You can’t win them all….

LOCATION:  Near Albert Lea, Minnesota in south central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  White Fox Campground in  Myre-Big Island State Park.  Electricity only.  Central water and dump station.  Nice bathrooms, but closed (more to follow).  Firepit and picnic table.  Level, gravel site.  Sites a bit close together for a state park.  Not too much shade.  Way too expensive at $47/night   2 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Very hot and humid.  High 93
DRIVE:  2 hours all on Interstate 90

We awoke about 5:00 with sunshine streaming in our open windows reflecting off Round Lake at the Harvest Host winery.  Then we went back to sleep! 

It was a stunning and cool morning. The winery’s bistro was closed (only open for dinner) and I sat on their patio next to the waterfall enjoying the scenery …..and their superb internet.

Winery and farm employees bustled around.  The owner stopped by to chat with me.  He told me that sometimes they have as many as 10 Harvest Host campers staying with them.  Their 23 acres of grapes cannot keep up with the demand, so he told me they import grapes from California and Washington to make their wine and/or to blend it with their own grapes.  In addition to the bistro and winery, they do a lot of events, especially weddings. 

The drive to our next location was brief but unpleasant.  Almost the entire segment of I-90 was under construction, very bumpy, and with lanes shut off. 

Someone had told George about tonight’s park and the reviews on the website were glowing, so our expectations were high.

We were disappointed. This is the most expensive and least desirable campground we have experienced this trip. Can’t win them all!

First, it is way too expensive for a state park.  In addition to the camping fee, we had to pay $7 for a day pass.  It had been difficult to make reservations because the park had been totally closed due to Covid-19.

We got our day pass and went to our campsite.  It was still occupied!  Check-out time is not until 4:00,  and the occupants belligerently  told me that they would be there for another hour.  With an hour to kill, we thought we would drive around the rest of the park.  There are two separate campgrounds in the park.  We went to check out the 2nd one.  We entered it, only to encounter a roadblock saying the campground was closed (due to Covid-19).  There was no place to turn around, so George had to back up a long way.  He is really good at this; I could never do it in a million years!!

We found a place to park Joy in a picnic area and took a hike.  The park has two fairly large lakes.  They are very shallow – about 4 feet and grassy.  Motor boats could not navigate this.  There was a smell of dead fish in the air.  We don’t see the allure.

In the picnic area, George  headed to the restroom, only to discover they were closed….due to Covid 19, with instructions to use a pit toilet.  (Why would this be more sanitary?)

An hour later, overheated from waiting out in the sun for more than an hour, we returned to our campsite and were able to set up.  Oh no!  There is only 30 amp hook-up, meaning that we can only run one air-conditioner. 

While Joy was cooling down, I checked out the restrooms.  The women’s and men’s restrooms are closed (Covid).  However, there are two handicapped-accessible ones open – individual units with showers and toilets.  With a lot of tenters, these two remaining stalls are quite popular! 

A  bit of a rant here…..We take precautions with Covid 19 and respect rules to contain the virus.  BUT – how can closing one campground and keeping another one open help?  I would think it would be wiser to open both campgrounds here, and spread people out….maybe only allowing every other site to be occupied?  With everyone in one campground and only 2 toilet stalls available, it seems like we are cramming people together.  Why close some restrooms and keep others open?  End of rant.

We have great TV reception here – about 10 public TV stations, including ones from Minnesota and Iowa.  We watched a good show on PBS about our national parks and their highway development. 

This Facebook photo popped up today.  It is from a house-sitting assignment in southern Yorkshire, England 4 years ago.  The house is an “old vicarage”.  The backyard is a graveyard full of tombstones from the 1700s and 1800s.  It was eerily beautiful.

DINNER:  Asian stir-fry.  Time to finish up all the veg before a shopping trip tomorrow.  Bok choy, onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, leftover diced pork loin all stir-fried in sesame oil with a bit of soy sauce and chili peppers.  Served over some ramen noodles.  Oishikata, as they say in Japan! 

Traveling with Joy in Paradise!

LOCATION:  Round Lake, Minnesota, in southwest part of state
CAMPGROUND:  A Harvest Host site — Round Lake Winery.  We have stayed here once before, and we think it is the loveliest HH site we have been in.  We are parked among the vineyards just feet from a beautiful lake.  Their wine is good, too!  They also have a bistro.  As with most HH sites, there are no hook-ups.  5 stars out of 5 (more if I could give them!).
WEATHER:  Hot, humid.  High 89
DRIVE:  1 hour on Interstate 90

We were in no rush to get to the winery so we stayed until check-out (4:00) at Palisades State Park. 

