Kansas City, MO to Virginia Beach, VA

August 6, 2004 - We left Independence, MO and headed for Branson, which is quite an amazing place. A huge entertainment industry has grown up around this little town, completely overwhelming the infrastructure. If you are not familiar with the back roads and are forced to use the "main drag", highway 76, then stand by for one of the worst traffic jams you can imagine. But, once you learn to deal with the traffic, Branson is a pretty nice place.

The entertainment is first-class and affordable (compared to Las Vegas). We are always looking for ways to save a buck. So an advertisement that promised four tickets for $40 caught our eye. These four tickets normally run about $115. The catch was that we had to listen to a presentation that attempted to sell us a very expensive campground membership. Hey, we are retired and have plenty of time and little money. We gave them 1.5 hours of our time for a $75 savings on tickets. I didn't have too much trouble saying "Thanks, but I'm not ready to buy, yet."

If you are interested in fishing and other water sports, beautiful Table Rock Lake is nearby. An interesting fish hatchery is located below Table Rock Dam. The shores of this lake have many nice Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds. On an earlier visit to Branson, we spent a rainy day driving around the lake and visiting these COE campgrounds. We decided to stay at the Escapees RV Park in Hollister but I highly recommend these campgrounds.

August 11, 2004 - This area of Missouri has a lot of nasty hills if you are towing an RV. So we went up to Springfield and grabbed highway 60 before heading east. Our first stop was New Madrid, MO, site of one of the largest earthquakes in North America. In 1811, before the Richter scale was invented, an earthquake, estimated to be magnitude 8.0 or higher rocked this area. Several aftershocks of almost equal magnitude occurred within hours and lesser aftershocks were felt for five months. Large areas sank into the earth, new lakes were formed. Several witnesses even reported that the Mississippi River temporarily reversed its flow. It is surprising that a large earthquake occurred in this part of the country.

We headed toward Memphis. I was never a big Elvis fan but I guess you gotta see Graceland once in your life. But it was getting late and, as we approached Caruthersville, MO, we saw a billboard for Casino Aztar which had an RV park. In Las Vegas, casinos mean great affordable buffets. Not here, though. The casio was on a riverboat moored in the Mississippi River. By Vegas standards, the casino was pretty shoddy. The food and service were not all that great, either. But the campground was pretty nice. Full hookups, including cable. Paved interior roads, concrete pads, and lots of green grass, all for only $18.

August 12, 2004 - We actually stayed at the Navy base campground at Millington, TN. During my years of camping, I have stayed at 11 military campgrounds. As an old Navy guy, it pains me to say this, but the Air Force has the nicest campgrounds and the Navy has the worst. Now, I am generalizing and I have only seen about 15 military campgrounds out of probably a hundred or more. Air Force campgrounds are also better managed. The campground in Millington was probably the worst of those I have seen. It didn't have to be that way. The full service section had concrete pads but the sites were so close together and the sewer connection was at the rear of the sites and, in some cases, required about 30' of sewer hose. The water and electric sites were downright shabby but they were surrounded by beautiful lakes. And where did the Navy get those guys that were running the place?

We made it to Graceland but the prices were outrageous so we didn't take any of the tours. Admission to Graceland was the same as Hearst Castle at San Simeon, CA. Across the street was the ticket office and the shuttle bus terminal and various shops trading on the name and image of Elvis. Just watching the carnival atmosphere surrounding the place was worth the trip.

August 14, 2004 - Next stop was Nashville, home of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. Yee Haw! Tickets to the opry were about $35 so we passed on that and drove to downtown Nashville instead. This is an interesting place, especially if you are a country music fan or interested in the history of country music.

This was one of the places where we arrived without reservations and the campground was full. We wanted to stay at the Army Corps of Engineers campground at Seven Points Recreation Area on J Percy Priest Reservoir but we arrived on a Saturday and it was full. The nice lady at the entrance then made a call to the Anderson Road campground on the other side of the lake and found us an empty spot. That campground had no hookups so we planned to return to Seven Points the next afternoon after the weekend crowd went home. But we found such a nice secluded spot at Anderson Road and the nightime temperature was comfortable so we decided to stay put and boondock for another night.

August 16, 2004 - This was last Escapees RV park on our trip.

August 20, 2004 - As I mentioned in an earlier segment, my wife is into geneology and she had previously discovered part of her family tree residing in Asheville, NC. We called her distant cousin, Lynn, and told her were would be coming through her area. Lynn and her significant other, Bill, have a 3 acre lot just outside Weaverville and she promptly invited us to park in her driveway and stay a few days. Lynn has two horses and a small stable. Bill, a fox hunter, has about 30 hounds in pens behind the house. Two cats, a couple of terriers, a whippet, and several other dogs of the Heinz variety roamed the premises along with a half dozen chickens. It must cost a fortune to feed these animals. We didn't do too much during this stop except sit back and enjoy the company and hospitality of Bill and Lynn.

August 22, 2004 - North Bend Park on Kerr Lake near Boydton, VA is one of our favorite campgrounds. It is only 3 hours from home and we have been here many times. The Army Corps of Engineers builds and maintains some of the nicest public campgrounds in this country and this is one of them. Heavily wooded and on a lake, the sites are large and spaced far enough apart to offer some privacy. Each site is level and clearly marked with large landscape timbers. Each site contains water and electricity, a picnic table, fire ring and BBQ grill, a pole to hang your lantern, and another table to clean fish or prepare your outdoor meal. Several nice sandy beaches are located throughout the campground. Several bathhouses are in good repair and provide shower and toilet facilities but they are overrun by the hordes that descend on this place every summer weekend. From November 1 until the following March 31, most of the campground closes and all services are turned off. But one section remains open, free of charge, for boondock camping.

August 24, 2004 - We arrived home and the house was still standing. The yard had been maintained by the son of a family friend and he did a good job. We turned on the water and restored full electrical power. While we were gone, our electricity bill was about $25 each month instead of the usual $150. Before we left, we set the thermostat for A/C and set the temperature to 80 degrees. This didn't let the house get too hot while we were gone. We also turned off the hot water heater. Everything is in order but the house needs a good dusting. I was concerned that the traps in the toilets, sinks, and showers would have dried out and allowed sewer gas to infiltrate the house but, apparently, that did not happen. We picked up our mail from my in-laws, half of which was junk mail. What a waste of good paper.