in memory HR Walker
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(Also See Love Stories Section)


  1. September 9, 2017: 50 Years of Camping with Alice and Jerry

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  2. March 31, 2017: My Dream,You Interpret

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  3. May 11, 2016: DNA and the Birds and the Bees

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  4. August 17, 2015: Alice's Mother and Father's Memoirs

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  5. July 24, 2015: Book Review: The Living Mind by Alan Scott

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  6. June 14, 2015: My Thoughts On Heaven

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  7. Sept. 2012: My War on Geese

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  8. Dec 2011: Conservatives Should Give Santorum A Second Look

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  9. October 2011: The Hottest Escorts on the MightyMo

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  10. May 2009: Stand Up For Freedom

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  11. September 2008: America's Energy Independence Future

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  12. April 2007: Fidel Climbs on Bandwagon
    (for Global Warming)

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  13. March 2007:: Global Cooling Is Back

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  14. February 2007: Global Warming
    (Anthropogenic Climate Change)

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  15. January 2007: Comman Sense About Doom's Day Clock

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  16. January 16, 2007: Surviving the Ice Storm

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50 Years of Camping With Alice and Jerry
(12 Rules of Camping)

Jerry L. Walker Sr.
September 22,2017

Why We Started Camping

Alice and I ventured into camping more than 50 years ago and have been camping, on and off, ever since. So we are real experts; right? Our camping experiences started soon after we were married when we purchased a little inside frame tent. It set in the basement unused for three or four years. But in the summer of 1965, because we were looking forward to an extended Yellowstone camping trip the following year with our best friends, my sister Phyllis and her husband Lyle we decided we had best develop some camping skills. I didn't want to be embarrassed by making our first such camping effort among seasoned campers such as, for example, those found in exotic camp grounds like Maramec Springs near old Route 66 in Missouri.

Friend Provides Private Camping Site

Fortunately for us, during my brief St. Louis days as a bachelor I had become friends with my landlord's son Walter. Walter's family owned an uninhabited farm way out in the boondocks between St. Louis and Jefferson City on which nestled a secluded pond surrounded by dense woods.

I had once driven Walter about an hour and a half from home north to a local rodeo in Litchfield Illinois and he owed me a favor. At that time Walter was only 19 but adventurous and fearless and had decided it would be a great thrill to become a real cowboy. After all, he was a good rider and thought he could ride anything.

bull rider That's why he had signed up to ride a Brahman bull in the rodeo. I watched anxiously as the cowboys helped seat Walter onto the back of the bull in the chute. Ding! The chute opened and the bull came charging out into the arena, leaping into the air with front hoofs striking the ground first and then the rear but instantly again up into the air and down again and then whirling about like a whirl-wind before leaping again.
Walter went flying into the air like a man on the flying trapeze. I thought he was dead. So did he. But the cowboy clown was right there to head off the bull while other cowboys scraped poor Walter up off the ground. Dazed but not dead, Walter refused the advised ambulance ride to the hospital and chose instead to just be helped to my car. I had rented a motel room close by and was able to help him into the room and onto his bed where he then spent a restless and painful night. The ride home the next morning was not any more comfortable for him but his young and strong body soon recovered from the ordeal. He gave up his dream of becoming a rodeo star. Well, that's one of several reasons Walter owed me a favor. The deserted farm pond in the woods sounded about as safe from embarrassing eyes as one could get. We had to learn and prepare but wished to do so away from laughing eyes.

Do Your Homework

As unbelievable as I know it must appear to today's young people, the only informational sources for how to do things available to us back then were books. A friend of ours recently reminded me that people like me are greatly disadvantaged in that we focus on the problem at hand and miss the big picture. By people like me she of course meant people with an engineering degree (but she admitted that such a malady does not apply to those relatively few engineers of the feminine gender)

"Checklist for Campers" was a good start. I studied the booklet carefully and made sure we had all the essential equipment in hand, not the least of which was a plastic bag equipped potty chair.

Rule #1: Make A List

Rule #2: Practice your techniques

Our two girls were two and three years old at the time and they showed no fear of the planned expedition. My wife was still a relatively young 22 so she too was game. I just didn't know any better.

