April 1 to 30, 2004 - We zoom east and back

We slowed down for one day to get our mail and on April 1st we only drove 121 miles to AOK Camper Park in Amarillo, TX on Passport America.  The campground was cheap and had an interstate, a railroad and an airport close by. We think that is a record for noisy neighbors.

Amarillo was not the nicest looking city so we wondered what Panhandle, TX would be like where our mail went.  Turns out it was a nice town that looked quite healthy and our mail was at the post office.  We had noticed a Baum's on the way through Amarillo, so that is where we had dinner.

The next day, the 2nd, we made up for a short drive the day before and went 343 miles to Henrietta, OK.  The drive through Oklahoma City was a bit nerve wracking, especially with the heavy traffic and the poor condition of I-40.  Then we hit a long and slow construction zone.  Our original plan was to stay at the Wal-Mart in Henrietta, but the parking lot was full of cars so we called the Henrietta RV Park and they had room.

We could now add Oklahoma to the states we have camped in.  Another state we need to spend more time in someday.

On the 3rd we drove 206 miles to Morrilton KOA in Morrilton, AR.  That added Arkansas to the states we have camped in.  Yet another state we need to spend more time in someday.

The spring flowers were just getting going here so early in the season.  There was only one other camper for the night.  Our site was not level at all, not withstanding those KOA ads were they say their campsites are level.

The 4th we drove into Tennessee and after 207 miles we camped in Memphis East Campground, just east of Memphis in Lakeland, TN, obviously a former KOA.  We found out that they do not cover their loads in Tennessee, a bag fell off a truck in front of us and it had something hard in it that bent our exhaust pipe.

We were excited to stock up at Costco in Memphis. 

On the 5th we drove 198 miles to Clarksville RV Park in Clarksville, TN, our destination.  Seven one night stops for a total of 1680 miles.  We do not want to ever do that much driving again.  Most of Fort Campbell is actually in Tennessee and Clarksville is the big city that supports the base.  Our nephew Jeremy was stationed at Fort Campbell after being deployed to both Kosovo and Afghanistan in the US Army.  He met and married Tiffany when they were both stationed in Germany.  Tiffany got out of the Army because she had their son David. 

Pictures of our time in Clarksville

On the 8th we drove 95 miles to Diamond Caverns in Park City, KY.  We drove through Bowling Green on the way.  We were staying two nights so we could see Mammoth Cave National Park just up the road.

We had managed to damage a satellite cable during our last move and had to drive to Glasgow, KY to get a replacement part.  We were surprised to learn this area was "dry" and if you wanted alcohol you needed to drive to Bowling Green to get it.  

On the 9th we toured Mammoth Cave National Park.

On the 10th we drove 274 miles to Foxfire RV Resort in Milton, WV.  We decided that we had missed camping in West Virginia on the way south in fall, now was our chance to add the state to our list since we didn't know when we would come back.  We had traveled 2,049 miles from Apache Junction which we left on the 29th of March.  We were three hours earlier getting up since we had gone east through two time zones and Daylight Savings time had started.  We knew we were crazy going so far east just to fill our map, but now we had to make our way back west and we had a month to make the journey.

We spent Easter here and did drive around the area to see it. 

Now we were heading to Nappanee, IN, where Newmar is located to take the factory tour. 

On the 12th we drove 241 miles in the rain to Glacier Hill Lakes Campground in Wapakoneta, OH.  This is the hometown of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.  We will have to come back another time to see the museum and area. 

We were camped in overflow and it got below freezing during the night.

On the 13th we drove 153 miles to Pla-Mor Campground in Bremen, IN, just up the highway from Nappanee.  The campground was not really open so they gave us a cheaper rate since the water was not turned on yet.  We stayed four nights with 50AMP electric and sewer here, though we were able to fill the water from a long hose the last day.  This was our first camping stay in Indiana.

Each day became warmer, by the time we left it was in the 80s.

We took the Newmar Factory Tour and our dealer thought our motorhome was already in production so we looked for it.  Trish, our salesperson, told us we only had two weeks to get back to Mesa since it was going to be two weeks early.

On the 16th we headed west into Illinois and the greater Chicago area.  We pulled off the road to get lunch and to avoid a toll road and found a Fuddruckers.  Just after we had lunch Trish called to say Newmar had our order number wrong and our motorhome was still on schedule for early to mid-May.  After dealing with the secondary roads, we decided we will pay the toll road price for a motorhome with tow car around Chicago.

After 182 miles we arrived at Hickory Hollow Campground in Utica, IL.   It was our first camping stay in Illinois, but we did expect to be back.

There was a nice sunset here:

The weather stayed warm and we drove 182 miles on the 17th to Squaw Creek County Park in Marion, IA, a suburb of Cedar Rapids.  It was a really nice place with 50AMP electric and water. 

As we went to bed we were thinking of extending our stay another night since the campground was so nice.  We changed our minds in the morning.  It was cloudy, windy, and did not feel safe.  Bill asked around and storms were coming.  We turned on our weather radio and it did not sound good, Cedar Rapids was going to get large hail and maybe tornadoes.  It seemed the best direction to go was Northwest, so we headed out.  After a while the wind got really strong and was pushing the motorhome around.  Bill was driving about 40 to 45mph because of the wind, which was from the south, and was looking forwards to turning north on I-35 so the wind was pushing us instead of hitting us sideways. 

The I-35 entrance ramp came up and we starting turning onto it and then we heard a bang and some other loud sounds and Bill saw the slide topper billow.  He quickly pulled us over to the side of the onramp, luckily there was room.  Our main slide topper had come off and was on top of the motorhome.  The relentless wind had broken the bracket on one end and it pulled out of the other and flew up like a sail.  In the high winds we got out the ladder and while Diane held the ladder to keep it from moving Bill took a knife and cut the awning off, then went to the top of the ladder and lifted the roller off the top of the motorhome and got in to the ground.  Then we rolled it back up and put the whole thing into the motorhome through the door.  The awning had also shattered the air conditioning shroud (cover) with its impact.

