The Long Road Home

Once again, our Thanksgiving break took us to the St. Louis area, where we visited Jon’s family. Although his mom lives in Alton, Illinois, our destination for the duration was about 40 miles away at Symond’s Dutch Hollow Village, described by Google as a “manufactured home community.” Jon’s nephew, Adam, lives there in a single-wide, two-bedroom, two-bath mobile home with his partner Gene. It’s located in Dutch Hollow, a neat little community of well-kept homes, manicured lawns, and tree-lined streets on the outskirts of Belleville, the city in Illinois where Jon spent many years of his youth and where he was ordained a Catholic priest.

This year, the weather was definitely in our favor. With temperatures about 10 degrees above the average, we enjoyed mild days and clear, chilly nights.

We left Dallas on Tuesday at 10 a.m., and arrived in Joplin, Missouri, around 5 p.m. After a quick set-up, we nestled into our overnight accommodations and enjoyed grilled pork chops, cob corn, and asparagus. We were on our way again on Wednesday morning at 10:00, ensuring our arrival in Belleville around 4 p.m.

We joined Adam and Gene for dinner with Adam’s father and step-mother. The evening was filled with comfort food (who doesn’t love chicken tetrazzini?), lots of laughter, and perhaps one-too-many Long Island Iced Teas. We left behind the sprial-sliced ham and the Greenberg smoked turkey for the next day’s feast and brought an end to our long day.

Next day, like many families across the nation, we feasted. In addition to the abundant food, we also enjoyed sharing memories and laughs and stories. 

On Friday, we visited an AT&T store to purchase Cliff’s new iPhone XS Max, so we could then deliver his hand-me-down iPhone 7 Plus to Jon’s mom. Feeling more than $1,000 lighter in the wallet enabled us to gorge on a late lunch of Kentucky Fried Chicken with Jon’s mom and sister. Light afternoon rains soon turned into heavy showers that lasted well into the evening, making it a challenge to get five chihuahuas outside to do their business.

On Saturday, we welcomed Jon’s other sister, Judy, to Cloud 9 for coffee and conversation, and then unhooked the rig and hitched up for a last lunch date with Jon’s mom in Alton. We decided to change our route home to avoid the terrible highway through Oklahoma, so canceled our overnight stay in Joplin and instead headed south to Memphis.

Sunday found us lingering amid regular routines, including drinking Bloody Mary’s, reading The New York Times, and watching CBS Sunday Morning. Jon was also able to do several loads of laundry from the comfort of Cloud 9, a direct benefit of the remodeling project.

A few lessons we learned that are worth sharing:

  1. There comes a time when the long road home isn’t the one that takes you back to your childhood but the one that leads you back to the life you’ve built in adulthood.
  2. Some stories really are worth retelling over and over again because they seem to get better with age.
  3. All KOA Campgrounds are privately owned, so when you find one whose proprietor is willing to depart from the corporate policy and provide true customer service, show your support by returning there again and again.