Glamping

Cargo Trailer Glamping – Trip #4 – Ozark Outdoors

Our camping goal is to get as much camping in during the Spring and Fall month as possible as opposed to summers when kids are out of school and it’s too hot to really enjoy being outdoors.

We’ve discovered that camping when the temperature is below freezing is also not comfortable, so we really only have a few months that are “ideal”, for us anyway.

So. We went to this campground in April and apparently, no one camps in April. I shouldn’t say nobody camps in April, but there seems to be a lot less people camping in April.

In case you’re not aware, we’re newbies to this whole camping thing. Well. we’re not newbies, per say, we went camping a lot when the boys were little. We started with a pop-up camper, graduated to a hybrid, (a trailer with pop-out tent beds on either end) and then we stopped camping all together because the boys got older and we just sort of got burned out. We burned out primarily because the hybrid would leak every time we took it out and we got tired of having to deal with the stress of waterproofing the canvas and then still having it leak when we camped).

Then COVID happened and Kevin and I suddenly couldn’t go on cruises anymore:

  1. Because the CDC shut down the cruise industry for nearly two years and
  2. We weren’t willing to jump through hoops dealing with the restrictions that came with the whole unvaccinated stigma

But we didn’t want to stop taking vacations or exploring different areas, or basically living our lives, so what did we decide to do? Convert a cargo trailer into a camping trailer.

And by “we” I mean Kevin. I was little to no help actually helping him build the thing.

Sorry. I didn’t mean to go into the details of why we started our “glamping” adventures but there you go.

Back to this trip.

We had no idea this Ozark Outdoors campground existed. LeRoy talked to someone in the neighborhood who told him about this campground and we had to try it out. It sounded amazing. It’s basically Disneyland for campers.

Sort of.

It also made me wonder how many more campgrounds were we missing? And how in the world do you even LOOK for them??

Here are a few resources I’ve stumbled upon:

  1. BSC Campground – this is specific to Missouri but I’m sure there are similar sites for other states out there.
  2. Recreation.gov – this is a site for all state parks across the United States. I’ve been haunting this site for weeks. The thing about state parks – not all parks/sites have water/electric/sewer, though most have water/electric, most do not have sewer. Something to keep in mind for your neck trip. However, these sites are RIGHT on the lakes and off the beaten track so they are beautiful, peaceful and cheap.
  3. RV Camping – this site is helpful in that you can look up your state, you do have to do a little digging and follow a few rabbit holes before you find some great resources in your state – but at least it gets you started.
  4. Missouri State Parks – again, specific to Missouri but I’m sure other states have similar sites you can research for your state.

Anyway, back to Ozark Outdoors.

Ozarks Outdoors is located between Rolla and. St. Louis and it’s situated right off the Meramec River. The biggest selling point is that they have a tubing route. You can take a shuttle to the start of the route, ride your tube down the river and get off at the end of the route to take the shuttle back to the beginning, if you wish. The campground is all along that tubing route. The campground itself is a little over one mile long. It’s huge. Now of course, we didn’t do any tubing when we camped in April because it wasn’t an available option when were there. It was too cold and the river was too choppy at that time. But it’s a cool feature.

We left home on Friday, April 22nd, at 12:30 PM. We’re on this kick where we go on vacation Fridays and come back Tuesdays. We choose these days because these are the days that work the best for Kevin’s work schedule. We arrived at Ozark Outdoors at 3:15 PM. This was the first time that Kevin pulled the trailer with his new Dodge Ram and the truck did great though it was a challenge as it was pretty windy on the way to the campground. The trailer is heavier than traditional RV’s and we really have to distribute the weight toward the back of the trailer so there is less “bounce.”

As I mentioned, the park is huge and though there were a few other campers, everyone was spaced out and we had lots of privacy. After setting up, we walked down to the river to take a look around. We had gotten a ton of rain and the river was pretty muddy so we had to take our shoes off back at the bathroom/showers at the outdoor spigot and wash them off before we could go back into the trailer. Oops.

The campground has really nice bathrooms and showers. Here’s how they are situated: there is an apartment complex on the 2nd floor and the ground floor consists of concrete rooms where the bathrooms are on one side of the structure, the showers are on the other side of the structure. So there is not one bathroom that have showers – they are separate. And they are unisex – no women/men separations here! (I’m sure the 97 different types of gender people will appreciate that).

This campground is quite a bit off the beaten track, meaning, it’s sort of out in the middle of nowhere, so there aren’t any places close by to eat. However, the campground does have an onsite restaurant, (called Paddlers Grill), and that’s where we ended up having dinner that first night. It was a little awkward because we were the only people there and the restaurant was only open on Friday and Saturday nights and only for a few hours, but the food was decent and it was close, so we weren’t complaining.

Saturday, April 23rd, we slept in. Kevin cut out Styrofoam window coverings and we use those to put in the windows at night and they do a really good job of keeping any sort of light out so that it’s a perfect sleeping environment. As a result, we typically sleep in when we go camping because no light can come in and wake us up. We slept in till 9:00 then made our way down to the showers.

We both went into a shower room, side-by-side, (not together!), stripped down and realized, at the same time, that you had to pay $.50 in order to shower. So, we got dressed, met back outside at the same time and started laughing because we had no idea it cost money to shower. I don’t believe I saw that little tidbit on the website, but maybe I missed it.

Good thing I had some change in my purse! (Pro tip: Always make sure you have some change when you go camping).

We paid $.50 for five minutes which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really wasn’t that bad. Knowing there was a time frame definitely made us hurry. I get why they charge a fee – some people take really long showers.

It was super windy and hot this day. We had planned on hiking a trail but we felt like it was too hot. Again, since this campsite was in the middle of nowhere, we weren’t really sure what to do. Onondaga Cave State Park was right next door to the campground, which was a nice surprise, so we headed to the cave to see how much a tour would cost. We arrived just as a tour had started and we didn’t want to stick around and wait for the next tour, so we drove around the area, took some pictures, headed into Cuba MO to check out some places to eat, picked up a few things at Wal-Mart, went to a flea market and picked up some interesting pieces for Kevin’s flea market booths, (also, we can write the trip off as a business expense – I’m not married to an accountant for no reason!), then went to Hickory BBQ and had dinner. Our movie for the night was Alexander. (We never watch movies until we go camping).

