Written by: Jeremy
As I am sitting here enjoying the new found freedom of a wife with growing confidence behind the wheel of a truck and pulling a travel trailer, I have had some extra time to take in the expansive state of Kansas via the well traveled but admittedly dull stretch of Interstate 70 cutting through the heartland.
Although we are new to full-timing, road trips across I-70 from Denver to visit family in the Midwest is not something new. We have made this trip many times. In fact, the state of Kansas has become sort of a punch line for us and our cool Colorado friends. Long flat, odoriferous, boring stretches of road broken up only by hate fueled, ethnocentric billboards wedged in between an even greater number of billboards for “Adult” bookstores, junk food, and signs luring you into a dilapidated farm for the privilege of looking at a five legged cow. We could only imagine the disappointment on a child’s face when they find out the World’s largest Prairie Dog is just a somewhat large ceramic statue that looks somewhat like an actual Prairie Dog.
One of our very favorite activities was discussing with other travelers about just how bad that trip across I-70 sucks and what a joke Kansas is. When travel planning, we actually discussed whether or not we even wanted to stop for one night in the this state, let along the two we ultimately settled on.
Our first night at a local KOA, just across the border into Goodland Kansas, was somewhat charming with a putt-putt golf course and large dog exercise area. It was, friendly, clean and respectable, but ultimately , the highway noise, and overall experience was about what we expected which wasn’t much. As we moved on for day two we contemplated if we wanted to make the second stop we had planned in Kansas or if we should just blow through.
Fortunately/unfortunately, a couple of urgent work emails for me caused us to need to find a place for the evening. Wanting to avoid another noisy night by the highway, we drifted a few miles off course to Milford State Park near Junction City. As we wound our way through the expansive, but relatively empty State Park in October, we began to experience Kansas in a different light.
Having no idea which of the seven available campgrounds would accommodate us best, as usual Robin headed into the State Park information area to make some friends out of the locals and to get the inside scoop. There she met Mel, the campground host from the “Woodland Hills” loop. He immediately pointed us away from the more expensive full hookup sites encouraging us to forgo the onsite sewer dump sites at the more crowed campground loop for the quieter and shady loop he hosted and that has level concrete pads but no sewer hook-up. He even offered to let us follow him there in his truck so he could show us the grounds and point out the sewer dump that we could easily use on our way out after our short one night stay.
Mel did not disappoint and pretty soon we were set up in an absolutely gorgeous, shady, level, and private spot where I got set up in my new office for the evening just before the sun began to set.
Mel was by a little later to drop off a load of firewood that he thought we might find useful. Again, Mel was right. Although I had a mountain of evening work to do for my business, the dogs were not about to let us settle in to computers and then go to bed without exploring this place at least a little. Certainly not after we spent over five hours in that truck. What we soon found, less than 10 miles from the dreaded Kansas I-70 corridor, was a beautiful lake and sunset walk that rivaled any expensive island vacation sunset that we have ever experienced. Considering the fact that we had the whole place to ourselves, that our dogs got to join us, and that I got to sleep in my own Sleep Number bed for less than $20, it actually beat those sunset vacation beach walks by a long shot. Within a few minutes waking around taking pictures, living and breathing in this wonderful place, my heart changed and this blog basically wrote itself into my head just like that.
What we could see and feel almost immediately was that this new journey would be far more than just a series of punch lines as we rush on through to our next destination. This is what our journey is about. In our previous life as typical Americans racing down the highway, trying to get in a short family visit in Missouri before our paid vacation time was used up, we had never really taken the time to stop in Kansas and see anything let alone actually meet a person. Our minds were already made up as we held our noses and plowed through. As we strolled through Milford State Park the error of our previous way of thinking and living became even clearer.
How much else of our lives to-date have we missed because we were too busy speeding through with a predetermined and fixed viewpoint? For us, where we are right now, is where we are in life. The state of Kansas is a state of mind. It is very easy to view what people post on social media, the television news or even the messages of billboards and to see this as what life is all about. In reality these things aren’t even real.
Rv Lesson #2: Every once in a while, you have to pull off the highway, slow down, breathe and actually experience the present world in front of you instead of creating the experience in your own head.
Kansas, just like life, can be whatever we want it to be! It can be a hell-hole of a state that’s primary redeeming quality is the 75 mile per hour speed limit, or it can be the place where campground hosts like Mel, make you feel like you are at home visiting family and sunsets make you feel like your are on a world class vacation. It really doesn’t matter that in reality, you are at a campground in the middle of Kansas on a Monday night in October for no particular reason.
It is all up to us! I guess it is a good thing we figured this out now considering our next intended states are Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia.
I personally, can not wait to see these places again for the first time!
