Lynne McBriar’s separation from her husband doesn’t help her relationship with her fourteen-year-old daughter, Dinah. If she can just get Dinah away with no distractions, maybe she can restore their former happy rapport. When Lynne has a chance to purchase a vintage travel trailer from an old friend, she jumps at it and begins to restore it to its original condition. But the first camping trip in the trailer holds an unexpected surprise. Lynne wants time alone with her daughter but doesn’t expect it to be in a different decade. Further remodeling and later trips bring more adventures than Lynne had bargained for, until she may lose her daughter for good.
The Time Travel Trailer
My newest book, The Time Travel Trailer, is now available for pre-order for Kindle. It will be released on Nov. 12, 2014 and also be available in other formats at that time. This is my first foray into science fiction and isn't part of the Frannie Shoemaker series. This has been a lot of fun to write, requiring dipping into many different resources. The trailer that is the basis for the story is a 1937 Covered Wagon. The book cover was done by Wicked Book Covers.
The End of the End?
Nothing to do with the solar flares. As we left Johnson Shut-ins last week, and headed back north to Mark Twain Lake, we wondered if that would be our last trip for the season. We haven't thrown in the towel--or emptied the refrigerator--yet, but it may be just wishful thinking. But if so, it was another fine finish.
The first hour or two after we left the Shut-ins, we were never in a passing zone. Solid double line all the way--because of a narrow road, no shoulders and a curve about every fifty feet. But it was beautiful day and there was lots of great color.
We met the Halds, who haven't camped with us since June but I don't think that's all our fault, at the Ray Behrens Corps of Engineers campground at Mark Twain. We always like Corps campgrounds because they are half price for us old folks, but this one has really spacious campsites with full hookups. The only fly in the ointment was not a fly but a beetle and his ten million relatives. I did sympathize with a walking stick bug on the side of the camper for his apparent loss of limbs, no pun intended.
On Saturday, we took a nice hike, visited the Mark Twain birthplace and memorial, and checked out a few on the many junk shops in nearby Perry. We also drove through the state park located on one side of the lake. More maples created more color than anywhere else in the area. At one campsite, we passed the same camper that was right across the road from us at Lincoln Shut-ins. They weren't home at the time, though. Six days of perfect weather for a fantastic final fling! Or maybe not final.
While camping at Johnson's Shut-ins, we also visited nearby Elephant Rocks State Park. It is the site of huge granite boulders formed by an ancient volcano and thrust to the surface. An area by the parking lot contains many that you can climb or wander through and they are amazing.
There is also a 1.5 mile walking trail through another area, passing a beautiful quarry and incredible formations. We climbed a huge boulder topped by a number of slightly-less-huge rocks that look like they should just roll off but don't. At least not often. While on top we visited with a couple from Indiana who were also camped at Johnson Shut-ins and are diehard hikers. This park, as well as Johnson's Shut-ins are certainly off the beaten path but are worth the extra time and harrowing roads to see.
Shut-ins and Shut-outs
Five days ago we headed south from St. Louis into truly amazing country but apparently off the technical grid, at least as far as Verizon is concerned. We spent 3 days at Johnson's Shut-ins State Park, but there is a five day delay on my blog because there was no internet, phone, or TV reception. TV is not a big deal to me and nobody much calls me but no internet meant no blog and no research for my book.
But, it was a worthwhile tradeoff. Johnson's Shut-ins may sound like an elderly care center but it is an incredible geologic formation where the Black River is 'shut-in' by walls of granite and strewn with granite boulders. The first part of the trail is a boardwalk and includes 200 stairs. We elected to take the 200 stairs back because at the end of the boardwalk, it switches to stone steps with big drop-offs and one hiker told us that after that part it gets worse. So we opted for discretion over valor. But the scenery is spectacular.
The sign below is apparently in place because of a dam breach in 2005 dumping one and a half billion gallons of water into this valley. Fortunately the siren didn't sound while we were there because running uphill really isn't in our repertoire. The upper right photo is some of the rocks in the Shut-ins; lower left is the trail after the boardwalk; and lower right is a view from the overlook.
When the dam was breached, it flooded the old campground so a new one was built on higher ground. It is very nice with excellent campsites on five loops. In the middle is a campstore, which isn't open during the week at this time of year. Too bad, because they carry ice cream.
But there is a wi-fi spot and you can sit at a picnic table on the front porch and connect. There is also a laundry--with views like I've never seen from a laundry.
The only thing in the campground that gives one pause is the sign at the beginning of each loop about bears. We didn't see any and the campground hostess assured us that they had never seen any. Still, there's the signs.