Sunday, April 24th, we had another late-start to our morning. Kevin used to be pretty militant when it came to vacation agendas. We had to be HERE, at a certain time, then HERE for another activity and BACK for dinner or whatever else we had planned. Thankfully, he’s mellowed out in his old age and now we do what we feel like doing. No agenda, no schedule, just play it by ear. Vacations are a lot more fun now.

We went back to the cave and this time we arrived just as they were putting another group together. We really like cave tours – it’s interesting to see how powerful water can be over time. This cave was very pretty and had a lot of interesting formations. We took some pictures, but this video also has some cool shots, too.

The cave tour took about an hour and a half and by the time we got back to our campground, the few people who had moved in on Friday were gone and we were one of two people left in the entire campground!! Talk about strange, weird and a little creepy. Keep in mind, this campground is about a mile long so that’s A LOT of empty space. They do have a security guard, an old guy that we waved to when we got back from dinner, but still – quiet and spooky.

See that spot of white where the arrow is pointing? Yeah – that’s our campsite. Notice how there is NO ONE else around??

But it was sort of nice to have the place to ourselves.

We spent some time sitting by the river reading and enjoying nature. It was awesome because it was so peaceful. It was one of the few times in life where it was absolutely quiet. You didn’t hear another human sound – no airplanes flying overhead, no barking dogs, no screaming kids, no loud music – just nature. It was very peaceful. I want to do more of that kind of camping. Which has made me re-think the possibility of camping at state parks. They are set up to be more peaceful – spaced out, right next to the lake – than say a commercial campground like Ozark Outdoors. Sure, it was peaceful then, but I’m betting it’s a mad house in the summer time.

We drove back into Cuba and ate at a Mexican restaurant – the decor was so loud it was almost painful to look at.

We then went back to our campground and watched RV and Blades of Glory. (Both funny movies, actually).

Monday, April 25th started off slow again. We slept in and tootled around the campsite for most of the morning. Then we went back to Onondaga park and walked the Deer Lane Trail. About a quarter of a mile into the trail, we ran into the entrance for the Cathedral Cave. The entrance consists of a heavy metal door into the side of a hill. What’s cool about the Cathedral Cave tour is that it’s a lantern tour, meaning, there are no lights in the cave, each person carries a flashlight into the cave and that’s how you explore it! Doesn’t that sound like fun?! Unfortunately, they don’t have as many tours for the Cathedral Cave as they did for the Onondaga cave so we didn’t get a chance to do that tour, but we would like to go back someday and try it out – it sounds fascinating. (Actually, I think they told us it was flooded because we had had so much rain).

The trail itself wasn’t very pretty, largely because the time of year we walked it was on the cusp of spring and the trees and vegetation hadn’t bloomed so everything was gray and brown. It was a long trail though, 2 1/2 miles. And what’s funny about this trail is that it wasn’t marked very clearly so there were a few times we took the wrong path. (One time I literally almost walked off a cliff!) We were looking for green markers on the path and if you happened to see a green marker, it wasn’t on the trail but on the trees alongside the trail. It was frustrating and after a while, I was completely convinced that we were lost. I was starting to get a little worried because it was getting late in the day and I was afraid we would be lost in the woods after dark. And we did not have cell service.

I wanted to turn back but Kevin, who had a map, said that we were nearly at the end of the trail and going back would take longer so we trudged forward. We finally stumbled our way back to the visitor center after several more wrong turns. I was pretty annoyed by that time and wanted to tell someone at the visitor’s center about the lack of signage but the center was closed and we were getting hungry so we ended up driving back into Cuba again and ate at Audrey’s Eatery. It’s supposed to be based on the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” and I thought it would be fun to eat there. However, it was a huge disappointment. The place was a dump. It doubled as a comic book store and had all sorts of gaming paraphernalia and we instantly regretted going there. However, after speaking to the waitress we found out they were in the middle of moving to a new building which explained the clutter and the chaos. They were very nice and the food was decent and I’m glad we went because we had a good laugh afterward, but it wasn’t really our kind of place.

We headed back to camp and Bill, the security guy, stopped us and talked to us for a bit and then we drove to our lone campsite in the middle of nothing. (Still makes me laugh thinking about how we had the ENTIRE place to ourselves). We built a campfire and Bill, who was driving around because he’s the security guy, stopped by our campsite and we talked for quite a while. He’s an elderly man and he had some interesting life stories. I could tell he was curious about our trailer so I offered to take him on a tour of the place. He seemed really interested in how our trailer was set up and I think he was surprised to see how comfortable it was. He stayed until the fire was nearly out and after he left we watched Wedding Crashers – a classic in my opinion.

Tuesday, April 26th we packed up and headed home. I was almost relieved to be leaving because like I said, having such a huge place to yourself is cool, but very weird. We made it back home at 12:45 PM and Kevin went straight to work and I unloaded the camper, cleaned it up and did five loads of laundry.

I also spent some time planning out our next camping trip. I worry that Kevin is get burned out on camping, Between camping with me and LeRoy, he will be camping a lot. Speaking of LeRoy, Kevin went ahead and reserved another trip with LeRoy at Ozark Outdoors because after all, LeRoy is the one who found out about this place – we wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. They are planning on going next weekend, as a matter of fact. It will be interesting to see how busy it is when they go now that it’s in the middle of summer and so hot. I’m sure the river is going to be super busy with tubers.

I wouldn’t mind going back to this campground again but it’s really for people who love spending time in the river. Personally, I can’t bring myself to swim in a lake or river because I can’t get past the fact that I don’t know what lies beneath me. It creeps me out. And if we aren’t planning on spending any time on the river, there’s not much else to do there. And the closest town with restaurants was about 15 minutes away.

Ozark Outdoors does have a cool Aerial Treetop Park. It’s basically like an obstacle course in the air. It looks like fun and I’m sure it will be a big hit with the kids and young adults. It was closed when we were there, not that we would have done anything on it if it was opened – that’s a little out of our league.

They also have a cool area called “Canoehenge” – a spot where a group of people can gather and have meetings, picnics, etc. Bill, the security officer, also told us they have outside movies in the summertime, too.

