Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Post 029 - the Great Plains - Day 1

Day 26 - Friday, June 29
Cool Night, Hot Day

The water in the brook was so wonderful I thought I might spend a second day at Raging River. Other than sitting in the cool water, I did not know what I would do, so I decided to drive on. Here at Raging River a siren goes off at 6:30 a.m. to announce the start of fishing for the day. I set a course for another State Park, this one called Stockton. There is a large lake there. The distance is about 100 miles due north.

Another digression. In the South, Chevy outsells Ford in pickup trucks by 15 to 1. Also, white is the new grey. That's a theme I must come back to.

My route through Missouri will take me north in its western most counties. This means I will miss a great deal of its interesting topology. Missouri deserves a whole season of touring by itself. My route will be in the rolling agrarian west.

I leave Raging River and immediately head up a steep hill. I then plummet down the other side. There is another one. Cresting the hill one experiences negative Gs. It's better than a roller coaster. It's like practicing weightlessness in the belly of a 747. You've seen astronauts in training do that. Well, in southwestern Missouri you could gut a class A RV and do the same thing. Okay, that's just speculation.

Then they end, the steep hills that is. The country suddenly opens up into rolling endless horizon. The Plains. I have broken out of the East and now am in the Midwest. Roads straighten out to an artist's vanishing point. Crops, silos, fences, and farms, along with an endless ribbon of smooth highway spread out before me.

Missouri has a unique way of naming its county roads. It gives them a letter, any letter, there seems to be no rule governing their selection. So I turn onto M and follow it up and down for 20 miles. No traffic. Just me on M, it's all mine. Then I turn right on 216 until I see a sign for B. I turn left on B and follow it for another 20 miles.

Sometimes there are towns. All have population signs. Most have less than 100 residents. Of course there are larger towns, I'm just avoiding them. You can travel these county roads in Missouri and think you have the agrarian world to yourself.

In time, hours, but who is counting? I arrive at Stockton State Park. Shade is at a premium. With the air temperature at 105, what is shade but darker heat? I select a site with a shady alcove for the tent. It's next to a group of six guys, but the shade outweighs the possible noise.

Just as I start setting up a group of 15-18 twenty-something's take all the remaining sites around me. I am too tired to move. How bad can it be? It turns out to be very bad. They are noisy, careless, and clueless. They even cause the six guys on my other side to become quiet and stare.

I cannot elaborate on their behavior other than to say none of these kids had any social training in campground life. I kept trying to be "okay" or "at peace" or "tolerant" with them, but most of all I kept holding myself back from flying into a rage and becoming the Missouri Campground Psycho. I kept telling myself it would get better. They would quiet down. But they did not.

I sat watching birds fly by and listening to the sounds they make. One rabbit hopped into my campsite. It was followed by a turtle. That surprised and delighted me. I told myself a rabbit and a turtle had to be some positive sign, although I could not figure out what it might be.

At dark I crawled in my tent. I was tense and tired. Someone in the noisy crowd brought a guitar with them and began playing. It was lovely. I started to relax. Then the kids became animated again and much louder. None of them were listening to the guitar player and the music stopped. Well almost. The guitar was replaced by recorded music.

It was a miserable night. I did get to sleep but was awakened by the chopping of wood. At dawn I packed up and left as fast as I could.

Now you are asking yourself, why didn't I just go over and ask them to be quiet? It would not have worked. This group had it's own dynamic outside social norms. Why didn't I ask the camp host for assistance? I did. He did. It didn't work. I was hoping the six guys on my other side would tell them to tone it down, but they cowered behind trees. The only upside is I did not become the Missouri Campground Psycho. Sadly, no cable TV movie will be made about a rabbit and a turtle.

The coulee flows on.

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