Hello and Good-bye, Missouri

CAMPGROUND: Saddlebock Brewery, another Harvest Host site. Parking is in field in back. Level. Free!
LOCATION: In NW corner of Arkansas
WEATHER: Rain, rain, rain! High 74

For about the 6th night in a row, we awoke during the night to a thunderstorm. As per the routine, George got up and closed up the windows, just in case the rain would blow in.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast with Alan and Peggy Downs, high school classmates whose driveway we were camping on. Between downpours, George hooked us up, and away we went.

The rain was constant. At one point, we went through a “wall of water” where we couldn’t see an inch in front of us. Kind of scary. We passed a semi-trailer that had jack-knifed minutes before and was lying on its side with all of its cargo spilling out. Throughout the day, it would start to clear up, then cloud up again. Rain, rain, rain.

Since we didn’t have anything better to do, we just kept on driving. We crossed the Iowa line, then Kansas City came and went. Southern Missouri along the Intertate didn’t have much to offer, so we kept on. I found a Harvest Host site (this one) in northern Arkansas, so we thought we would aim for that.

After an 8-hour, 400-mile drive (much longer than our usual driving days), which took us from southern Iowa, through Missouri, and to NW Arkansas, we arrived at Saddlebock Brewery. As we pulled in, we said simultaneously, “We have been here before!”. We remembered the beer to be pretty good, and the brewery welcoming, so we parked and went in to introduce ourselves.

We relaxed with a drink, and quickly became the topic of conversation of the other customers. They had seen us pull in and wanted to know about life in an Airstream, and about Harvest Hosts. Info at https://harvesthosts.com

Over beer and an appetizer, we watched one of our favorite TV shows – “Sixty Minutes” (which is not normally on in bars). If you are in the area, we would recommend Saddlebock Brewery…https://saddlebock.com

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIP: I travel with two plastic bins. The bigger one holds our coffee-making supplies and cups, and is stored in the oven.

I use the smaller one (picked up at one of George’s hospital stays) for washing dishes. I find that I use less water using a bin, rather than the entire sink. When the dishes are done, I dump the water into the toilet, to fill up the black water tank. This one travels in the sink. Both bins are sometimes used (one for soaping and one for rinsing) if we stay in a camground with a common-area dishwashing area.

DINNER: We bought a lettuce salad to go in the brewery, and added fresh tomatoes from our friends’s garden. Needing to use up smoked salmon (which we sometimes have for breakfast with cream cheese on toast), I made a pasta dish that was really good: I made pasta, then added cream cheese for a sauce, capers, boiled shrimp,, and lots of pepper. Upon serving, I topped with bacon bits and the smoked salmon slices. Super good and easy.

High School Reunion

CAMPGROUND: In the driveway on a farm owned by two former high school classmates
LOCATION: St. Charles, Iowa – 35 miles south of Des Moines
WEATHER: Overcast and muggy. Some rain

Today is the big day …..my 50th high school class reunion. I RSVPd to the invitation months ago, and we planned our summer route so that we would be here now.

This morning, we drove about 20 miles to my friends’ house, where they had kindly invited us to park the Airstream.

Then, we met up with other friends in the town of St. Mary’s, to have lunch at the “Northside Tavern and Grill”. For a town of about 100 people, it was surprisingly crowded. We had their famous tenderloin sandwich and got caught up a little. Interesting, how locals stopped by the bar for a drink and we all knew each other. One was a former neighbor of ours.

The reunion organizers had planned a tour of the new high school for us. When I went to school there, it was an old 3-story brick building, the same building that my father had attended. It has now been torn down and has been replaced by a huge education campus. It was amazing – a theatre just like at a university, a fitness center with the latest equipment, a huge shop area where kids learn skills like welding, music rooms, and gyms and more gyms and baseball, softball, football, etc fields. …….Sports are big here.

When I was in elementary school, the interstate highway was built. It went by 3 little towns, each with a population of about 300, on to Des Moines. The good thing was that it made traveling easier. The unfortunate effect, however, was to kill the livelihood of the 3 towns. For example, people stopped going to my father’s grocery store, now that they could zip to Des Moines to the larger, facier supermarkets. Now the 3 towns each have a population of about 100, and the businesses are all sadly boarded up.

The three towns consolidated their schools, and cleverly named the school lnterstate 35.

With a name like Interstate 35, our mascot just had to be the Roadrunner

When I attended school, the elementary kids were bussed to one town, middle school to another, and high school to the third. Now all the children are sent to Truro, where this new school complex has been built.

After the tour, my friend Nancy drove around Truro. The house where I lived is still looking good…

Then, the reunion. This nice classmate organnized the event. (Unfortunately, a picture hid the CL of CLASS – so that it looks like we are the Ass of 1969!

There were 78 in our graduating class. About 40 attended, plus some spouses. Three teachers also came. It was a very nice event.

Here I am with my two best buddies from high school

Thank goodness, they provided name tags. Otherwise I would not have recognized a lot of people.. The tags were made from our high school senior pictures. (Big hair was the fashion)….

After a nice buffet dinner and speeches, we called it a night. Maybe I will come back to #55.

