Monthly Archives: August 2016

photo of The Hootenany Cafe in Perry, Missouri

On the Tasty Trail

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2016

We decided to take the scenic route after leaving Mark Twain’s birthplace.  As we pulled into the small town of Perry, Missouri around lunch time, we saw the Hootenanny Cafe on corner of Main Street and Palmyra Street. Discovering local places to eat is one of our favorite parts of traveling. One online review described the menu as “a small town take on fast food that reminds one of granny’s cooking.” From lemon meringue to apple, it was hard to miss the amazing pies, being placed on display as they came out of the oven.

photo of A fine lunch at the Hootenany

A fine lunch at the Hootenany

Walking in the door, there was a homey atmosphere, the quintessential American heartland cafe. This was clearly a gathering place for some of the locals. Two ladies at a table across the room could have been the reincarnation of my grandmother Tina and her best friend Beulah from their print dresses to their sensible shoes. Our table was set with with tall, Pepsi plastic glasses, the black metal napkin dispenser as well as the yellow mustard and red catsup plastic squeeze bottles.

Jim had a BLT and I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich. He chose fries and I got the onion rings to share. Yum. To Pie or Not to Pie, that became the question after lunch.

photo of Trailer wheel

Leaf Spring Wear

Slip spring with shim installed

Rear of slipper spring with shim installed

When we were installing the tongue box on the Ambassador, we noticed some wear on the trailer leaf spring mounts. With long trips to Huron, South Dakota, Sedalia, Missouri and the Big Bend completed, it wasn’t surprising. Along with other trips around Texas, we probably had upwards of 5000 miles logged. I have always planned to upgrade the wheels to a larger size and make improvements to the suspension, but there wasn’t time before we left for Wisconsin. I didn’t think there was any real urgency, but being a “belt and suspenders” guy, a little insurance wouldn’t hurt either.

photo of a Shim

Shim ready for installation

The tongue box mount was installed at Vintage Motor Car near our home, and it was Jason who first noticed the problem. We chatted about various solutions, but Mike had the best idea. How about buffering the metal/metal contact between the leaf springs and slipper spring mount with a composite shim? He got one out of the shop, and it slipped in easily with the weight off the wheels. Best of all, it was held in place by an existing crossmember made of angle iron. Easy to install, easy to replace. But would it last?

After 3000 miles of additional travel to Wisconsin and back, I’m going to declare victory. Only minimal additional wear on the slipper spring and mount, and relatively little wear on the shim. I’ll replace them before our next trip just for grins (at about 50 cents each), and we can push the running gear upgrade off until next year. Besides I still have to find some cool retro fenders for the new larger wheels before we start!

photo of The Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site

Mark Twain’s Birthplace

photo of Mark Twain's birthplace in Florida Missouri

Mark Twain’s birthplace in Florida Missouri

photo of Mark Twain's birthplace bedroom

The bedroom as it was

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2016

After a night in Mark Twain State Park, we decided to visit his birthplace, accidentally discovered the day before. The original two-room clapboard structure is housed in a substantial museum, with exhibits, a reading room, several first editions of his novels and a handwritten manuscript of Tom Sawyer.

The house itself was moved from it’s original nearby site, now flooded in the reservoir created by damming the Salt River. It is furnished, and gives a good idea of early nineteenth-century life in the midwest.

Samuel Clemens, who went by the pen name Mark Twain, was born in Florida, Missouri on November of 1835 and lived there for the first four years of his life. The family then moved to Hannibal, Missouri — more famously known as his boyhood home.

photo of placard with Mark Twain quote

Without doing any work …

One exhibit on flax, a primary crop of early America, shows the stages of production. From planting in the spring to harvest, to processing, spinning and weaving with period tools. A river boat exhibit shows various artifacts including a wheelhouse mockup. Another outlines Twain’s interest in technology including the first private telephone in the world. It is complete with handwritten records showing service outages — perhaps the forerunner of modern Internet uptime agreements?