See the canoes?

Overall, it’s a cool place and I’m sure it’s a lot of fun in the summer months. They were building another bathroom/shower facility when we were there which tells us they must really be hopping in the summer months. I’m looking forward to Kevin taking some pictures to see how busy it is when compared to when we were there. I don’t think Kevin and LeRoy plan on tubing while they are there, but you never know.

If you like to spend time on the river, this is the place for you. It’s a great place for families and they have several sites throughout the park where you could camp together with your family – family sites, I guess. I’m glad we went. It was interesting to see something different and so off the beaten track. Bill did tell us though that since they are so close to the river and it’s a pretty flat campground, they do have trouble with flooding from time to time. I don’t think we have to worry overly much about floods right now with it being so hot and dry, but it’s definitely something to consider if you’re planning on camping there. They also have cabins and as I mentioned before, apartments above the bathrooms/showers if you had family that wasn’t big into camping but wanted to “camp” with you.

The people were friendly, the facilities were super nice, there is a restaurant on site and they even advertise live music on the weekends.

Overall, I would give this campground 4 out of 5 stars.

Glamping

Cargo Trailer Glamping – Trip #3 – Cooper Creek

Cooper Creek is our go-to campground. It’s in Branson, Missouri, and it’s right off an arm of Lake Taneycomo. We like this campground because it’s not widely known, the people who run it are pretty great, and the air coming off the lake is really nice and cool making it an ideal place to hangout in the dead of summer.

It’s also cheap. Compared to most places nowadays.

The campground also has cabins so if/when we can get the boys to come with us, they can stay in the cabin and we’ll stay in our trailer. I’m really excited about this – we can grill food, fish, or in my case, hang out near the water and read, toast marshmallows, watch movies … we used to go camping quite a bit when the boys were little. We started with a pop-up camper and wore that thing out, then graduated to a Hybrid camper shell – the tent beds folded out on either side. It was a cute, comfortable camper but it leaked and waterproofing the canvas was a full-time job and every time it rained, it would stress me out because I didn’t want it to leak on us while we were sleeping.

I’m proud to say that as of now, the trailer has not leaked, not once. Really happy about that.

But it is heavy. We haven’t actually gotten around to weighing it yet, but Kevin thinks it’s likely around 4,000 to 4,500 pounds. So owning a truck that is big and tough enough to handle it has been a challenge.

I took a long weekend off in April and we headed to Cooper Creek. Another reason we like that campground is because it’s so close, only about 45 minutes from our house. So we feel like we’ve gotten away but we’re not far enough away that we couldn’t run home if we needed to.

April 17th started my mini-vacation and I spent the day running errands and getting the trailer ready. I have to admit, I HATE packing. I would much rather unpack and clean up than pack. I think it’s primarily because I’m so focused on making sure we don’t forget anything that I overthink everything. Though I do have a master list and it’s not as much work as it used to be since we keep the majority of our stuff in the trailer, I still have to think about clothes, health and beauty aids, food, entertainment and of course, having enough water on hand for both coffee and drinking. It doesn’t sound like much but it typically takes me about an hour to fully pack and that’s IF I don’t have any interruptions because I have learned that if I get interrupted while packing we inevitably forget something.

Which is not that big of a deal when there’s a Walmart on every corner, but it’s becoming a running joke that we end up going to Walmart at least once every trip so it would be nice to get to the point where we don’t have to go to Walmart.

Thursdays are Kevin’s busiest day. He does payroll for a client and they don’t usually get their information to him until late in the day so we have to plan our vacations around this time period so Kevin can take care of them. It’s annoying and super inconvenient but they pay well and their employees need to be paid so we make it work.

He worked most of Thursday and I ended up picking up some dinner at about 4:30 and we got on the road about 5:00 PM. We got a call from the campground letting us know that we would be checking in after the office closed so they would leave an envelope for us on the office door with the bathroom keys.

We had plenty of daylight left and the day was gorgeous – nary a cloud in the sky. Kevin was driving his Ford 150 and things were going great … until we hit the hills of Branson.

If you’ve never been to Branson Missouri, there is a strip, the main strip, called 76. It’s quite similar to the main strip in Las Vegas – everything is located on that strip. So, traffic is always backed up and if you happen to stop on a hill, well, you sort of hold your breath when it’s time to go again hoping your car doesn’t roll back into the car behind you.

I think you might see where I’m going with this.

We make it to Branson, we’re on the strip and we get stuck at a stoplight, on a hill. The truck starts making some weird noises, like it’s not idling fast enough and wants to die. It also sounds rough, like a diesel engine – Kevin’s truck wasn’t a diesel.

It dies on a steep hill. And we’re towing a 4,500 ton cargo trailer behind us. And the traffic is bumper to bumper.

To say I hyperventilated would be putting it mildly. It absolutely freaked me out. I said a prayer, (or ten), and luckily, the truck started right back up when the light turned green. It would start okay, it just wouldn’t stay running and Kevin had to continually gun it to keep it from dying. I’m happy to report there were no mishaps but it was a nail biter for a bit. We weren’t out of the woods yet. We still had a ways to drive to get to the campground but the traffic wasn’t as heavy and though it was still stressful, I didn’t feel like I was having a heart attack. We made it to the campground in one piece but I no longer trusted the truck to get us from point A to point B. Kevin said it acted like that a few times for him while not towing the trailer and he thinks it gets too hot and starts blahblahblah – I won’t pretend to know what he was talking about – I just knew, we were going to have to get a new truck before I would agree to go camping again. That was too stressful.

It rained pretty much the whole next day but we were prepared for that. Here’s the thing – there is never a great time to go camping. Sure. You could wait until the summer months when it’s less likely to rain but then you have to deal with the heat and the humidity and quite honestly, I’m finding that I prefer to camp in the Spring and Fall when it’s rainy and a little cold – it’s more comfortable for me personally. So, when it rains, it really doesn’t bother me. We just stick around the camper and read, play games or watch a movie. And that’s what we did this go around. Camping is good for Kevin because it FORCES him to slow down – he’s one of those go-go-go personalities and he doesn’t slow down unless he doesn’t have a choice – he doesn’t have a choice when we’re camping and it’s raining. So, he pulled out his PS game thingie and played Ace Combat for a while.

