It is 2AM and once again I am up because I woke and my mind will not shut down. We were in bed last night by 8:30, accompanied by a thunderous storm that surrounded us with pouring rain and scary lightning. Our camp is heavily wooded, with tall trees surrounding the site and branches hanging above the MoHo. It was hot and steamy before the storm hit, and we had the air conditioner on during our enchilada supper until I started hearing wind and thunder over the drone of the noisy unit.
I turned it off to hear the storm, just in time for the sound of rain on the roof. It poured for a time, and the wind blew all around us, with a few branches striking the rig, but nothing big. The scariest moment was the bolt of lightning that struck so close that the light and sound were instantaneous. Very scary, and good for a shot of adrenalin. We hoped nothing would strike us or come crashing down on the rig. The storm didn’t last long but cooled the air enough that we opened all the windows and turned on the Fantastic Fan to enjoy the sounds and the fresh air.
I have been reading about our lightning-induced fire northwest of Grants Pass for the last few days. A fire that started with a strike and has now grown to more than 10,000 acres because it is burning nearly impossible terrain along the wild and scenic Rogue River. As I watched our thunderstorm last night here in Kentucky, I was grateful that here the lightning is less likely to start fires. Everything is wet, damp, green, and lush. I can imagine that starting a campfire would take some effort even with fire starter and dry wood.
The humidity is hovering near 100 percent, and even with the somewhat cool air at this early hour, everything seems damp. The bedding is damp and clingy, and my skin feels dewy. Mo and I have been laughing a lot the last couple of days, one reason being that we are watching our wrinkly skin smooth out in the humid air. High humidity takes ten years off an old face!
But I digress. I am accompanied by the sound of thunder as I write, but the power is still on and the night air is soothing. The rain is pounding on the roof and drowning out the sound of night frogs and insects.
Let me return to Sunday morning when we departed the fresh and lovely Arrow Rock State Park to continue eastward.
Sunday 8-28 2022 Arrow Rock MO to Henderson KY 299 miles
When we woke on Sunday morning, the early light coming through the trees was gorgeous. Summer rain is so rare in Grants Pass that I forget how refreshing a summer storm can be. The shades of green and the lushness of the landscape is so different from anything out west. Even the cool and damp Oregon coast doesn’t have this many shades of lush green.
Something about the gentleness of our travel days and the beauty of this park reached a deep place for both of us. We found we were laughing more at silly things. When Mo woke up, we chatted a bit before getting up and she said something I haven’t heard her say in a long time, if ever. “I feel elated! I finally feel like I am really on a vacation, an enjoyable vacation, and I am not stressed anymore and it feels wonderful.” “Elated” was the perfect word for how we felt as we enjoyed our morning travel preparations and were on the road by 8.
Our side route from Arrow Rock on Highway 41 meandered through this lush landscape, intersecting our eastward route on I-70 toward St Louis in just 12 miles.
Not long ago, I read a favorite blogger’s story about their time in St Louis. I was especially enthralled by her description of their visit to Gateway Arch National Park. I have traveled along I-70 through St Louis, but it has been many years ago, and only remember seeing the arch from a distance. We were close, it was a Sunday morning, how difficult could it be?
I programmed Google Girl to take us directly to the National Park, adjacent to I-70 on the west side of the Mississippi River. I wasn’t troubled that she wasn’t talking to me, realizing that I had turned up the phone volume but had neglected to go to the actual settings and turn up the media volume. Again, I thought, how hard can it be? The route goes right by the park and being a National Park I was sure there would be big signs proclaiming the proper exit and pointing to the big parking areas I expect at a national park.
There are many highways intersecting by the park, and without google girl’s voice telling me what to do, I managed to miss the right exit and found myself traveling south away from downtown St Louis. Oops. Mo said to try the next exit, Arsenal Street. I pulled off, and we found ourselves in a neighborhood that at any other time we would have loved to visit. Of course, I have no photos. I was driving. And no, Gaelyn, I don’t take photos while driving, although if I were alone as you are, I would be tempted. But not in a St Louis neighborhood.
Here is a link to the Benton Park neighborhood gallery in St Louis.