Rule #3: Get to camp-site early

Get An Early Start

I snuck off work early that Friday afternoon so that we could get an early start and thus be able to set up camp before dark. That was a good thing because by the time we found the deserted farm and the pond the dense surrounding woods were already hiding what daylight remained. We had practiced in our back yard putting up the tent and therefor had no difficulty setting it up on a flat grassy spot near the pond. A Coleman lantern was one of the essential camping tools we had purchased and it provided plenty of light for preparation by Alice of the evening meal using a Coleman propane stove.

We were beginning to feel like accomplished campers.

frong

Bedtime found the four of us as snug as a bug in a rug; the girls easily shared one sleeping bag and Alice and I were warm and cozy in our double bag. I would have slept soundly throughout the night had it not been for the incessant croaking of the hundreds of nearby frogs as we heard "ribbit, ribbit, ribbit" all night long. The ribbits were occasional accomplished by woo-woo of an owl and the somewhat scary unknown night-time noises which came to my ears. Morning sun-rays finally filtered thru the trees and woke us early.

Nothing tastes better than bacon and eggs cooked on an open stove in the great outdoors.

Forward to Civilization

Following breakfast, we decided we had enough isolation and were now sufficiently experienced to confront the f the real camping world. We broke camp and headed for Maramec Springs State Park camp ground. Alice and I were both awe-struck by the sight of the large tents, tent-trailers and camping trailers. Maybe someday we could afford one of them but in the meantime we would have to settle for our little inside-frame tent. We found an open site among the campers, set up the tent, and Alice prepared supper on the Coleman stove. Our girls soon found other little friends among the campers as Alice and I mingled with like-hearted camping neighbors. Before retiring for the night, our family enjoyed sitting around our neighbor's campfire, watching the flames flicker and feeling its' warmth and the warmth of new-found friends.

Rule #4: Don't poke the tent

little tent

Later that night, the girls and I were sleeping soundly and comfortably until I felt Alice poking me in the ribs to "…get up, it's raining and the tent's leaking". To prove it she poked her middle finger into the top canvas and sure enough, it leaked. "Quit poking on the canvas and it won't leak", was my reply as I tried to return to my peaceful slumber. Maybe the tent had spent too much time in our damp basement because soon after the last time being poked the canvas around the center pole gave way and the tent came tumbling down. Alice was still standing so she was able to keep the tent off me and the girls and we were perfectly comfortable that way and would have been happy to remain so the rest of the night.

Alice did not see it that way. "Get up", she shouted in not a very nice tone, "We're going home now". I grumpily obeyed.

The first thing every tent camper must learn is to not poke on the canvas. The next thing is to not depend on an old rotten tent. And the most important thing I learned from this first camping experience was:

Rule number five: Do not agitate your wife

(I had a more fitting word for agitate but chose not to use it here).

big tent

Having lived through this first experience, we purchased a new tent. This one was a big, 18 foot outside frame double side-room model that we felt suitable for our two week journey to Yellowstone.

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Journey to Yellowstone:

old faithful

When Old Faithful Was Faithful

I have nothing but warm loving memories of those two weeks with Alice, our two little girls, and Alice's mother in our tent and station wagon following Phyllis and Lyle with kids Diann and Dean in their little Shasta trailer.

Lyle always took the lead and we followed in my company car, a big station wagon. (info for today's generation: a station wagon is the parent which evolved into two strands; the minivan and the SUV.).

Each vehicle was equipped with walkie-talkies which were our main form of communication since the CB radio craze had not yet hit. (Today's generation has missed out on the fun of CB radios; for you the deprived. CB radios were something like cell phones but they had limited range, were a party line, and everyone had special names which we called "handles". My handle was Waterman, Alice was Moonbeam, Lyle was Bear-claw and Phyllis was Marigold. By the mid-70s everyone had CB radios either at home or in their cars or both.)

Putting that tent up and down every day was a strain and I occasionally made the mistake of forgetting rule number five and thus learned rule number six.

Rule #6: never forget rule number five.

