Thursday, June 30, 2011

Greenville Recreation Area, Greenville, MO

A couple days ago we took a ride about 20 miles north of here to the Greenville Recreation Area, an Army Corps of Engineers campground along the banks of the St. Francis River. It suffered serious flood damage and just reopened this week, although the website says it’s still closed. They wanted to be sure everything was in good working order before they put it back on the reservation system, but through word of mouth there were quite a few people camping there already.
It is a really nice park with electric at the sites, and $18 a night or $9 with the Senior Pass. It’s also just off Hwy 67, which heads north towards St. Louis, so it would be a good place to spend a night if you’re traveling that way.
Back in 1941 when Wappapello Dam was built, the Corps of Engineers moved the town of Greenville 2 miles north to higher ground, and there are a few remains of the old town, including sidewalks, a few foundations, and a cemetery in the campground.There is a mile or so of sidewalk called Memory Lane, marked with signs explaining what used to be there, and we had a nice stroll around and enjoyed reading about the history of the town.
Union Cemetery
The most interesting tombstone. It was carved like a tree trunk sitting on a pile of logs.
The steps from the old courthouse.
The story of the car dealership. It says one brand he sold was the $600 Whippet. We had to look that one up. Jim had never even heard of it.
We have 28 reservations coming into our campground tomorrow, and there are over 20 first-come, first-serve sites, so we aren’t sure how full it will get this weekend, but it will be a change from the few people we’ve been getting. Maybe I will have some stories to tell come Monday!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Time Flies…

Can’t believe we’ve been here at Lake Wappapello for three and a half weeks now.  Asher Creek Campground reopened on the 16th, so it’s been a slow week at our campground, but this weekend we had quite a few reservations and the 4th of July crowd will be coming in next week. The park superintendant has given us some more responsibilities, which will keep us a bit busier. Nothing too difficult. We are responsible for a weekly inspection of the equipment at the two playgrounds, checking up on the cabin guests, and when the beach opens next week it will be our job to be sure everyone is out at sunset and lock the gate. Also pick up any litter on the beach, which may be the job that keeps us the busiest. Hope not.
We attended the naturalist hike to Allison Cemetery last weekend. We are so impressed with Hannah, this nice young woman who just recently took an exam to become certified. She does an excellent job of public speaking, and has a passionate interest in 19th century life. She even wore a period dress to do the hike, which she made herself.
We managed to wash and wax both the car and motorhome this week, as it was cooler and hasn’t rained. Our mud dauber problem seems to be resolved, but it took replacing the quarter inch wire cloth behind the refrigerator vents (which they were still able to get through) with some screening fabric. After defrosting the fridge, it seems to be cooling better in spite of the screen.
We haven’t had any evidence of mice under the hood, so maybe our tacky rope lights and peppermint oil are scaring them off.
We had a bit of excitement yesterday, when the park superintendant radioed the camp hosts and asked us to come to the office. She wanted to let us know that she received a phone call from a distraught aunt, whose nephew had just called her and said he was on his way to camp at Lake Wappapello State Park, and was going to commit suicide and take others with him. They had his name and truck license number, so she wanted us to be on the lookout. Fortunately he never arrived at the park, but we found out later they had found him near Poplar Bluff, he had been released from a mental hospital that morning,and the police got his therapist to call and speak with him. The therapist thought he was fine, and told the police to let him go. We’re still watching out for him.
A couple of nights ago, at 10:40 pm, we heard a truck running outside and then a knock on the door. Some idiot wanted to know where he could put in his boat to go fishing! How inconsiderate. We do have a sign that says we are off duty after 9 and not to disturb us unless it’s an emergency, but we haven’t put it out. Guess we should start doing that, especially with the number of people who are expected here next weekend.
Thursday the Missouri Conservation Dept. came to the park to round up the geese. They band them every year and do an annual count. I thought it would be interesting to watch, but they had a difficult time catching them.and let the young summer employees assist them. I had to leave after one of the geese tried to escape and beat it’s wing on the ground until it was bleeding. Seems like there has to be a more humane way to do that.
This afternoon we attended an interesting program on wild mushrooms in Missouri. We found a huge edible “chicken-of-the woods” near one of the campsites. I thought it might be good on pizza, so Jim suggested I try it on my half and if I didn’t get sick he would try it the next time. What a caring husband! Tonight we are going to a program on snakes. At least we’re getting a little education.
Next week is the employee picnic, and we were invited to go out on a pontoon boat with the other camp host’s brother to watch the fireworks over the lake on the 2nd of July. It will be August 1st before we know it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sad News


