Day #71 – Mark Twain Territory

LOCATION:  Outside of Hannibal, Missouri – in NE part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Indian Creek Army Corps of Engineers Campground on Mark Twain Dam.  Nice and woodsy.  Almost have view of lake.  Electricity at our site; some have full hook-ups.  Paved and long site, but slopes a lot.  Decent bathrooms.  Wifi, but no cell or TV reception.  Very remote.  $10/night with senior discount.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 76

It rained again overnight.  Thankfully, we did not have any leaks this time.   We can’t figure out why sometimes we get water inside during rain, and other times we do not. 

We had a nice, uneventful drive to this very large lake.  We will be here 3 nights.  We are almost the only ones in the campground, but it will probably fill up on the weekend.

We drove around the park which includes a marina, swimming beach, and several boat launches.  This was on one of the roads we drove on…

We see other such signs like “Dangerous conditions when road is under water” as we travel on the back roads. 

We checked out the marina and made arrangements to rent a pontoon tomorrow.  It will be fun and different! 

Back at the campground, George made a fire.  Even if we aren’t using a fire to cook dinner tonight, it is nice to have one – for “ambiance”.  The wood is wet though, and without a breeze it is hard to get a blazing fire really going well.

DINNER:  Salad with Asian dressing and sprinkled with slivered almonds (as croutons).  Main course was sauteed shrimp, Asian style, with Asian vegetables and noodles (frozen package).    I added onions, mushrooms, garlic, and ginger to the mix along with sesame oil and soy sauce. 

Without TV reception, we cozied up with Rick Steves’ DVDs about France. 

Day #70 – A bit of history – France and Germany

LOCATION:  North central Missouri
CAMPGROUND:  Graham Cave State Park.  The campground is quite dated overall.  The sites are short, unlevel, and the pavement is broken. Our site has electricity.  Central water and dump station.  Old bathrooms/showers.  Decrepit fire pit and picnic table.  $28/night.  3 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  More rain!  High 70

We enjoyed a quiet night at the winery and took our time getting ready this morning for our next stop.

The campground is almost empty, but wouldn’t you know….there was a big rig parked in the site right in front of our reserved site.   They had left their pick-up sticking out in the road and George had to really wiggle our truck and Joy around to get into our site.  The site is very uneven, so we had to lay down some boards to prop up one side.  Hence, our front door is quite high!  That 3rd step is a doozy!!!

We spent most of the day in nearby Hermann, a cute town along the Missouri River settled by Germans in the early 1800s.  The town has been preserved to maintain its German vibe and architecture.  These are some of the downtown buildings…

We stopped in the German meat shop to buy the Best of the Wurst! 

The town is full of small inns and B&Bs. The grocery store clerk told us that they stay full almost all of the time.  Whenever a house comes on the market, someone buys it and turns it into a guest house.  Tourism is thriving here, it seems. 

The mill has been turned into a restaurant/brewery…

Winemaking is big here.  This is one of the many wineries..

This little town saved the French wine industry!  The German settlers could not grow many crops here in the 1800s, but grapes did very well.  So, they created a vibrant wine business and it became one of the largest wine-producing regions in the world.  When France’s vineyards were being destroyed in the Great  French Wine Blight, the farmers here shipped hundreds of thousands of rootstocks from Hermann to France to be used to graft parasite-resistant roots onto the dying French ones.  Hermann saved the day!

Back to the campground, we struggled to get a fire going between rain drops and wet wood.  George perservered and was able to grill tonight’s pork chops.  These are chops we bought at one of our Harvest Host farm stays.

DINNER:  After grilling the chops, I coated them with a mix of ground walnuts, parmesan cheese, Greek seasoning, and minced garlic.  I wrapped them up in aluminum foil to finish them off.  They turned out great!  Sides were salads and a baked potato. 

BOOK:  “Italian for Beginners” by Kristin Harmel.  No, this is not a language instruction book.  It is a sweet love story but it is fairly predictable.  The setting in Rome is nice.  4 stars out of 5.

