Missouri, as it approaches Illinois, transitions to cornfields. The highways still wander interestingly about, and one town along the way, Rushville, still had its original town square in full operation. Using the GPS for scurrying along highways got trickier further on, since regardless of how it’s set, it still has its own agenda. Like when following Route 66, intermediate towns had to be keyed in to ensure that I’d be where I wanted to be along The Path. Long bridges crossed the Missouri River, the Mighty Mississip’, and the Illinois River along the way. Twice now, my GPS, an old Garmin Nuvi, has spontaneously registered me as off in a field somewhere, directing me to get back onroute when I’m actually on it. That can prompt some frank but disjointed discussion between the device and I, but taken as a whole, it just adds to the spirit of adventure, in my book.
Lunch was a gamble this day. I was not able to find a typical roadside cafe in the last few towns, and settled for a locally-owned and named ice cream place that also offered burgers and such. I had misgivings, but it was 2 o’clock and waiting longer promised nothing better. I’ve found that ice cream and frozen yogurt franchises, DQ in particular, offer really mediocre if not poor regular fare. In this place, it was clearly a sideline as well, and my courage running thin, I chose a chili dog with fries. It was good, and the fries were mediocre but edible. The battery on my iPhone, exhausted from acting as secondary advisor on my trip routing, pooped out while I read my ebook about an American WWII aviator who participated in the 1936 Olympics in Germany before later being shot down and held in a German POW camp. So, I consoled myself with the chili dog and ate about a third of my fries, and pressed on.
I rolled into a Walmart in Peoria, Illinois at about 4:15 PM, this being my next scheduled stop. I wasn’t sure what to think of signs posted throughout, warning that overnight parking of semis and RVs is prohibited. I’ve seen the same elsewhere, only to find that they just didn’t want it to become a truck stop, storage place for trailers, or camping BBQ party area. So I went in and asked. The store manager didn’t have any problem with my staying overnight, but it turns out that the city has passed an ordinance prohibiting such things. That means that I could park there, but at the risk of being rousted at 3 AM by the local law enforcement community and told to move on.
Such ordinances are generally the result of two things. One is the influence of local commercial RV parks who see it as their right to lobby the government for the increased revenues that forcing people to stay in such camps can bring. “You want to stop here? Then you have to pay.” In reality, that doesn’t actually help anything, since both the camping fees and the purchases at local stores evaporate when campers must bypass the town. I can afford $35 in groceries, but I can’t afford $35 in groceries plus $35 or more to stay overnight. Throttle on, Dude. The second influence is campers who set up camp with sprawling equipment, overstaying their welcome, filling refuse containers or generally creating a gypsy camp right in a town’s business district. Example: back in Chanute Kansas, it turns out that the plethora of old TTs was actually a carnival business hanging out until their next gig. That’s okay. What wasn’t great was one of them dumping their greywater tank onto the campground pavement, when an excellent dump station was one short block away. That inspired some of the motorhome people to move to another area in the same park, but the core is that creating a nuisance gets attention, and that’s ultimately bad for all campers. We’re generally relying on the largess of the areas we stay in, fees or no fees, and creating a nuisance or drawing attention to ourselves in some negative way causes negative consequences.
Thus the ordinances, and the permanent closing of many septic tank-based dump stations ruined by campers pouring bleach or formaldehyde-laced waste into them. One Arkansas blogger espouses a self-styled mix of water softener, detergent, and a half-gallon of bleach (Wow!) into each holding tank on a regular basis for cleaning, and although he advises a sewer connection, he also claims “I don’t believe these chemicals harm commercial septic tanks”. That goes against both theory and the experience of those in the industry. It takes just two gallons of bleach to kill off septic breakdown in the average system, and dump stations are heavily used. Bleach also prevents the breakdown of solids, which then pile up as sludge in the septic system and must be pumped out more often. That’s expensive. He likens a holding tank to a “chamber pot” that must be kept clean, and a septic tank as something unrelated, which it is – until his chamber pot is dumped into it. If asked by an RV park (who understands this connection) what chemicals he adds to his tanks, he advises lying. It’s none of their business, he says, and discounts the long-term effects that a stout bleach blend has on EPDM and rubber valves, seals, and gaskets in the RV itself. Amazing. Extremists tend to suffer from myopia in their logic trains, and this guy is a prime example. They mix “that’s a fact” with “I don’t believe..”, all in their own favor. This patter has unfortunately been taken up by other RV blogging sites and forums since, and here we are with more RVs on the road than ever, and fewer surviving dump stations to take their waste. Be inconsiderate…create a problem…discover a new policy or ordinance against it. Action/reaction.
But, I digress. Decision time. There was a casino fairly nearby that has allowed overnighting, but I didn’t know if its parking lot too was within the city’s boundaries. Or, I could press on to my next scheduled stop, a Petro truck stop just 100+ miles away in Rochelle, Illinois. That translates to another couple of hours of driving, the concern being that its 8 RV spaces might possibly be filled by the time I arrived. Been there, done that at that location. Rochelle is the staging area for my first appointment on Monday morning in Harvard, and gives me a chance to squeegee myself off, do laundry and such. I decided to go on, mainly since that would avoid one more regimen of setup/takedown on the camper, and give me a day to get chores done at my own speed. In the meantime, this day is the exception for temperature, being in the high 70s. But, looking at the sky, it’s home. It’s what I call a Chicago Sunny Day, a pervasive overcast of grey clouds that does little if anything for solar panels.
Once my Monday appointment is done, I’ll head over to Chain-O-Lakes State Park in Spring Grove, where I’ve booked a couple of weeks to use that as a base for annual checkups and visiting family. How it will do as a camping spot, I don’t know. All I do know is that they have an alleged shower there, which should come in handy for this wave of unusually hot weather that has been following me northeast the whole way. Hopefully, I’m too early to feed the mosquitos!