Poplar Bluff, MO (October 29 – November 29, 2015)

The drive to Poplar Bluff provided somewhat of an education in the use of our new Rand McNally GPS.  Although it probably did take us on the shortest route, it was definitely not the easiest drive.  We ended up taking a back country road with ditches on either side.  The road was quite curvy and, with the high winds buffeting the fifth wheel, the ditches sure looked a little too close for comfort.  In the future, we will do a little more planning and will override the Rand McNally when their routing doesn’t make sense.

We arrived at the Camelot RV Campground in mid-afternoon and were directed to our site by the camp host.  Although the site is a pull-through and plenty long enough, the property is terraced and it took some coaching from the camp host and the manager to get our rig positioned properly on the site.

Camelot RV Site

There were a lot of trees on the site which made us wonder if we would be able to get a signal from our DIRECTV satellite.  We were happy when the satellite signal came on beautifully.  We had a few issues when we tried to hook up to the campground’s cable TV.  After a couple of days of not being able to get the cable to work, we asked at the office and were told we needed to turn off our booster.  Although we’re still not sure why this causes a problem, we were able to get cable access as soon as we turned off our Winegard  booster.

The primary purpose of our stay in Poplar Bluff was that Phil had a contract audit job at Briggs & Stratton.  The job ran from November 9–20 so we had a free week before and after his work.  Fall had definitely set in and the daytime highs ranged from the mid-50s to the mid-60s, providing few opportunities to sit outside in our new lawn furniture.  Jan was looking forward to warmer weather later this year.

One of our first activities was to carve the pumpkins Jason had brought us back in Nashville.  Unfortunately, we had sold our pumpkin carving knife in our estate sale (figuring that we would have no use for it in our new life) and we struggled to carve the pumpkins with our regular kitchen knives.  No matter the struggle, we had fun carving them and then displayed them in our windows for the next two nights.


Poplar Bluff is near the edge of the Mark Twain National Forest.  This provided us some opportunities to do some hiking in the week before Phil went to work.  On November 4th we went to Lake Wappapella State Park, had a picnic and hiked the Allison Cemetery trail.  It didn’t take long to understand the derivation of the trail’s name as it led us to an old graveyard where most of the headstones held the name Allison.  The headstones that were still legible were from the late 1800s.  It was a good thing we had a trail map since the fallen leaves made it difficult to find any sign of a trail.  It was clear that the trail had not been traveled much recently.  There were trail markers on some of the trees but we totally lost sight of the trail at one point and, after much effort to find the next marker, we had to follow the road until we found the trail again.

On November 6th we went to Markham Springs Recreation Area.  We spent a lot of time traipsing around in the woods but had a hard time finding any of the hiking trails.  We found a path along the river and followed it for a while before quitting for the day.

Poplar Bluff is a relatively small town, with a population of about 17,000.  Most of the businesses in town appear to be along Business 67.  The local hospital is the largest employer and Briggs & Stratton is the second largest (with between 700-1,000 employees).  We went to a local festival and treated ourselves to a couple of fried pies (sweet potato and pineapple), a local delicacy.

Iron Mountain Market purchase

One Saturday we drove to Cape Girardeau in search of a somewhat larger town (population 37,000).  We both got our hair cut and took advantage of the larger selection of retailers such as Target and Sam’s Club.  It probably didn’t warrant driving 83 miles each way but it was a nice day and we had time to kill.

Although our DIRECTV package gives us 175 channels, we often find that there is nothing good to watch on TV.  On those nights we play games or watch DVDs.  One night we decided we should hook up our Wii.  After some struggles with finding out how to hook up the Wii to our Sony AV Receiver, we had success and were able to play Mario Karts again.   Unfortunately, when we disconnected the Wii, we found that we no longer had video from the satellite.  We spent over an hour with a DIRECTV technician but couldn’t find the problem.  There were so many pieces of hardware, along with wires and cables, in the cabinet above our TV that it was very hard to figure out what went where.  It didn’t seem to be a DIRECTV issue since we still had satellite reception in the bedroom; however, we couldn’t find any loose connections.  Jan’s perseverance finally paid off when she traced all the cables in the cabinet until she found the missing connection.  Although frustrating, this experience taught us a lot about our various entertainment devises and how they are linked together.


