We left the Mill Creek campground around 9am on Thursday to beat the full heat of the day. The humidity was certainly in full force at over 70% for the last couple days so we packed up most of the outside items the night before. The drive up to the St Louis area was uneventful and we escaped most of the construction traffic on I-44. Our main objective for this leg of our trip was to visit with family in the STL area. Rick's sister and brother-in-law as well as 4 nieces and nephews and kids live there.
We arrived at Dr Edmund A Babler Memorial State Park mid-afternoon and quickly set up as temps and humidity were also sweltering at 98 and 115 respectively! While the RV was cooling down, we went to take cold showers at the bath house. When we returned the RV was down into the mid 80"s and providing a little bit of relief. We decided to run out and get groceries for our family dinner we were having on Saturday and let the RV continue to cool down. We also drove through some of the park but that was cut short by a thunderstorm and tornado warning in the area. Lucky for us, it went a bit more east and we escaped any severe weather.
Our stay here at Babler state park was surprisingly wonderful, despite the heat. First off, MO is one of the few states that do not charge an entrance fee as a good portion of their funding comes from the state sales tax. Secondly, the campground was very well kept and although we did not venture out on any trails, they had plenty, including a paved 2 mile path from the campground. They also have several day use areas throughout the park and operate a fantastic camp for disabled individuals as well as summer camps for the kids. Their visitor center is very nice, with several live and stuffed animals representative of the area.
On Friday we decided to spend the day as tourists and also try to avoid the heat of a 100 degree day. Our decision was easy, we went to the Meramec Caverns where the temp is always in the low 60's. It felt strange to be donning sweatshirts to fight off the chill while on the surface, you tried to stay cool! We have visited a few caves in the past but this one was huge! The rooms were very large and there were underground streams throughout the cave. The tour ended in an amazing "theater"room where they had installed stadium seating to view the beautiful cave sculptures and a very well done light show tribute to America. You can see a video of the show here. Along the way the tour guide told you not only about the caves formations but the history of the cave which included being used as a hideout for Jesse James and his brother as well as a saltpeter factory that the Union soldiers used to make ammunition during the Civil War. It really is a must see if you are in the area. In addition to the cave tours, they have zip lines, panning for gold, river float trips and a campground. We will leave you with some pictures from our tour, although they really cannot do it justice.
After our cave tour, we made our way back to the campground and got dressed up to go celebrate the closing of our house. After our cave tour, we received a text from our realtor that all had gone well at closing and all transfers were completed. That was probably the easiest closing we have ever had and we owe alot of that to our fantastic realtor, Peggy Wester! She was great to work with, explained all options and details thoroughly and kept me sane when strange things popped up from the buyers financing company out of state.
I picked a nice restaurant on The Hill in STL. For those not familiar with STL, The Hill is the Little Italy of STL and has some amazing Italian restaurants and shops. I chose Charlie Gitto's, as I had dined here once before on a business trip with co-workers and really enjoyed the food and atmosphere. It looks like it would come straight out of The Sopranos and the food and service does not disappoint! I was however a bit nervous driving and finding parking in the area. It is difficult with a car, not to mention we were driving the big F350 dually with an 8ft bed! We actually ended up valet parking as it was complimentary and the middle age valet seemed confident he had space for it and could maneuver it. I would have thought twice if it was a younger kid with less driving experience, but we were in good hands and the truck came out unscathed. We started out with an amazingly fresh tomato and mozzarella salad and a bottle of wine the very savvy server recommended that would pair well with our dinners. Rick had the special of the night, which was scallops over an asparagus risotto. I had the veal saltimboca and both dinners were amazing! Since the server new we were celebrating a milestone in our new lifestyle, he brought us an amazing slice of a berry spongecake that topped off the night. I highly recommend this restaurant for anyone looking for a special place in STL to go. Sorry no pics of the food. It was soo good and I couldn't put the fork down long enough to snap a picture.
When we got back to the campground, it had cooled off enough to go for a walk. It was a beautiful night and we walked some of the campground. There are some sites in one loop that are big rig friendly, but beware of low hanging trees. Except for one site that looked to have family over from another site, the campground was amazingly quiet. As we were walking, the park staff stopped to tell us about an open house they were having the following day at the visitor center which would include refreshments and a wild bird show.
On Saturday, we decided to go up to the visitor center to check out the open house and bird show. We talked to staff about the park and other MO parks as well as workamping opportunities in the campgrounds. Their hosts receive a full hook up site and a generous laundry allowance for machines that are available to them at the park. We did take an application since we really liked how the state parks are kept up and the support the hosts receive.
We then went in to find a seat for the wild bird show that was put on by the World Bird Sanctuary from STL. They brought several owls, hawks and the grand finale, a bald eagle. They walked around the room with each of them and you got to see them up close. It was such an interesting session and learned lots about these amazing creatures. They did fly an owl and a hawk in the room, which unnerved a couple women in the audience and that turned out to be quite funny for the rest of us.
Saturday even the family came over and we had a great time catching up, showing them the RV and talking about what our life would now look like and all the things we had to consider, such as how would we get our mail and things. We had a great night catching up and eating some good food.
Sunday was again going to be another hot day so we packed up early and then spent some time talking to a fellow Grand Design owner parked across from us about our rigs and camping experiences. They even commented on a great camping spot they just saw on one of the Grand Design FB pages that someone had posted and low and behold it was our picture from Mill Creek campground! What a small world! It is amazing that wherever you go, you find like minded campers who are friendly and willing to help out and offer tips on everything regarding camping. We look forward to crossing paths with them again!
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