Meet Me in St. Charles, Charlie
...meet me on the Katy. Trail, that is. In an effort to get in at least one more trip before the snow flies, me and my Charlie headed south a ways to St. Charles, Missouri on the north edge of St. Louis. St. Charles is notable for several reasons--not the least of which is as the launching pad for the Corps of Discovery, otherwise known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We seem to be spending a lot of time with Meriwether and Bill this fall, (What do you suppose was the nickname for Meriwether? Bud? Shorty?) Anyway, there is a museum on the banks of the Missouri with replicas of the 55-foot keelboat and the red and white pirogues and references to Lewis and Clark everywhere.
And the Katy Trail begins just east of St. Charles, offering cyclists and hikers a route clear across Missouri, 240 miles and the longest developed rail-trail in the country. We didn't quite make the full 240 miles. We started at Frontier Park on the St. Charles Riverfront and rode a half hour west, returned to the park and went a half hour east--maybe a total of 20 miles or so. After all. we have to save something for later trips. But it was a glorious fall day with a light breeze and temps in the 60s--perfect by my standards.
After we reloaded the bikes in the trucks, we hit a couple of my favorite stores on the historic St. Charles riverfront--the spice shop and the bookstore. The Greek seasoning that they sell at the spice shop is my favorite. Then we met Butch's brother John for a great lunch on the patio at Llewelyn's Pub.
We are camped at the 370 Lakeside Park on the edge of St. Charles in the neighboring town of St. Peters. This is a city park only a couple of years old with nice pull-through sites and full hook-ups. There is a hiking-biking trail here too, that circles the lake. The trees are also new and that makes the area look quite bare but isn't a problem this time of year. We entertained John and his wife Carol plus old friends, the Lannings, for supper. The Lannings, who live in St. Charles had fed us great homemade soup and fixings the night before. Disregarding the glare of the setting sun and a stronger wind than necessary, it was a pleasant evening. Today we pack up and head to Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park farther south.
We're Camping in the Rain...
Okay, you can picture it, Me, my husband, and friends--or Gene Kelly if it's easier-- outside in the persistent downpour, umbrellas up, and we peer up at the sky. The music starts and we do a little tap step in the puddles around the firepit, whack our umbrellas on the seats of the lawn chairs sending up a fine spray, jump to the picnic table bench and then the table itself for a little hop and step-shuffle-ball change before a leap to the trailer roof. From there we dance across the roof and with a graceful leap, land on the roof of the next camper, and so on down the row. For a grand finale, a slide down the wet awning of the last camper, landing with both feet on their picnic table, and finally plopping butt first in a lawn chair as the rain stops and the sun comes out. Of course, my hair isn't wet and still looks good.
Well, perhaps that scene requires too much imagination. So what do you do when it rains relentlessly for two days and you are living in 240 square feet? Road trip. Being a reader and writer, one of my favorite stops is an independent bookstore. Yesterday, we perused The Paper Moon in McGregor--three floors of books and gifts. This is a good time for me to do a little early holiday shopping. Do you know someone who needs a purse entirely made out of can tabs? Cool socks? A great new children's book or one of the classics? These shops are each unique from the decor to the merchandise. Saturday, we were in The Book Worm in Bellevue, which carries, as well as books, a multitude of signs with inspirational or humorous sayings. My favorite: "Ahhh-I see the screw-up fairy has visited us again." They also have a vast collection of used paperbacks.
After checking out a few other shops in McGregor, we crossed Old Man River to Prairie du Chien and had lunch at Rowdy's Bar and Grill, known for their great burgers. Their fries aren't too shabby either. Then on the recommendation of a fellow camper, we had to stop at Valley Fish and Cheese.
While at first guess, you might not realize that a shop like The Paper Moon carries books, there's no question about Valley Fish and Cheese's general focus. But the fun is in the details. The sign out front gives hints. It's the place to go if you need turtle jerky or bison sausage. A variety of other products not available in Hy-Vee or Costco are interspersed with stuffed and hand-carved wildlife, including a ten foot muskie out front.
A few stops at more mundane places like the dollar store and Piggly-Wiggly and we were headed back across the river and the campground. Just enough time for a little R and R before a soup buffet supper: beer cheese soup and sausage minestrone, followed by the rest of the peach upside-down cake.
Today we must return home, but we decided our departure could wait until after lunch if the rain is gone (as the weather people promised) and there's a chance of some good color shots.
Rain on Our Parade
Sunday morning we packed up at Bellevue and headed further north to Pike's Peak State Park. Our previous disappointment in the stage of fall color turned to pleasure as more and more yellows and reds appeared as we neared our destination. Unfortunately, so did the rain clouds. By the time we arrived, a light drizzle was falling.
The place was busy. Park staff in safety vests directed traffic and the water/ dump station was a little hectic with campers leaving at the end of the weekend. We were told the park had 10,000 visitors over the weekend. With the beautiful weather on Saturday, the leaves must have been spectacular with all of the color up here. We found nice vacated spots amongst the oaks and pines. The scent is wonderful.
