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.

A friends and family Sunday

CAMPGROUND: Autumn Woods RV Park

LOCATION: Rochester, Minnesota, in SE part of state

WEATHER: Beautiful fall day. Sun. High 80

Today was a day of outings with family and friends. We drove up to Minneapolis, about 100 miles, to visit my brother and his wife. They live in a beautifully restored home near one of the city’s famous lakes. We had lunch on the patio in the sun, then relaxed on the front porch. A Vikings (Minnesota) football game was going on and we listened to fans screaming with agony, then happiness, through opened windows.

On our way home, we stopped in another one of Minnesota’s cute towns and met up with a friend I have known since kindergarten. There were some tourists and locals there, biking the trails, and enjoying the waterfalls. We checked out the new brewery – https://tilionbrewing.com.

The winery there is another popular attraction. I would recommend visiting Cannon Falls as a road trip — http://cannonvalleywinery.com.

Back at the camper, we watched 60 Minutes, another one of our rituals when we have TV reception, and cooked dinner. It was kind of nice to have a quiet evening, plus an opportunity to use up all the veg we have collected.

DINNER: Shrimp gumbo. I made it with sauteed onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, and okra. I added shrimp and some previously grilled sausages at the end. I spiced it up with file’ gumbo herbs which I purchased in Louisiana a long time ago.

Typical Minnesota Saturday

CAMPGROUND: Another night at Autumn Woods RV

LOCATION: Rochester, Minnesota, in SE part of state

WEATHER: Cloudy with rain in AM; perfect sunny fall PM

We stopped in at the Saturday Rochester Farmers’ Market downtown. It is a wonderful market, full of veg and local meat stalls. We have a lot of veg already from our daughter’s CSA, so couldn’t really buy much more.These mushrooms were particularly hard to resist…For lunch, we drove about an hour south to the delightful village of Lanesboro. We were meeting up with a faithful blog reader. We have ties through college and mutual friends. The sun came out and we ate on the patio of one of the village’s historic buildings.The village is very popular on weekends for tourists. Lanesboro is on a long bike trail that was created from unused railroad tracks. There were lots of bikes parked in front of shops, cafes, and ice cream parlors.Other types of bikes (motorcycles) abound here, too. The town has lots of cute inns and B&Bs, as well as a professional theater.On our way home, we stopped in an even smaller town to check out a brewery. It is amazing how these little towns can support these. This one was full of local people who all know each other, from neighboring towns.Back at the Airtream, I worked on our upcoming route. We will leave here on Tuesday, and I made arrangements to stay in a Harvest Host winery one night, and a brewery the next night. That will be fun! We are making our way to Iowa, where I have a high school reunion. We will follow the Mississippi as much as we can.

We were pleasantly surprised when our daughter’s boyfriend’s parents stopped by the Airstream in the evening. It was fun to show them around, and chat. We love hosting folks and sharing our beautiful RV.

DINNER: One of the vegetable items from the CSA is a big fennel bulb with lots of fronds. I researched some recipes and made a dish with both the bulb and fronds. I made half of it without chicken so I can give it to our vegan daughter. Our version had sauteed chicken, onions, and tomatoes, baked with toasted bread crumbs. It turned out quite tasty. I thought I would not like the anise taste, but it was mild. Side was a lettuce and radish salad, all thanks to the CSA package.

I got carded!

CAMPGROUND: Another night at Autumn Woods RV

LOCATION: Rochester, MN in SE part of state

WEATHER: Cool again and some rain.

Another few appointments at Mayo Clinic. There is beautiful artwork of all kinds throughout the new Gonda building, like this blown glass by Chihuly. All very tasteful. (When they first installed this, George’s comment was “How are they going to clean it?”)

I had lunch (black bean soup as it was a soup-kind-of day) at a nice downtown restaurant with a former colleague. We could have chatted for hours! Then, I walked to our daughter’s apartment. It is an older house that they have made into 3 apartments. She really likes living there as she is only a few blocks from St. Mary’s Hospital, also a part of Mayo.

We picked up the veg she received from her monthly CSA delivery. We shared it, and I am anxious to cook up some of the interesting vegetables – like fennel – which I have never cooked before.

We took her shopping at a new fresh market. The mums and pumpkins really make me realize that fall is here.

Then, to check out yet another one of Rochester’s new breweries. This one was crazy busy – with lots of young people, still in their work clothes, at 5:00 on a Friday. When we went to the counter to buy a beer, the server carded Alexis, which is normal. Then, he asked for my ID! I asked if he was joking, but he was serious! I guess it must be my new hair-do…..