Yesterday I received a phone call from a friend to let me know my former boss, Dr. Michael Redmond, had died after fighting pancreatic cancer for the past eight months. He was a very well respected pediatric ophthalmologist in the Florida panhandle, and I was fortunate to have worked as his orthoptist for 29 years.

He was a workaholic, and loved what he did. Besides taking care of kids eyes, he was active in the Florida Medical Assoc, the AMA, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, even serving as president.

He was very laid back, soft spoken, and the patients and their parents loved him. He was easy to work for, no throwing instruments in the OR or screaming at nurses. My favorite part of the job was Tuesday and Wednesday morning surgery days. I helped him fix lots of cross-eyed kids, and he was an excellent surgeon. We also did infantile cataract and glaucoma surgeries, blocked tear ducts, styes, etc. With the patients all being under general anesthesia, those were nice, quiet mornings.

Our office was another story, and one of the reasons I retired early. The last 10 years I worked there, he was the only pediatric ophthalmologist between Mobile and Tallahassee, so we were very busy. At one point it was a 4 to 5 month wait to get an appointment, but we never turned anyone down if they really needed to be seen quickly. So we were overbooked every day, and I was getting very burned out. When I turned in my 3 month notice, he was shocked that I was leaving, and said he really thought I would be with him until he retired. I laughed and said, yes, but you’re 65 and have no plans to retire. I can’t wait!

I could only come across one picture taken many years ago of him and his wife Jani, when we were at an ophthalmology meeting in Palm Springs, CA.

Mike and Jani

My heart goes out to his family. He will be sorely missed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Critters, The Good and the Bad

So far the deer have left us alone, and we are enjoying a new window hummingbird feeder.
It’s been up a few days but today is the first time we saw three feeding at once.
Now for the not so pleasant critters. I found another pest to add to Jim’s list. Today I spotted a trail of ants crawling up the power cord and along the bathroom window on their way to the roof. Tried to remove as many as possible and put Vaseline on the cord below where it plugs in and that seems to be keeping them off.
While I was working on that little problem, I noticed a mud dauber crawling into the hot water heater vent. Yesterday at Home Depot we bought some quarter inch hardware cloth, which Jim installed on the back of the refrigerator vents. It’s not pretty but it appears they can’t get through.
We forgot all about the hot water heater having similar vents. Sure enough, they had already been working hard at building a nest. It was attached to the pressure relief valve.
So Jim cut some more screening and put it behind the opening. Later he opened it up and a wasp flew out, so it appears there is another way in or this one squeezed through the holes. Great!
He also checked under the hood of the rig today and inspected the air filter. It looks like the little mice were eating away at the filter. He sprayed all around with peppermint oil, which is supposed deter them. Carl, the concessionaire, also loaned us a bunch of rope lights which we put out on the ground since we’ve heard they don’t like the light. We’ll see if any of this voodoo actually works. At least we don’t have them inside yet like the hosts at the other campground do!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sam A. Baker State Park, MO