Day #69. April showers bring May….showers!

LOCATION:  Holt’s Summit, Missouri in central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Canterbury Hills Winery, part of Harvest Hosts.  Perched on a hill overlooking the vineyards.  Very pretty.  Large parking lot.  We had our choice of several parking spaces.  Highway near us was surprisingly quiet at  night.  Restaurant has good food and a beautiful patio.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Yuck!  Rain rain rain almost all day.  High 63

We awoke to a dreary day with rain that just wouldn’t stop.  We left the Cave Winery in the rain.  Our GPS wanted to take us via St. Louis to this next spot. Not wanting that, we took backroads for miles and miles.  I always get a little scared with road names like “F” and “P” which we took most of the morning! 

The route took us through the Mark Twain National Forest, along the Missouri River on the Lewis and Clark Trail, and even a short distance on Historic Route 66!

In one town, I had a green arrow light to turn left.  As I made the turn,  a car didn’t stop coming from my side (probably texting) and almost hit Joy mid-way.  It was scary!

We arrived mid-afternoon and it finally quit raining, although it was still a bit gloomy and overcast.  The winery/restaurant here has a beautiful location – on a high hill overlooking a little lake and the vineyards.

There are a lot of neat, craggy rocks, too.

The views from our parking space are quite nice.

They have a huge parking space, which we had to ourselves

The big feature of this winery/restaurant is their beautiful patio.  They have a lot of weddings and other events here.

We did a wine-tasting, probably our last in Missouri on this trip.  They served a “tower” for tasting.  The 2 dry wines that are unique to Missouri are Norton and Chamourcin. 

DINNER:  We ate in their restaurant, as we always support the Harvest Host sites with our business when we stay with them.  We shared a platter of blackened catfish with a side of Caesar salad. 

Day #68 – Historic Saint Genevieve

LOCATION:  Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, in SE part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Cave Vineyard and Winery with Harvest Hosts.  A very small winery with a saltpeter cave.   They allow one RV only.  We had our choice of the parking lot or space behind the winery.  Level and paved.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Rain almost the entire day.  High 64
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  30 minutes

It rained quite a bit overnight and in the early morning, so I was afraid we would have a hard time leaving the grassy meadow at  Chaumette Winery.  (Later I read a review of this Harvest Host site in which it said that their RV did get stuck and they had to get the host to pull them out with his tractor!)  The grass was soggy, but George got us turned around safe and sound.

We drove in to Ste. Genevieve, about 30 minutes away.    We are so glad we had done our exploratory trip, as we knew the layout of the historic district and where to park with Joy attached.  We returned to the Visitor Center where we watched a short video about the history of the town.  Ste. Genevieve is Missouri’s oldest European-settled town, established in 1751 by the French Canadians.  They came here for the fur trade and to produce salt and to mine lead. 

The town is very quaint due to the preservation of the original settlement – narrow streets, fenced gardens, and French architecture.  Many of the homes are B&Bs.

We toured this house, built in 1818.  Its French Colonial architecture was typical of that era.  One part of the house was a shop and the other was the owners’ living quarters.

In the back, they have re-created an herb and flower garden from the era.

Ste. Genevieve has 3 of the 5 remaining “poteaux-en-terre” (post in earth) style homes in the USA.  This one was built in 1807. 

This house was originally a bank built in the French style

The rain might not be too pleasant for us tourists, but the flowers and grass are sure happy!

We stepped into their beautiful church – very European.  (Almost the entire community are Catholics). 

This town thrives on tourism.  There are lots of restaurants, shops, inns, and B&Bs.  I imagine it sometimes gets overwhelmed with tourists, but today we had the town almost to ourselves.  We lucked out in finding a great bistro in a little 7-room inn.  We caught up on internet activities, as we have been without internet for about 3 days.  I still don’t have any cell service.  We shared a huge and tasty pork schnitzel sandwich.  This stems from the German influence that occured here in the 1900s. 

After lunch, it was time to go back out in the country to our second Harvest Host winery in this “Napa Valley of Missouri”.  Being a rainy Monday, we were the only customers here, which was kind of nice. 

