Life throws you curves sometimes but an unexpected curve can lead to interesting and rewarding experiences. Our unexpected adventure began when we stopped for gas at a station south of Sabetha, Kansas. The wind was horrible and the trailer and truck were bucking and vibrating. We turned around in the gas station being buffeted by wind and filled up with gas. And the truck died. No power. It was just gasping and clunking and shaking like nothing we had ever experienced before. There is no more sickening feeling than having your truck die miles from home. I resisted the urge to cry and we shut the truck down and left it to sit for a few minutes. I said a few prayers. I started it again and it fired up like nothing had happened. We gingerly began our trip again and then just a few kilometres down the road the check engine light came on. I plugged in a search for FORD and the Aberle dealership popped up 16 km away in Sabetha. We rolled into the Sabetha at noon and the nice folks at Aberle promised to look our truck over at 1:00pm when everyone came back from lunch.
While we waited we decided to walk around the town and have a look. I have a special soft spot for small midwestern towns and Sabetha did not disappoint. The first thing that attracted us was a role call honouring all the veterans from the area going all the way back to the civil war. Midwest towns tend to produce far more than their fair share of soldiers and Sabetha was no exception.
After we had our first stroll about town we headed back to the Ford dealership. The mechanic and parts person told us the truck had checked out as perfectly fine. They guessed it had probably got a dose of bad gas. It might be fine once the crappy gas had worked its way through. However, they showed us a technical bulletin on a valve that sometimes goes on trucks of our type and year that results in the truck “having a hissy fit” (so technical a term!) each time you fill it with gas. They said the truck would probably be fine. They could clear the check engine light warning and we could go on our way. However, if the light came on again we should get the valve replaced.
I asked if they could just take care of the valve now. They said they would have to order the part. They could have it delivered the next morning. They opened at 7:00am and they could have the truck fixed by 8:00am. I asked if we could boondock overnight beside their garage. They seemed a bit surprised but immediately agreed. They even said they could run an extension cord from the garage to the trailer. We decided to stay and get the new valve, just in case. They were so nice. You don’t get that kind of service in a big city. They made sure we were safely parked, hooked to power and had WIFI and offered us a vehicle in case we needed it. We declined that. They told us all the good places to eat nearby. We settled in for an unexpected night in Sabetha. Because of Misty we ended up taking several walks. We met many of the townsfolk. Everyone was interested in us and why we were stopping in Sabetha. It was like being back home in Alonsa.
We had a very pleasant evening taking long walks, a fine dinner at the Downtown Coffee restaurant and we settled in early. True to their word, by 8:00am we were back on the road and on our way to Sioux City with a new valve for under $175. The mechanic warned us again that if bad gas was involved we might have the engine light come on again and then we should stop and get the truck checked. This unexpected side trip turned out to be a wonderful learning experience meeting very nice people. Sabetha is a great little town well worth a visit. I hope we get back some day.
Big Hill Lake an Army Corps of Engineer campground that is one of the few campgrounds that is open year round this far north. The locals in the area came in and enhanced the campground by putting in sewer in about half the sites. The other thing the community did was add some lovely playground structure and a pavillion to enhance bird watching. The campground is on a major flyway north and teems with migrating birds of many species. We saw the rare and lovely red headed woodpecker, both blue and gray jays, numerous small sparrows and all night long we heard the hoot hoot of owls. On the drive into the campground the fields had large flocks of snow geese taking a break before heading north.
We had two days of peace and quiet. There were a few showers and the weather was cold and windy but it was still nice. Our neighbours told us the night before we arrived the temperature went from t-shirt weather to this heavy jacket cold overnight with severe storms and massive piles of hail. No surprise there. It is Kansas after all.