We drove in to the nearby town of Garretson, population 800 or so.  Unlike most small towns, it is prospering fairly well.  We went to Devil’s Gulch Park where we learned the history of Jesse James and his escape. 

Jesse and his gang had robbed a bank in Northfield, MN (actually quite near Rochester where we used to live).  A posse chased his gang west.  Only Jesse and his brother were not shot, and rode their horses hard.  Once near Garretson, the brother went one way and Jesse went another way, only to encounter this deep gulch.  The legend is that he, as an experienced horseman, jumped the deep gulch which was more than 20 feet wide.

From there, the brothers reunited and hid in a cave in what is now Palisades State Park – where we are camped. 

We hiked around Devil’s Gulch Park to see where he supposedly jumped across on his horse….(now a bridge):

Then, we went in to Garretson to use their library’s internet.  It was closed, but we were able to get wifi from our pick-up truck parked in front.

We packed up at Palisades.  It has been a good 4-night stay here.  The campground is filling up fast with 4th of July weekend campers. 

After a very short drive, we arrived at Round Lake.  The entrance is breathtaking.  You drive through vineyards, then the road curves to show the lake peeking through.  We got settled in right in front of the lake.

This is the view from Joy…

Without electricity (so no AC), we opened up all of Joy’s windows.  A nice thing about Airstreams is that there are windows on all 4 sides, so we can get a nice breeze.  The breeze off the lake was cool and we are parked under a leafy tree with good shade. 

We walked over to the winery to do a wine-tasting.  We bought a bottle of red wine that is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and a local hybrid cold-hardy grape (developed by the University of Minnesota) called marquette. 

We had dinner on their patio.  George had their special bistro steak wrapped in bacon.  I had a Cobb salad.  We opened our bottle of wine.  Just lovely!

Once it got dark, we sat outside and watched the lightning bugs.  Life is so good!

More hiking trails

LOCATION:  Garretson, SD – outside of Sioux Falls
CAMPGROUND:  Palisades State Park
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 86

It rained pretty hard during the night.  Some branches fell from trees – glad they did not hit Joy.  It is kind of cool lying in bed listening to a storm, cozy and safe inside. 

I don’t know where the morning went!  Exercises for George; yoga for me.  Lots of piddling around.

We drove about 20 miles to another SD state park – Big Sioux Rec Area.  We can get in free with our SD park pass, and are trying to get our money’s worth!  It is a lovely park.  If we are driving on Interstate 90 again, we just might try to camp here, as it is very conveniently located off I-90.   We ate a picnic lunch under a gazebo….smoked oysters in a spicy chili oil with crackers.  Yum!

Inside the park is an old cabin built in 1839 by a Norwegian settler.  He, his wife, and 8 children lived here.  I can’t imagine 10 people in such a small cabin.  We hiked some trails there along the river.  Very nice. 

We stopped at a library to use wifi.  It was closed (due to Covid?), but we stood outside and picked up their internet. 

Then, on to Minnesota to check out a microbrewery.    It is in the town of Luverne, about 20 miles east of here.  We drove through lush countryside – beautiful corn and soybeans.  Everything is so green and well-kept.

The microbrewery was cool.  Most of the customers were sitting outside in their huge beer garden.  A bit hot for us, we stayed inside.  I tried one of the citrusy IPAs; George had a schwartzbier.  Both very good.  The microbrewery is called Take 16, referring to Highway 16 that is sort of a northern Route 66. 

Back at the campground, George made another one of his famous fires to grill our dinner.  He is really improving in this department!  In addition to cooking our dinner, I had him grill some hamburgers for future meals.  I will be making a hamburger spaghetti sauce to freeze. 

DINNER:  Pork loin,  sweet potato, and green beans.  The pork loins were only $1 each, and each of us only ate half, so that makes for a pretty inexpensive meal!  I see leftover pork in our future…

BOOK:  “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate.  Similar to “Orphan Train”, and based on a true, sad part of our US history.  5 stars out of 5

A bit of urban life

LOCATION:  3rd night in Garretson, SD – near Sioux Falls
CAMPGROUND:  Palisades State Park
WEATHER:  Mostly overcast.  High 86.  100% humidity

We hiked two more trails in the park in the morning.  It was not too hot, about 75, but it was really really humid.  We were both drenched with sweat when we finished.