The brick buildings were old and historic but the streets were clean and the shops looked interesting and creative. I crossed over the freeway and found a place to pull over and try to navigate back to the park. This time Google Girl was speaking properly, and led us to another exit, right downtown, right next to the park.
But my visions of a nice big parking lot were pretty stupid in light of what was actually there. Of course there is no parking for a motorhome towing a car in tight, downtown St Louis. We drove past the park, trying to figure out where to go and what to do next. After being routed around several downtown blocks and one way streets, I gave up and ended up on a road that looked like a bit vacant lot called 9th street. Again, no photos.
By this time Mo and I were getting a bit short with each other. Is that an understatement? Maybe. Finally, we came to the conclusion that actually visitng the arch wasn’t going to happen. Once again I programmed Google Girl to get us out of town, and across the Mississippi River. Mo said, “It’s time for me to drive and you to navigate”. OK. Sounds good to me.
Within minutes we were on the bridge crossing the Mississippi River with the shining stainless steel arch behind us. Here is my only photo of Gateway Arch. Look closely and you will see in on the right through the bridge supports.
I wrote to Laurel, “Raven and Chickadee”, who is a faithful reader and a truly great writer, and asked if she minded if I shared her post about the Gateway Arch and St Louis. This is a beautiful read, and maybe if you check it out you will understand why I wanted to visit Gateway Arch in person.
Laurel's Post about Gateway Arch
The drive from St Louis, Missouri to Evansville, Indiana was easy. The interstate was in good condition and there was little traffic on this late summer Sunday. We crossed the great Ohio River at Evansville and arrived at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, Kentucky around 3:30 in the afternoon.
It has been 12 years since we camped at this park, but my memories of the magnificent hardwoods throughout the park are what helped me choose this location for our overnight stop on our way east. The campground was nearly empty, but the camp host told us we were lucky to get a spot since the park had been completely full over the weekend. Something about a big hot rod rally. That explained why we had seen so many restored cars of all kinds traveling on the freeway through Indiana.
Setting up quickly, we turned on the air for Mattie and took the car up the hill to the John James Audubon museum. We had an hour. I knew that I wanted to once again remind myself of the history of the place, and view the stunning art on display. Protected under glass cases are the “elephant folio” books that were printed from engravings, completed in Europe in 1828. Pictures don’t come close to the beauty of Audubon’s paintings. Viewing even one page at a time is a delight. They change the open pages on a regular basis, with only a few actually visible at one time.
The story of Audubon's life and work is wondrous. His wife Lucy was his treasure and supported his art and work throughout his life. Rather than attempting to recreate this information (difficult to do with plagiarizing), I am including several links that are worth reading. Especially if you are a bird person I would highly recommend finding a good cup of coffee and spending some time visiting these links about the double elephant folio.
Sotheby's Article on the Double Elephant Folio
Birds of America Auction at 9 million
Monday August 29 Henderson, KY to Salt Lick, KY
The night was hot and humid and we couldn’t turn off the air until 5 in the morning. It isn’t fun sleeping with the constant noise but is more fun than sleeping in 90 degrees and close to 90 percent humidity. Welcome to Kentucky!
The shower house at Audubon State Park is pristine, with huge showers and big wide rain shower heads that deliver all the clean, hot water you could possibly desire for as long as you want. I sat under that shower for a very long time before returning to cook breakfast while Mo had her turn at the wonderful shower.
The night before, we had scoped out our route, chosen where we wanted to fuel the rig and were ready to continue east. I wanted to avoid Louisville on I-70, deciding that taking the slightly longer route on the Audubon Parkway would be worth the extra distance. There was a bit of confusion about whether or not the parkway was a toll road, but some research showed that the toll booths had been removed a few years ago.
We fueled the rig and then attempted to follow the route I had programmed into Google Girl. She did have a mind of her own, however, and kept trying to take us back north toward I-64. I still have yet to figure out how to tell that smart-aleck girl to please shut up and do what I ask. Google Maps is getting more and more infuriating with their constant interference with what I want. “I have a better route, would you like to accept that?” Sometimes she doesn’t even ask and re-routes me without giving me a clue why I am suddenly turning north when I know I am supposed to be going east and southeast.