The attraction at this vineyard is a large saltpeter cave which is now used for picnicking.  It had been used previously to mine saltpeter for gun powder and for sausage preservation.  On hot days, people buy a bottle of wine and take it down to enjoy in the cool cave.   Today, with the cool rain, we just walked around the cave.

We tasted some wine, brandy, and grappa in their small tasting room, and bought a bottle of wine, along with some local cheese and sausage. 

DINNER:  Chicken tikka masala.  I added sauted onions and chicken to a jar of the sauce.  Nothing too exciting, but tasty.  Side was salad leftover from last night’s restaurant. 

Day #67 – Napa Valley of Missouri?

LOCATION:  Near Ste. Genevieve, Missouri in SE part of state.  Near the Mississippi River
CAMPGROUND:  Chaumette Winery and Vineyard, a Harvest Host site.  We are parked in their “meadow” nestled next to the vineyards, in a grassy area.  Even though it has rained a lot, it was not muddy/soggy.   A very well-organized parking plan….with directional signs and signs showing the HH camping spots.  About 1/4 mile from their tasting  room.  Very nice winery and restaurant.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Some rain overnight, and the sky looked like it would rain during the day but it did not.  High 76

Since we didn’t want to get to the winery too early, we stayed around Trail of Tears State Park all morning.  We enjoyed our Sunday morning ritual of George’s grits and eggs accompanied by “CBS Sunday Morning” on the TV. 

I took another long hike and picked up these flowers on the ground – fallen from the poplar tulip, a tree that only grows in this region.

To get to today’s winery, we drove through lots of back roads, including a 5-mile stretch of gravel, always worrisome.  But, we arrived to find a beautiful “wine resort.”  This operation is quite large.  In addition to the vineyards and winery,  it has several large lodges and cabins, all with a swimming pool.  It has its own church, where they do a lot of weddings.  The winery/restaurant is quite large with terrace dining. 

I had corresponded with the manager ahead of time who had emailed me a map, so we knew exactly where to go.  We drove past the winery/restaurant full of people enjoying wine and food on their terrace.  We could see that they were watching us, wondering where in the world an Airstream trailer was going as we passed them and drove into the woods. 

They have even put out picnic tables for our enjoyment.  There are 5 parking spots, but only one other RV with us tonight.

After getting set up, we walked up to the winery.  We passed the bonfire area that their lodging guests use.

We ordered a bottle Chambourcin wine and took it to the terrace to enjoy.  Many of the wineries in this region are not doing tastings, due to Covid.  They just sell glasses and bottles.  Most of the crowd had left by the time we arrived, so it was nice and relaxing. 

The view of the vineyards was beautiful

DINNER:  Since their kitchen closes at 6:00 on Sundays, we got our food “to go”.  Back in Joy’s coziness, we shared a flatbread pizza and a salad.  All quite good. 

Day #66. Another Mississippi River road trip

LOCATION:  Cape Girardeau, Missouri – right on the Mississippi River in SE Missouri
CAMPGROUND:  3rd night at Trail of Tears State Park
WEATHER:  Overcast and light rain most of the day.  High 63

Rain was predicted for the afternoon and evening, so we got in our hike in the morning.  We did one of the trails here in the park.  It took us up to a bluff overlooking the river.  It was a steep 3-mile up-and-down hike, giving us a good cardio workout. 

We visited the park’s Visitor Center.  The name Trail of Tears comes from a sad part of USA history when the Cherokee Indians were forced to leave their homes in the East and had to escape to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).  Many, many died along the way, hence the name.  Our park is where they stayed during one especially brutal winter, waiting for weather conditions when they could cross the river.  Even more deaths. 

After lunch here in the camper (ramen using leftover meat), we took off for another loop on the Great River Road.  This time we went north, but to go north, we had to go south first to Cape Girardeau, to get to a bridge.  There aren’t that many bridges along the way.  We drove about 50 miles north in Illinois.  We crossed in a town called Chester, home of the man who created Popeye….