We had the nicest site up on a hill overlooking the lake. Our site was also specious with a big distance to the next campsite. There was no sign of spring blooming yet. They had done a lot of burning before our arrival so the whole place had a vague burnt smell. There is a really nice well marked path that follows the lake edge below the campsite. We enjoyed the exceptionally lovely early spring environs on the path. The trees are mixed oak, walnut and pine trees. I wish we could have been there in summer when the trees were green and full. Being an national site hubby dearest Passport America card meant we paid only $11/night. We stayed two nights. The day we left is was supposed to get warm and potentially stormy again so we moved north towards Nebraska.
We also explored the docks at the lake edge designed to make fishing easy. Dick and Misty were both fascinated by the fancy brickwork on the edge of the lake designed to reduce wave action damage.
We arrived in Cobbs Ridge to discover ourselves in the midst of the biggest collection of dirt bikes and every other sort of all terrain vehicle I have ever seen. There were noisy two wheel motorized off road bikes of every size from big ones to tiny ones with little children riding. There were huge ones with fat tires and big and small quads in every colour and form. Cobb’s Ridge is criss crossed with miles and miles of trails for these Off Road Vehicles. We have encountered National Parks with themes before but this was our first ORV hangout.The campground was packed full and it looked like we would not be able to camp. Fortunately, they had one last electric site left. We rolled in to a delightfully low fee of $7.50 a night for an electric site. It was a lovely big campsite such as you commonly get in National Forests and we enjoyed it a lot. I was worried Misty might be frightened by all of this but she absolutely loved it. In fact, she chewed through her rope and set off on a Fred-style adventure which included bombing in on a family with eight (yes eight!) off leash Golden Retreivers. The greying matriarch of the group came bounding up leading the pack, snarling, hackles raised, and I was worried I was about to see my dog get mauled but Misty did a super polite “I’m just a harmless little puppy who wants to play” grovel in front of the matriarch. I could see the old lady’s hackles drop and then suddenly Misty was the centre of nice attention by all eight dogs and she was in heaven. We let them all have a sniffy butt session and some running and then Misty went back on the leash and she was led back home.
We also found a disaster on arrival. It has happened in the past so I suppose I should have guessed but the rolling travel of route 125 had disagreed with our poor cat. He normally rides in our bed and never causes us a problem but sometimes in rolling hills….well the whole bed was a mess of cat vomit and pee and crap. Poor Klinger must had a terrible ride. My first job after arrival was to stripe the beds and drag out the washer and wash the bed linen. We were able to hang everything on our clothesline strung among the trees. It was while we were busy with clotheslines that Misty went off on her own adventure and I had to drop the clothespins and run after her. The linen was just dry before sunset.
The rest of the day, while we washed and hung sheets, was a constant roaring of these vehicles. It was a tiny bit annoying but mostly it was great fun. After three days of quiet and earnest trout fisherman it was fun to watch these super active high speed bikers. The bikers were having so much fun. Many were popping wheelies and doing tricks. The little kids on the little bikes with watchful parents carefully supervising were so cute in their miniature safety gear. What a great place for a family into off road vehicles. I enjoyed seeing families having fun and I wished I could have transported my grandsons and all the equipment they could need to join us. It would have been such great fun.
The TV was excellent in the new location and I watched an old cowboy movie and I relaxed. We both got a lot of writing done. On second day we took a long walk from the campground to a pavilion and discovered there were even more day trippers than campers. The hills echoed with the sound of off road vehicles. Everyone was happy and busy. We saw lots of riders doing complicated tricks. We saw whole brigades of quad riders out to have fun as well. Misty found the fast moving bikes intriguing and as each one passed she would lunge at them to try to follow. We did a little off leash walking when the air was quiet but it was never quiet for long.
And once again we had a grand adventure though it was completely different from anything else we had done yet.
Arkansas side of the Ozarks
We left the Norfolk Lake hatchery and started north. We went back to Mountain Home and had a Macdonald’s big breakfast (without the meat) in order to catch up on the internet. It was nice to log in and find nothing was wrong back home and the world had continued turning without our presence. It had been sweet to be disconnected from the world for three wonderful days.