After just 24 miles of the smooth, almost traffic-free Audubon Parkway, I finally gave up and let Google Girl lead me back to I-64, crossing through a part of Indiana I never imagined. All along the highway the forest was thick and green, with huge trees of many varieties and colors covering the hills. I think maybe in Indiana they call them mountains, but they are gentle and rolling, and more beautiful than I ever imagined.
As we approached the Ohio River and the boundary between Indiana and Kentucky, we saw signs about toll bridges coming up. This time traffic was light, and Google Girl actually did a very good job of leading us through the freeway interchanges near downtown Louisville and continuing east on I-64. The only toll bridge was the one we didn’t need to cross, going back over the Ohio River toward Cincinnatiwide-open. Smooth Sailing!
With our research from the previous night, we determined that fueling in Winchester, just west of Lexington, was our best bet. There was a Kroger station there and a big Kroger store. Kroger is the owner of the Fred Meyer grocery store where I shop in Grants Pass, and we have a rewards card that saves us at least 3 cents per gallon and sometimes a lot more depending on what I have spent at the store.
Google Girl told us where to exit, but then she got very confused and led us in circles in tiny neighborhoods and short streets, ending in an alley that was supposed to be Kroger. Once again, Mo and I were struggling to not snap at each other…not always succeeding. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to park on the tiny streets. I finally found a parking lot, and shut google girl down completely, deleting our entire planned route and asking where the heck was the Kroger store. Of course. The route opened up and sure enough took us down the main highway to the big store. It is located on a hill, and there is a Speedway station right where we thought we were supposed to find a Kroger station.
I pulled in thinking maybe this Fred Meyer/Kroger store used the Speedway stations the same way Albertson’s does back home. We fueled, but the Freddie’s card didn’t work, so we got no discount. Driving around the station to park in the Kroger parking lot, we saw the giant Kroger station just around the corner. Sheesh!!
There was plenty of room to park the MoHo, and I braved the heat and humidity to go shopping for some fresh food to add to our stash of homemade frozen stuff. I was surprised to find so little produce in the store. It was a huge store, but I did manage to get a couple of packaged salads, and some fruit and yogurt. Thinking about it later, I realized that most produce in the US comes from the west, California especially, and even in all this farm country they must have to truck it in from a long distance. The packaged salads I bought were two bucks more than what I buy at home. If people who live in Kentucky eat a lot of produce, it must come from their own gardens and farm stands. We only saw one produce stand throughout the day, one lonely farm stand among the miles and miles of corn, soybeans, and some tobacco. Big Corporate Farms have taken over the country.
The drive from the interstate to Zilpo Campground on Cave Run Lake was a bit narrow and winding. We chose to unhook the MoHoTracker, hoping that would help with curves and steep grades. When we arrived at our site, there were a couple of pitty-type dogs running loose, and I kept Mattie indoors while we set up. The owners were two sites down from us and did keep them on a leash most of the time. Most of the loops in the campground were empty, and only a very few had a tiny view of the lake thanks to the thick forest.
After setting up, we took the Tracker to explore the area, hoping to find a kayak launch or a place where we could access the water. The official beach was closed, and the camp store was closed. When I talked to the camp host he said that was because they closed after Labor Day, and it was almost Labor Day. Continuing toward the boat launch past the entrance to the beach, we found a huge parking lot, a nice boat ramp, and best of all it was nearly empty of people.
Finally, Mattie had a place to run. I have seen Mattie get excited on beaches, but this level of excitement was terrific to watch. She was so happy she actually ran into the water, something she has done only rarely. It was only knee-deep for her, but she did it over and over, running in circles and doing what dog people call "the zoomies".
Mo and I debated putting the kayaks in for an early evening paddle, but the combination of 95F temperatures on the open water and looming thunderheads made the thought less than inviting.
We returned to the MoHo for supper and settled in just in time for the rain to begin. We had no signal to speak of, except now and then a tiny one bar would come in, enough to at least text my daughters to let them know where we were.
The thunder and lightning began shortly after we settled in for bed, enough that we could turn off the air conditioner and listen to the storm. Tomorrow we will cross Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, and Virginia. Many more miles to go before we reach Jersey City and our campground across from Manhattan and New York City.