This bridge took us back over to Missouri.

We checked out Ste. Genevieve where we will be next week.  We wanted to get the logistics worked out, and it is good that we did.  We will be staying at two different wineries/vineyards out in the country there.  Since we are not supposed to unhook at Harvest Hosts, we need to “kill” part of the day before going to the second winery, while still towing Joy.  We plan to spend the day in the historic town of Ste. Genevieve.  Today, on our logistics trip, we encountered a very low bridge over the road – only 9 feet high.  We would not have made it with the trailer.  Good to know.  We went to the Welcome Center to talk with the staff about where we could park with Joy on Monday.  After getting that accomplished, and figuring out an alternate route (avoiding the low bridge), we headed out to their wine country..  It is like a little Napa Valley here – about 15 wineries and 2 breweries.  Since we will have Joy with us next week, we checked out two today on the Route de Vin. 

This place was jammed!  It is a brewery and distillery.  Perhaps because it was a rainy day without nothing much else to do, it was full of young people.  (Many did not look 21 and there were no masks to be seen.)  There were party buses bringing in even more people.  A loud singer crooned in the background.  It really wasn’t our scene, so we left early.

The next place took us down a very rugged gravel/dirt narrow road.  We were next to a river with a road sign warning us that the road was not usable when it rained.  We thought we had taken a wrong turn!  Then, up up up a steep hill, and surprisingly to the winery/microbrewery. This one was quieter with a better vibe.  The owners/wait staff were our age and were duly masked.  They brought in this 150-year old house and turned it into a B&B. 

The winery, brewery, and B&B cabin overlook the vineyard and valley below.  I tasted their Chambourcin wine, which is a grape native to Missouri.  It was actually quite good, similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.  George tasted their IPA and barley wine.  The owner gave him a can of IPA to take home to try.  Nice! 

Then, an hour’s drive back south to the campground.  Another nice day.

DINNER:  Chicken tacos.  I sauteed some leftover chicken with onions and mushrooms with Mexican seasonings.  I placed the tortilla shells in a Pyrex dish, piled on the chicken mix with some salsa, and then sprinkled some Cheddar cheese .  I was running low on cheese, so I added a small dollop of cream cheese to augment the Cheddar.  I then baked the tacos (instead of grilling or frying).  Side was a mix of stir-fry zucchini, onions, and mushrooms. They turned out well.  I made chicken broth with the bones for George’s Sunday morning grits tomorrow. 

Day #65 – Road trip covering 4 states!

LOCATION:  Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in SE part of state
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Trail of Tears State Park
WEATHER:  Sunny.  High 74

After getting in my 10,000 steps around the park, we took off for today’s road trip.  Our plan was to go south on the east side of the Mississippi, then return on the west side, making a big loop.

From here in Missouri (State #1) we crossed over to Illinois (State #2) in Cape Girardeau.  The bridge here is very modern and sleek.

We drove along the Great River Road through some depressing-looking towns.  We have a brochure about the Great River Road, with suggestions of places to visit.  In Cairo, we stopped to visit the old Cairo Customs House, but it was closed.

The route took us deep into farm land.  The dark green winter wheat fields are beautiful.  Farmers are out planting new crops – looks like mostly corn and some rice.  We encountered some of the mammoth farm equipment on the narrow roads – a bit frightening, but people are friendly and stop to let others go by.

There were no restaurants to be had along our route in Illinois.  We then dipped south into Kentucky (State #3) over the Ohio River. 

Again, not much.  We finally found a little park in a town where we stopped and had a picnic.  It is handy that I keep our “pantry” in the back seat of the truck, so I pulled out crackers and a can of sardines. We also munched on some home-made beef jerky that we had bought at one of the Harvest Host farms.   Not too bad!

Kentucky didn’t last too long, and we were soon in Tennessee (State #4).  More farms, including some nice-looking horse ranches. 

We crossed back over the Mississippi River, back into Missouri.  All in all, it was a very nice day.  We were a bit disappointed, however, that much of the road does not get close to the river. 