We left Mountain Home and drove to Route 125 and turned north. The drive was extremely challenging with many up and down hills and sharp curves. Although it was challenging is was a real pleasure to not be on the interstate and it was fun, even pulling the trailer. This route eventually pauses at the ferry and the Arkansas/Missouri border. This is the last public ferry in Arkansas. My husband and I have a special love and ferries and we take one every chance we get. This one was a nice small ferry and the whole trip was short but great fun.
Arkansas Side of the Ozarks
We did not have a long wait and only one other RV traveled with us. Just as the ferry was about to pull out two more cars and a couple on a motorcycle joined us. It must have been so much fun to take all those curves and hills with a motorcycle. Misty was amazed to find the truck moving on the ferry even as we stood outside the truck. She spent the entire trip over the water with her head out the window taking the strange circumstance in and trying to process it with her doggy brain.
Missouri side of the Ozarks
One of the features of the Dam Quarry campground is right across the street is two fine places. First is the Dry Run Creek mobility impaired area. This is a charming little creek with small white water raid and lots of trout. The locals supporters have installed fancy ramps and docks to allow those who are mobility impaired to get into a perfect spot to do some trout fishing. The spot is obviously well appreciated because we saw several young men who were single and double amputees in wheelchairs and/or with prosthetics. I found that consideration heart warming especially since many of the young men were obviously veterans who had lost their limbs defending us. It was a fine thank you for your service.
The fish hatchery is open to the public and well worth the visit. They take water from the Dry Run creek at one end and dump it back in the creek so the fish have continuous fresh water as they grow in long runways full of fast moving water. They are about 10 inches or so when they are released. Overhead huge nets are hung to keep the herons from getting in and stuffing themselves. One of the staff told us the nets don’t always work and the herons sometimes get in anyway.
Inside the hatchery building are tiny little fingerlings (which are actually much smaller than fingers) of various sizes. Plus in one room were special hatching tanks for eggs. The hatchery produced three kinds of trout, brown, cut throut and rainbow. To me it all sounds delicious but were we warned that the fish are fed ground salmon pellets and so they taste like salmon when first released. If you want good tasting trout you have to get the fish that are longer than 10 inches and that have been eating wild food for a few weeks. Perhaps that’s why they so strongly encourage catch and release. With that curiosity stop satisfied we started our trip to our next stop, Cobb Ridge Recreation Area in the Mark Twain National Forest via a trip through the Ozarks and a ride on the last public ferry in Arkansas.
Our trip to Reelfoot was a pleasant one. We took lovely side roads that gently rolled up and down and nary an interstate in site. We rolled into Reelfoot about 3:00pm. We arrived to a shock. Our campground was mostly empty and mostly underwater. The gate had a big sign saying “Area Closed” and the red bar was down. We drive to the interpretive centre. The nice lady there called back to the campground and we were assured that there were two campsites we could take. We were told to drive around the closed sign.
True to the instructions we were soon settled into Site 39 well above the water line. The wind was ferocious and we watched big waves, like a gentle day on the Gulf Coast splashing up over the barriers. The flood water didn’t bother the birds at all. In fact several pairs of mallard ducks were happily splashing about in the nearby campsites and a great blue heron was fishing beside an RV’s electric post. We saw several blue birds and as the sun set flocks of hundreds of cormorants went overhead. It was cold overnight but not as cold as it had been.
During our day off between travels we went back to the interpretive centre. We saw historical information about the area. The lake was formed when the big earthquakes at the New Madrid fault caused so much upheaval. The bit of land we were on had risen 15 feet in a few shaking moments diverting the Mississippi and creating this huge shallow lake over what had once been a cypress forest.
The interpretive also had live animals on display. We saw live local snakes, both venomous and harmless. We saw owls and bald eagles that had been rescued and were being rehabilitated or who had been injured such that they could not be returned to the wild. We walked the quarter mile board walk that took us out over the lake. It is a strange shallow lake averaging about 5 feet in depth and yet or maybe because of it, it teems with life. The cypress trees had not put out there summer green but even so they were filled with birds, especially cardinals. The water was also full of life. In summer there are boat tours but they don’t begin until May so we had to forego that pleasure.