Hot, muggy Iowa

CAMPGROUND: Lake Aquabi State Park. Big – 100 sites, about half with electricity. Central water and dump station. Decent bathrooms. $16/night. Ours is a lake-view site. Picnic tables and fire ring. 4 stars out of 5.
LOCATION: Indianola, Iowa – just south of Des Moines
WEATHER: Yuck! Hot – 91 with about 150% humidity (or so it seems)

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at Rock Creek Lake, taking a hike through the woods. The weather forecast spelled out heat and humidity, so I started worrying about boondocking (with electricity = A/C) tonight. So, I suggested that we change our plans from staying at a Harvest Host winery without services to a state park, with electricity.

This hot, muggy weather is what I remember about summers in Iowa. But it is the end of September!

We had a short drive, crossing Red Rock Dam, which brought back memories from when I was young. We went there almost every Sunday to boat and waterski..

Lake Aquabi had a spot open so we decided to stay here. We are in this area so I can attend my 50th (yikes, 50!!!) high school reunion. We were lucky to get a site with a nice view. I contacted my friend Nancy who is also here for the reunion, and she joined us for drinks and dinner here at the lake.

DINNER: Appetizers were some good cheese and some pate’ with crackers. I made pita sandwiches with a hamburger and chicken mix, adding some Greek spices. I topped the pitas with tzatsiki sauce and diced cucumbers. Side was steamed peas.

BOOK: “At Risk”/ by Patricia Cornwell. I have read many of her Kay Scarpetta books, but I think this one was written before that series. Detective story. Pretty good. 8 stars out of 10

Who says Iowa is flat?

CAMPGROUND: Rock Creek State Park. Very big – about 200 sites. About half are electric – 30 or 50 amp. Water and dump station available. Dated, stinky bathrooms. Nice sites with lake-front views. $16/night. 3 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Kellogg, Iowa – about right in the middle of the state
WEATHER: Rain in AM; cloudy in PM. Muggy. High 83

Really nearby lightning and booming thunder kept us awake most of the night in the brewery parking lot. Since we were next to the bluffs, the thunder really reverberated and shook the Airstream. Then, it started to rain really hard. When we got up, we were pleasantly surprised not to find any leaks – very puzzling.

As soon as there was a break in the rain, we took off. When we stay at Harvest Host sites, we do not unhook. We just rest the tongue on some levelers to help with the weight. This means that we have very little to do when we arrive, then leave. So, for this morning, we were lucky not to have to do much in the downpour.

We drove about 150 miles, first crossing the Mississippi. An alert on our phone said to watch for flash floods in our area. I was happy to distance ourselves from the river. The drive was quite nice, especially when it stopped raining for small periods. Lots of hills — it always gets my goat when people say that Iowa is boring and flat.

We had no plans for where to camp, but I saw this state park on the map, and we decided to check it out. It is quite pretty. Since it is fall, we had no problem getting a site, and chose a very nice, long, level one with a lake view.

I imagine that it is packed in the summer.

After getting settled (again, we are not unhooking since we will be here just one night and aren’t going anywhere), we walked around the campground and marina.

This is the view from our site

While in Rochester, the parents of our daughter’s boyfriend kindly gave us a basil plant, after seeing our pour, scraggly one. We planted it in our flower pot. It looks a lot better, but has really gotten soaked the last two days with rain.

DINNER: Time to use up the rest of the vegetables we got from our daughter’s CSA, as we will not be cooking for the next 2 nights. So, tonight I made beans & rice to use up the rest of the cilantro. I added chicken and it became a nice meal. Side was green beans. I blanched and froze the rest. George had bought a large summer squash from the Harvest Host winery the other day, so we cooked that on the grill, placed it in a casserole dish with tomato slices, fresh basil, and cheese, and then zapped it in the microwave. That became another side dish. I froze the rest. Finally, I microwaved the baby potatoes for a few minutes, then wrapped them in aluminum foil and baked them on the campfire. I will use them for breakfast tomorrow. That does it with the veg……at least until the next shopping trip! I just HATE to throw away spoiled food, and thankfully I rarely have to do that.

The Great River Road

CAMPGROUND: Another Harvest Host site – Potosi Brewery and National Beer Museum. In their gravel parking lot. A bit noisy, but who cares!? 4 stars out of 5. Free!
LOCATION: Potosi, Wisconsin – near Dubuque, Iowa
WEATHER: Rain. All. Day. High 85

Thunder and rain woke us up, but we were able to get ready for the road at the 65 Vines Winery without issue. We got on the Great River Road which follows the Mississippi River from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. It is designated as one of America’s Scenic Byways.

We drove most of the 250-mile trip on the Wisconsin side, crossing over to Minnesota for some cheaper gas. It was a beautiful drive, but wow – water, water, everywhere! The Mississippi is so full that the locks are wide open. The tributaries and rivers flowing into the Mississippi are swollen. Roadwork was being done to clean up landslides and mudslides on the roads under the bluffs overlooking the river. There were signs everywhere of flooding and of gouges in the soil that the rivers had made recently. And…..it keeps on raining!