Monday morning the rain had stopped but fog covered everything. Vince has a cousin living nearby with a house and cabin at a beautiful spot on Bloody Run Creek. Butch and Vince fished for trout most of the morning, catching four. Letha and I explored the area and then returned to the park to hike the Bridal Veil Falls Trail.
The fog was still persistent even in late morning on the tops of the hills and obliterated any long views from the overlooks but created some interesting and still beautiful scenery on the hike. We manged to get in a loop of about a mile and a half before the rain began in earnest around noon. We abandoned plans for a trek into McGregor in the afternoon and instead snugged in with books, movies and naps. We finished the day with a perfect supper at Ottaways of homemade chicken soup, gourmet toasted sandwiches and peach upside-down cake followed by dominos.
It is still raining.
Golden Leaves and Silver Notes
My, that's poetic. But this time of year does that to me. We are in Northeast Iowa, currently at Bellevue State Park, Pursuing the Peak one might say. Every year, hotels, visitors' bureaus, and travelers try to guess when the peak of fall color will fall in this lovely tri-state area of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The date depends on a variety of factors including rainfall, frost date, and probably Punxsutawney Phil.
This second weekend of October is usually a good time but this year we think we are a little early. Quite a few yellows, some reds and still a lot of green. Or maybe it will be one of those falls when there isn't a lot of color. But it's still beautiful. Yesterday was a glorious day--no wind, clear skies, and ten degrees warmer than they had forecast. Reminded me of the bulletin board Miss Bryant put up every year in high school English titled October's Bright Blue Weather.
While the guys found a bar to watch the game (we don't travel with satellite TV), I visited with the nice women at The Book Worm, a fun little bookstore. I persuaded them to take a couple of my books and then Letha and I checked out some of the gift and antique shops. After the game we stopped at the northern unit of the park for a view from the overlook and to check out the butterfly garden. Shannon, the park manager, has been burning the prairie around the garden so the approach is rather stark but the plants while turning brown, still form a rich tapestry. Back at the campground, Josh and Shannon came for a visit with their three boys. Shannon, Letha, and I made short work of a 1.2 mile hike, probably because we were trying to keep up with a three- and a six-year-old.
We ended our day with a little jambalaya and bouillabaisse at Potter's Mill followed by Memphis Blues artist, Brandon Santini. It certainly was a fine finish to a fortuitous fall day.
Planning, Packing, Planning
It is getting to panic time in the camping season. How many more trips can we get in? We were going to go to such-and-such and haven't done it yet. Should we go north for the leaf color and chance the cold or head south where it's warmer but not so much color yet? It's a good thing we don't have to waste our time working.
We had an official planning meeting Sunday night over supper with our camping buddies, the Ottaways, and decided, intrepid souls that we like to think we are, that we will brave the cold and head north. This will be about a five or six day trip. We'll spend the weekend at Bellevue State Park on the Mississippi where Butch's second cousin's wife is the park manager and hopefully get a chance to visit with them and their adorable little boys. Then on Sunday, we will head on up the river to Pike's Peak State Park for a few days. There is talk of trout fishing and maybe a couple of winery visits.
This week is full of obligations and necessities. A blood drive, dentist appointment, haircut, couple of meetings, volunteer work at the depot complex, a retirement reception for a past co-worker, a family gathering, purchase of a new washer and dryer, some church volunteer work, etc. See what I mean about not having time for jobs? Plus restocking the camper.
I have a magnetic notepad on the oven door in the camper to note items that need to be replaced. Why don't I use it? When I run out of something on a trip, I think "Oh, I'll remember I need that." Do I? Of course not. So then I have to mentally go back through the last trip and try and think what I needed that I didn't have. It's a lot of stress.
I do need to mention a retraction on an earlier post. When we returned to Iowa from central Nebraska, we followed Highway 30, not 34. This the Lincoln Highway and a very pleasant drive.
Lewis and Clark State Park in Iowa is the home of a full sized replica of the keelboat used by the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery in the first leg of their journey up the Missouri. They camped in this area on August 10, 1804. The boat was extremely versatile. It could be propelled by sailing, rowing, poling, or pulling it up the river with ropes. In the summer, I believe it is used in the Lewis and Clark festivities. This park has some nice hiking trails, level campsites, and excellent showers. I bet Lewis and Clark appreciated those.
Yesterday we drove to Sioux City to visit the Sergeant Floyd, a 1932 steamboat named in honor of Charles Floyd, the only member of the Corps of Discovery to die on the journey. He perished near here, most likely of appendicitis. He is also honored by the Floyd River, the town of Sergeant Bluff, and the imposing obelisk at the top of the bluff. The steamboat is also a museum and welcome center. Afterwards we drove a northern stretch of the Loess Hills. We took time in the morning to visit the Onawa Public Library. The unique architecture was well duplicated in a recent addition.
Our fine camping weather with only a few glitches seems to be coming to an end, as is this trip.
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.