I also learned rule number seven on this trip:

Rule #7: camp only with compatible people

If camping with another family be sure you are compatible. We were. We loved the Krummes and continued to travel frequently with them in the many years that followed.

On this two week trip, after setting up camp, all nine of us piled into my station wagon to tour the local sights. Lyle was always the chauffeur and Phyllis sat in the co-pilot seat while offering comments like a born tour guide. We didn't do this to save on gas money, but chose to tour together because we enjoyed one another's company.

The first day after entering Yellowstone Park we were in our usual touring mode with Phyllis in the front passenger sear when we started seeing bears along the road. (I understand that bears are no longer common in the public area of the park today but back in 1966 they were all over the place.)

Seeing a couple bears close to the road, Lyle pulled over and parked on the shoulder to let Phyllis take pictures. Phyllis's camera was a Brownie of the type that the view finder was a window 90 degrees to the view so that she looked straight down to see the picture to be taken. "Something's wrong!" said Phyllis, "I can’t see anything but black". Then she looked up and screamed. The reason she could see nothing but black was because a big bear was practically against the end of her camera!

bear

Lyle seemed to always have matters under control and fixed breakfast for the group every morning. Alice and I envied them in their little trailer each time we had to put our tent up or down and were particularly envious in Yellowstone when bears were a frequent visitor to the camp sites. Not much protection from a grizzly when in a tent. One morning we woke up to commotion in the camp. Peering out the tent flap we saw the source. A big brown bear was sitting on our picnic table eating our planned morning breakfast of bacon and eggs. Lyle emerged from his trailer, waved his arms and yelled "Get out of here bear!" The bear looked at him, jumped down from the table and reared onto his hind legs. We still have the video of Lyle running for his life back to the trailer. About then, another neighbor camper fired off a pistol in hope of scaring away the bear. Fortunately for the neighbor, the bear apparently had it's fill of breakfast and wandered off.

brown bear

Rule #8: Don't feed the bears

To see a 7 minute clip of our Yellowstone experience,click below. Sorry for the poor quality of this unedited cheap Brownie lousy photographer 50 year old video.

We broke camp and headed for the Grand Tetons where bears were less of a problem. During the whole two weeks we had only one meal in a restaurant and it was by far the worse meal of the trip.

Rule #9: Trench your tent

Rule #10: Camp on high ground

The big tent served us well until the next year when we were camping again with the Krummes at Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma. By this time baby daughter Amy had joined our family. We pitched our tent on a flat plot close to the water. It rained that night. Except for when Alice poked the canvas, the tent did a good job of protecting us from the rain.

Being by now experienced campers, we had followed rule number nine. That's why I was surprised that although no rain was coming down from the canvas above, I awoke lying in water. After pulling back the tent door flap we realized that the lake had risen to well beyond where out tent was pitched. That's when we decided it was time to upgrade our camping equipment.

Rule #11: Obtain camping equipment appropriate to your needs

Camping is the best thing that could have ever happened for my health. And that had nothing to do with the clean fresh air of the great outdoors. Our finances were stretched almost to the breaking point but I decided if I quit smoking the money saved would be almost enough to make the payment on a new tent trailer. It has now been 50 years since I I tortured my lungs with tobacco smoke.

Phoenix Tent Trailer:

Phoenix tent trailer We bought a Phoenix hard-top tent trailer that was luxury to us. We had several years of happy camping in that black and white stripped canvas trailer. Soon after we moved to Pittsburg PA in June of 1969 we took a week-long trip into Canada.

Canadian Trip to Algonquin

Our first destination was Algonquin Provincial Park, a bit less than 500 miles from home. Algonquin is a huge forested area of almost 5000 square miles and 2400 lakes. We camped at only one of them. Buying ice there was interesting. When I went to the park office1store to buy ice the attendant asked how much I needed and then went into a cave at the back of the building and cut a hunk of ice from lake ice which had been stored there.

Our little girls had a ball; it seemed that no matter where we went they always found little friends with whom to play.

