Grovers’ westward trip cont’d.
Our first stop after daughter Cheryl’s was Springfield, Ill., where we visited Lincoln’s home and the Lincoln Museum. This was very moving, especially for a Civil War buff. The museum presentations of the reactions of people across the country to the train carrying the body of the assassinated President made it seem as if it happened only yesterday.
After leaving Springfield, we headed across Missouri to St. Joseph, near where we planned to stay at Big Lake State Park near the Missouri River. We found Big Lake closed because it had flooded out in June and had still not opened due to damage to the facilities there. The campground host was there, though, and he told us there was a KOA campground at Rockport, Mo., about 50 miles further north. As we approached Rockport, we encountered a concentration of heavy thunderstorms. We made it to the KOA campground there, checked in and waited for a letup in the rain to set up the camper. Shortly after supper, it stopped raining for a while, so I took Snuffy for his evening walk; it turned out to be a brief one, because I noticed the sky getting darker again, and another thunderstorm approached from the southeast instead of the usual southwest. By the time we got back to the camper it was already starting to rain, and it soon became a deluge, punctuated by brilliant flashes of lightning followed immediately by crashes of thunder. This continued for hours, and, for once, Snuffy consented to sleep in the camper with us (on the floor, not in our bed, however.) Snuffy does not like thunderstorms any better than Mona! Next morning was still cloudy, but dry, but I found the two 2x6’s I had put down in front of our camper steps to bridge some of the rain runoff had floated past the front of the camper before hanging up.
Passing through western Iowa near Onawa, Iowa, we detoured through a state park called Preparation Canyon. This area of the ridges and prairie was settled in the 1850s by Mormons who dedicated themselves to preparation for the afterlife, hence the name of the canyon. Here we noticed what appeared to be a wide swath of uprooted and “de-topped” trees passing across the park road. A passer-by confirmed that there had indeed been a devastating tornado through there a few years ago, which had killed three boy scouts who were camping in the valley below the ridge where our current road ran. This man could not tell us what types of trees and/or shrubs had been planted all along the path of the tornado. We were curious because the plants had been set out inside bright yellow cylinders of plastic about four or five feet tall. The cylinders presumably protected the plants inside from hungry predators (deer?) and could be seen scattered throughout the tornado area as far as we could see from the road.
When we reached the central part of southern South Dakota, the wind came up. It was from the northwest (our right) and grew stronger the farther west we drove. I began to worry that we might encounter a rogue wind gust that would tip over our camper. The buffeting from the wind began causing us to veer right and left, making it hard to stay in our travel lane, and we decided to camp in Murdo, S.D., about 150 miles short of daughter Anita’s home in Custer, S.D., where we would visit for a few days. Next day dawned calm and nice.