The Train Keeps on Rolling – Biloxi, Mississippi
Written by: Jeremy
After leaving our week at Dauphin Island, Alabama, Robin and I had a long talk and decided we are both a little travel weary. Although we have loved our time on the road, we have been maintaining a challenging schedule for our first ever RV trip. We have been on the road for a little over four months, or half of our planned trip. Including our current location of Biloxi, Mississippi, we have stayed in twenty different locations in eleven different states. Our longest stay to date has been a couple of two week long stents. Our typical stay has been one week.
Yes, we have kept it rolling and considering that this is exactly what we had planned and budgeted for, I am proud of our perseverance and generally positive attitude as we transition to a fun but challenging new lifestyle. When reading the blogs of other full-timers as we prepared for the trip, I was always the most interested and inspired by those that move a lot. Seeing different places, climates, and cultures was what it is all about for me. Although not every town culture and climate is exactly perfect, it is all part of the journey and exactly what we set out to experience.
I guess that is why we did not at all mind being a part of the 2014 winter ice apocalypse “Leon”. An inch of snow and ice descended on the beach and roads in a part of the country that does not typically get it and is not prepared for it. I have always thought that people in the South just don’t know how to drive in bad weather. I can tell you that this is only half of the problem. The other is that the snow is not really snow here. It is white ice. They also don’t have equipment to deliver salt to all of the road but that really isn’t the problem either. They don’t even have salt to spread, just sand.
We are experienced snow drivers and we have lived in the Midwest, Aspen and our current home sits at an elevation of 9,500 feet above sea level. An inch of snow in these places doesn’t exactly halt traffic or close stores. With that said I can assure you that I would not have even dreamed of driving my 4×4 truck on a street here in Biloxi during or immediately after this storm. It was a complete mess and we just hunkered down in the trailer with the animals for a couple of days.
The weather for the rest of our week in Biloxi was just fine. Great in fact. Because of that, I am actually happy that we got the opportunity to experience a 25 year historic storm. I realize that may not make complete sense to readers sitting in the Midwest this winter, but ice skating on a sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico is not something many people can say they have done.
To be honest Biloxi was not even a planned stop. While trip planning in Alabama, we got a message from my brother asking if we were going to be anywhere near Biloxi this week. He had a business trip here and was staying at one of the many casinos hotels in the area. Turns out we were planning to drive through Biloxi on the exact weekend he was scheduled to arrive. So we simply decided to stay in Biloxi for the week instead of driving through. What a great coincidence and exactly the type of freedom and flexibility that makes my strong push to not over plan seem worthwhile. We got a chance to hang out with my older brother as well as a chance to have a much needed fun night and dinner out at the Beau Rivage Casino. The storm even ended up causing him to get stuck in town for a couple of extra nights. We did a little gambling and sightseeing and he got a chance to experience a bit of trailer life.
We picked the Cajun RV Park primarily because it had the best reviews in Biloxi and because it was close to the hotel/casino where my brother was staying. Although our pre-arrival expectations of Biloxi were not all that high, upon arrival, we were pleasantly surprised with the nice spacious site and the close beach access as well as access to golf courses and some shopping that we have not had for quite a while. In fact, we talked long and hard about just settling down here in Biloxi for an entire month. It seemed like as good a place as any and the monthly rate at the RV park was desirable. We were tired and we were also trying to slow down a little. If we could just get a quiet month to catch up on some work and sleep and not have to move four times we thought we might get recharged enough to be ready to meet some friends in the Big Easy for this big annual party we have heard a thing or two about.
Well, our excitement and plan to stay at this place for a month fizzled quickly. Within the first few hours lounging around our campground the first train went by. Robin and I both stood looking at each other in silence and disbelief as our entire trailer rattled while the train rumbled by, blowing its horn at full decibel within a stones throw of our great new site. An hour or so later brought another train. We had read some reviews that mentioned the train but most only noted it as a small annoyance and not a real problem. Well, it turns out, an obnoxious train that comes about every couple of hours including all night long is a huge problem for us. The train map indicates that it would have been tough to avoid regardless of which Biloxi RV park we picked. Unfortunately, it appears the train noise is just as much a part of the Biloxi, Mississippi experience as a shrimp po boy with sweet tea.
As I write this on a Saturday morning, our last in Biloxi, Robin and I are more exhausted than we were when we first arrived a week ago and had the conversation about how tired we were. Oh well, this is part of the experience. We are writing this blog about our real life on the road and all the challenge that goes along with it. So for us, although we are both desperately ready for a quiet and stationary month, just like the trains of Biloxi, we are going to keep on rolling.
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Posted in Camp Ground Reviews, General Commentary, Jeremy Blog, Live, Mississippi, Move
Tagged Biloxi, Cajun RV Park, live breathe move