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.
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.
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.
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.