From there, we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Rochester – the Redwood Room.

Another great day in Rochester!

We have a leak!

CAMPGROUND: Another day at Autumn Woods RV Park

LOCATION: Rochester, MN in SE part of state

WEATHER: Cool – 60s and rain

It rained hard again during the night, and we awoke to find a puddle of water on the kitchen floor. We have looked and looked, but cannot find the source of the leak. It doesn’t appear to be from the top. Thank goodness we are having a 2-year check-up of the Airstream in a few weeks.

Another day of appointments, including a visit to the Travel Clinic to see what shots or meds we need for our trip to South Africa. One typhoid fever shot and malaria prescription later, I zipped out of the clinic to meet up with our daughter for lunch.

We had this delicious meal at her favorite vegan restaurant.

Then, more appointments, followed by a happy hour drop-in at one of Rochester’s new breweries. This drop-in was for followers of my blog. I was so happy to see folks.

It is such a small world……one couple from South Carolina who read the blog faithfully just happen to be in Rochester this week and are actually at Autumn Woods RV Park. We were so happy they joined us at the drop-in

After tasting some good beers, we headed to dinner at the home of our daughter’s boyfriend’s parents. I joke with the father that he is the best pizza baker in the city. He made 3 pizzas, including an eggplant/mushroom vegan one for our daughter. Lovely evening.

Back to the RV after a long day. Great fun!

Even more appointments and more get-togethers

CAMPGROUND: Another night at Autumn Woods RV Park

LOCATION: Rochester, Minnesota, in SE part of state

WEATHER: Rain most of the day. High 70

We awoke to a lightning and thunder show. We had the windows and curtains open, so watched the lightning pop seemingly overhead. Wow!

It was another day of appointments at Mayo Clinic. As a former employee, it is interesting to experience it, not as my employer, but as my healthcare provider. At every appointment, I have been treated with respect and kindness, and with a lot of efficiency. Wonderful experience.

As I said yesterday, Mayo believes in treating the soul as well as the physical being. This grand piano is used a lot, in one of the main Mayo buildings. Today, a young MD was playing. Often patients, including children, play and sing. It is lovely.

Since it was raining, I walked through the downtown subways (a tunnel system) and skyways between downtown buildings. This photo is of the trolley called W.W. Mayo that takes tourists around town. I took the photo from one of the skyways.

I joined 3 former work colleagues for lunch in one of the newer downtown bistros. How great to get together with them! I had a really delicious Thai chicken soup.

In the afternoon, with a bit of free time, we stopped at the local Goodwill. George happily bought a suit jacket for $5 to wear on our upcoming cruise.

Then, we met up with our former neighbors at our local British pub. It is just a few blocks from the house where we lived, so it was our favorite stomping ground. It was fun this afternoon to catch up with lovely neighbors.

Then, we dashed to one of Rochester’s new brewpubs to meet up with another former colleague and his wife. The rain stopped so we enjoyed dinner outside. We shared a vegan curry that our vegan daughter had recommended.

Another busy and fun day in Rochester!

More appointments; more friend get-togethers

CAMPGROUND: Another night at Autumn Woods RV Park
LOCATION: Rochester, Minnesota in SE part of state
WEATHER: Hot – 88 and muggy

FOR ROCHESTER AREA READERS — We would love to get together with my blog readers. Please join us for some great conversation – on Thursday, September 12 starting around 5:00 at Little Thistle Brewery, one of Rochester’s new places that we want to check out.


More appointments – another dental one and another Mayo Clinic one – filled the morning. I strolled around downtown Rochester between appointments. This pedestrian-only plaza is full of restaurants and cool shops. They show movies in the summer on weekends. The city does a great job with flowers all over

Along with all the modern buildings, Mayo has preserved old, fine architecture ones as well. This door, to the Plummer Building, is only closed on days when something significant occurs – like 9/11.

The city is busy building new buildings and tearing down old ones. This landmark thankfully has stayed. A former theater, it has had several different identities over the years. When we lived in Rochester, it was a book store. They are converting it to some type of entertainment venue now, I think.

I had lunch in one of the new breweries with a former work colleague. I had the vegan pizza which our vegan daughter had recommended. She was right – it was really good!

After work, we met up with some former Mayo Clinic colleagues for happy hour at one of the downtown bistros. So good seeing old friends again!!

Back at the camper, George tried to get a charcoal fire going to grill some brats. He just could not get a hot fire, so we broke one of my rules, and cooked the brats inside. I turned on ALL the fans.

DINNER: Gazpacho (one of my specialties and a great way to use up veg) to start. Then, salads and brats.