Camping With Canines: The Tail End

21 07 2018

After such a perfect day in Minocqua, we hated to leave.  So it didn’t take much arm-twisting to stop at the Farmers’ Market before we left for good, picking up some rhubarb scones, sugar snap peas, and ground cherry jelly.  Thus fortified, we started on the long downhill slope home.

Flashes of Illinois: fields of giant wind turbines slowly spinning; corn, dark green and lush, extending to the horizon.  We stopped at a rest area to stretch all 12 legs.  A lady trucker with a beagle-jack russell mix bent our ear for a good 20 minutes, hardly coming up for a breath as she told us how she had lived in Aiken for eight years, working in the horse industry.  Small world, made smaller by dogs!

We stopped for the night at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.  Although the state park was voted “the #1 attraction in the state of Illinois,” we were a little dismayed to see the row of porta-pottys in the campground.  At 6:00 pm, it was 92° and the air was as thick and still as the corn fields.  Regardless, after a day on the road we needed to walk so we headed for the trails that meandered along the Illinois River, granting panoramic views of the valley and the many canyons.

6.29.18 Ilinois River from Starved Rock

The Illinois River, as seen from Starved Rock. American white pelicans dotted the waters.

6.29.18 Wildcat Canyon (2)

Wildcat Canyon

I’d like to say that we enjoyed the hike, but we were so miserably hot, sticky, and thirsty that our only thoughts were of a cool shower followed by a restful night in our air-conditioned camper.

6.29.18 Wildcat Canyon (5)

Hot dogs

We drove to the only bathhouse in the entire campground where Brian stayed in the car with the dogs and the AC running while I went in for a shower.  There were only two shower stalls, so I was expecting a long line.  Surprisingly, there was a shower open, so I quickly disrobed and prepared to rinse the day’s sweat off my tired body.  I learned an important lesson that evening.  Always check the shower controls before committing. No water, no matter how I manipulated the handle. Ugghh.  I had to wait until the other stall was open, then scoot over for a shower that left me even more sticky and hot by the time I was done.  We ran our AC full blast that evening.  Not sure how the pioneers survived.  Or how we ever camped without AC.

The next morning we pulled out by 7:30, determined to get an early start before the heat sucked us down.  We decided to by-pass Atlanta, that City-Of-Never-Ending-Congestion, by heading for Knoxville instead of Nashville as previously planned.  On the map, Levi Jackson State Park in Kentucky looked like a good stopping point before hitting Knoxville, Ashville, and then home. We pulled in to find a campground that would put WalMart on a Saturday to shame.  RVs were jammed every which way, and each site contained the entire clan with grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins, and dogs.  The narrow road was busy with kids zipping by on bikes and pre-teens tooling around on golf carts.  We were smack-dab in the middle of Appalachia on the weekend before the Fourth of July.

We didn’t even unhitch the camper.  A short walk on a trail, a quick dinner, and we were out of there by 7:10 the next morning.

Our last day on the road was deliciously uneventful and decidedly scenic, taking us through mountain passes and valleys that made us forget the long miles.   A delightful Welcome Center on the Tennessee-Kentucky border was complete with music notes on the sidewalks, log cabins, and a paved walking trail to the top of the mountain that afforded a gorgeous view.

7.1.18 view from TN rest area


The miles slipped away as we listened to our audio-books and finally pulled into our driveway.  The dogs jumped out of the car for the last time, tails wagging.  We were home.

The Stats

Trip length: 15 days  Car: 3450 miles (avg. 230/day)   Feet: 57.2 miles (avg. 3.8/day) Gas: $412 (12¢/mile)   Food: $219 ($14.60/day)   Lodging: $562 ($37.46/day) Miscellaneous: $198   Total cost: $1391                                                                Average cost of food and gas had we stayed home for two weeks: $300 Adjusted cost of trip: $1091 or about $73/day

Not too shabby, especially considering all the sights we saw and the adventures we experienced! Memories to last a lifetime.