Our return route to Pittsburg was across the southern edge of Ontario to the Blue Water ferry which took us back into the US at Marine City MI. The six hour trip across Ontario was uneventful except that we were appalled at the ugliness of such a vast area of strip mining along the highway. At the border crossing the customs agent asked "how long have you been in Canada"? "seven days", I replied. "What do you have that you've bought in Canada?" "Nothing". He looked at me suspiciously and then remarked "you were there a week, you had to have bought something that's with you." I was perturbed by his gruffness and implication that I was lying so I said "oh yeh, I forgot, we still have some ice in the ice chest unless it has completely melted'. The customs agent gave me a dirty look before shrugging and saying "OK, go ahead". In fact, we spent only slightly over $100 the whole trip, including gas. Do it right and camping can be very economical. (Recently we spent a couple nights at a KOA campground in St. Petersburgh Florida which cost over $100 a night. We won't make that mistake again.)

Week-ends at Pymatuning

The Phoenix tent trailer we were so proud of gave us several more years of happy camping enjoyment including frequent week-end trips to Pymatuning State Park which is a little more than an hour north of Pittsburg.

Folbot Sailboat

We added to the fun there by purchasing a small car-top sail-boat that provided great times on the lake for all five of us.

300 339
Skunk
here Kitty Kitty

Amy loves animals but we were a bit concerned one evening at Pymatuning when she started chasing a pretty black and white kitty cat. "No Amy,No" Alice yelled and thankfully the skunk obviously had not seen Amy as a threat.

Camping Hiatus

During the next few years my interests and energy were focused on my career, Alice was busy going to college at University of Pittsburg while raising a family, and the girls were more involved in school activities. We sold the tent trailer and forgot about camping for several years.

The camping bug hit again a few years later so we bought a well-used tent trailer. That trailer did not last very long since everyone was still too busy to take advantage of the camping life.

Into Big-time Camping Equipment

Phoenix TransVan

Our next venture into camping was the purchase of a TransVan. I'm not sure how to describe this vehicle other than as something between a conversion van and a mini-motorhome. It was great for camping and I could still use it as a go-to-work vehicle. Gas mileage was not so good. We later bought a small tag-a-long trailer (about 20 feet) which we pulled along with the TransVan. With that rig combination we had finally reached and exceeded those units of which we were so envious years ago at Maramec Springs State Park.

Another Memorable Trip

The girls by this time were either off to college or otherwise on their own when Alice and Jerry Lee and I decided to take the TrasnVan and tour Montreal and points north in Quebec. On this occasion we pulled a small fishing boat which we had bought for a pittance from a neighbor who had moved to Arizona and regrettably to him ran out of room for the boat in the moving truck he had rented.

I had always heard rumors that Montreal natives were unfriendly to visitors from the states so I was apprehensive about our acceptance. Also, since Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world, I was not sure how well we would be able to communicate with the general population. The first thing we noticed as we drove into Montreal, just as we had observed in Toronto, was the cleanliness of the streets and sidewalks. People in the lower 48 need to take notice.

City of Montreal
City of Montreal

Although we had planned this as primarily a camping trip, we knew that if we wanted to spend any time in Montreal we would need to stay in a motel during that period. We had not yet reached the motel when we heard a thump, thump coming from underneath the back end of the TransVan. We pulled into a driveway to investigate and discovered that a under-carriage support beam on the TransVan had broken. That left us no alternative other than to pull into the closest filling station and seek help. The attendant there suggested a close-by garage and called their number for us. A tow truck promptly appeared and they towed us including the boat to their garage. They were able to maneuver the TransVan into their garage and, unlike the lifts we are all accustomed to, this garage instead had a pit under the vehicle to be repaired. After inspecting the problem, the mechanic returned to the pit with a welding torch and welded the beam back together. When we went into the garage office to pay I was fearful the bill would ripe out my checking account and hoping they would take a check. "Can't tell you how much we appreciate your help and how quickly you did it", I said to the older gentleman whom I assumed to be the manager. "What do we owe you"? "You owe us nothing", was the French accented reply. "We are happy to be able to help such a nice American family. We hope you enjoy your stay in Montreal".

That was just the first of more wonderful adventures among the kindest and friendliest people we ever encountered on any of our camping vacations. We visited a neighborhood fair where we were the only non-natives and were accepted like part of the family.