One of the trails we hiked is called Balancing Rock.  I wonder why….

We drove into Sioux Falls, a pretty cool city of about 190,000.  We stopped at Falls Park which has the Big Sioux River flowing through it.  I have seen photos of it in the winter with ice and snow, and it is very impressive. 

Handily, the free tourist trolley was waiting for us when we arrived.  We jumped on it for a nice tour of the city.  The driver/narrator told us a lot about the history and pointed out beautiful, old pink quartzite buildings.  We hopped off downtown and strolled the historic main street – Phillips. 

Each year, artists from around the world donate their sculptures for a year.  The city places them all along Phillips Street.  People vote on their favorites, and at the end of the year there are prizes.  They are also sold. Since it has been more than a year since we were here, there were new sculptures to admire….

The city also does a nice job with hanging flowers…

We caught the trolley back to Falls Park, picked up our truck,  and drove to a brewpub.  We had appetizers there at happy hour prices – grilled Brussels sprouts.  

DINNER:  After the Brussels sprouts, we weren’t too hungry so had a light dinner – lettuce salad topped with some orzo salad.  Side was a stir-fry of bell peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes.

I really like orzo salad. It is easy to make:  Boil some orzo pasta per package instructions and drain well.  Add some olive oil while it is still warm (so the pasta absorbs it).  Add feta cheese, pitted kalamata olives, some olive juice, small diced summer sausage, diced green or red onion, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Eat at room temperature or chilled. 

Back on hiking trails!

LOCATION:  2nd night in Garretson, SD near Sioux Falls
CAMPGROUND:  Palisades State Park
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 86

Time for a hike!  We donned tennis shoes (the first time I have worn anything but sandals in about 6 months!)  grabbed our hiking sticks, and we were off.  The park has some great trails, and it was not too hot.  (Still early AM). 

Split Rock River runs through the park.  You can see how it got its name…

We had to crawl over a lot of rocks so we got some good exercise.  The path was lined with tiger lily plants…

The trail is called the King and Queen Trail because of these rock formations…

There were some awesome views. On the weekend, we saw swimmers down below.  Today was quiet. 

After cooling off and cleaning up, we drove into Sioux Falls, about 20 miles away.  We use a mail-forwarding service based in Sioux Falls, and had arranged to pick up our June mail package, rather than having it sent out to us.  We followed their strict Covid-19 protocol.  We pulled up in the designated place in front of their building, called to announce our arrival, wore our masks, and showed our ID to the masked staff person who brought our mail packet to our car.  Very interesting.

Sioux Falls is full of brewpubs, many of which we visited last time we were here.  Now, however, many are closed.  We went to Granite City Brewery, a small chain, and it did not disappoint.  It was not too crowded and the servers wore masks.  Seemed pretty safe.  We had a nice, light lunch with some good beers.

Back at the campground, George made another one of his great fires.  He has created a new pattern laying the wood a certain way, stuffing the center with my firestarters, and paper. 

DINNER:  A nod to the Midwest:  Rib-eye steak over the campfire, baked potato wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked over the fire, sauted bok choy (OK that is not midwestern), and the last of our morels, sauted in a butter sauce.  A very nice Cabernet Sauvignon to pair it with.  Glamping! 

Almost ran out of gas….again!

Almost ran out of gas!

LOCATION:  Garretson, South Dakota – right outside Sioux Falls
CAMPGROUND:  Palisades State Park.  Nice and shady.  We are right by a stream.  Good bathrooms.  Electricity at site.  Central water.  Dump station in town.  Paved, level sites.  Picnic table and fire ring.  $25/night plus SD Annual pass.
WEATHER:  Mostly sunny.  Not as hot.  High 88
DRIVE:  3 hours

We piddled around last night’s campground this morning.  George cannot stand still…..he is always working on something.  Here he is tightening a screw on the door….

And later, working on the condensation in the back-up camera…..

We learned that it is bow-and-arrow season for fishing paddlefish here.  This group of young adults were spearing them right in front of our campsite.

We packed up from Campsite #1.  This has been a great campground for us.

We stopped at the dump station which was near the fish-cleaning station.  We watched a girl and her father clean this huge paddlefish which she had speared….