I worked on my homework. Yep – I did homework. You can read about my class here. I’m finished with it now and I’ll write more about that soon.

We ventured out for dinner and ate at the Mexican Kitchen – which is awesome. Kevin says they have the best refried beans he’s ever tasted – they taste smoky. We then got back to the camper and watched “Dallas Buyer’s Club” and “The Princess Bride”, which I confess, I have never watched in it’s entirety. Kevin wanted to watch “Dallas Buyer’s Club” because its mirrors what happened with COVID – the government wouldn’t allow people with AIDS to take alternative medication and the medication that was “approved” was actually making people sicker and killing them. So, Matthew McConaughey’s character took matters into his own hands and started a buyer’s club where people could become a “member” and get the drugs they needed to manage the disease. This is quite similar to what happened with COVID – there were alternative treatments out there but the government demonized the options and the “approved” treatments that people received in the hospital were ineffective and ultimately killed a lot of people. This is our personal opinion but mark my words, it will show this when we look back on this period in the history books.

But I digress.

We went to bed late and we knew there would be more storms but whatever, we’re in a metal box, it’s pretty sturdy, doesn’t leak and we would be fine.

It stormed. Big time.

Our mini-split runs all the time. And though it’s pitch black in the trailer, there are various pinpoints of light coming from electronics, etc. So, there is constant noise, which is good for sleeping, and there is just enough light to see shapes, etc.

So, when the mini-split stopped working, it woke me up. I’m a light sleeper anyway so to be fair, it doesn’t take much to wake me up, but when I woke up, it was pitch black. No pinpoints of light. It was dark and very, very quiet.

What the hell?

The electricity had gone out. I was annoyed more than anything at first but I wasn’t panicking. Sure enough, it came back on, lasted about two minutes, then went out again. This time, Kevin work up. We laid there for a bit and it came back on again. Kevin got up to see what was going on and when he opened the door, the lights went out again. And this time, they stayed off.

The campground is next to the arm of Lake Taneycomo, as I mentioned, but on the other side of the lake, there is a hill. And on top of this hill are houses. So at night, you can see the lights from these houses lining the top of the hill. When the lights went out a third time, Kevin had the door open and he saw the lights on the hill go black. I was a little relieved to know this because at first I thought it was just the campground and I was thinking, how are we going to contact the park owners to let them know the electricity was out? Since the houses on the hill went black, this was a much bigger outage – it wasn’t just us.

But it was spooky. The place was BLACK. You could hardly see anything and since we were camping in the “off season”, there wasn’t that many people in the park to begin with so it felt very isolating and spooky. There was a lot of lightening though so it wasn’t surprising that we lost power. But we got to talking – what if that had been an EMP, (electromagnetic pulse) attack? What would we do? The boys knew where we were but if it was a true EMP attack, our cell phones wouldn’t work, our truck wouldn’t work, (because it’s mostly computerized) and even if it worked, we didn’t have enough gas to get home.

And we had very little food in the trailer. We stopped talking about it because it was scaring us and we went back to bed. I don’t feel like I got much sleep after that but I must have dozed off because the mini-split came back on about 4:00 AM and jerked me awake.

Thank God the power came back on.

But it got us to talking about it over coffee the next morning and it made us realize, you just never know what is going to happen in this crazy world – especially right now with Russia acting unpredictable and putting everyone on edge. It makes you realize how much you take for granted and how much we rely on technology, and the internet, to live our lives every day. What would happen if it all suddenly went away? Not just the physical inconvenience but how would people react? I would like to say we would come together, work together and get through it but let’s be real – it would be hell on earth and I’m picturing a Mad Max world – every man/woman for him/herself.

You better have some weapons nearby – just saying.

Anyway. The next day was gorgeous and it more than made up for an uncomfortable and scary night. I finished my weekly quiz and after that, we walked to the camp office and bought a magnet, (we’re collecting magnets from places we’re camping to put on our fridge), and then we walked about 2.5 miles around Table Rock Dam and worked up an appetite for dinner. We tried to go to Uptown Café, a 50’s-style café, but they had a tour bus and were super busy so we ended up going to Culverts. (Those butter burgers are ‘da bomb). We watched “The Poseidon Adventure” and went to bed.

*Spoiler alert – it was bad – like REALLY bad.

By the way, neither of us watches TV or movies so camping is the only time we really watch movies together. Again, it forces Kevin to slow down. Which he will only do if he doesn’t have a choice.

We overslept the next morning. We got up at 9:00 and had to scramble to get packed up and out by check out time at 11:00. It’s so easy to sleep in the trailer because it’s so dark and with the fan and the mini-split going, it gives just enough background noise that we don’t hear a lot of what’s going on outside.

Kevin’s truck started acting up again as we got closer to home and I spent the majority of the trip home convincing him that he needed to buy a newer, bigger truck. I know trucks are insanely expensive but he’s gone through two trucks in the past three years and it was time to upgrade and buy something that he wouldn’t have to stress over.

I planted the seed, at least.

When we went to meet the boys for Brandon’s birthday, LeRoy saw some trucks at a dealership on the way. He talked Kevin into looking at them a few days later and they just so happened to have a 2018 Dodge Ram Longhorn that just came in. They hadn’t even had a chance to clean it before Kevin looked at it and took it for a test drive. He liked it and it only had 27,000 miles on it – so, virtually brand new. And it was in excellent condition and came with all the bells and whistles – heated seats, a heated steering wheel (!!), a sunroof. Really nice. He text me a picture and I encouraged him to buy it. Yes. It was expensive. No. I won’t tell you how much. But Kevin has worked so hard all of his life, he deserves a fancy truck that he won’t have to stress about fixing any time soon.

He bought it.

And that’s the story of how we came to buy ANOTHER truck. I’m excited to see how it does on our next glamping trip.

Which we just back from and I’ll write about soon.

Thanks for reading.

Get out and live life, folks!