Finally, there are several exhibits of furniture and other effects from his late nineteenth-century home in Hartford, Connecticut. The exhibit includes a carriage and street diorama.

photo of raided egg carriers

Raccoon Caper #2 – The Nocturnal Invasion

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2016

Camp Mark Twain State Park established and a scrumptious chicken dinner under our belts, we cleaned the dishes and put away the food. We’ve camped in numerous national and state parks in the last few years, and have developed a bedtime routine. Galley closed, kitchen boxes stacked and Igloo cooler closed. Time for bed. Marilyn is usually earlier into bed than me, but I was tired as well and we turned in. Soon we were both asleep.

photo of Raccoon crime in Progress

Raccoon crime in Progress

I’m a light sleeper and usually up in the middle of the night, but this night I was awakened by a commotion outside. Crash! Bang! What on earth?! I sleep next to the door in our teardrop, and grabbing my iPhone (always ready for a photo!) I opened the door and leaned out. We had a raccoon in camp, and he was exploring our stuff. Pushing the door open and stepping out, I made some noise and the invader escaped. Even though it was dark, I could see we’d been raided. The cooler was open, and various wrappers were scattered around. Well, the damage was already done so I went back to bed. We could survey the crime scene in the morning.

photo of the evidence

The evidence

Marilyn was the first one up in the morning and cleaned up the mess. The raccoon had opened the Igloo cooler (we even have trouble opening that!) and scored a pound of bacon, a pound of butter, two pounds of lunch meat, several eggs and a yogurt.

photo of opening the egg carrier

Not easy to open

It was able to open the egg containers and that’s not easy. It was also able to get the meat and bacon out of zipper bags without destroying them. Apparently they can work the zipper pulls. Their scientific name is appropriate: Procyon lotor or extremely dexterous front paws.

Later, when Marilyn went to the camp office to buy more ice, she mentioned the raid, and the camp host wasn’t surprised. It seems the local raccoons have developed a taste for beer and are able to open pull-tab cans. Two nights of camping so far, and two incidents. I wonder if they prefer lagers or ales?

photo of Igloo cooler

Tiny raccoon fingerprints

photo of campsite at Mark Twain State Park

The Girl Strikes Again

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2016

image of online map

The Girl

Jim was enjoying his mocha as we left Morberly and headed for Mark Twain State Park in Florida, Missouri. We pulled out the National Geographic Road Atlas and double-checked the route, before we left civilization. We’d learned the hard way about reliable Internet connectivity in rural areas, so I Googled the trip – 49 min (40.8 mi) via US-24 E and MO-154 E. It seemed simple enough, but the “Girl,” our name for the online voice that provides directions, created delays and led us to some very unusual destinations on other trips down the Teardrop Trail. We needed to get there early enough to get a campsite. We headed out along Route 24, turning on Missouri 154, a two lane rural road taking commands from the “Girl.” She lead us to Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site. Confused, we walked up to the door only see that the facility had closed. No campground in sight. We decided to back track. As we proceeded back on MO-154, we saw a rather large stone display that said “Florida.”

photo of Florida, Missouri sign

Florida, Missouri

We were in the right place, sort of. Soon we found a sign that pointed to camping. We searched and eventually found the Badger Campground and the entrance booth was still staffed by the friendly campground host. We had arrived just in time to get the camp site. The “Girl” had struck again.


photo of Jim with Mocha relief in Moberly, Missouri

On the Mocha Trail

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2016

I have a problem. It’s not a big problem, but around 3 in the afternoon, I start wishing for a Mocha Latte. I acquired the habit while working at the university, where a Starbuck’s was conveniently located across the street from my office. I would often have meetings there in the low-key, jazz-infused atmosphere. Good times.

The habit persists, and I am usually thinking about Mocha by 3 in the afternoon. In fact, it is afternoon as I write this and there is a Mocha within arm’s reach. Chocolatey goodness. The itch can be hard to scratch on the road though. Starbuck’s, and coffee houses in general are a city thing — much harder to find in rural and small town America. Nevertheless, Marilyn begins the Internet quest for Mocha each day we’re on the road in the hopes of a treat.

photo of Funny Pages Cafe

Funny Pages Cafe

We were approaching Moberly in north-central Missouri, and I was sure I would have to do without. With a population of just under 14,000 and relatively distant from larger cities, it seemed unlikely to have such amenities. Then Marilyn announced a Mocha stop in a few miles. The Funny Pages Cafe advertised a bakery and coffee drinks. We stopped.

