Sunday, after some sausage gravy and smashed potatoes, we finished our examination of all of the Corps of Engineers campgrounds around Red Rock. A stop at an overlook yielded this view of the dam and the beach in the distance where we watched the balloon launch on Friday night.
An added bonus for Butch was spotting this plane in a farm yard. He had seen it years ago and wondered if it was still there. It is! He could tell you make, model and cruising speed, but I'm afraid I have forgotten already.
Rain threatened but went around us. One of my favorite things about our site was that the back side of the camper, where most of our windows are, faced the woods, so we had great views out of every window. All in all, a great trip!
Saturday turned out to be another day with several unexpected surprises. After breakfast, we loaded the bikes and Chloe's little rickshaw in the trucks and drove to Howell Station, a Corps of Engineers campground below Red Rock Dam. It's a large campground with nicely spaced sites and has the added plus for biking in our estimation of being fairly flat. The bike trail also goes through it so by the time we road over to an area by the dam, back to the campground, traveled every road in the campground, and followed the trail through a shaded area, we felt sufficiently exercised to justify some treats in the afternoon.
After a little cleanup and lunch, we journeyed to Pella, intending to visit the bakery and a quilt shop. Lo and behold, a large classic car show was going on downtown. Note to my kids: this is what your dad would like for Christmas. We did get to the bakery and a great quilt shop, where I got sucked in to another project.
This is a Hupmobile with a rumble seat and an engine cleaner than my kitchen. Several blocks were lined with beautiful cars on both sides of the street and down the middle. We were so overwhelmed, we had to stop for a gelato.
Then to Tassel Ridge Winery, east of Pella. On weekends they feature two special tastings: wine and cheese and wine and chocolate pairings. We opted for the cheese and tried four Iowa cheeses with four Iowa wines and pretended we knew what we were doing.
On the way back to the campground, some very ominous clouds were building and we barely made it in time to stow the lawn chairs and a few other things before the deluge hit. And it poured. Not much wind, fortunately, but a lot of rain in a short time. Afterwards, we mopped up and proceeded with supper: grilled chicken breasts, shrimp scampi with pasta and salad. Not sure what we will do today other than smashed potatoes and sausage gravy for breakfast. However, we have all agreed that we are a little short on naps and reading time this weekend so I'm sure we'll get a little of that in.
About yesterday's plans or lack thereof. It rained. Not heavy; not severe storms or hail or wind or anything like that. But enough to 'dampen' most outdoor ideas. Time for a road trip. There are so many campgrounds around Red Rock that we figured a little tour was in order. We drove through four or five and then stopped at the Corps of Engineers visitor center. We picked up maps and brochures, plus a flyer for the Red Rock Balloon Fest. Normally, when we find something of that nature, it's for an event that took place last week or is coming up in a week or two.
Lo and behold, this was the weekend. A "launch" was scheduled for 6:30 at the North Overlook beach. We met some friends for lunch at a sports bar in Pella and returned to the campground for R and R, not sure what to expect of a launch or whether the weather would cooperate. It wasn't still raining but threatened to at any time. The weatherman had promised 'some clouds and some sun' for the day but so far we hadn't seen 'some sun.'
We arrived, set up lawn chairs and bought kettle corn because it seemed the thing to do at a launch. Six-thirty came and went, as did seven o'clock. We began to despair of seeing anything when the first balloons appeared over the tops of the trees to the east.
About eight balloons appeared in short order and we thought, "Cool!" One by one they would start to descend toward a hilltop just north of us and we assumed they were attempting to land, but each one would pull back up and head off to the northwest. Then another spectator explained that they were dropping markers trying to hit a target. By the time the first ones were completing this maneuver, more appeared to the east--in all over thirty total by the end of the evening.
In this photo, you can see the marker and, what looks like to me, the pilot's precarious perch. Yikes! It was quite a spectacle. And by the end of the evening, we did have 'some sun.' Chloe appeared somewhat interested to begin with but soon decided this was just more stupid human tricks.