Glamping

Cargo Trailer Glamping – Trip #2 – Musicland – Branson MO

Because we had to cancel our September camping trip to Ozark Outdoors because the hospital I work at mandated the jab and I wasn’t about to succumb to an experimental injectable for a disease that was little more than a severe respiratory infection and I wasn’t in the high category risk for it and I couldn’t justify taking it, I put my resignation in. My last day was supposed to be 9-29-21, however, my religious exemption was approved at the last minute and I agreed to weekly testing so I could keep my job. But we had canceled our trip because we didn’t want to forfeit our deposit – so we didn’t go camping in September. Once the dust settled, I looked to the next little vacation I had asked off for – Veteran’s Day weekend. We knew we would likely go camping but we didn’t really know where – we just knew it would be somewhere close to home. We settled on Branson but we still hesitated on making reservations because my working life is volatile right now and honestly, I’m taking one day at a time. Who knows what the environment will look like tomorrow.

Once the time arrived and the world continued to revolve and the sky didn’t fall on my head, again, we figured we were safe to go ahead and make reservations about two days before we were supposed to leave. We stayed at Musicland Kampground just off the 76 strip. For those familiar with the area, you know exactly what “the strip” is. Branson is a lot like Vegas – all of it’s attractions are all located on one strip of road. It’s a mini Vegas, truth be known. And the campground is right off the strip. We like this campground because you can literally go through a gate and walk up to the strip. This campground is always super clean and the people are very friendly. They also have someone that will show you to your campsite and help you back in which I always appreciate because that’s always the most stressful part for me – navigating Kevin into tight spots.

(That sounded ….. never mind).

I packed up the camper on Friday. We’re really getting packing down to a science so that the only thing I really have to pack is clothes and food – we keep a lot of stuff in the camper so that we don’t have to pack it again and again. We, (I), did forget to pack a few things – more on that later.

This was the first time we pulled the trailer with Kevin’s new F150 truck. By the way, if I didn’t mention it before now, the guy that bought Kevin’s F250 finally paid off the balance and they came and towed the truck away.

Kev was pretty sad to see it go. He got used to driving this monster, it was pretty powerful, so driving the F150 feels kind of weak in comparison.

The F150 did great, by the way. It was really windy when we drove to Branson so that was a complication, and Kevin was getting used to the brakes on the trailer, so there was a lot of bumping as he made adjustments, but once he got the hang of it, it seemed to pull it just fine. I would still like to take it somewhere to get weighed though – just to see how heavy this thing is. We had too much weight in the tongue of the trailer and it bounced quite a big. I think that worried Kevin a bit that the F150 wouldn’t be big enough for future trips, but we’ll see.

We arrived at the site at about 2:00 PM. The guy helped Kevin park it, (THANK GOODNESS), and we worked on setting everything up. The wind was bitterly cold and it was not fun to set up the outside, but I helped him as much as I could and I felt like it went pretty fast. Once we had the electricity hooked up, I uncovered the mini-split and turned the heat on. We’ve never tested the heater part of the mini-split before so I was holding my breath until we confirmed that it was working.

The only thing we really had to set up on the inside was to hang the TV on the mount on the wall and to lift the fridge up on it’s platform and plug it in. We take the fridge off the platform when we’re traveling so it won’t fall off and smash into a million pieces. In the meantime, we pack our perishable food in a cooler with ice packs to keep it cool and once the fridge cools down, (it takes about three hours), I will transfer the food to the fridge and put the cooler in the back of Kevin’s truck to get it out of the way. It works well. Once Kevin hooks up the water/sewer, we fill the toilet up with water so that it’s ready for those late-night pees.

As we were getting the trailer set up, I figured out what I forgot – our pillows. I also forgot to bring my jacket. Kevin had his but I forgot mine and it was simply way too cold to go without, so, we had to make a trip to Wal-Mart to buy pillows and a jacket. I was pretty annoyed with myself for forgetting stuff so important, but at least now we have pillows that we’ll keep in the trailer so I won’t forget them in the future. 

Once the trailer was set up, we rested for a bit and then we went out to eat at a BBQ place. Since it gets dark so early now and was dark when we finished eating, not to mention bitterly cold, we headed back to the trailer, changed into comfy clothes and watched “Stripes.” I had forgotten just how STUPID that movie really is. Gah.

The temps dropped to below freezing that night and the mini-split, though worked well, had trouble keeping up. In fact, we were actually a bit hot, but since I’m such a light sleeper, and never sleep well the first night we are away from home, I knew right away when the mini-split started sounding different. It sounded like it was freezing up and we shut it off for a bit so that it could thaw out. Kevin slept pretty well and he had his earplugs in so he couldn’t hear anything and didn’t notice there was anything wrong with the unit. (He has to wear earplugs because I SAW LOGS at night. By the way, he uses these these earplugs, they work REALLLY WELL in case you’re looking for good earplugs and/or you sleep with a partner that also SAWS LOGS).

Also – our water quit working so we assumed it had gotten so cold it froze. Nope. Our connection had fallen off and we hadn’t realized it.

We “slept” in Saturday and had a relaxing morning. We had chicken wraps for lunch, which were delicious and side note: we use coleslaw in a bag instead of lettuce – more crunch, more flavor and lasts way longer than normal lettuce. Afterward, we walked the strip. We really wanted to go to “Beyond the Lens” where you can take selfies in all sorts of fun backgrounds, like Bigfoot and on the moon, but it was like $35 PER PERSON and we’re too cheap to pay that price so we didn’t end up going. In fact, that was the theme of this trip – too cheap to have fun. We would love to do a lot of things in Branson, but like any touristy place, the prices are outlandish and we would prefer to spend our money on other things. Because I was so tired I had a hard time walking without tripping over my feet, we headed back to the trailer and I took a nap while Kevin watched the Discovery channel. (He hooked up the cable and took advantage of the shows he hasn’t watched in forever because we don’t have cable – remember the cheap part?)

After I woke up, (actually, I was woken up by our neighbor who knocked on our door because our water hook up was leaking and causing a puddle), we went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. It was really good and Kevin commented that their refried beans were the best he’s ever tasted. After we ate, we walked around a few craft malls where Kevin found me a really cool leather purse for a reasonable price. (I’ve since been carrying the purse around and I love it – it has a side zipper pocket for my keys [I never have to take my keys out – it’s a fob and I just push the starter button in my car – not sure I really like that option], and a pocket on the side that is perfect for my eyeglass case).

