The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. At 630 feet tall, it is the world’s tallest arch and the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

No matter how carefully you plan a trip, something is always bound to go wrong. Yesterday morning, our generator died shortly before we left Paducah, Kentucky. According to the Cummins manual, it appeared to be a simple fault. We assumed the generator would be fine once it cooled down, so we said goodbye to Kentucky and hit the Asphalt Trail.

When we pulled into a rest stop in Illinois a couple of hours later, the error had cleared itself and the generator started up immediately. We were elated, as we plan to do some real boondocking once we reach South Dakota. In its simplest form, boondocking means camping without any external hookups, such as electricity, sewer, and water. The word boondocking originally referred to camping out in the boonies. However, the term has now become synonymous with anything from parking overnight at a Pilot Travel Center to camping on a patch of grass beside a river. And then there’s dry camping, a campground without any hookups, and dispersed camping, where you park outside a designated campground in a National Forest. As you can see, RV jargon can be quite confusing. It reminds me of text lingo, minus all the acronym and initialisms, thank goodness.

We cannot catch a break in the weather. The rain chased us all the way to Missouri Monday afternoon. The wet stuff finally stopped about the time we caught our first glimpse of the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis, but the clouds lingered. When we arrived in St. Charles, Missouri, where we planned to Wally Dock for the second night in a row, the annoying red blinking light on our generator was back on again.

Long story short, we found a Cummins Service Center in Columbia, Missouri, about a hundred miles west of St. Charles. We made an appointment for first thing Wednesday morning. It was almost 5:30 PM when we reached Columbia. For the second time in less than a week, we broke our two-two rule. I think the USSMoho’s new motto will be: The rule for this motorhome is there are no rules.”

We spent the night in Cottonwoods RV Park, not far from I-70. The added benefit is that it is located less than four miles from the Cummins Service Center. Ironically, we had planned to spend two nights at a state park in Columbia, before moving on to our next destination, but we decided to stay put at Cottonwoods instead. It turned out to be a serendipitous decision.

Our generator problem was caused by the governor, which regulates the amount of gas going into the carburetor. The technician adjusted the spring for less tension, and we left the Cummins shop two hours later, $140.00 poorer, but thrilled that our generator was back in business.

After we got back to Cottonwoods, we met a super nice couple named Matt and Marla (aka “the M&M’s) from Bradley, Illinois. The four of us clicked instantly. Matt shares my warped sense of humor, and right off the bat he ribbed me for parking in the wrong direction. With the exception of the entrance, all streets at Cottonwoods are one-way, and each street runs in the same direction. I have a one-track mind sometimes, so the fact the streets all ran one-way completely escaped my attention. Our site was too short to park our toad (aka dinghy, or in our case, a Jeep) behind our motorhome, so I had to parallel park in front of our rig. Harry had pointed out the previous evening that I had parked the Jeep in the wrong direction, but it apparently didn’t register. Then along comes Matt the next day, teasing me for the same offense. I assured him that it wasn’t me who’d parked in the wrong direction; it was all the other drivers on the street. He has not let me live that down yet.

Matt and Marla are members of a RV organization called Family Campers & RVers ( Matt is the president of a local retiree chapter of FCRV in Illinois. They are here at Cottonwoods for a campover with a retiree group from Missouri called the Slow Travelers, reconnecting with several couples they met at a national FCRV retiree campover a few years ago.

Later that afternoon, Marla introduced us to a lovely woman named Barb, who is the FCRV director for the state of Missouri. Barb invited us to a potluck dinner the group was having that evening. The catch was that everyone had to bring a dish that began with the first letter of the person’s last name. Our last name starts with an “L”, and Harry and I were scratching our heads, trying to come up with something to bring. Lasagna finally came to mind, but I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed on hand to make it, nor did I have enough time to prepare the dish. We finally decided to head to the local Walmart for inspiration. We came up empty at first, so Harry suggested we tell everyone our last name is Smith. He said that way we could bring sushi. We don’t actually like sushi, but that was beside the point. We finally settled on Lemon Meringue Pie and Lemon cookies.

Harry and I felt a little uneasy attending a function with a bunch of people we’d never met, but as it turned out, we had the best time every. FCRV’s motto is “Where Strangers Become Friends and Friends Become Family!” I must say, the group of retirees we met that night lived up to that motto a hundredfold. They welcomed us with open arms, and it felt as if we known some of them forever. After dinner, I had a lengthy conversation with Barb and her husband, Dallas (aka Dal), and the three of us bonded instantly. Oh, and I have new trail name. There is woman named Jan in the Slow Travelers, so Dal dubbed me “Georgia Jan.” I think it suits me, so thanks, Dal!

We have met dozens upon dozens of great couples since we started RVing, most of whom we will probably never see again. But every once in a while we meet a couple so special that we consider them lifelong friends. We’ve been blessed to meet four such couples like that in the past four years, and we met two of them at Cottonwoods RV Park in Columbia, MO.

And to think, we owe it all to a generator that went on the fritz.

Crossing over the mighty Mississippi River via the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge in St. Louis, Missouri.


The entrance sign to Cottonwoods RV Park in Columbia, Missouri.



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