Home for the Holidays

Matt’s immediate family now lives in Kansas City, having relocated from just north of Birmingham, AL some years ago.  We had not seen them since before the pandemic, so we were excited to hug everyone and spend some time together.  Similarly, we planned to visit my family up in Minnesota, but knowing how unpredictable the weather can be this time of year, we opted to leave our travel trailer in Missouri while traveling further north.

We had a lovely time seeing our family, having the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with Matt’s family and visit with his grandmother before heading north in early December to see my family.  Matt’s mother, sister, niece, nephew and I made an outing to the City Market, perusing the shops and having fun while the weather was nice.  We also had time to check some things off the “to do” list.  I got a haircut at Lumine Salon, we had the truck serviced, Matt got to work on repairing a hole in the rear driver’s side of the travel trailer, and putting replacement parts on the bike rack.

A little back story on that:  When departing the Sweet Oaks Winery in Temecula, CA, we had a tight turn to get down the hill from our lovely spot between the grapevines.  Unfortunately, we didn’t clear the turn cleanly and caught a metal pipe holding up a row of grapevines on the back driver’s side corner of the trailer. 😫 We mentioned in my post Our brief interlude in AZ and NM that our bikes had been damaged as well, which we remedied in Tucson.

Thankfully, 1Up, the company that makes our bike rack, does sell replacement parts and they were in stock, so we ordered and shipped them to Matt’s sister’s house to pick up once we arrived in Kansas City.  For the hole repair, Matt used an orbital sander to smooth the edges of the hole before covering and sealing it with layers of epoxy and fiberglass material which he applied, sanded again, applied more material, and sanded once more, before finally painting over it.  Matt was working with limited tools, so it doesn’t look pretty, but it is now sealed from the elements, making it easier for us to step away from our rig for a week to travel to Minnesota without having to worry about water damage or mold.  

Because the trip to my parent’s house was nearly 600 miles away, we chose to break up the trip and spend a night in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (aka the Twin Cities) both on the way up and back to Missouri.  That afforded us the chance to surprise my two nieces and attend my eldest niece’s school volleyball game, and they were indeed surprised to see us! 😉 We then went out to dinner with their mother and her family to catch up before heading up to my parent’s house the next day.

The next day we visited with my grandmother Lorraine and my aunt and uncle Kathy and Steve in Brainerd, MN on the way to my parent’s.  While at my parent’s house, I spent a lot of time taking their dog Ruger for walks on the trails nearby, enjoyed more time with my brother and my nieces, we picked out a Christmas tree and decorated it together, and played games. 🎄 The night before we headed back to the Twin Cities, my aunt and uncle Debra and Jose had us over for a delicious Puerto Rican meal.  Meanwhile, we got 5-6 inches of snow, which made for a slow start back to the Twin Cities the next morning, but we made it safe and sound. ❄️

We had one last hurrah with my brother before saying our goodbyes and heading south to Kansas City.  Unfortunately, the weather continued to be uncooperative, and we had a VERY slick and slow trek south from the Twin Cities.  We made a pit stop for lunch at Redemption Restaurant in Faribault, MN, which was a surprising find and gave us a reprieve from the grueling journey on icy roads.  Thankfully, the roads started to clear up just south of Faribault, but the road condition added 2 hours of driving time, and made for a very long day. But we made it! 😅

Crow’s Creek Campground, Smithville, MO:

I mentioned briefly in my last post that Crow’s Creek Campground is a very large county park, bordering Smithville Lake in conjunction with the nearby Camp Branch across the bridge from us.  Surrounding the lake is a network of bike/walk paths that encompass approximately 36 miles in total, which I enjoyed a TON while we were there. 😍 We were one of only a handful of campers at this campground, given that it was late November/early December and the weather was starting to get predictably cold and dip down below freezing.  But, it worked out well for us so we could spend time with our families and have a safe place to keep our rig while in Minnesota.  The sites were nice and there was a decent amount of space between them, like most regional and state parks.  And, we had a beautiful lake view. 

The park has numerous boat access ramps for fishing, play structures for kids, a small outdoor amphitheater, and is a great place to go for wildlife and bird watching.  We saw deer, a possum, and a small bobcat during our stay.  Given the time of year, the campground was mostly shut down…bathrooms had been closed for the season and Camp Branch was also closed for winter.  However, the maintenance crew was very busy while we were there, removing dead trees and debris, and the campground was very clean.  Because we were there during the off season, this meant it was really quiet, but we did run into a few things that are worth pointing out.

  • A Mighty Wind!: It’s likely not surprising that this area can experience some strong windstorms, given its location in the midwestern plains.  That being said, the wind gusts are exacerbated by the fact that the campground is situated on a large lake and there is no tree cover nearby.  On one particular night, we had gusts between 40-50 mph that kept me up all night.  It’s a bit terrifying when the trailer never ceases to rock and sway and creak in the wind. 😬

    Incidentally, after we left the area, Kansas City had a storm with 70 mph winds, which could have easily toppled our trailer. 😱 Back in Indio, CA when we got caught up in the bomb cyclone that hit the west coast I found an app called Windy to keep an eye on wind trends.  It comes in handy if you have control over which direction you park your rig so you can avoid being broad-sided by wind gusts when a storm rolls through. 
  • Hunting around: Although I was able to enjoy the trails around the lake most of the time, there are sectional closures for geese hunting and broader closures for a few days apiece on a majority of the trails for managed hunts, which I did encounter during our stay.  They have signs all over the place to warn you, and this really only takes place during the off season, but it’s good to be aware of if you’re spending time here between November and February.
  • Water and Disposal: The day before we were set to leave the campground, they closed the dump access and turned off water access throughout Crow’s Creek Campground, despite the fact that we called before reserving our stay and confirmed that the campground would be open year-round.  We called the Clay County Parks office, and they told us that the dump station and water access was still open at the Camp Branch campground.

    I biked over there to check it out, and although the dump station was open, the potable water access was not working.  However, we did find another water pump near the entrance that was working.  Why they would close off the dump station and water at the campground that is supposed to be open year-round and keep the dump station and water on at the campground that is seasonally closed doesn’t make sense to me. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Hopefully, this information is helpful.  I highly recommend this campground if you are traveling through the area, especially if you come during the warmer spring and summer months.  Speaking of warmer, we are headed to the warmer climes of Texas!  Stay tuned for more tales from the road as we head south with the rest of the snowbirds. 🕊

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