After that, we headed back to the trailer and watched “The Mexican” with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. I had seen it before. Another stupid movie. This is why I don’t watch movies anymore – they are all so DUMB.

Sunday, after taking showers, (by the way, our trailer doesn’t have a shower, we use the showers at the campground. Which is really not that big of a deal, unless you forget to bring a bag to carry all of your stuff in, (another thing I forgot), TO the shower and then it’s a pain in the butt but since most of the rigs at the campgrounds have their own showers, we rarely encounter anyone in the showers, so that’s nice), we walked around another craft mall. After that, we drove to the lake and walked along a hiking trail for a bit and enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine. It was cold, but it was nice. We also realized that when we go camping in the future, we are going to focus more on secluded campgrounds by water as opposed to trendy campgrounds near a lot of things to do. We are both perfectly happy to sit around the site and read, nap, watch TV, go for walks and just enjoy the nature and the peace and quiet. That’s really WHY we like camping – to get away from everything and everyone and relax. The Musicland Campground was great, but it wasn’t really what we were looking for. We stayed at this campground a few times in the past with the boys and it was perfect then because it was in the middle of everything and we were near a bunch of attractions, which we did with the boys, but now that we’re older and just us, it’s just not something that we’re into anymore.

We headed back to the trailer when it started to get dark and we cooked pancakes, eggs and bacon for dinner. As part of my ten-year anniversary with the hospital, they sent me a brochure of things I could pick from and for my “gift” and I picked a two-skillet set to use in the camper. We used those skillets and we really liked them. We don’t have a stovetop in the trailer, but we used a single burner and Kevin had to wait for me to cook the pancakes before he could get started on the eggs, (he cooks eggs are WAY better than me), and it took a while. So, I will be buying a dual flat burner to keep in the trailer from now on. After dinner, we watched some more Discovery Channel shows.

Monday, we packed up and came home. The weather the whole weekend was nice and Monday was no exception. It was sunny and warm and Kevin didn’t have any trouble pulling the trailer back home. In fact, he made sure the majority of the weight was in the back of the trailer this time and the ride home was a lot less bouncy. Weight distribution really does make a huge difference.

Kevin parked in the driveway behind our house and I unloaded the trailer and caught up on laundry. Kevin had to go to his office to do some work.

We learn something every time we go camping. I have a list of things I want to buy and keep in the camper, and we are going to try and put a murphy table in as well. We don’t have a table now, though Kevin did build a “desk” of sorts just under where the TV sits so we’ve been using that, as well as our bench that we sit on at the desk, as a table. We likely won’t go camping again until the Spring as it’s getting a bit too cold for comfort but hopefully, by then, we’ll have a table to use. It wasn’t that big of a deal this time, but it would be more comfortable.

Our goal is to take a trip every other month in 2022. Kevin wants to take impromptu trips but I can’t really do that because I have to give my work at least two weeks notice whenever I ask for any time off and even then, it’s not a sure thing, so we have to make reservations at the last minute to avoid forfeiting our deposits and that can be a gamble because you’re assuming the campground has space. In addition, Kevin has a client that he does payroll for every week, on Thursdays, so he HAS to be in his office on Thursdays to take care of that so if we leave town, it has to be Friday afternoons, (because he delivers the checks on Friday mornings), and we have to be back by the following Tuesday to give him time to prepare for the upcoming week’s payroll. It sucks, but they pay the bills so we have to make due.

Overall, it was a fun, quick little trip and we’re looking forward to more trips in 2022. This trip was easier than the last trip and I’m sure we’ll get the whole process down to a science in no time. I do think I was more of a help to Kevin this time, though. I was able to help him set up and breakdown all of the outside stuff this go around.

Here are some pictures from our trip – starting from left to right:

This Italian restaurant is on the 76 strip in Branson. We didn’t eat there, but we passed it when we were walking down the strip. 

Kevin and I wanted to go to Beyond the Lens, this is the entrance, cool, right? But it was way too expensive for our cheap selves so we settled for looking at it with longing eyes as we walked by.

Kevin gained a little weight this trip. 

These next three pictures were taken in front of Ripley’s Believe it or not. Hulk is made entirely out of cars parts, King Kong is made from old tires and the werewolf is made from gears, nails, etc. Pretty cool.

We did eat at this chicken restaurant. I had chicken fried tenders rolled in an almond crust and the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. They were short staffed and it took a bit to get waited on and our food, but I’m glad we stuck it out because it was delicious. 

These next pictures were taken at Table Rock Lake. We were trying to capture the beautiful sunset as it shined through the trees, but I’m afraid we didn’t do it justice. It was magical. 

The last picture if our campsite. As you can see, there is a hotel behind us. Again, not the prettiest, or the most peaceful site, but it was super convenient as you literally walk through a gate and you’re on the 76 strip. So, if you’re looking to camp in Branson and want to be close to everything, the Musicland campground is the place to be. 

Thanks for reading!

 

Glamping

Maiden Voyage – Cargo Trailer Glamping – Trip #1 – Port of Kimberling Marina

After four long months, longer for Kevin because he was the one who actually did the work, we are finally using our camper. As I mentioned in my July Reflections post, I had no intention of going camping before our scheduled trip in September, but this past week was so traumatic for me (I sound so weak when I say that), that Kevin felt sorry for me and pretty much made me go camping. And he was right, I feel lighter and out here COVID doesn’t exist.

Our first camping trip together, (though technically this is not our camper’s first time going out, Kevin took LeRoy camping the third weekend of July), was to Port of Kimberling Marina just south of Branson, Missouri. We picked this campsite because it’s not far from where we live, about 90 minutes, and it’s located on a lake. We didn’t want to take it out too far our first time using it because we knew we would learn a lot from this experience and we didn’t want to be too far away from home in case something happened and we needed to cut our trip short.

We arrived at 3:30 PM on Saturday, July 31st and left at 10:00 AM on August 3rd. This was Kevin’s first time pulling the camper and though he has already pulled it twice, (when he bought it and brought it home and when he and LeRoy went camping), I was a nervous wreck. I was worried about cabinet doors flying open and I couldn’t help picturing shattered soup bowls on the floor when we parked it and opened it up.