We were low on gas, but thought it would be cheaper once we got to the Interstate.  It was only 40 miles, and we had about that much in our tank left.  Then, with only about 5 miles to go, the road ended with road construction and bridge work.  Detour…..about 20 miles out in the middle of nowhere.   I was really sweating it.  Our gauge no longer read the number of miles left in the tank –  just flashed LOW LOW LOW.  Then, we got to the Interstate.  Hallelulah!  But – no gas at this exit/entrance!!!!  We limped 5 more miles on the Interstate to an exit with gas.  Whew!  That was a close one!

We got set up in this nice state park.  It will be fun to explore.  We drove in to Garretson, a small town where Jesse James hid after robbing a bank in Minnesota.  We checked out one of the wineries nearby…

DINNER:  Panini.  When shopping yesterday, I bought a mini-baguette, so wanted to use it before it hardened.  Just grilled it on my George Foreman grill with deli turkey and cheese.  Side salad. 

A bit of Key West in Nebraska!

LOCATION:  Near Yankton, South Dakota (but across the river in Nebraska)
CAMPGROUND:   2nd night at Nebraska Tailways Campground in Lewis and Clark Lake Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area
WEATHER:  Quite nice.  Sunny.  High 89

We have been in the boonies for awhile, and we were looking forward to going into Yankton for wifi and supplies.  First, we found the Visitors’ Center.  It was closed, but we pulled up their so-so internet from the parking lot.  We researched, and found a microbrewery in downtown Yankton, so we headed there….

Thankfully, the microbrewery had good internet and I was able to post 3 blogs.  I caught up on emails and Facebook posts….while enjoying a nice IPA.  George liked his stout. 

We shopped at the Hy-Vee supermarket – the chain that we used while living in Minnesota.  We stocked up on perishables, which we were mostly out of….especially fruit and veg.  Back at the campground, we put away all of our groceries.  This is the view of our purchases from the inside of Joy, our Airstream.  You can see the Missouri River through the front window….

Then, we took off to explore the area.  The dam has created a 31,000 acre lake.  We drove around country roads seeing glimpses of the lake from hilltops.  Everything is green and lush.  We stopped at a bar/restaurant next to our campground… convenient is that?  It is called the Dam Fish Bar.  Having missed lunch, George ordered some walleye….

After placing your order, you wait until they call out your name, something like this…”George–  your dam order is ready to pick up” 

The vibe was pure Key West.  We sat outside (in the shade) and sipped gin and tonics while George ate his late lunch. 

It really felt like a beach bar, including a lot of sunburned customers

At our campsite, once it cooled down, George made a campfire and grilled our dinner.

DINNER:  Grilled rotisserie chicken.  We like to buy this, then crisp up the legs and wings over the fire.

(We cut up the chicken, and froze the breast and other big pieces, which will be used for future dinners.  I boiled up the bones and skin for chicken broth, for tomorrow morning’s grits.)  

Hy-Vee displayed some beautiful, huge red bell peppers which I couldn’t resist.  I had George char them over the fire, then I removed the black skin and sauteed them up with onions and mushrooms for a side dish.  We also shared a cob of fresh corn.  I used a recipe that I had seen that looked good.. Spread some butter, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese on the corn, then wrap in up in aluminum foil.    Cook just a few minutes.  Yes – it really was good – much better than boiling.  I imagine you could do the same thing in an oven. 

From Nebraska’s “coast” to “coast”

From Nebraska’s “coast” to “coast”

LOCATION:  Near Yankton, South Dakota, but on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River
CAMPGROUND:  Nebraska Tailwaters Army Corps of Engineers Campground, part of the Lewis and Clark Lake on the Missouri River. Waterfront.   50-amp.  Paved, level sites with lots of nice shade.   Water and dump station.  Excellent bathrooms.  $8/night with senior pass!  5 stars out of 5.
WEATHER:  Mostly sunny.  High 88
DRIVE:  6 steady hours

We left Lake Harlan, on Nebraska’s far south border shared with Kansas, and drove due north.  We were mostly on secondary roads, many of which were quite bumpy.  We had 30 miles to endure on Interstate 80.  I thought in the middle of Nebraska that the traffic wouldn’t be too bad, but I was quite wrong.  Lots of semi-trucks, huge RVs, and cars, all going about 80 mph.  It was a relief to get off again.

The landscape is changing – green fields of corn and soybeans.  Rolling hills, huge farms, and smelly feedlots. 