I imagine many campers are like us in that they often check the state parks and Corps of Engineers campgrounds first when searching for campsites. One advantage is the ability to reserve sites and not worrying that you will end up camping in the median of the interstate because there's no place else left.
But there are lots of wonderful county parks and Iowa now has a website called mycountyparks.com where one can reserve some sites in some county parks. We are at Roberts Creek West, a county park on the north side of Lake Red Rock. It is one of the largest county parks in the state with over 1500 acres. The park is near the bike trail and within striking distance of Jaarsma's Bakery in Pella.
The map of the campground looks like one of those human genome diagrams--long and serpentine. There are over eighty campsites in this part of the park (there is another campground at Roberts Creek East)--some with cement pads and over 40 with full hookups. We prefer the ones on the outsides of the loops that are backed up against the woods.
We arrived yesterday in beautiful weather and were in the midst of backing up the trailer (with me giving clear and precise directions) when our daughter-in-law called. She had received a call from Iowa's Best Burger Cafe, where we had stopped for lunch about 35 miles back, that I had left my purse there. With my billfold, credit cards, and phone, of course. Gulp. They had been going through my phone contacts looking for someone who could get in touch with us.
So that cancelled the nap plans for the afternoon and after setting up we treked back to pick the purse up. Many thanks to them for making the effort to find us. And if you received a call from me yesterday early afternoon, that was it.
The photo above could be titled: "Still Life: Grill Awaiting Steaks." Also in the shot is our collapsible wagon with sharp new black tubs for firewood. A couple of the old ones gave up the ghost from hauling stuff out of the basement in the flood. It was a perfect evening to be cooking outside.
We kept things simple with baked potatoes, Harriet's bean and tomato salad (The Lady of the Lake, Happy Camper Hint #12) and a little coconut pie for dessert. No definite plans for today, but I like that. Maybe the bakery, maybe the bike trail, maybe the reclining lawn chair with a book.
Based on some welcome feedback about the original cover for The Lady of the Lake being difficult to decipher in the thumbnail versions displayed on Amazon and other sites, I have changed the cover of the ebook version. This one also uses one of Deb Primus' wonderful photos of the lake but is a little easier to read. For the time being, at least, I plan to leave the original cover on the paperback.
And in other news, our basement is dried out and awaiting new carpet. The furniture in the garage is also awaiting the new carpet. I hope the squirrels don't enjoy it too much. Actually, the couch cushions are in the chairs on the enclosed front porch, causing me to start every time I glance out there, thinking there is someone--or several someones--sitting there.
So, since there is nothing further we can do at this time regarding the basement, why not go camping? Good idea. We are off to Red Rock again, this time to Roberts' Creek County Park. We drove through it last time we were in the area and it looks like a very nice campground. We will probably revisit Pella and the winery and maybe try the bike trail. After the last week and a half of less fun activities, we are ready!
So the plan this weekend was to join a group of Midwest Glampers and their vintage trailers at a campout at Lake Red Rock. Many of these women (and men) have restored old little campers into works of art. But it was not to be.
Monday, the rains came--to much of the Midwest. On Monday afternoon, we got about five inches of rain in a couple of hours. We probably still would have been okay but about suppertime the sump pump died and by 8:00 we had around 8-9 inches of water in the whole basement. First time ever. So instead of preparing to camp, we have been mopping, hauling stuff out, pitching, talking to the insurance agent and cleaning services, and my favorite, scrubbing with bleach. I'd rather be camping.
I did manage in my early morning hours to put the first three Frannie Shoemaker books into a collection or 'boxed set.' This is a bit of a misnomer because this version is only for the Kindle so there's no box involved, but you get the idea. These sell for about half the cost of buying the three books individually. And a disclaimer: these do not include the camping hints, but still a deal for 4.99 on Amazon.
Camping Can Be Murder Vol 1
So it will be a working holiday for us in order to get everything out for the citywide disaster pickup next week. But we do have reservations at Lake Red Rock next week. We hope Mother Nature goes along with the plan.
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.