|Duck weed on the backwaters of the Mississippi. (Photo: Michael)|
The day before we left Goose Island there was a lot of talk about our last night on the road. To get to my prefered location, 30 minutes outside of Kansas City, we would have to be on the road for 8 hours. That was going to make for a very long day, as we were finding 6 hours on the road long enough, even when the drivers switched every hour. Granny found a location that was only 6 hours away, somewhere where we could camp, just off the highway, and then only have 2 or so hours to drive to Watkins Mill before we headed into Kansas City. We were going to play it by ear, but I think I've already given the game away...
Day 13: Goose Island to Watkins Mill State Park
We had no trouble getting up early, for no other reason than it was just so nice to be up as the mist rolled across the river. Somehow we managed to be all packed up, washed, breakfasted and on the road by about 9 am. We had our route planned, but weren't sure how far we would end up travelling - as I mentioned above, we were not keen on travelling for 8 hours, but if Jimmy was doing ok, and the drivers were doing ok, and we didn't like the 6 or so hour spot, then we would continue to Watkins Mill State Park. The early start meant that we would have time on our side and could relax and enjoy the journey.
|About to cross the Mississippi.|
|Driving along the Mississippi.|
Wind turbines... We just kept driving past them and marveled at them. They are almost majestic. I really, really don't understand why people don't like them. I've even seen the ones in Ravenshoe, up in the Atherton Tablelands, Australia, and heard the gentle hum. The ones here in the USA are probably much bigger, but they just look beautiful. They stretched on and on, as far as our eyes could see in some places. At one point there was a lovely juxtaposition of wind turbines next to a few smoke stacks, and we talked about how certain comments made by a certain Australian politician made no sense. Give me wind turbines any day!
We traveled west to Albert Lea, Minnesota, and turned south, making for Des Moines, Iowa, and then a little... It was a grey old day. Windy too. And cold. None of this helped when we had an emergency nappy change to perform, without the help of a gas station restroom with change table. And only 2 wipes. At least it was a slight over-reaction on part, but still, it wasn't a fun stop. Plus we used the last of the baby wipes. This sort of thing is not in the parenting 101 books - actually, it might be, I just never really read past the first few pages...
After that nappy related detour, we kept going, and kept our eyes out for somewhere sheltered for lunch. And anywhere that might sell baby wipes. And somewhere sheltered we found! It was one of those "just off the freeway" kinda places with clean toilets, change tables, sheltered picnic tables, and free maps of Iowa. Actually, the building was pretty amazing, but we were in a bit of a rush and didn't stop to take pictures.
On the outskirts of Des Moines there is a Target, just off the freeway. With much excitement on my part, we took the turn off and went in. Ahhhhh baby wipes... And beef jerky for a teething boy, who didn't really like it.
A little further south we stopped at another visitors center, checked phone numbers and locations of things and drove off with a eye on the time. If we needed to stop, our roadside campsite was 45 minutes away, otherwise we would keep going to Watkins Mill State Park. To say we were a little tense is probably not quite right, but I was keen to keep going if Jimmy was ok (or asleep).
Jimmy slept. We reached the 45 minute mark and couldn't see our turn off. Jimmy was still asleep. We kept going. Granny called to see if we'd be ok turning up after 6 pm, and it turned out that we would be fine - they'd take our money in the morning. We made for Watkins Mill State Park.
And we arrived there with a happy-ish Jimmy, and before sunset! The campsite host (a volunteer, who stays long term on the site) came and took our money for a site and wood, and answered whatever questions we had. We may have chosen the wrong type of site for the mats we had, but the RV site was close the showers and toilet block, didn't have too many other campers or RVs around, and our ears were inundated with the humming of cicadas, just like the ones in Manhattan, KS. Plus it was warm and dry, just like Manhattan. Just like home.
|Packing up our forest campsite.|
We slept well, with bellies full of warm food. The ground was hard, but it was only one night. The cicadas were noisy, but familiar. And it was warm and in the morning the tents were dry, so packing them up was fairly quick and easy.
|Mum! Mum! Muuuum! Pick me up... I want a cuddle.|
Jimmy enjoyed playing in the gravel after breakfast while we were packing up or showering. The showers are lovely and the whole toilet/shower/laundry facility is probably fairly new. I highly recommend the Park as a nice place to stay, and it's just outside of Kansas City too.
|Practicing the all important skills of taking things out and putting them back.|
|Our last camp-kettle coffee.|
|How milky do you take your coffee?|
And relax we did!
