Sunday, July 16, 2023

Traveling solo~~ A trip months in the making Days 1-3~~ KS/MO road trip

"Why on earth did you pick Kansas and Missouri?"

 In March I saw a photo in my atlas of Monument Rocks in Kansas.  

I told Mark " I want to go here."

He said, "So go."

And that's how I ended up in Kansas.

My trip by the numbers:

2999 miles driven.

57 miles hiked.

2 historic forts viewed.

5 states parks visited.

6 nights car camping.

6 nights in a hotel.

630 feet in the air at the St. Louis Arch.

367 feet underground in the Meremac Caverns.

Not to mention I was wowed over a zoo, museums, murals, memorials and a super fancy public bathroom (and then some).

Oh, and one really old, dead guy.

The night before I left, I got the car all stocked with snacks, drinks, my clothes and all my backpacking gear.  I have wanted to solo travel for so long and it was finally time.  When the tree fell on my car back in February, one of the reasons we replaced it with an SUV was for just this reason.    I immediately got started outfitting her for my travels.  I bought an air mattress that fits in the back seat, or the cargo space.  I got window covers to keep anyone from being able to see in the car, I got a USB powered rechargeable fan, and several other doohickeys and gizmos. I was all set to take the trip in April but then I got injured in mid-March and was not cleared to hike.  So, I waited, and I bided my time until I could find two weeks where I had nothing else going on and I was set to roll.

When I left on 6/21/23, I was vibrating with excitement.  I solo hike all the time, but absolutely nothing on this scale. I had no idea what was awaiting me, how I would feel, or what I would ultimately learn about myself. 

I'm going to break this blog up into just a few days at a time or there will be simply too many photos to go through!


6.21.23 Day one was just traveling to my first stop, just outside St. Louis.  Traffic was mostly fine, with the exception of just before Indianapolis. Got stopped in traffic for about 50 minutes due to the moving of the jersey walls.  I arrived at my first stop for the evening which was a Pilot Travel Center in Troy, IL.  I got there and immediately started questioning my life's choices. I suddenly was very nervous about staying in my car.  I didn't know in which spot to park, and I literally moved my car three times until Mark finally told me to simmer down and that no matter where I parked, I would be fine. I then sat in the car for about an hour just messing around on my phone before I went inside, bought some ice for my cooler and then decided to settle in for the evening.  I put up my window covers, set up my fan, and hunkered down to watch some TV.  I started watching Joe Pickett. (If you have not watched this show, you are missing out). I left the car running for a couple hours because it was hot.  I shut it down around 10 and slept very soundly with my just my fan blowing, until the morning. 

This was the only photo I remembered 
to take of my set up, and this was the first 
effort.  It ended up looking slightly different 
in the end. It helps that I am only 5'0".  

DAY TWO    The Gateway Arch
6.22.23 I woke up this morning so excited! Today was St Louis Arch day!  New fear unlocked this morning when I realized I had to drive into downtown St Louis, find my parking area (I had prepaid for parking), and then make my way to Gateway Park.  Turns out I sat there and stressed myself out for nothing. Big shocker. It was easy peasy and before I knew it, I was parked and walking the two blocks towards the Arch.  I had seen the Gateway Arch before, while being in the truck, but this was the first time I had actually been this close.   I had a reservation for 10:00 to go up to the top.  It was about 8:50 at this point, the museum opened at 9:00 so I got in line and waited with anticipation.  I breezed through security, and it was airport level, and then headed to the museum.  The museum was incredibly well done.  It was broken down into six exhibit areas starting from the founding of the St Louis area all the way up to the idea and creation of the Arch. At 10:00 I got in line for the trip to the top.  While in line I met a lovely woman named Shirley.  She was from Nashville and was on a solo trip of her own to celebrate her 42nd birthday.  She also had never been to the top of the arch, so we bonded over that.  Also, in our "pod to the top" was a man who was a tour guide who had been to the top many times.  He was helpful to have with us and we learned a lot of extra info from him.


My first view!
I'm here!

The pods each hold five people and are small!  The doorway was only four foot high, so even I had to duck to get in.  The trip to the top takes four minutes and the trip down takes three minutes.  There were lots of whirs, clunks and thumps coming from the outside of the pod while we rose to the top.  It was not the most comforting thing I ever experienced but I didn't care, I just wanted to see the view.  We finally made it to the top, 630 feet over St. Louis. It was fabulous. I could have stayed up there for an hour, but they only allow you about 10 minutes.  It was a mad dash to take 80 gazillion pics to make sure I had what I wanted.



After my trip to the top I went outside and awaited my cruise on the riverboat.  My reservation was scheduled for noon, so I just wandered around the park taking photos and enjoying the heat. It was freezing in the museum. The riverboat cruise up the Mississippi River was a lot of fun and very educational.  I sat with a man and his teenaged daughter from St. Paul, MN.  They were in St. Louis on their annual Father's Day trip that they had been taking since she was five.  I really enjoyed talking with them.  I encouraged her to keep taking these trips with her dad as long as she possibly could.