Kevin did great pulling it though and there were no problems getting down here, at least, with the trailer. Kevin’s truck air conditioning though, not sure what is going on but his air emitted some sort of gas, or something, and it made my eyes water so much I literally had tears running down my face. I legit couldn’t see. It was burning Kevin’s eyes but he at least was able to still drive. We turned the air off and rolled the windows down and after a while, my eyes stopped watering. He said he had the air worked on but something is clearly still off and he will need to take it back in to figure out what’s going on. He also has a loud clanging, bumping sound from the front end as well so he’ll have to get that checked out. In fact, he really just needs to make sure the whole truck is in tip-top shape because we’ll be taking it cross country soon(ish) and we don’t want to break down anywhere.

Though, I suppose if we did, we would have someplace stay. Ha!

I booked the campsite and like a dumb ass, I forgot to print off the directions, or even an address, so we really had no idea where we were going. But we figured, it was a large(ish) campground, located at a marina, SURELY there would be signs, right??

Uh … sort of. There were signs, but somehow we missed the turn off and we nearly ended up in Arkansas before we realized we overshot our turn.

Note to self: Make sure to print off address along with the confirmation next time, dummy.

After turning on my phone data and using GPS, we found our campground. However, when we pulled in, we couldn’t tell where the office was so we pulled over to try and figure it out and a woman pulled up alongside us to direct us. She said she did the same thing when her family pulled in and we were grateful for the guidance. It was also nice to see there ARE still nice people out there somewhere. If you watch/listen to the news nowadays, you would think everyone is out for themselves and a total asshole. Not saying there aren’t some ugly people out there, but it’s nice to run across nice ones.

(Also – reminder – be nice to people).

It would have been too much of a hassle to turn our rig around and head toward the office, so we locked up the truck and walked to the office. We checked in, found our spot on the map they gave us and we found lot number 53.

Here comes the fun part – backing in.

I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m not the best navigator when it comes to stuff like this. I’m one of those people who frantically wave for him to veer off to the left but forgets to make myself visible to him so he KNOWS to veer left. lol I think we need to start using our phones, maybe I can give better verbal instructions instead of visual instruction. After some maneuvering, Kevin gets the trailer into place, unhooks the trailer and takes out the cable to connect  the electricity. He made our electric connector more toward the front of the trailer, though wonders now if he should have made the connector more toward the back of the trailer, because when we went to hook up the cord, it wasn’t long enough to reach the site box. Oops! So, poor Kevin had to hook the trailer back up to his truck and back up another two feet for it to reach.

Note to self: have a longer cord on hand and don’t unhook the truck until we are sure our cords are going to reach.

After hooking up the electricity, water and sewer, it was time to open the trailer. I held my breath. Would it look like total destruction? Did the fridge fall over? Did everything from the cabinets spill out? Was the TV broken?

I’m happy to report, everything was just fine. Kevin had told me he put magnets on the cabinet doors and they held, everything was where it was supposed to be. I was really nervous though when we missed our turn off and had to turn around because we picked a pretty bumpy driveway to do it in and I was convinced it would be utter disaster but nope, everything was fine.

By the time we had gotten the outside hooked up and taken care of, we were DRIPPING sweat. Like, so much sweat I couldn’t see, again. (You can imagine how attractive I was after enduring faulty air conditioning and then enduring a sweat bath while setting up). I hadn’t eaten anything all day and it was 3:30 by the time we arrived, very little water so I was feeling faint. So was Kevin. So after we turned on the mini-split and cold air started coming out, we just collapsed on our chairs and waited to cool off for 10 minutes before we started getting the inside set up.

I had packed a cooler full of food and I’m glad I did. Our fridge took THREE hours before it cooled off enough for us to unpack the cooler.

Note to self: always pack cold stuff in a cooler and leave in cooler until fridge cools down.

It’s a great fridge, we bought a half fridge, not a dorm fridge. We needed something bigger but obviously not a full-size fridge and it really does work well. When you plug it in, the freezer gets cold pretty fast but I’m assuming it puts so much energy into getting the freezer cold that it takes a while for the rest of the fridge to cool down. It worked out okay though, we had put in frozen packs and we had saved two of the ice bags that came with our Hello Fresh boxes (back when we signed up for Hello Fresh – our discount code ran out and we’re not about to pay $60 bucks for two meals per week), so the cooler stayed pretty cold. I then moved the ice packs and the ice bags to the fridge and that helped cool the fridge down even faster.

After getting everything set up, it was time for dinner and I was STARVING, again, hadn’t eaten all day, and we had wraps, chips, water and banana bread. (I had baked some banana bread before we left). Kevin then hooked up the TV and using our PS3, we watched Blazing Saddles. I’ve seen that movie before but Kevin had not and in fact, one of the conservative talk show hosts that he listens to quotes from that movie and he was curious enough to want to watch it …. so we did.

If you haven’t seen Blazing Saddles, don’t. It’s BEYOND stupid and offensive, you could NEVER make that kind of movie nowadays. I don’t get offended very easily but there were so many N-words I just couldn’t stomach it.

Kevin also regretted watching it. And this was yet another reminder why we stopped watching movies – they are mostly garbage.

Our first night in the camper went well(ish). The mattresses were not as hard as I thought they would be but I had put a comforter down to try and make it softer. It may have made it softer but it also made it HOT. Our mini-split air conditioner works REALLY well, but the bed is at the back of the trailer, the mini-split at the front, so it gets a bit stuffy. I was hot/cold all night. We brought a fan and that helped push some air to the bed but laying on the comforter trapped my body heat and it was not fun.

Plus, I NEVER sleep very well the first night anywhere we go on vacation because it takes me a while to get used to my surroundings and I’m a light sleeper anyway so it doesn’t take much to wake me up.

Plus, we had some WICKED storms come through that night which kept me up.

(Side note: we also lost a limb back home – LeRoy took a picture of it and sent it to Kevin. It was too big for LeRoy to move on his own so guess what Kevin gets to do when we get home – where’s the chainsaw).

So no, our first night wasn’t the best.