Trapped in Montreal:

We adventurously wandered about unknown places in the city and in one case opened a door off the street which looked like it must go to some public place. Stairs led down to a huge cavernous structure that I guess might have been part of the as of yet unopened sub-way system. Fear struck our hearts when we tried to return to the street only to discover that the door was locked from the outside and there was not a soul in sight. Anxiously, we returned down the stairs and wandered around until we finally found an unlocked door to the outside.

Quebec Lake Camp

Lake Kipawa

Lake Kipawa in Quebec

Saying goodbye to Montreal, we headed west to find a camp-site on one of Canada's famous pristine lakes and ended up at what turned out to be a mostly natives only permanent camp on Lake Kipawa. Today it is probably a fancy expensive resort but in our travels it was sparsely inhabited by a few rather old shabby trailers, an old permanent home/office building, and a good-sized work-shop. But it was on the lake and we were made to feel welcome if not a bit out of place.

Enjoy the Lake: We set up camp, not much involved there, late in the afternoon and had time only for supper before hitting the sack and looking forward to launching our boat to do a little fishing the next day. After Alice had fixed us a early breakfast on the trusty old Coleman stove we set about putting the boat in the water. She and I could easily pull the little boat off the trailer and push the stern into the shallow lake shore water. The boat soon sink the few inches to the bottom. The small out-board motor had been traveling hundreds of miles in the bottom of the boat, bouncing up and down all the way and had poked a hole into the bottom of the aluminum boat. We dragged the boat out of the water, onto the trailer and back to camp. After discussing our boat dilemma with locals at the camp, they suggested we talk to the folks working in the work-shop. "Sure", the old gent working on his car in the shop said, "bring it over and I'll weld an aluminum patch over the hole". We did and he did. "Great, hope it won't leak now. How much do we owe you"? Same reply as in Montreal. "Nothing, have fun on the lake but watch out for the rocks and stay safe". We chalked up another memorable camping trip in our memory bank.

Another Camping Hiatus

Son Jerry Lee became involved in soccer and hockey so Spring and Fall week-ends were no longer available for camping. In addition, summers were now out because we had bought a cottage on the North Shore of Lake of the Ozarks. We also bought a boat and Jerry Lee became an avid and dedicated water skier.

Since Alice taught first grade in Moon Township PA she was free during the summer so she and Jerry Lee now spent their summers on the Missouri lake while I slaved away at work back home. (Actually, by this time in my career I had a lot of vacation time so I too spent much of the summer at the lake with them.)

Jerry Lee Tricks in 2006
25 Years Later Jerry Lee can still do
a forward flip on trck skis.
Alice drove the boat every day as Jerry Lee practiced his sking skills. By the time he was 16 he had won the title of Missouri Top Teen Trick Skier. Camping was now a thing of the past.
Watch this 3 minute video

A New Camping Chapter In Our Lives

It was not until 1997 that the camping bug struck again. By this time Phyliss and Lyle had purchased a diesel truck and a 36 foot fifth-wheel. Alice took the school year 1997/1998 as a sabbatical and I was now retired. Alice and I decided to join Phylis and Lyle on a camping trip back East and then down to Florida and the Florida Keys. We bought a 1997 Dodge Ram 150 4-wheel drive truck and a 24 foot Jayco fifth-wheel. That was another wonderful and memorable trip with Phyllis and Lyle.

Alice retired from teaching in 2000 and we made several winter camping trips to Florida. In 2012 we started concentrating our time in Florida at the Sunseekers RV Resort in North Ft. Myers. I had not been able to drive for almost the last 20 years so Alice had to do all the driving and did a great job of pulling the trailer. Then, in 2014 we upgraded the Jayco to a brand-new luxurious 34 foot Rockwood fifth-wheel. Alice pulled that to Florida tfor wo years but was increasingly nervous about doing so. That's when we bought a permanent trailer unit at Sunseekers and subsequently sold the fifth-wheel. We were super happy about no longer needing to pull a trailer back and forth. We were now permanent winter residents of Sunseekers and out of the camping business once more.