Our camp site was rather quiet.  Although there were quite a few rigs with long-term campers up on the hill, we were parked in the shorter-term area.  Given that it is November, most of the sites were empty or were occupied for only a day or two at a time.  We did have a few rigs near us but there was little or no activity at them and, thus, no opportunity to socialize.  Phil was startled one night when he was emptying the holding tanks in the dark and was suddenly surrounded by a pack of five kittens.  After that night, we saw the kittens often and believed them to be strays.  We fed them chopped-up hot dog and grilled steak one night and, needless to say, they wolfed it down.  Having found someone willing to feed them, they proceeded to camp out on our steps until they realized there was no more food coming.

Our friends Nov. 15

The cats disappeared in the days after we fed them.  We assumed they had been picked up by animal control.  Then, about a week later, we saw two of them when Phil came out to grill some more steaks.  Again, we gave them some chopped up steak and they chowed it down.

The weather turned colder during the second half of the month.  We had to disconnect the water lines on several nights when the temp dropped below freezing.

We needed to drop our rig off at a DRV dealer in Jackson, MO for them to repair the crack in the fiberglass as well as a couple of other issues.  Rather than stay in a hotel for a couple of nights, we decided to drive back to Nashville to spend Thanksgiving with two of our children.  We spent Thanksgiving Day with Jan’s cousin and her extended family.  The weather was unseasonably warm and we were able to play corn hole in the front yard.

Unfortunately, the warm weather gave way to heavy rain.  On the Friday after Thanksgiving, we drove back to Jackson, MO and picked up our rig,  then drove back to Poplar Bluff for a few more days.  We had our first experience with having to set up in the pouring rain.  It was no fun! The rain continued for most of the weekend but fortunately slacked off when it was time to get ready to leave Poplar Bluff.  However, it started up again as soon as we hit the road and it rained almost non-stop the entire four hour trip to Little Rock.  We enjoyed our month-long stay in Poplar Bluff but were ready for some warmer weather.


370 Lakeside RV Park, St. Peters, MO (October 22-29, 2015)

In order to attend the wedding of Phil’s niece on October 24th, we needed to find a campground near St. Louis, but not right in the city.  Phil found the 370 Lakeside RV Park in St. Peter’s to fit the bill.  It came highly recommended in the online reviews and was only about 40 minutes away from the wedding and rehearsal dinner venues.

370 Lakeside appears to be a fairly new city park on the edge of a decent-sized lake.  There is about a 3-mile paved trail around the lake.  Although there are no mature trees on the property, it was a nice, clean campground.  There were canoes, kayaks and bicycles available for rent but the fees seemed rather pricey.

By the time Phil booked the reservation, there were no pull-through sites available.  However, he was offered a large back-in site that was considered a “premium” site since it was right next to the lake.

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We arrived mid-afternoon on Thursday and, after checking in at the office, proceeded to our site.  Using the training from RV Driving School, Phil attempted to back into the site with Jan attempting to guide him in.  One of our neighbors must have known it was show time as he came out of his rig and sat in his lawn chair to watch.  At first, Phil thought he was going to have success but started to panic when he saw how close he was coming to hitting the tree and rig across from our site.  Before long, we were joined by two of the neighbor men who provided advice as to how to get us backed into the site.  After a number of back and forth attempts, we managed to get our rig backed into the site and right next to the hook-ups.  All’s well that ends well!

We spent a nice week in St. Peter’s.  We attended the rehearsal dinner on Friday evening, the wedding on Saturday evening and a post-wedding brunch at Phil’s brother and sister-in-law’s house on Sunday morning.

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The weather was rather overcast for most of the week and extremely windy most days.  We don’t know if the wind was the result of Hurricane Patricia that had hit the Pacific coast of Mexico but it was quite strong and lasted for days.  We put down our outside rug but needed to weight it down with the pumpkins Jason had bought us to keep it from blowing away.

