fun.

Since there is no reliable internet anywhere near the Lake of the Ozarks, we had to rely on the park maps and signage. Once again we found the signage to be sketchy at best. After turning around a couple of times, we found ourselves on “The Swinging Bridges Road,” which was at best a low maintenance gravel road. But Jason had read about these rickety suspension bridges somewhere and he was jazzed that we found them. Driving here seems to take forever—even just a few miles—because of all the turns, dips, and absolutely no line of sight due to the heavy tree coverage. When we arrived at the first swinging bridge, everybody was freaking out, like we were about to go on some crazy rollercoaster that had missing bolts. Instead, we just drove our car across a rusted-up suspension bridge while all the males in the car went, “Aaa, ahh, oh my gosh!” After narrowly surviving the first bridge, we drove on to the second bridge. Now this bridge was a little more nausea inducing. First, it was at least three times as long. I could also visibly see several snapped suspension wires. However, the most concerning thing was that its weight limit was three tons. The family truckster is slightly heavier than three tons, and when you add our body weight, it doesn’t get any better. Nevertheless, Jason and I had every intention of going across the bridge, but not before Lucas had to watch Jason check the vehicle weight on the inside of the door to be satisfied we underweight. Thank goodness he didn’t know what any of the numbers meant. Jason told Luke we were 4100 pounds and we lived to tell about it.

With one of Jason’s must-see items off the list, we continued down the road, struggling to find the right roads, to the Ozark Caverns. Now these Caverns do not disappoint. They contain one of 8 known showerhead/bathtub calcite formations in the world and the only one in the United States that is open to the public. The next closest public cave that features such a formation is Bora Bora. It was absolutely magnificent!!

While the Caverns used to be filled with bats, the cave became infected with white nose disease a few years ago and killed all the bats. Consequently, we cannot enter any other cave with any of the items that we had on during our tour. So, when we go to Mammoth Cave in a few days, everyone must wear different shoes, take off jewelry, and disinfect their glasses before entering.

After having such a great time with the swinging bridges and the Caverns, we decided to press on and wrap up our site seeing at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, which according to our cave tour guide was superior to Lake of the Ozarks State Park in every possible way, “even their worst trail is better than our best trail.” If that’s not a glowing recommendation, I don’t know what is.

Even though we stopped at McDonalds and ate a nutrition-filled meal, everyone was still in rare form. Samus was in ultra-teenager mode. Marcus was in typical eight-year-old begging and whining mode (can I have… please… why not… can I have this then… turning into an endless cycle) and Lucas was being his aloof and apathetic self. Thankfully Jason and I were totally cool (well at least one of us was… it wasn’t me). We walked up to some burned down mansion that had taken on the name of The Castle. Eh. Then we, no thanks to the signs, headed down to a natural bridge, which I must say was quite impressive. This is where things should have ended. Instead, we proceeded to scramble, nearly vertically, up a sizable hill. By this time, I was completely irrational with exhaustion. But we had one more spectacular sight to see—the spring. Ironically, the path we were on, had stairs leading down to the spring. But it was 316 stairs, and I didn’t feel comfortable having a heart attack in a place with no cell service, so we hiked down the hill we were on and drove to the Spring parking lot.

I forgot to mention that Jason was trying to explain something to me while I was being irrational at the top of the hill we had just been on. Naturally, I ignored him. Then, as we hiked down to the springs, the reality of what he had been trying to explain slapped me in the face like a scared armadillo. As we walked on, I hoped that what I thought was about to happen wasn’t going to. Then we reached the spring, which was cool, but we could not get in, and I realized my enormous error in being a spazz and not listening. There before me were the stairs. This time they were going up. All 316 of them. For. The. Love. Of. Pete. We had to go up the stairs and cross the trail we had just been on to get back to the car. No amount of exertion had been saved by getting in the car and driving to another parking lot. “That’s what I was trying to tell you.” Like, from now on feed me a snack and try to explain to me again in two minutes.

We climbed the stairs, both Jason and me were like sloths as we ascended, while the boys used their youth and bound in front of us like gazelles. Still, every once in a while, my sweet Lucas would come down to see where we were and make sure we weren’t dead.