Bridge carrying I-70.

Is this barge half full, or half empty?

Once I was done with my riverboat ride, I decided to get out of wait, that wasn't until day nine. Today I only got out of St. Louis.  I headed out of the city and made a stop at the Laumeier Sculpture Park. The park was really fun and had a ton of amazing art.  I enjoyed walking around for about 90 minutes until it started to rain.  I hightailed it back to my car and by the time I got there, it stopped.  However, at that time I was running on fumes.  I did not eat or drink anything during the day and I was toast.  My head was starting to really hurt so I headed for my stop for the night in Pacific, MO.  Art is really, really something else....

Art is so weird.

6.23.23 This morning I headed for Meremac Caverns  and State Park. I was flabbergasted at how HUGE the caverns were.  The tour was a lot of fun.  Our tour guide, Hannah, was super knowledgeable and had a great personality.  She kept it very interesting.  On the tour I met a woman who was a full time vanlifer.  She was from Illinois and was on her way to a wildlife refuge in Arkansas. She was midway through her goal of visiting all the state capitals this year. She gave me a lot of great advice on how to travel safely and gave me some ideas of new and exciting places to see. 

The caverns were allegedly a hideout for Jesse James and some other guy back in the day and while I am not sure if that's actually true, it was a fun story. The caverns were 367 feet down at the lowest point, a fact I could have gone without knowing. the tour took about an hour and 15 minutes, and I am glad I had a jacket because it was cold down there. This is the 4th cavern tour I have been on, and it never gets old.  However, it is a challenge to get good photos in that strange lighting.

When I got done with the cavern tour, I got in the car to head a couple miles away to the Meramec State Park.  However, for some reason instead of leaving right away, I decided to have a complete nervous breakdown in the parking lot.  I really don't know why.  I knew where I was going, I knew what I was going to do when I got there, and I had my campsite reserved for the night and everything.  Suddenly, I let the comments I heard from some folks before I left ("Why go alone, that's so dangerous", "You are crazy to go by yourself", " I would never even consider doing something like that, what are you thinking?") get to me and I wanted to turn the car around and go home.  Just generally stressed out about what I was doing out here.  

I got to the state park and went into the visitor center.  They had a really nice exhibit there about the park.  I spent about 30 minutes going through there and enjoying the AC.  I talked to the park ranger and got some advice on the hiking trails.  I sat in the car and had some lunch before hitting the trail.  I decided to hike the Natural Wonders Trail.  It was a pretty easy hike and was lovely.  But I started freaking out again once I was on the trail and had to remind myself again that I have hiked new trails before and just because this one was in Missouri didn't make it any newer, or stranger or scarier than a new one in OH or PA or NC.  Once I settled down, I really started to enjoy myself and all the new sights the trail offered. 

 However, my calm was short-lived.  I got back to the car and once again a meltdown ensued.  I do not know why this day was so hard for me.  I drove around the park, which was stunning by the way, trying to decide what to do next.  Ultimately, I ended up just going to the campground to check in to my site.  The campground was really large, and very nice.  I found my site without too much trouble, got backed in and got my tent all set up.  I went back to my car to get my phone to take a photo, and only then did I realize that I had no internet, and no phone.  Not just poor service, but NO SERVICE.  I could have survived without the internet.  I had books, and music downloaded, I was not worried about that.  However, no one knew where I was.  I had not talked to my mom all day, had not talked to the kids all day, and had not talked to Mark for hours so if I could not be reached or could not reach anyone, I didn't want them to worry.  In order to get service, I would have had to drive miles out of the campground back to the start of the park and I figured if I was going to do that, I would just go to the truck stop.  Afterall, it was 100° still at 4:30pm and I was not relishing sleeping in the tent in that heat, so I just took all the signs that were being thrown at me, took the tent back down, packed up my gear and left.  

I stopped in a day area to repack the car, drain the cooler and get organized.  I don't like to do that in the parking lot of anywhere populated because then people can see I am alone.  Anyway, when I was leaving the day area, I saw a little trail I wanted to check out.  I am so glad I did!  It was a beautiful little area that ran along a creek.  I spent some time exploring this area and taking some photos.  It was the most at peace I felt all day.  I decided it was a perfect spot to sprinkle a little of Susan's ashes.  Don't tell anyone.  There were tons of dragonflies and I just felt like she would have loved it.  After hiking around there for a bit, I left the park and headed to the Flying J in Sullivan, MO for the evening. It was a super emotional day.  I spent way too much time second guessing my strength, bravery and ability. All I could do was hope that tomorrow would be better.  


Stay tuned for days 4-6!
Thanks for reading! Love to you all.

A "few" more shots.


  1. Wow!!! I’m very impressed! Good job girl

  2. Love how you write and supply pictures for more effect! So easy to imagine being there. 💕

  3. So exciting. Great shots, great story telling! So proud of you!!