Friday, September 25, 2015

Back at FM 521 River Park

I'm currently about 15 miles south of Bay City, TX at the FM 521 River Park on the Colorado River (in case you wondered).  I've stayed here several times and reviewed it here:  FM 521 River Park Review .  Temperatures aren't quite as high here (hi-80's) as the low 90's in the Houston area so that works.

Charging up the solar lantern at the River Park.
Had an early morning run in with a colony of ants who figured out how to climb up the Tank's steps and under the door.  They didn't reckon on my "Leetle Friend":

Still rounding up a few stragglers but this battle is over.

 At least they weren't Fire Ants!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Campground Review: Turkey Creek RV Village Hollister, MO

Continuing southwest from my stay on the Mississippi River my original plan was to spend labor Day weekend boondocking on Winkle Creek which is near the tiny Missouri town of Kissee Mills.  I got the idea to camp there from while ignoring the warning on the review page that the campground floods in the Spring.  Heck, this was September so I didn't have anything to worry about ...right?  As I was driving by Tuttle Creek Lake, of which Winkle Creek is a tributary, I observed water levels in waterside parks that had one-story buildings almost completely covered with standing water.  So when I finally got to Winkle Creek, with the exception of 50 feet of entrance way, everything was flooded out and un-campable.  So there I was on the Friday of a major holiday near Branson, MO, a huge tourist destination, where the heck would I get a campsite?  I had Google Maps search for campgrounds near me and called the first three....all predictably booked up.  Then I remembered that there was an Escapee campground near Branson so I called it.

A sight for sore eyes for a needy holiday camper!
I was extremely fortunate to get the very last campsite at Turkey Creek Village.  While I had hoped to boondock for free that weekend I didn't mind having hookups to run my AC in the hi-90's Labor Day weather in Missouri.  Besides, if you're an Escapee member the nightly charge of $19 is pretty reasonable, especially considering a no reservation walk-in on the Friday of Labor Day weekend!

The Turkey Creek office and clubhouse.
Here's the Turkey Creek data sheet:

Hookups:                                 20, 30 and 50 amp, water and sewer
Fire ring:                                   Yes
Water Access:                          Yes
Fresh Water:                            Yes
Trash Service:                           Yes
Toilets:                                     Yes
Showers:                                  Yes
Dump station:                           Yes
WiFi:                                        Yes (in clubhouse)
Level sites:                               Yes
Laundry:                                   Yes
Store:                                       No (ice is sold from office)
Pool:                                        No
Shade:                                     Yes
Verizon reception:                     4G, 3 bars
Internet reception:                     3 bars
Cost:                                        $19 / night for Escapees (higher for non-members)

Staying at an Escapee RV park is kind of like staying at a park that is staffed and occupied by your parents and their friends, and I mean that in a nice way.  I have yet to meet an Escapee who wasn't friendly and interested in me and willing to talk for 10 or 15 minutes about just about anything.  They are just the friendliest bunch of folks you can happen across and all their RV parks that I've stayed in are kept in great shape, as they live there after all.

The sites were kind of close together but any port in a storm (or flood).
The RV park actually backs up to Turkey Creek (thus the name, duh) which flows about a quarter of a mile into Lake Taneycomo which is a big holiday fishing and recreation destination in the area.

Boat house reflected from Turkey Creek seen from the boat ramp. 
Turkey Creek is only about 20 minutes from the big attractions in Branson and would make a good base of operations for that venue, as opposed to the much higher priced alternatives in the area.  There are a lot of activities at the RV park itself too.  I was invited to attend and even perform at a Friday evening jam session in the club house and I was also invited to the weekly Sunday evening ice cream social ($.75 a scoop).   See, your parents are still fun!  Just make reservations!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Campground Review: Bear Creek Recreation Area Ursa, IL

Leaving Michigan's Upper Peninsula I drove through Wisconsin to my brother Jerry's home in northern Illinois.  I got to spend the weekend with he and his family, knocking off a couple of repairs to the Tank, and helping him resurface his driveway (mine was more a supervisory contribution).  With a now conceived plan of heading back to Texas I knew my path from my brother's would be south and west so I targeted the Army Corps of Engineers' Bear Creek Recreation Area which is near the tiny Illinois town of Ursa, right on the Mississippi River.

Don't use Google maps to try to get there.
I typically let Google Maps get me to places the first time.  This time the app took me to a muddy field four miles south of the actual Rec Area.  I've no idea what went wrong with the usually reliable Maps app but I doubt the Corps of Engineers moved the Rec Area four miles north!  If you go use these CORRECT GPS entries:  40.111444, -91.480064 .  Those get you right to this gravel road into the Rec Area:

The last mile to the area was this gravel road.
The Corps of Engineer constructed the Rec Area to utilize the riverfront land that is prone to flooding.  If traveling there in the Spring I'd recommend contacting the Rock Island Division of the Corps to insure the campground is above water.  It's located on the riverside of a large levee and you can kind of tell the Corps is expecting flooding occasionally by the manner in which they constructed the vault toilets:

The bathrooms are built on their own gravel island.
Here's the Bear Creek data sheet:

Hookups:                                 None
Fire ring:                                  Yes                 
Water Access:                         Yes
Fresh Water:                            No
Trash Service:                          Yes
Toilets:                                    Yes (vault)
Showers:                                 No
Dump station:                          No
WiFi:                                       No
Level sites:                              Yes
Laundry:                                  No
Store:                                       No
Pool:                                        No
Shade:                                     Yes
Verizon reception:                    4G, 1 bar
Internet reception:                    1 Bar
Cost:                                      Free for up to 14 days

River access is via a cement boat ramp:

Boat ramp into "The Big Muddy".
At first the width of the Mississippi along the Rec Area was a little misleading, as I've driven across it many times and it's a REALLY wide river, but not at the Rec Area.  Then I looked at a zoomed in Google Maps of the Rec Area and saw the what I thought was the Missouri side of the river was actually Barns Island, a huge island that the Mississippi flows around both sides of.

Barns Island on the left half of the picture.
 Bear Creek Recreation Area is really quiet and peaceful with an occasional train whistle far to the north you can hear sometimes at night.  There was maybe two or three trucks and cars driving through it and then back out a day but really no traffic, maybe because of this sign?

Caution:  Mississippi ahead!
If you like a peaceful camping experience on the Mississippi River that is also free then Bear Creek Recreation Area fits your bill.  I didn't fish while there but you could see catfish (I think) jumping in the evening, but I didn't know if they were safe to eat if taken from this portion of the river so I left them alone.  After weeks of packing my trash out while in Michigan's National Forests it was really convenient having covered trash cans to throw stuff away in.  Just remember to bring all the fresh water you require because there is none available.

Thanks for reading!