We finished our coffees and with a little protesting from Jimmy, we headed to the Mill. Well... when I say Mill, I mean the visitors center. And what a visitors center! It's basically a mini museum, dedicated to the history of the Mill and the Watkins family. Their room is packed with displays and they have a short video with footage of the Watkins Woolen Mill next to footage of a working woollen mill, in Canada, with the key difference being that the Watkins machinery is the same machinery that was used when the Mill was productive, while the Canadian mill machinery was collected from around the place. I honestly can't remember the name of that mill but I think it's the Almonte Mill, but the internet has not been helpful.
|Watkins Mill wool and woolen blankets. (Photo: Michael)|
They put a lot of thought into the visitors center at Watkins Mill, so if you're in the area, you should go see what they've done. And if you can't get there, here's a way to visit without leaving your chair. We would have taken a tour, but we would have had to have waited until 11 am and wouldn't have finished until 1 pm and we had a bubba. Fortunately it's possible to walk the grounds and enjoy the property without being on a tour.
|Pretty little local.|
Michael and I caught up with Jimmy, Granny and Pop near the chicken run and productive gardens. Now, I thought I had pictures of the chickens, but no. There are no pictures of the heirloom chickens, nor the turkey. Shame. The gardens are pretty cool: they use heirloom seeds, plant seasonally, use crop rotation and plant green manure; and they are looked after by park staff and Missouri master gardeners.
|Pretty little pest (I think that's a cabbage moth...). (Photo: Michael)|
The grounds around the old family house and mill are just lovely. Have I mentioned that this place is worth a visit? It would be fun to go back for a special day and see people in period costume etc.
|The Watkins family house.|
|Jimmy playing with an old metal thing that had a use, once upon a time, probably in the smokehouse.|
|Pointing out the sheep.|
We walked around the Mill, but couldn't get inside (a downside of not being on a tour). It's huge and once upon a time it would have been very noisy, but that day it was the cicada's making all the noise. And Jimmy.
It's almost a shame we didn't have a packed lunch. The grounds are really nice, and it was a lovely day, but we had to get home and there was coffee to have. So we circled the old Mill and headed back to the car.
|Old fencing. (Photo: Michael)|
|Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo: Michael)|
|Two lattes and one macchiato.|
|The back room at Quay Coffee.|
Another place we'll definitely be going back to is the Farmhouse. I don't remember how we came by it, I think we asked one of the guys at Quay Coffee for a local lunch spot. It was good. Actually, it was very good - I highly recommend going there.
|Our entree. (Photo: Michael)|
|Jimmy had is own cup of cold water.|
Even though the day was hot, we decided to eat outside because it was nice in the shade and we would be spending 2 hours inside a car soon enough. We had some trouble deciding what to eat, but we eventually decided. The entree was really good, and the mains were excellent.
|A little hot in the heat, not so happy to be confined to a chair, but happy to have everyone adoring him. (Photo: Michael)|
|My burger and fries. It was really good. (Photo: Michael)|
|The outdoor area at The Farmhouse.|
|Bulk spice shop? Now this is my kind of city! (Photo: Michael)|
And he did. We left KC with a sleeping Jimmy and were inundated with peak hour traffic. We were all in a little bit of shock - we hadn't seen that many cars on the road in months! We were happy to clear the Kansas area and head home.
When we arrived home it was still light. We unpacked the car and let Jimmy loose in the apartment. He checked everything out and was pretty excited to see his highchair - no more sitting on laps! He was also pretty excited to see his toys, but he squealed when he saw his books!! Oh it was wonderful: one minute he was exploring and holding Kew (our badger puppet) and as soon as he saw his books he dropped what he was doing, squealed as I've never heard him squeal, and went straight for them.
We were all happy to be home, even though it meant that our holiday was over, Michael had to go back to work and our days with Granny and Pop visiting were coming to a close.
|Home! (Photo: Michael)|
Hope you enjoyed reading about our road trip, we definitely enjoyed the doing part. There are still 2 more road trip related posts to come, but they're not as big or photo heavy. They should be out in the coming week or so...
Thanks again to my parents for making the journey and visiting us and thanks again to our Canadian relatives for having us - it was lovely seeing your corner of the world. And thank you Jimmy, for being a really good traveller.
If you missed the previous road trip adventures, here are the links:
Part 1 - Manhattan to Winnipeg
Part 2 - Winnipeg to Lake of the Woods
Part 3- Lake of the Woods
Part 4 - Lake of the Woods to Thunder Bay
Part 5 - Brule River to Goose Island