In planning our route back to Florida by way of Wilmington, NC we could have chosen the shortest and fastest, basically retracing the path that we took to Colorado with Loki last month. By this route we would visit five states between Colorado and North Carolina: mainly Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee along with a corner of Kentucky and Illinois. But with a bit of imagination and with what we find to be a reasonable addition of time and distance, we are able to swing through nine states and add three National Parks to the itinerary.
Yes, we are “state collecting,” but we firmly believe that every state has amazing natural attractions that we will love. Chimney Rock in Nebraska and Hitchcock Nature Center in Iowa validated this plan. With research on Trip Advisor, RV Park Reviews, and Campendium, along with google searches such as “top ten things to see in Oklahoma” we are confident that, while not every place will blow us away, most will be fantastic.
For the east edge of Kansas, we selected Clinton State Park. Comparing and contrasting it with our last campground, the Hitchcock Nature Center in Iowa, they are both located on similar sized plots of wild land and offer either primitive or partial hook up sites. But while Hitchcock’s campground was small and intimate with only 18 sites that filled up on the weekend even this late in the year, Clinton was huge with 383 sparsely occupied spots during our Saturday through Monday stay.
Clinton State Park has two main campgrounds, CG1 and CG3. The volunteer at the entry station suggested that CG3 had more tree cover, but our exploration did not suggest such a difference: both areas offered plenty of options ranging from extensive tree cover to virtually open field spots. We chose CG1 since it had a row of sites positioned directly on Clinton Lake. Pulling in nose first rather than backing in allowed us to see the lake out our larger front windshield and still (barely) reach the electrical and water connections.
The park offers plenty of amenities, including shower houses, hiking paths, a laundry facility, dump stations, an archery range, a frisbee golf course, playgrounds, a swim beach and a huge marina. We took advantage of part of the trail areas to walk down to the lake side where, yes, of course I swam despite the cold. We also used two different shower houses since one of the park host suggested that the one in CG3 was better.
Which brings us to the two main complaints. Many of the facilities are in pretty good working order and rather clean. The shower and bathroom facility in CG1, for instance, was well maintained. The facility in CG3 however, was filthy. It looked like someone was regularly using it to clean mud from their entire body while spreading it to as much floor area as possible. Every fixture was rusty, dirty, missing or broken, and the windows were matted with dead bugs and cobwebs.
Second, the fee system is incomprehensible. Only after going back and carefully reviewing the website have I figured it out, but only by combining the information there with what was verbally explained to me by a camp host. The matter is further complicated by the inaccurate signage at the campgrounds, which, in addition to being wrong on the fees, straight out says they have full hook up sites. They do not.
Here is as best I could figure: They have two different seasons, we stayed during the cheaper off season. At the entrance you pay $5 a day vehicle access/entry fee, which is not waved if you are staying in the campground. For a motorhome and tow vehicle you only pay for one vehicle, though they give you access tags for both. At the campsite, either to the camp host or deposited in the honor system boxes, you pay a base fee of $7 per day plus an additional daily fee for the type of services available at your site: $0 for primitive no hook up, $9 for electric only, and $11 for electric and power. Add to that a one time $3 transaction fee. Putting it all together it cost $72 for a three day ($5 x 3 in access fees, $18 x 3 in power/water site camping fees, $3 transaction fee.)
Clinton State Park is located near Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks. With beautiful Fall weather we pulled out Loki’s instructin manual and took down the top for the first time ever. The back window zipper is jammed in one spot, so we had to wing it a bit, but at least we were able to cruise Kansas convertible style. We hit up a laundry mat, and while Rosie monitored that process I walked right across the street to a walk in clinic to get my hand x-rayed.
I had caught it in a spring loaded folding chair, which hurt but for nearly 48 hours didn’t seem to have any after effects. Two days later it swelled up pretty significantly, then started to go down, and then after an additional three days it again swelled up, stiffened, and hurt to the point of being nearly unusable as a functioning hand. Taking a lesson from my stepmom, who recently ignored a “sprained ankle” until pain and a failure to heal forced her into a doctor only to find a fracture, I decided to take advantage of having stumbled across a clinic so close to address what I was growing to believe might be a broken metacarpal.
It was great: I was in and out within two hours. They did the xray, fortunately founding no break, but recommended immobilizing it if nothing more than to force me to stop aggravating what was probably several broken vessels. The created a half cast with a water activated fiberglass pad secured in place with a bandage. Two days later the hand is feeling so much better.
On the advise of a local we sought out 23rd Street Brewery, catching the end of a ludicrous New Orleans victory over the Giants in a game with 101 points scored. We lucked out showing up during a fantastic happy hour special: 10 ounce local craft beer drafts for $1. Coming from South Beach, that is almost too good to believe, but there you have it: two giant pretzels and four beers for $13 is my kinda post laundry/medical clinic meal.
So, we are pushing on, heading south to Missouri and another state in our run back to the East Coast. We liked Clinton State park, but didn’t love it. If we come back thrugh this region we will try some other site, I think. You may recall that our fellow RVers at Hitchcock Nature Center spoke glowingly of the great rates with no add-on costs offered by Iowa parks. They were comparing Iowa to Nebraska, but I can truly see what they mean after our experience here in Kansas. Clinton State Park is lovely, but Iowa offered greater value.
On a final note, below is another shot of our up to date state sticker map. See that lady bug in the upper left? You think you like lady bugs? Think they are cute and cool fun to have around? To hell with that. If Kansas and Missouri have taught us anything, it’s that ladybugs are a pain in the ass. Explanation in another post.