We’ve gotten some thunderstorms the past several days, which has lowered our temperatures to the comfortable 80’s, after 14 straight days of over 90 degrees.
We wanted to go for a hike, so Sunday we drove about 35 miles north to Sam A. Baker State Park. Wanda, the park superintendant at Lake Wap was the naturalist at Baker for 20 years, and she recommended we check it out. There are two campgrounds, which were very full, a restaurant, store, cabins, miles of trails, including a three mile paved walking/biking trail along the St. Francois River. We hiked the Shut-Ins trail, which leads to a nice beach on the river.
It was probably a mile to the water access, and we were surprised at the number of people who walked that far carrying coolers, chairs, etc
Along the trail we saw this interesting butterfly, which we think is a Zebra Swallowtail. It never stayed put more than a few seconds.
And we heard and saw some cicadas. Not in focus but it gives an idea of how creepy they look.
It is a very nice park, and I’m sure the camp hosts are much busier there than we are. There is no Verizon service at all though, but we heard AT&T works well.
Today Jim wanted to put some Stabil in the gas tank, but since it wasn’t quite full we unhooked everything and drove 3 or 4 miles to the nearest gas station. While there, I was cleaning the windshield when a mouse almost crawled over my foot. Jim suspected we brought him with us from the campground, but I was hoping he lived at the gas station. When we got home we found another mouse that had been run over on the ground near one of the wheels. So we suspect they are getting in the engine compartment, although he found no evidence when he looked around with a flashlight. Now we have to figure out a way to keep them out. From doing some internet research, it sounds like peppermint oil may do the trick. Does anyone have any experience with that?
And one other problem we now have is mud daubers are getting in the refrigerator vents. We hate to put any kind of screening material over it, since we don’t want to block the air flow, but we may have to. If anyone has any ideas let us know. Jim just keeps adding things to his “I hate Missouri” list!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Quiet Week at Lake Wappapello

The water continues to go down, and Asher Creek Campground is reopening on June 16th, although some sites may still be out of commission. We are settling in here and it feels like home now. The Ridge Campground has been very quiet. Last night we had only two sites occupied, and the most we’ve had has been ten in one night. The computer system is up and running at the office again but the manager wants us to register and collect at the sites until the 16th. Since we have only been registering a few people every day it hasn’t been bad. Some of the locals that come here to fish are a little rough around the edges, but we’ve really enjoyed meeting and talking to the travelers who just stop here for the night.
Locals who’ve been here for a week. It’s the first time we’ve seen anyone hook up an air conditioner in their tent.
It is nice to be settled in one place for awhile to be able to do things like wash the car, which I did the other day, and receive mail and packages. It’s been like Christmas. We got something in the mail almost every day this week!
We made our first trip to Poplar bluff on Tuesday. Jim had an appointment with a dermatologist to get some spots burned off. Luckily the doctor said they were all just precancerous, but he has to go back next month to see if he needs any more treatment. Jim’s mother used to tell us when you get old things just start sprouting on your skin, and she was right!
I also had to go to the lab and get my thyroid and Vitamin D levels rechecked, and we did a big Wal-Mart spree. Poplar Bluff has a population of about 16,000, and is pretty easy to get around in. We’ll be making the 25 mile drive to town once a week for sure.
The hiking trails here at the park haven’t been cleaned up yet, but most of the trail to Allison Cemetery stayed dry so we were able to take a little hike. The cemetery was under water from the flood and some of the tombstones were knocked over and broken but most are still standing.
It’s always interesting to read these old stones, especially the birth and death dates. Most of the graves contained children.
But there were some folks who led fairly long lives.
We’re guessing he served in the Civil War.
I liked this anonymous stone.
Yesterday we attended two naturalist programs, the first being a talk about insects and bites, and how to avoid and treat them. Jim decided he just needs to stay indoors.
Last night was a program about the 13 year cicadas that hatched this summer. There were so many in Branson it was almost deafening outside. Again, the program yesterday morning was only attended by the four of us camp hosts, and Carl the concessionaire who runs the store and cabin rentals. Last night a few people from the cabins also came. This morning it’s frog races, but I’m hoping we can avoid that one.
We were told there are two family reunions coming to the park this week, and that it will be much busier. We kind of like the peace and quiet, though.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Exciting Life of a Campground Host