We drove through the town where Johnny Carson grew up, and drove on Johnny Carson Boulevard!

The drive was about the longest we have had on this trip.  We cut through the entire state of Nebraska, as we are now on Nebraska’s northern border with South Dakota border ….We can see it directly in front of us, from our campsite right on the Missouri River. 

This Facebook memory photo popped up today from one year ago.  We were traveling with our Nova Scotia camping buddies.  This was taken in Grasslands National Park where we had “cowboy coffee” with the rangers.  We had planned to travel with these friends this year again, but alas, the pandemic shut down those plans.

DINNER:  Ramen.  I used a package of instant ramen noodles and jazzed it up with big chunks of chicken thighs, canned vegetables (as my fresh supply has run out),  ginger, sesame oil, onions, and mushrooms.  Quite good, and super easy!

A Day on the Lake!

LOCATION:  2nd night at Republican City, Nebraska
CAMPGROUND:  Hunter Grove Campground in Lake Harlan Army Corps of Engineers Rec Area
WEATHER:  Windy.  High 90

We heard lots of our fishermen neighbors get up early to get on the lake.  We dawdled around, then went to a marina to rent a pontoon for the afternoon.   George got a Nebraska one-day fishing license so he could fish.  I packed a picnic lunch and some snacks.  Off we went!

We had the lake practically to ourselves.  Again, it will get crazy busy this weekend.  We puttered around on the lake, stopping at different spots to fish…

Pretty quiet in the fishing department.  Then….he caught something……a stick!

The wind made fishing conditions less than perfect, but the breeze felt good on our hot bodies.  Thankfully, we had an awning on the pontoon to shade us.  When we got really hot, we climbed down the ladder into the lake.  Aaahhh….

Finally, he caught a fish – a drum.  That will be dinner! 

I steered the boat while he continued to fish.  He “caught” a rock.  After untangling, we called it a day. 

Back at the campground, George cleaned the fish in the super nice fish-cleaning station.  I’m afraid the remaining fish filet was pretty tiny.

DINNER:  I rolled the fish in a flour/mashed saltine/pepper mix and George fried it in the iron skillet over the campfire.  Since there wasn’t much fish, I warmed up last night’s leftover rice and added onion and mushrooms to it, as a side.  The fish had a very good flavor.

BOOK:  “The Big, Bad Wolf” by James Patterson.  This was a book I picked up somewhere, while waiting on a good e-book to become available.  FBI agent going after a bad guy.  3 stars out of 5.

A nice day on the lake!

Toto….we aren’t in Kansas anymore!

LOCATION:  Republican City, Nebraska – in south central part of state
WEATHER:  Mostly sunny.  High 95
CAMPGROUND:  Hunter Grove Campground, part of Harlan Lake Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area.  On a lake – of which we have a distant view.  Graveled sites with electricity, picnic table, and firepit.    Water and dump station nearby.  Decent bathrooms.  Mostly fishermen here.  $12/night with Senior Pass.  4 stars out of 5
DRIVE:  3 easy hours

At the Harvest Host winery (without electricity) last night, we slept with all the windows open.  It cooled down beautifully, and we actually got a little chilly! 

We awoke to a cacophony of sounds – the donkey braying, sheep bleating, pheasants honking, and the bullfrogs croaking.  Just wonderful!

The farmer/owner/winemaker came by to feed the animals.

He told us that the sheep are only a week old.  So cute…

Our drive today was due north out of Kansas and into Nebraska, through farmland.  We are starting to see more corn now.  We passed a prison center out in the middle of nowhere.  There was a highway sign saying “Hitchhikers may be escaping prisoners”.  We didn’t see any, so weren’t tempted to pick up anyone. 

Harlan Lake is a huge recreation center.  There are 6 different campgrounds around the lake – several  ACOE ones plus two private ones with marinas.  Since we are here mid-week, it is nice and quiet.  I imagine it will fill up with boaters this weekend. 

Republican City is our nearest town.  We drove around the lake and in to the town.

We thought this is ironic….with a name like Republican City – our TV reception is limited….no FOX but 4,  count them 4,  PBS stations!!

We found a nice beach and swam a bit.  We stopped at a marina to see about renting a pontoon.  We hope to do that tomorrow.

DINNER:  George made a campfire and grilled some shrimp and sausage. I added the shrimp and sausage to some yellow rice to make a kind of gumbo.    Side was peas.