“Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt
While it’s true the stars of my little expedition are without a doubt, the National Parks, there’s another, often overlooked, aspect I’m looking forward to: the overnight stops. Let’s face it, there’s not a lot to see on I-70. If I had my choice and unlimited time, I’d be taking a route that is much more interesting, like Route 66. Unfortunately time is not on my side, and thus I must make the best of what I can. I’m fully prepared to stare at the same view of a field for 14 hours through the heart of Kansas. I’m also fully prepared to start talking to myself (and answering myself) by that point. Nonetheless, I will be stopping at some local mom and pop campsites on the way out and the way back if all goes to plan.
I tend to shy away from campgrounds such as KOA just because I usually like a little more privacy, more remoteness, and less screaming kids and generators. However, those things I normally avoid come in pretty handy when you’re just passing through and need a tent spot. In most cases, I’ll be in late and out early so much that other campers won’t even know I was there.
My first stop is a little town called Mulberry Grove in Illinois at the Cedar Brook Campground. Good reviews, and the person who took my reservation reminded me of my grandfather with his demeanor and “we’ll get you fixed right up” comment. It’s these little places, run by people who really enjoy what they’re doing that make a weary traveler at home. The tiny general stores often have obscure t-shirts of local attractions or of the campground itself. It’s just so much more, well, simpler. No hustle, no bustle, just people who are there to help you along. I’ll be hitting this spot on my way back through if my experience is good.
My next pit stop after LONG day of driving through Kansas (and talking to myself) will be a KOA campground just west of Denver. Not ideal, but decent reviews, decent facilities to get a hot shower and from what I can tell it sits up over the town for a decent view. That should make for a great morning drive when I depart. There are, of course, more pit stops and I’m not going to list them all, but the point is that each bring their own unique personalities and will no doubt add something to my trip. After all, the worst stay at a campground is better than the best stay at a Hilton in my mind.
In the end, they are just anecdotes on a much larger story. One of the very first things I did when I realized I’d be camping at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was figure out what the best tent site was. Last year, yes let me say that again, LAST YEAR, I reserved site T-06. Why you ask? Because THIS is the view I’ll be waking up to, and yes, that is the edge of the Grand Canyon.