A New Way to Camp

We are done with camping, right? Wrong. I still have the bug to get away once in a while and not be limited to life in a motel, not to mention the cost involved. We have owned and enjoyed riding a tandem bicycle since 1998 and had been able to transport it in our fifth-wheel or the back of the truck. When back home in Missouri we were able to transport the tandem in the back of our KIA minivan.

2016 Grand Caravan 2016 Grand Caravan> This year, 2017, we upgraded the KIA to a 2016 Dpdge Grand Caravan. I then discovered, thanks to good old Google, that there is a growing trend toward minivan camping and the best minivans for that purpose are the Dodge Grand Caravan or the Chrysler Town and Country because their seats fold away completely providing a totally flat surface from the front seats to the rear.

Minivan Camping Equipment

We had to start all over and purchase much of the same type of equipment we needed over 50 years ago when we commenced our camping career in that little tent. The equipment we purchased included: Coleman propane stove, 500 lumen battery lantern, portable flush toilet, 4 inch memory-foam mattress, two 3-gallon water jugs, car-top storage bag, Coleman ice-chest, storage box, and a "tail-veil". The tail-veil is a commercial tent-like shelter that attaches to each back corner of the van so that when the tail-gate is lifted the tail-veil unfolds into a tent shelter directly connected to the rear of the van. And just for good measure, we also bought an inexpensive "30 second set-up" Ozark Trails dome tent. We have yet to use either of the tents but have practiced setting them up. On the first try, at least, the "30 second set-up" tent took us about 30 minutes…but I'm sure we will get faster with practice.

And just for good measure and because I'm a coward, I bought two "personal alarms" which we will keep hanging on each side of the mattress. These devices have a pin which you pull like a grenade which then produce a loud siren noise which will hopefully scare away any bad guys. Or, I guess, bad bears too.

Our First Minivan Camping Trip

We are obviously beginners at this new form of camping so we have started in a small way. We have for a long time told our friends Rhonda,Gary, and Lizzie Phillips who live in Dallas that we would come down someday to visit them. That's a hard one-day trip but we decided to make it a 3-day trip, camp and sight-see along the way.

Ozark Trails Tent

Trip Essentials

The car-top storage bag we had purchased is, I'm sure, much bigger than we will need but it is not needed at all except for the trip to Florida when we have to also transport the bike. Without the tandem bike, we can get all the essentials inside the minivan when traveling and remove the excess at night. The available floor space of the van is long enough for the full-size mattress and almost wide enough. There is a small excess mattress on each side but not enough to be a bother. This still leaves enough space between the top of the mattress and the back of the front seats for the ice chest, the water jug, and the storage container (about the size of the ice chest) in which much of the camping paraphernalia is stored.

Civil Ware Battleground Sites:

One of the more recent items on myOn Wednesday morning, Aug. 16, 2017 we packed up the minivan with what we thought was the camping equipment we would need and headed out. After looking up the address of the Wilson Creek National Park Battleground site I asked trusty iPhone Sari "Directions to 6424 W Farm Rd 182, Republic, MO". "Getting directions to 6424 W Farm Rd 182, Willard", was Sari's reply. Tried it again with the same response. "She says Willard, but the screen shows Republic" offered Alice. "OK, let's see if she heads toward Springfield", I replied, not knowing where Willard was but thinking it might be the same address as the Republic address. Sari directed us to Camdenton as usual but whereas we would head south on Highway 5 Sari directed us to keep west on Highway 54. "OK, maybe the Battlefield is on thr notyh side of Springfield. 54 will get you there too", I reasoned. We still felt confident as Sari directed us across Highway 65, and then onto 13 a short distance and then onto a farm road. And then onto another farm road and then onto Farm Road 182. "We must be getting close". The countryside was beautiful, peaceful, cattle grazing on the hillsides, neat farm homes sparsely located and finally Sari says "your location is on your left". Well, unless the National Park Wilson Creek Battleground was located in an isolated farm house, Sari had let us down.

"Directions to Republic Missouri" was my next request after turning around in the farmer's driveway. The new directions took us back to Highway 13, south to I-44 and west on I-44. Signs on I-44 just a few miles beyond Springfield then directed us to the Wilson Creek battleground.