When we finally returned to the camper, we took cold showers because we were too impatient to wait for the water heater. Evidently, Marcus felt incredibly invigorated during his shower and bellowed, “I’m a man!!” 

Then we slept like dead horses. 

DAY ONE Driving to the Lake of the Ozarks or “Signage is not their strong point.”-Jason Munsch

Our goal was to embark by 5:00 a.m. We rose at 4:15 a.m., one by one, slowly but steadily. Thankfully, everything was packed the night before (or for Jason three hours before) and all we needed to do was pull on our clothes and shoes and set off down I-29. Suddenly, at 4:50 a.m. my mom started texting me pictures and was ready to have a conversation. From Iceland, where it was 9:50 a.m. I quickly shut that line of communication down. Then, after each of us ran back and forth to the house from the car to retrieve at least one hundred last minute items, we finally set off down North Oak Rd.

Unfortunately, we upset Cortona immediately, as she was adamant that we get on I-90. In fact, she wanted us to turn around until Sioux City where suddenly, in her best estimation, we were no longer on a road. It seemed we were a blue dot in a vast grey nothingness. You may wonder why we listened to her tell us to turn around through countless exits, and all I can say is that it was early and at each exit, we were sure Cortona would reroute. It sort of became a game. You may also be wondering why we needed a navigation device to tell us to drive down I-29 for hundreds of miles. That I cannot answer. In any case, Jason finally realized he had not downloaded the maps for Iowa or Nebraska. You see, we were using an old phone that was not connected to the internet and so to Cortona, Iowa and Nebraska did not exist. If the states don’t exist, you can’t drive through them. Instead, you drive through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and into Missouri. As if this leg of the trip wasn’t long enough.

While driving down the road through torrential downpours, the boys played MadLibs, with Lucas asking what an adjective was at least 12 times. Of course, they thought the stories were far more funny than they actually were, cackling and whooping as they read.

Once we reached Missouri we came across our first “first”. Dead armadillos lay at the side of the road like racoons. Apparently when armadillos get scared, they jump straight up, sometimes three to four feet, except when they hit the underneath of a car. While we wanted to see a live armadillo, we didn’t necessarily want to see it so close to the road.

Around lunch time, I thought it would be nice to stop someplace scenic and have macaroni and cheese. We settled on the site of the Battle of Lexington from the Civil War. Now I must go on a tangent. For being called “The Show Me State,” Missouri is not very traveler friendly with their signage or more lack thereof. I don’t want to stop along the highway and ask someone to show me the way to the Battle of Lexington, simply put up some signage to lead the way. You may have guessed, but we missed the exit to the Battle of Lexington and kept driving waiting for a sign. Did I mention, there’s no cell service here? Thankfully we had a trusty atlas and figured it out. When we pulled in, Jason whipped up some Mac N Cheese, which was delicious after a forty-minute detour.

The Battle site was not exactly what we had expected as all the trenches had been filled and trees covered the vast majority of the surrounding area. One thing that remained more or less the same was a plantation house converted to a hospital for the three-day battle. It was taken several times in those three days starting with the Union and ending up with the Confederacy. A lovely retired teacher (he had to be) took us on a tour of the home and described the battle along with the homes’ history. All the furniture inside was original as were many of the wall hangings. However, two wall pieces stood out. I mean they really stole the show. Take a breath, because what I am about to describe is both fascinating and disgusting. Like watching people pop cysts on the internet. So, the well-preserved decoration were wreaths made from the former owner’s dead relative’s hair, all woven together and shaped into flowers and fancied up with dried flowers. I’m pretty sure Lucas wanted to bolt when he heard it was dead people’s hair. As we continued through the house, our host pointed out large holes in the plaster where grape shot from cannons had blasted through the windows. It was incredibly intriguing. It may come as no surprise to you, but I was shocked at the end of the tour to learn that I was the only one who thought it was spectacular.        

Back on the road we quickly drove into an area that been hit hard with the passing storms. Enormous trees were uprooted and shattered. A stop light lay smashed under the repair truck which was already repairing the damage. Things did not look good. This was confirmed when we reach our campsite—no electricity, no water. Fantastic. We ended up leaving the camper hooked up so we could just pull around for water in the morning. To end the day, we ate frozen pizzas and then slept like dead horses.