This ornate box turtle was one of the contestants in the turtle race we attended Saturday morning. Our turtle lost but they were fun to watch. After the race we let them all go back into the woods or wherever they came from.
The park has several college students who are the summer naturalists. Unfortunately for them, with attendance so low this year due to the flood, they haven’t had many people coming to their programs. In fact, at the Saturday afternoon “flood talk”, the 4 camp hosts were the only ones there. We learned that this was a record flood event, beating the big one in 1945.
One day we took a drive to Wappapello Dam, about 2 miles from here by water, but a 14 mile drive in the car. They had a video of the floodwaters going over the emergency spillway and eroding away a nearly 400 foot section of Highway T. It was impressive.
There are several nice Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds around the dam, some of which are still closed. We drove through two of the open ones farthest from the lake, and were impressed with how nice they are. They both had water, electric, and sewer at all the sites for $20 a night, or $10 with the Senior Pass. Probably why not many people are at the state park, since we charge $21 for power only, and a $2 discount for over age 65.
We are getting the hang of our job, which is actually pretty easy. It’s fun zipping around on the golf cart, although I am still making Jim walk everyday, which he complains about since it is hot, humid, and he is full of bug bites. I’m glad the bugs don’t like me as much as they like him. I’ve only had one bite so far, which really irritates him!
Today on our walk we had the pleasure of meeting this juvenile cottonmouth snake. We didn’t know what it was but we showed the picture to one of the naturalists and he identified it. We were close enough to see it had a diamond shaped head, so we didn’t get any closer. It was not a happy snake. We finally managed to get him off the road before someone ran him over. I told you it was exciting here!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lake Wappapello State Park, MO

It seems strange to see us parked in the Campground Host site, but here we are. Lake Wappapello is a beautiful state park, about 23 miles north of Poplar Bluff, MO. This will be our home for the next two months.
We had a tour of the park yesterday, but many areas are still closed due to the recent flooding. The other campground, Asher Creek, is closer to the lake, and many of the sites are still flooded so they haven’t opened it back up yet. The water level is going down every day, though, and they hope to have it up and running by June 15th. The camp hosts are the only ones there.
That is a lantern pole in the foreground.
All those trees used to be on dry land.
We were issued our golf cart yesterday. It doesn’t go very fast, but it’s fun to drive and ride around in. Jim looks very professional with his volunteer vest on.
Oreo wasn’t sure what to make of it.
We were told we would occasionally have to register a camper if they arrived late and were leaving the next morning before the office opened. Otherwise we should send people to the office to pay. Unfortunately the computer system in the office is not working, so we have to register and collect from everybody until at least Tuesday when they hope to have it up and running again.
When Wanda, the superintendant, was at our site last evening giving us our golf cart instructions, we heard someone drive in and much to our surprise it was an old Lazy Daze. The last time we saw one was in New Mexico. So they were our first registration!
This is a 1985 model, owned by Arlene from California. She’s had it for two years, and it had two previous owners. She drove to Missouri from California by herself, picked up a friend in Joplin, and they are on their way to Washington, DC. It was in really great shape for it’s age. That is her adorable Golden Doodle named Morgan posed next to it.
By the time we registered and talked with the other two groups that came in it was after 8, so it was a long day. Just glad the park is not very busy. Taxed our brains for the first time in awhile! We only screwed up a couple things, but realized what we did and got everything straightened out, turned in our money this morning, and are waiting for the weekenders to arrive. It’s a good way to get broken in, but we will be happy when the computer system is fixed. What with the heat, humidity, bugs, and work, Jim thinks it will be a long two months! I keep telling him to be thankful that at least we are no longer having severe thunderstorms and tornado threats (for now anyway!).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More Branson

We really enjoyed our week in Branson, the water levels went down, and the Branson Landing Boardwalk reopened. We walked the entire length of the boardwalk, which continues on past the shopping center into a nice little park. Hard to believe this was totally under water last week.
One of the tour boats.
We stopped to visit Alan and Marilyn, who were able to move back into the RV park. It sure looked different .
And after.
On their recommendation, we also ate lunch at the Keeter Center, on the campus of the College of the Ozarks. This is quite an impressive school. All students attend tuition free, but must work at least 15 hours a week and two forty hour weeks during one of the school breaks. They get a variety of work experience, as there is a dining room and lodge, Ozark history museum, fruitcake and jelly kitchen (they sell 40,000 fruitcakes every year!), greenhouse, dairy, mill, weaving studio, and more. The Keeter Center is a beautiful building, in the style of a park lodge. We had a great lunch there, and the students were all so pleasant.
We did leave Branson yesterday, and are now in our camp host site at Lake Wappapello State Park. Wanda, the park superintendant, stopped by last night to give us keys and a giant box of stuff we will need. Today we have orientation at one, and will get our very own golf cart, which is really the only reason Jim wanted to be a camp host!