After taking a self-directed tour of the battleground we proceeded on to Carthage to a small private camp-ground just south of I-44. I had called ahead for reservations and been told the cost would be $24 but the owner-operator charged us only $15. We set up camp on a level spot close to the rest-room facilities. Setting up camp consisted of parking the van. "Heavy rain's predicted for tonight", the lady owner warned, "You may not want to sit up a tent tonight". We heeded her warning and decided we would be perfectly comfortable just sleeping in the back of the van, and we did sleep soundly in spite of the thunder and lightning and rain during the night. Our first night's camping meal consisted of a delicious hamburger steak dinner at Iggy's Diner in Carthage.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Most people make the drive from Lake Ozark to Dallas in one day but we wanted to make this a leisurely drive during which we could practice our new minivan camping skills so we turned it into a three day trip. I searched for a likely spot to camp the second night which would leave us a relatively short drive the next day onto our friends' home in the Dallas suburb. I came across the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. It continues to amaze me what wonderful places exist in America which I've never previously heard of and some, like this one, not really even that far away. The web-page states: "Springs, streams, lakes- whatever its form, water is the attraction at Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Little Niagara and Rock Creek beckon waders and swimmers. Relax in the coolness of shaded streams or take a dip in a swimming hole. Veterans Lake calls anglers to test their skills. Lake of the Arbuckles provides excellent motor boating, skiing, fishing and swimming...".

The area has six public campgrounds and I selected two of them which sounded suitable for our minivan camping. Arriving in the area, we headed for my first choice campground and after traveling a few miles on the secondary road off the main highway Sari said "make a left turn here" to the campground. The road left dropped down a hill and at the bottom of the hill a stream was running across the road. "Turn around, don't drown", said Alice, "I'm not going down there".

We headed for my second choice and Sari turned us around, back cross the main highway and a couple miles to our alternative campground, Cold Springs.

Camping Expertise Demonstrated

This is where our 50 years of camping experience really came in handy. "Now we're here, where do we go"? Fortunately, there was a trailer near the entrance with a sign on it saying "Camp Host". Stopping the car and getting out in front of that trailer we were met by a retired host couple who were very helpful. The Cold Springs campground has 63 camp sites and I was fearful they'd all be full since we had gotten there so late. Fortunately for us, there were 63 open camp sites. This made it easy to find one close to the restroom (but no showers). The host couple had instructed us to pick out our campsite and then return to the gate area and use our credit card to automatically pay and that if we had what used to be called a "Golden Passport" the cost would be half-price, $7.

I had purchased a "Golden Passport" about 25 years ago but it had become illegible after being immersed in water in my billfold several times and had since been replaced with the "National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass". "Golden Passprt" was a much more friendly name. When we inserted my card into the slot to receive the discount, nothing happened. The camp host took out his card which looked just like mine, inserted it and it worked, "Thank you". Now we're ready to camp.

During our most recent luxury camping of the last 25 years we never needed to worry about ice because our RV had a 3-way refrigerator that always solved that problem. No longer having that luxury, one would think we would have been smart enough to buy ice on the way to camp, but we had not. Sari came to the rescue again and directed us to a Walmart a few miles away. We passed a Dollar store on the way and were able to get ice there without going quite all the way to Walmart.

Now we were all set and emptied the camping equipment, including the Coleman stove, onto the picnic table. "Where's the propane cylinder"? "I know I packed it" replied Alice. She cpuldn't find it. Back to Walmart for propane.

"OK, now were ready for a good home-cooked meal". Supper was to be a warmed-up meal from Tuesday night. "Do you have any matches"? "Aw, matches"? Non-smokers never carry matches but campers usually do. I didn't have any Lucifers. Back to the Dollar store for a fire-igniter.

burning match

Rule #12, Final Camping Rule: Don't forget the matches.

Happy camping and I hope our 50 years of expert camping experiences and advice will not discourage you from venturing into your own camping adventures.

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Copyright © June 14, 2000 Jerry Lee Walker Sr.