photo of Funny Pages Cafe Mocha Latte

Mocha Latte

The interior was fun. Peanuts, Felix the Cat, Bugs Bunny, Betty Boop, Popeye — many of my favorite comic book and cartoon characters were posted on the cafe walls. The smell of fresh baking. An appealing menu of burgers, fried chicken and seafood. Too bad it wasn’t dinnertime. We bought some fresh bread for breakfast and in no time, my travel mug had been filled with a Mocha Latte.

photo of Ritters in Moberly

Ritters in Moberly

Ritter’s, nursery and farmers market was right next door. With a metal building, greenhouse and tables of colorful flowers, it was an inviting way to stretch our legs. Inside, there was a wide variety of produce — beautifully displayed. Also, there were plastic tubs containing bulk seeds; Peas, beans, corn, onion sets and smaller tubs containing dozens of other vegetable seeds. I hadn’t seen anything like it since I was a kid in Nebraska visiting the small town near my grandparents farm.

photo of interior of River Reader Books

On to Lexington

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2016

photo of stuffed bear in Pat's Army Store

Pat’s Army Store Inmate

I was introduced to historic Lexington, Missouri when I was in the neighborhood for a presentation in June on my cookbook – Canning, Pickling and Freezing, with Irma Harding. The meeting of the Missouri Cattlewomen was held at the historic Elms Resort and Spa in Excelsior Springs. I researched the Resort built in 1898, and discovered it was “haunted.” I had previous experience with haunted hotels when I worked in Santa Fe so I felt right at home. Actually, the hotel had several interesting guests including Al Capone and Harry S. Truman. It was an amazing experience. My talk, “Eat, Drink, and Pickle!” was at VanTill’s Family Farm & Vineyard. I fell in love with the area and the people.

Photo of River Reader Façade

River Reader

As we left Kansas City, I was looking at the atlas and Lexington was only about 50 miles away. We were so close, I suggested we take a side trip so Jim could meet my friends and see Lexington where there is lot’s of history from the Civil War. After parking the Lady and the Ambassador, we stopped in at Pat’s Army Store, located in an old Baptist Church. Next, we stopped by the Old Trails Region to see Marsha Corbin, my host. I met Marsha at last year’s Red Power Round Up where she’d heard my presentation. She was just down the street for a meeting, so we proceeded to say hello. Next stop was one of the most amazing independent bookstores, River Reader owned by Pat and Gary Worth. I had a great book signing at River Reader. Pat offered a couple of bottles of cold water on the warm day and It was nice to connect everyone with Jim.

We left River Reader and Jim was taken by the scenic beauty of the town. The Greek Revival Lafayette County Courthouse built in 1847 and other historic buildings led the town to bill itself as the “Athens on the Missouri” and became subjects for his photography.

photo of Lake Jacomo, Missouri sign

Cool Tears

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2016

I discovered Cool Tears magazine on Facebook. Wow, a magazine devoted to all things teardrop and the people who love them! I went to their website and downloaded back issues to consume with great delight. The magazine was a great way to learn more about the amazing community that had grown up around these wonderful trailers. Teardrops have been around for over 80 years and are experiencing a renaissance. Sarah Tucker took over the publication in 2015. I reached out to her on Facebook and enjoyed sharing her adventures.

Cool Tears Magazine cover

Cool Tears cover

I’ve been writing for a wide range of magazines so in April, I contacted Sarah to see if she was interested in looking at any of my clips with the thought to writing for the magazine and mentioned I was delighted when she replied that if we were going to be near Kansas City she would like to do a story on us. As we made plans for the June excursion to Red Power Round Up,  we arranged a meeting. Sarah suggested we camp at Lake Jacomo County Park near her home. It was an amazing spot we would have never found without her. After stopping at Costco for the replacement battery, we pulled into the beautifully wooded paradise and set up camp. As I walked back from the office, a voice came out of a rather large RV. “After seeing your trailer, you are taller than I had imagined.” Teardrop humor.

After dropping her two daughters off for their own summer adventure, she arrived at the park and came to our campsite. It was great meeting her at last. We chatted as she took photos. When the issue came out, we were on the cover! Check out page 12!