Our GPS took us on a shortcut off the Great River Road through backroads. We came up to this Amish family who all waved gaily as we passed.

Our destination was Potosi Brewery, another Harvest Host site. Check it out at potosibrewery.com

It is a brewery established in 1852. It went bust after Prohibition, but donors poured money it in to restore it recently. There is the brewery, a brewpub, national beer museum, and beer library. George has died and gone to heaven!

After getting set up in their parking lot, we toured the museum. For $3, we bought a senior ticket which treated us to a free pint of beer (at $5/each) after the museum tour. The museum was stuffed full of beer memorabilia. What a deal!

DINNER: We ate in the brewpub restaurant. We always like to support the Harvest Hosts. We shared a brat sandwich (afterall we ARE in Wisconsin). George filled a growler for $8.

Early to bed to listen to the storm coming in …….again

Loving Harvest Hosts!

CAMPGROUND: 65 Winery – a Harvest Host site. In the lush St. Croix River valley. A small winery and vineyard. Fairly level gravel lot with lots of space to maneuver. Free. Porta-potty! 5 stars out of 5
LOCATION: About 50 miles east of Minneapolis. Nearest town is River Falls, Wisconsin
WEATHER: Very nice fall day. Unseasonably hot. High 90

We set off from Rochester all happy – full gas tank and fresh water tank; empty icky black and grey tanks; fully-charged battery; all clean laundry, and clean bodies! 🙂

We took curvy backroads to the Mississippi River, then followed it north. Our route took us through Wabasha, MN (home of the old Walter Mathau movie “Grumpy Old Men”), through Lake City, MN (where water-skiing was invented), through Red Wing, MN (home of the famous Red Wing Shoes), and even through Ellsworth, WI (cheese curd capital of the world). Quite a lot to take in one day!

The route was very pretty. The sumac and maple trees are beginning to turn. We even spotted whooping cranes getting ready to migrate south. And…..lots and lots of corn and soybeans!

Our host had sent us instructions on how to get here and where to park. He said he would leave a goodie box for us and see us later in the evening.

The winery is lovely. It used to be a horse barn.

It is called –
65 Vines Winery — 65vines.com

The chickens came out to greet us.

We are in the winery’s parking lot right next to the vineyards, which they will be harvesting soon.

We found the goodie box the host had left us – bottles of his wine, fresh produce, and snacks.

Needing to use up a bunch of cilantro from our daughter’s CSA, I added a bunch of it to some spicy salsa (previously purchased at a Harvest Host farm) and we had chips and salsa on our “patio”.

The owner lives next door, and joined us with his little son in the evening. The 2nd grader was very gregarious and told us all about his chickens, for which he is responsible. Just darling. The winery is closed during the week, so we were the only ones here. The owner opened up the winery just for us, let us taste some of his wines, told us about how he developed the winery and vineyards, and then sold us a nice red. Not only do we like the fact that camping at Harvest Host sites is free, but also love the opportunity to get to know people like this guy, and have heartwarming experiences like this evening’s. Check it out at harvesthosts.com

DINNER: Having never cooked fennel before, I found this recipe on the internet. Using my daughter’s CSA fennel, I sauteed half of the bulb and some of the fronds. I added the usual – garlic and onions. Then, some Italian sausage that George had grilled a long time ago and some sauteed potato rounds. As it was all cooking up, I added some white wine. It turned out pretty well. George had a huge helping so happily there are no leftovers! Side was a lettuce salad, again using up some lettuce from the Rochester CSA. It is a challenge to eat so many vegetables!!

Saying good-bye to Rochester

CAMPGROUND: Another night at Autumn Woods. Our last!
LOCATION: Rochester, MN, in SE part of state
WEATHER: Very nice. Sunny. High 88

Today is our last full day in Rochester, and it was pretty busy, as the others have been. In the morning, I did a bunch of cooking, while the day was still cool, to prep for upcoming stays in Harvest Host sites without electricity and water.

Then, off to lunch with our daughter and her boyfriend. We sat on their front deck, enjoying the scenery and good weather. George spotted this scooter in front of her house. Rochester has been experimenting with this mode of travel, and you see these city-purchased scooters all over town.

From there, a bit of shopping. Our daughter loves thrift shops, and “made me” expand my wardrobe. I got a bit carried away with all the good deals.

When we first moved here, this was Rochester’s primary landmark. It is in one of the vegetable packing plants in town.

Now, the skyline is quite different. Here are a few of the downtown buildings…

Time to rush to the dentist. I have been going to the same dentist for 19 years – Family Dentist Tree – http://familydentisttree.com and like them a lot. Today’s appointment was to put in my permanent crown. Not too painful.

Happy hour time. This was our final drop-in. Several co-workers came, and we had great conversation and not-too-shabby beers. We met up at Whistle Binkies North, a British styled pub that is just blocks from the house where we lived in Rochestser — whistlebinkiespub.com

After everyone went home, a smaller group – our daughter Alexis and her boyfriends’ parents – checked out a new taco joint in town — Taco JED. It is pretty funky and has excellent food. We sat outside on the patio and sampled each other’s tacos – tacojed.com

A great way to spend the last day of our Rochester visit.