Pictures of the awning damage

Diane found there was a campground close by so after 163 miles we checked into Oakwood RV Park in Clear Lake, IA. 

We were the only non-Winnebago in the campground, we were very close to Forest River, IA, where Winnebago is located.  It was very windy and we kept our slides in.  About 9PM the power went out.  We listened to our weather radio and things sounded fine so we eventually went to bed.  About 11PM the wind came up and sounded very strange, it was not a comfortable sound.  Luckily it subsided and nothing happened.  In the morning we learned about 11PM we were in a Tornado Warning area, just when we had the 60mph and higher straight line winds that sounded so bad.  In the morning the winds were light, so Bill got on the roof and found that only the shroud was damaged, he duct taped it so it was not so noisy.

We wanted out of there so we drove 262 miles to Windmill Campground in Beresford, SD and set up for two nights.  We were finally camping in South Dakota.

The campground had cable so we put on The Weather Channel and within five minutes they were showing video of a tornado in Beresford, SD the day before.  We went and asked the office about it and learned the tornado was 12 miles away. 

Since we were close by we drove over to see Well Dairy on the 20th, the makers of Blue Bunny Ice Cream, in LeMay, IA.

On the Weather Channel that night we learned the hail in Cedar Rapids was nickel sized at the largest and they had no tornados.  The storm had moved east and a tornado destroyed a building in Utica, IL, the town where we stayed the 16th.

We determined that the damage to our motorhome was less than the $500 deductible for our insurance so we starting working to get it fixed on our route back to Mesa.  We set up an appointment to get it handled in Harper, KS along with fixing the ice maker.  Harper was close to our friend Ann in Hutchinson, KS, so we would visit her a couple days.  We also decided to have our mail sent to Harper, the timing would be good.

We realized we were close to Blue Ox, the makers of both our tow bar and the RV Underskirt that protects the car.  We knew they had a campground and called up to get our RV Underskirt looked at, they gave us directions and told us a site number.  After 92 miles we were camped at Blue Ox in Pender, NE.  Nice, large 50AMP full hookup sites. 

About ten minutes after we pulled in a golf cart came in to find what we needed, they already knew who we were.  A technician would come the next day at 11AM.  They told us where to eat in town if we wanted to eat out.

Here is Blue Ox from the 14 space campground:

While at Blue Ox we took these pictures of Evita

At about 11AM on the 22nd the tech came, took our RV Underskirt away and had it back to us within an hour all fixed up.  We felt very well treated by Blue Ox and could have spent another night there, but we decided it was early enough in the day to move on.

We then drove 99 miles to Bluffs Run Casino in Council Bluffs, IA, just across the river from Omaha, NE.  We didn't know where the dry camping was so we paid for their campground, which was not level even though it was paved.  We later figured out where the free dry camping was.   (Update: In October 2006 we were in the same area and found out the casino was now named "Horseshoe" and they changed the campground into an employee parking lot.  Only dry camping at this casino now.)

It was a noisy location.  We did enjoy the buffet in the casino.  Bill found it amusing that most of the locals wanted the prime rib well done, so it was very easy for him to get his pieces rare or medium rare since the servers were thrilled someone wanted it.

On the 23rd we drove south and had a tough time finding a gas station we could maneuver the motorhome and tow car into.  We kept taking exits and all the gas stations had lousy access for large vehicles.  With a diesel motorhome we could use truck stops and would also have a larger range since the fuel tank was twice as large.  We were realizing how nice it was going to be to fuel up with the trucks.

After 169 miles we camped at Basswood Country RV Park in Platte City, MO, on Passport America.  We checked in for two nights.  It was a nice place and a northern suburb of Kansas City.  Missouri was the last of the lower 48 states we had camped in, we had completed our goal of camping in all of the lower 48 states. 

It was wet while we visited the Kansas City area, but we did find a good Indian restaurant, Swagat, in Kansas City.  We were also glad our main slide was sealed well enough that it did not leak in the rain without the slide topper to protect it.

Around this time the repair place in Harper, KS called and said they shouldn't have scheduled the appointment, it would be a couple more weeks before the work could be done.  By that time we would be in Arizona, so we did not reschedule.  They had not ordered the new awning.  We called Camping World in Mesa, AZ and ordered the new awning.  Instead of just spending a couple days in Hutchinson, KS, we would spend a few more.

On the 25th we drove 135 miles to Emporia RV Park in Emporia, KS.  This was about halfway to Ann's place.

On the 25th we drove the final 113 miles to Ann's house in Hutchinson, KS and parked.  This spot should look familiar, it was where we parked in October 2002.  This time the house is for sale since Ann's job went away and she wants to live somewhere else.

We enjoyed visiting with Ann.  We took a day trip down to Harper to get our mail.  We again enjoyed the Dutch Kitchen in Hutchinson for Amish food.

Ann eventually sold the house and moved to Idaho Falls, ID, where she got a new job.  She had moved from Idaho Falls to Hutchinson, so it was like going home.

On April 30th, the last day of April, we said our goodbyes and drove 129 miles to Gunsmoke Trav-L-Park in Dodge City, KS.  This is the same Dodge City from the old West.

We were able to find a new air conditioning shroud at the local dealer so we bought it. 

We drove 3,364 miles in April.  That is too much in one month.  We started in the Mountain Time Zone, went to Central Time, then Eastern Time, then Daylight Savings Time started.  Now we are in Central Time, but tomorrow we drive back into New Mexico and Mountain Time Zone.

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