Note to self: Don’t put a comforter on the mattress and then sleep on top of it in the summer months. Maybe in the winter …

Also, I wrote mattresses. Plural. That was not a typo. I bought two twin mattresses from Amazon. Actually, they are narrow twin mattresses. I bought two because we can not sleep together, largely because I’m a fish out of water whenever I sleep and I move around so much it wakes Kevin up. So I figured I would buy two mattresses and hopefully it wouldn’t disturb him too much. Newsflash – I didn’t disturb him. Much. 

Sunday, we stuck around the trailer, read and watched two movies: Quarantine and Wall Street (the second one). Quarantine was a horror movie and it’s about people who contract rabies but this virus is so fast moving that it consumes it’s victims in record time and they start turning on each other. Sort of like a zombie movie. It’s also told from a first-person perspective, sort of. It starts out with a reporter and her cameraman hanging out at a firehouse and assigned to two guys who will take them on their calls.

They arrive at a house to find out why a woman is screaming and acting funny. When they get to her apartment, it’s apparent something is not right with her and all hell breaks loose. The city locks them in this house and no one can leave. What’s cool about this story is the story is told from the cameraman’s perspective, he’s holding the camera and shooting the entire thing. You’re part of the story, only you see it through the cameraman’s eyes, or his camera, to be more precise. There is a lot of shaking and I felt sort of sick to my stomach from all the movement at one point, but you felt like you were right there, almost like a first-person shooter game, if you’ve ever played those before.

Wall Street was pretty good, too. I think Gecko is the perfect character for Michael Douglas. Sunday was super chill and it was exactly what we needed. No agenda, no plans, just relax and breathe.

Kevin grilled some hamburgers and we drove into Kimberling City and got ice cream at Sonic. The temperature cooled off quite a bit after the rain, too, so overall, it was a great day to just hang out around the campsite.

The second night was much better. I took the comforter off the bed, slept in a tank shirt and under a sheet and was quite comfortable. If fact, I slept so good I snored – a lot. So much so that Kevin had to get up and put in ear plugs.

Oops. I wish I could say I was too dainty and feminine to snore but nope, I snore so much it sounds like an out-of-control lumberjack waving his chainsaw around like he owns the world.

But I slept great, (thanks to taking a Benedryl as well), and I felt awake and ready to tackle Monday.

And we literally did nothing on Monday. Well, that’s not entirely true. We walked around the marina, took some pictures and relaxed by the lake to watch the boats come in / out. There was a swimming spot nearby so we listened to the kids yell and have a great time. The weather was perfect – sunny and warm, but not too warm. We read, talked and just zoned out for about three hours. It was balm to my soul and MUCH NEEDED. I could feel the stress just melting away. 

I know what you’re thinking – “But Karen, you’re literally camping right next to the water. Didn’t you and Kevin go on to the lake?” 

No, no we didn’t. Neither one of us are big water people. I am not opposed to hanging out on the lake but there is no way I will go swimming in the lake. It just creeps me out too much. The first time something brushes against my leg, I’m out. Though I have to admit, the water looked pretty clean. I feel the same way about the ocean, too. I will not swim in the ocean. The closest I get is walking along the beach. Never more than thigh deep. I’ll be honest, I’m not the best swimmer, which is probably the biggest reason I’m not a big water fan. 

Our last night, we drove into town and ate at a local BBQ place. It was pretty great. Had a pulled pork sandwich and we shared some fries.

So no, we didn’t spend any time ON the water. We simply sat around and enjoyed the scenery. We had no plans and we didn’t do anything. It was pretty great, honestly. It was a last minute trip to just get away and get some fresh air and that’s exactly what we did.

This is PRECISELY why we wanted to buy a trailer to begin with – to just get away for a bit. And I have to say, this was a great first trip out. We learned a lot about the trailer and I have a list of things I would like to improve. 

Such as:

Some kitchen utensils – can opener, spatula, knives, measuring cups, teaspoons, etc.
Salt and pepper shakers
Mixing bowl
Small skillet / griddle

Fly swatter
More hooks on the wall
Small towel rack for the kitchen towel and to hang our wet wash cloths on
TV mount
Black out curtains

We didn’t have any curtains for the windows but Kevin had cut a template for the windows out of Styrofoam and thought it would be a good idea to cut three more to use to stuff in the windows when it’s not in use and that’s what we used to cover the windows. But I would like to hang some black-out curtains at some point. Just little things like that to make it more homey. 

The toilet Kevin put in was a life saver. Especially Saturday morning when it POURED rain at 5:30 AM and I had to pee but didn’t have to put on shoes, grab an umbrella and trudge through the rain to the toilets. I was just able to use the toilet and go back to bed. 

BEST IDEA EVER TO INSTALL THAT THING. 

So that was our first trip in our cargo trailer. It was an impromptu, little planned trip, but we had a blast and I can’t wait to do it again. Which, by the way, we have two camping trips coming up in ONE WEEK sometime this Fall. We’re planning on vlogging the trip so that will be fun to take you guys along for the ride. I’m sure we will regret taking two camping trips in one week but with Kevin’s work schedule, it’s really the only way we can do it right now. He has a big client that demands all of his attention on Thursdays so … we have to get creative on the duration of our trips. The first trip will be four nights up north of us, and three days south of us. Stay tuned. 

For now, here are a few pictures from our first trip. 

Continue reading “Maiden Voyage – Cargo Trailer Glamping – Trip #1 – Port of Kimberling Marina”

Glamping

Long Awaited Cargo Trailer Conversion Update

Hey! Finally! It’s the long awaited update on our cargo trailer conversion!

Let me just say, at the outset, that I’ve been ZERO help. It’s all been Kevin. LeRoy has helped but the majority of work has been done by Kevin. He has though long and hard about how he wants to configure everything and I’m really impressed with him! This is the first time he’s really done any carpentry and he has customized the pieces he bought, for pennies on the dollar at places like thrift stores and Habitat for Humanity, and made it work for the space. He has spent a lot of time on the kitchen and I couldn’t be happier.

I can’t wait to take it on the road!

It’s not ready yet, obviously, but now that the kitchen is pretty much done, he feels like the rest of the work will go faster (famous last words?)

He is buying the air conditioner/heater unit to put in next and I’m on the hunt for a deal on our “half” fridge. He actually painted the cabinets under the bed, (you can see them in the thumbnail) today.

My “jack of all trades” never ceases to amaze me.

Good job, Kevin! I love you!