In Cape Girardeau, we stopped at the town’s second brewpub.  This was delightful.  Their inside space is very cozy, with games set out and nice music.

Since the weather was nice, we chose to have our drinks outside. 

DINNER:  George got a fire going in the decrepit fire pit and grilled some hamburgers for our dinner.  I made a stir-fry with zucchini, onions, garlic, and a package of frozen mixed vegetables. 

Being Friday, the campground filled up.  We watched several new units come in during the evening hours. 

Day #64 – Camping along the Mighty Mississippi

LOCATION:  Cape Girardeau, in SE Missouri.
CAMPGROUND:  Trail of Tears State Park.  This is a small, very quiet loop with 20 sites.  There is another loop, farther away, with tent-camping.  Long, paved, level site. Picnic table, fire pit, and electricity.  Some sites have water.  Central water and dump station.  Decent bathrooms and showers.  Many sites have Mississippi River views.  $21/night.  4 stars out of 5. 
WEATHER:  Very spring-like.  High 66 with full sun

A blog reader asked me whether we have been affected  by gas shortages.  We have not.  We have not seen any long lines, or heard anyone talking about shortages.  Prices have remained about the same.  Here it is $2.69/gallon, always varying state-by-state.   If we experience any shortages, I will write about them.

Speaking of gas – George was driving and insisted we could wait until our next stop to refill.  By the time we found a gas station, we were on empty…….again   🙂 

At last night’s winery, we had absolutely no cell phone connection, so could not get any map directions on our phone.  We left the winery, following country roads, just hoping that we were going in the right direction, heading north.  Finally, we came to a town and could connect.  It was a bit scary.  It makes you realize how dependent we have become on our devices. 

We stopped on our way to refill one of our propane tanks.  Each tank lasts a long while, it seems. 

This campground has a cool registration set-up.  You reserve your site online or via telephone.  Then, upon arrival, you scan the QRC code located on your site’s post which notifies the host that you have arrived.  Then, later the host drops by and puts your daily tag on your post.  This is efficient and means that no one has to man an entrance gate.  It is also helpful with Covid precautions, requiring no face-to-face contact.

After setting up, we drove into Cape Girardeau, about 15 miles away.  It is a very nice river town with a branch of the university.  It seems quite prosperous, as we passed a lot of mansions on our way in.  The downtown remains vibrant….We had 2 brewpubs from which to choose!  🙂  We selected one called Minglewood, located in an old, restored brick building where we enjoyed some beer and shared a quesadilla. 

We spent a fun afternoon (not!) in a laundromat catching up with bags and bags of dirty laundry.  It always fun to people-watch in laundromats.  Some had staggering amounts of laundry!  It is always a good feeling to complete the task.

Back at the campground, we enjoyed this view from our picnic table.  We are RIGHT on the river.

From time to time, a train whizzes by, right in front of us – between our campsite and the river.

Also, barges floated by….

DINNER:  I am always looking for different types of healthy grains.  I bought some farro a long time ago, and wanted to use the rest up.  It is a grain that looks like long-grained brown rice.  It has a nutty flavor, made even nuttier if you roast it.  I had grabbed this recipe from a TV cooking show which didn’t specify the amounts, so I just guessed at everything for enough for 2 people.  It turned out great, and is quite easy….

Cherry tomatoes
Pepper flakes
Chicken or veg broth
White wine
Protein – Shrimp or chicken or tofu (I used shrimp tonight)
olive oil
Feta cheese

First, make the farro.  I roasted it, then soaked it for 3 hours, boiled it for 40 minutes, and then fluffed it up.   Some farro is more polished and takes less time to cook – follow the directions on your label.

Saute each of these ingredients separately in olive oil, then mix together:  Kale, garlic, onion, tomatoes, and protein.  Boil wine and broth until reduced.  Add pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Mix everything together – farro, liquid, and sauteed ingredients.  Press in a Pyrex dish and sprinkle the feta liberally on top.  (I used goat cheese that we bought at one of our Harvest Host farms).  Bake until warm and until cheese melts a bit. 