The area around St. Peter’s turned out to be pretty nice and we visited a number of the stores during our stay to add to our collection of RV life necessities.  Phil took the truck to the local Ram dealer to get a safety recall issue addressed and to get them to add air to the dual rear tires.  Phil has still not found an easy answer for adding air to these tires and the Internet hasn’t been much help.  For every suggestion, there is a response saying why that suggestion won’t work.

The weather improved enough one day for us to walk the loop around the lake.  We wished we had brought our bikes with us.  We did stop to talk with a gentleman about the bike rack he had on his car and got some good advice from him.

Phil assembled the Weber grill and grilled burgers one night despite the wind.  We had intended to grill again on our final night but the wind was just too strong for that.  Instead, we visited with Cody and Liz and got to meet their new daughter, Claire.


After our week-long stay in St. Peter’s we packed up on Thursday morning and headed off to Poplar Bluff.  We stopped off in Jackson, MO at another DRV dealer to see about getting some warranty work on a small crack that Jan had discovered in the fiberglass.  The service manager at the dealership examined the crack and will be filing a claim with DRV.  We hope to get the crack repaired during our stay in MO.

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Ferne Clyffe State Park, Goreville, IL (October 21, 2015)

After our five-day stay at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone campground in Nashville, we headed out to explore America.  We headed toward St. Louis where we were scheduled to attend Phil’s niece’s wedding on October 24th.  Since we have agreed to limit our driving to four hours a day, Phil had booked us a 70 foot pull-through site at Ferne Clyffe state park near Marion, IL.

We arrived at about 2:30 pm.  We had expected to find a ranger station when we entered the park but, since we did not, we continued to drive into the campground.  After a sharp bend, the road squeezed between two large trees. Phil held his breath as he managed to get the rig past the trees without any damage.  The road then forked and Phil followed the sign toward sites 36-52.  Since we had reserved site 37, we quickly found the sign for our site.  However, instead of the long pull-through site we had reserved, site 37 appeared to be a back-in site and a short one to boot.  In a quandary as to what to do, we circled around the campground until we found the camp host’s trailer.  Phil approached the host and asked if we were in the right place since the site 37 we had just been to wasn’t a pull-through.  The host assured Phil that site 37 was a pull-through and gave him directions that were the same way Phil had gone originally.  After Phil circled through the campground a second time, with no more success than the first, the camp host came to help and directed Phil into the campsite.  The camp host then explained that, for some crazy reason, the park put the post with the site number at the end of the pull-through rather than at the beginning of the site where we would have seen it when arriving.  In addition, the site was so heavily covered in leaves that it was hard to see that there was a drive there.  Anyway, once we found the site, it was easy to pull into and was quite level.

After thanking the camp host, we unhitched the trailer and began hooking up.  It was only at this point that we discovered that the site had no water hookup.  We had known that there was no sewer hookup at the site but the lack of water came as a surprise, especially since we did see water hookups at some of the other sites.  However, we hunted around the site for quite a while before concluding that there was no water.  Phil even checked the state park’s website and, although it mentioned that site 37 had electric, it didn’t mention anything about water.

The good news was that we had some water in our fresh water tank.  The bad news was that we only had 17 gallons and, being newbies, had no idea how long this would last.  The irony here was that the dealer had added 80 gallons to the fresh water tank to test the tank and we had neglected to drain the tank before driving to Nashville.  Since water weighs about 8 lbs. per gallon, this added about 640 lbs.to the load we towed to Nashville.  We had discovered this mistake during our stay in Nashville and had drained most of the water from our tank.

Anyway, since we were only staying overnight, we figured we would just conserve water during our stay.  This involved using the public restrooms and Jan bought some bottled water during our shopping trip to Wal-Mart.  In the end, we didn’t need to have worried as much as we did.  We left the next morning with 13 gallons still in our tank.

Although we had driven less than 4 hours, we were both exhausted.  After a quick trip to Marion, IL for grocery shopping, refueling the truck and dinner at Backyard Burgers, we went right to bed.