Each coloured ribbon represents one known path of the Mississippi as it has meandered through history.
The next morning we awoke to sunny warm weather. I took a few minutes to wash down the damaged parts of the awning and cover the little holes that had been letting the rain through and reinforce some weakened spots with clear Gorilla tape top and bottom. I then cleaned out the gutter and removed a plug of tree debris. The forecast was for a nice two days followed by a night of rain at our next stop and I felt ready for it. We left Reelfoot with regret. If the weather had been nicer and we had more time it would have been fun to stay for a whole week.
The Mississippi is broad and demanding. There are only a few places with proper bridges over it so we had to backtrack south a bit before we could cross. We ended up following Rt412 across northern Arkansas. We turned south at Mountain Home to the town of Salesview and from there to the Army Corps of Engineer campsite called Dam Quarry where we were to spend the next three days.
General Coffee State Park
We stopped at the General Coffee State Park the first night staying only one night. I regret that because the park had a very nice historical agricultural centre that would have been fun to see. We did get to see the short trail where tortoises live. It was still hot so we saw no tortoises but it was a neat walk. We were obviously tired from our time in Florida because we both went to sleep at 7:00 pm and slept through the night awakening at 7:00 am. A 12 our sleep is not that unusual for me but it is almost unheard of for hubby dearest to do that.
Standing beside a baby tree in General Coffee State Park. We’re on the tortoise trail. Misty, like most dogs, loves traveling.
General Coffee State Park had a lot of Spanish Moss. Just a bit further north on our trip and the moss vanished. We were now too far north for Spanish Moss. I was sad to say goodbye to the lovely stuff.
A perfect setting for a ghost story.
We had one misadventure. We stopped in for gas and out trailer made the usual clunk clunk as we did a tight turn. A man came up and told us he was a truck driver and he had detected something seriously wrong with our trailer because of the clunk clunk. We didn’t actually think there was a problem but we decided it was worth a check anyway. I inspected the axles and the only I could see was a little thingie was missing where we had recently replaced the four shackle bolts. There was a truck/trailer place right nearby so we pulled in. A quick inspection and a replacement of the grease fitting and we were on our way, reassured. They charged us $10. If you are ever in Pearson Georgia and and need work done, be sure to check out Four C’s Tire LLC at 915 W Albany Ave, Pearson, GA 31642. They are very nice honest folks.
Following 441 north took us straight through farmland.
From there we continued to Milledgeville where we visited with our friends and Dick’s colleague who is working on a book with him. That meant the morning working for Dick with Kalina Malyonov and then a social evening with her husband, Vlady, and I joining them. Kalina is a professor at the university in Milledgeville. They have the loveliest home. It was a real pleasure to get caught up again.
We then broke our own easy travel rules and drove 246 miles to Fort Mills to the KOA right near Charlotte North Carolina. KOAs are of a type and mostly okay but they tend to have small sites, tight crowded roads and very little space to walk a dog. The plus is they are clean, have standard good to excellent amenities and they are often near cities making them a good place to stay if you have business and don’t expect a true wilderness feel. The Fort Mill/Charlotte KOA was no exception. This KOA was undergoing renovations so it was not the nicest stay even for a KOA. The city has grown up around what was once a campground out in the country so all day long airplanes went by low overhead, sirens sounded, and traffic noise was endless. The trip to the KOA was almost entirely interstate and the closer we got to our destination the worse the traffic became. Dick then did his presentation while I stayed with Misty in the campground. Unfortunately, no great business deal was made but the visit was at least productive enough to mean progress and more work ahead for him further developing his idea. We departed Charlotte with relief and finally were able to really start our adventure. We were off to Tallulah Gorge State Park.