90,000 Miles to Me

32,799 Miles • St. Louis and Whetstone Creek

Despite being a city, St. Louis, Missouri, holds a particular attraction for me because it is the home of dear friends of mine.

While visiting, I attended church at an Orthodox parish where I was hoping to see a couple I first met in New York while visiting Niagara Falls. They were visiting family for the weekend, and when they mentioned they were from St. Louis, I told them that I would be visiting friends there in a couple of months and might see them. Nonetheless, they were quite surprised to walk in that morning and see a familiar face from across the country.

I also spent a day at the St. Louis Science Center. Museum admission is free for all, but my ASTC membership got me into the planetarium shows for free as well!

They have of one of the Mercury back-up capsules, a Gemini production test capsule, and a re-creation of the Apollo 11 capsule. I’ve heard stories about how small they are, and saw the Liberty Bell 7 in person, but seeing them all right next to each other, I could relate to the sizes much better, and see the (marginal) increase between the one man, two manned, and three-manned missions.

Now I really understand why the astronauts kept complaining about the cramped conditions and were so completely shocked at the size of the Shuttle. The front seat of any car has significantly more space then the two-person Gemini capsule, where two grown men spent up to two weeks at a time. How would you like to spend several days or even two weeks stuck in only the front seat of your car?

At the 50th Anniversary Moon Landing event I attended in July, the keynote speaker, Dr. George Nelson, told the story of how the Space Shuttle, which was built to house seven astronauts comfortably and have a large payload bay, got nicknamed “the Messiah.” Anytime someone on the project would tour the fullsize mockup of the Shuttle, they all had the same reaction, exclaiming under their breath, “Jesus Christ!”

Leaving the city again, I camped three nights in lovely Whetstone Creek Conservation Area, surrounded by lakes and fields, birdwatching and stargazing. I stayed up late trying to find some of the constellations pointed out during the planetarium shows, and saw several satellites as well. Early in the mornings, I spotted several deer, including one large family of 4 to 6 does.

I also tested out a new shower setup for the van that I am hoping will solve my bathing problem.

I recently found a portable bathtub, and tried it out for the second time, which went really well. Even at a very leisurely pace, it only took about half an hour for setup, the shower, and take down, and then I got to lay on my bed for a while just to enjoy the air evaporating off of my skin. I have so missed that.

I used my camp shower, which warms three gallons of water in the sun, and is enough to get me decently clean. I also managed to jerry-rig a tent tarp as a shower curtain, which worked well and nothing outside of the shower got wet at any point!.

The set up and take down were not a big deal, and I think I will be fine with doing that on a regular basis. It was actually kind of fun. Yay! Shower problem solved! (Without a recurring gym membership!)

The only drawback to showering in the van is that it does increase the humidity in the van a little, but not terribly, and a little outside ventilation should help that most of the time. Right now the outside is just as humid, so that isn’t helping.

I really liked it at Whetstone Creek. It was very peaceful and pretty and there were only a few other people around. On my last day, the clouds started rolling in, and although there was no rain yet, they made some intense cloud formations (pictured here and at top).

I left in the early afternoon to head due north for a star party in Iowa, hoping to be able to see any stars with how overcast it was turning out to be.

After driving close to four hours, I was getting close to the site of the star party and decided to double check the address and realized I had the wrong address. If I continued on to the correct address, it would be another another three hour drive, but at least in the right direction for where I wanted to go the next day.

It was only 6 pm, and the event was scheduled to last until past midnight, so I could still have gone—the point is to be there when it’s dark—but the weather report looked like it would be overcast all night anyway and I was pretty sick of driving. Being gentle with myself, I decided not to drive another three hours and instead drove 20 minutes to a comfortable Walmart to spend the night.

I was a little disappointed, but not overly so since my expectations were kind of low with that weather. Still, I’m not beating myself up emotionally about having the wrong address, and that is a very new experience for me. I’m meta–watching myself not go through my usual “what I should have done” guilt trip, and it feels a bit weird. Good, though.

Instead, in the morning I continued on to my mom’s house to visit with her for a week or two and get a short break from the road.


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