Speaking of food…..I belong to a Facebook group called Gourmet Camping.  They used my photo of a recipe I made the other night for their cover photo.  What an honor!  It is for grilled steak rollups with a Vietnamese dipping sauce.

Day #63 – Camping at a cozy winery along the Mississippi

LOCATION:  Commerce, Missouri in far SE corner of state.  1/2 mile from the Mississippi River
CAMPGROUND:  River Ridge Winery through Harvest Hosts.  A small, cozy winery down lots of curvy country roads.  Husband/wife owners are very hospitable and welcoming, showing us where to park in their level, graveled parking lot.  Might be tight on weekends, with more customers.  Wine is so-so.  4 stars out of 5.
WEATHER:  Very cool in the AM.  Our propane heater is much loved.  High 64 with sun

Before we left the Harvest Host farm, George did his daily exercises.  Their friendly beagle watched him in admiration.

Once we crossed over from Arkansas to Missouri, everything seemed to be more prosperous.  We drove by lots of rice fields.  It has rained a lot here, and the rivers are all very full.

We got settled in at the winery, where we are the only RV.  The winery building and the owners’ homes are right behind us.  In front of us is a big field of grass.  There is almost no traffic on the road so it will be a quiet night. 

  We went inside to do a (free) tasting.  We bought a bottle of their cabernet sauvignon and took it outside to enjoy on their very nice patio.  The hostas are starting to come up, which made us happy that we are in the Midwest again.  They have a very good sound system with sophisticated jazz and Frank Sinatra crooning softly. 

DINNER:  We bought a reuben sandwich from their restaurant and took it back to Joy to eat.   I made a salad to accompany it.  Very nice. 

BOOK:  “Unsheltered” by Barbara Kingsolver.  It is the story of 2 families who live in the same (broken-down) house two centuries apart.  It is based losely on the life of a obscure female biologist from the 1800s.  5 stars out of 5

Day #62 – Down on the farm!

LOCATION:  Cave City, Arkansas in northeast Arkansas
CAMPGROUND:  Brood Farm, a Harvest Host farm.  One camping site only.  Hookups available, otherwise free.  Down a long, narrow lane.  Camped next to their home and market stand.  On the grass, but it is solid, not muddy.  Easy to get parked, level.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Nice in the AM, turning to rain in the PM. 
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  30 minutes

We took advantage of a late check-out time at Lake Charles State Park, since we had such a short drive today.  We hiked three trails in the park.  The first one followed the lake front….

The longest trail was called White Oak Trail, aptly named for its forest full of oaks.  The pathway was carpeted with moss.  Very nice.

In addition to its brand-new bathrooms at this park, the dump station is also new.  We split chores, and George is the lucky one who gets the dump duty.  Since we will be at Harvest Host sites the next two nights (without services), we need to dump today to be ahead of the game.

We have had terrible phone service.  I tried to contact the host where we were heading today, but the text would not go through, so we just drove there.    We weren’t 100% sure of the farm’s location.  Our GPS took us down a long, narrow, lane that seemed to go on and on.  There was no place to turn around, so we were just hoping that we were on the right road. 

At last, we spotted the farmhouse.  Thank goodness!

By this time, it had started to rain.  The owner came out to greet us and told us where to park.  After we got settled, we checked out her market.

The farm has 150 laying hens, 25 goats, cows, pigs, and fruit and vegetables.  We are lucky to hit strawberry season.  These look luscious!

We bought the strawberries, goat soaps and lotions, homemade strawberry jam, and Italian sausage.  We would have bought more, but our freezer is full from the last farm!

One of the many dogs came up to greet us

Here are some of the goats who thought I was going to feed them…

And, one of the Jersey cows wanted to check me out, too…

DINNER:  An Asian theme — the leftover steak roll-ups on a bed of Asian vegetables and noodles.  I spiced it up with extra onion, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.  Too bad we are out of sake –  A cup of hot sake would taste good on a chilly, rainy evening like this one.