I highly recommend subscribing to Cool Tears if you want the skinny on the teardrop world.

photo of Preparing dinner

A Masked Marauder – Raccoon!

Teardrop Trail Log: June 13, 2016

Travel completed, we arrived at Lake Jacomo County Park near Kansas City and our cares dissipated. The place looks more like a city park than a camp ground with a well-manicured lawn and plantings, and a stylish restroom and bathhouse. Best of all, Marilyn had thoughtfully stashed a beer or two into the ice chest. I would have cold beer even though the solar fridge system had failed. We each began our setup and dinner tasks.

The weather was warm but not too bad, and I enjoyed setting up camp. Marilyn was already working on dinner — a chicken recipe that we both like. With the new stabilizers, I was done in no time, and sat down to enjoy a cold one while checking the day’s events. The prospect of a a leisurely dinner in the twilight beckoned.

As we sat down to dinner about 30 minutes later, we heard a crash by the camp picnic table. Investigating, Marilyn discovered the pasta pot had been knocked to the ground. This was new. There was no wind to speak of, and we weren’t near any other campsites. What was going on?

photo of the North American Raccoon

North American Raccoon (theivous cuteus)

I then noticed some movement near the tree. iPhone at the ready, I snapped a picture, the flash went off, and we had the evidence. There was a raccoon relaxing by the tree and apparently pondering it’s next move. Attracted by the pasta cooking water, it was unconcerned and seemed to say: “I’ll just wait here for dinner.” As we finished our dinner rituals, I spotted it outside of camp again — eyes aglow from my flashlight. Hmmm. Very persistent and comfortable around humans. Did we have a new challenge for our trip?

Can you see the intruder?

Patience and persistence personified

photo of the solar panel. It was still there in Perry

There Be Dragons …

Teardrop Trail Log: June 13, 2016

I guess I should be grateful we didn’t have more problems. If you think about it, trailering is an unlikely pastime, wherein one drags a small metal box on wheels at high speed over sometimes nasty, bumpy roads and expects everything to arrive at the same time. Then there’s the summer heat, rain, and wind — all of which can be extreme. Top it off by camping in the woods with open campfires, animal encounters and rutted trails masquerading as roads, and it’s a wonder things go as smoothly as they do. It’s a testament to the essential hopefulness and naïveté of the average camper. Certainly it describes our view of staying in the woods.

photo of Jim Repairing the antenna tube

Repairing the antenna tube

Looking back, I understand our first several trips were usually trouble-free. Perhaps it was payback time. After a day of construction, rain, and detours, I thought we might have taken our lumps. As it turned out, we were just getting started. Day 2 dawned cool and overcast, and wonder of wonders, there was a Starbucks nearby. We went in and ordered, and within minutes I was in possession of the magic elixir. A Mocha. On the way back to the rig, I noticed that the antenna storage tube was askew. One of the supports had broken. Better fix it.

I decided to run our solar beer cooler while we were on the road. The day promised to be sunny, and I would have cold beer while setting up camp. Off we went through Paris, Texas, on our way to Joplin. Easy travel.

photo of Galley outlets

Dropping voltage

Since I was curious how much power we were generating and using with the beer cooler, I checked the voltage monitor every time we stopped. The battery voltage was falling slowly, suggesting the solar panel wasn’t keeping up, but nothing to worry about. Then during one of our stops, I noticed that the battery voltage had dropped by two volts. Not normal behavior. Considering the problem while we drove the next leg of the trip, I realized that one cell in the battery had catastrophically failed. This battery was toast.

We would have to find another. Marilyn got to work with the maps. As she plotted routes and queried the web, I mused on the rotten luck. What were the odds? Batteries don’t normally fail like this. On the other hand, it was over a year old. Maybe the battery maintainer wasn’t very good. Then, she announced her result. There was a Costco in southeast Kansas City, and going there would only take us a few miles out of our way. The camping gods had smiled.

We stopped at Costco, bought a replacement battery, and installed it in the parking lot to recover the core charge. Even so, we arrived at the Jacomo Campground by 7. Plenty of light to set up while Marilyn cooked a delicious dinner. Maybe we had finally paid our karma debt and could sail unconcerned into the adventure!

photo of A New Battery

A New Battery