Tuesday, April 10, 2012 Left home at 7:20am. We drove to the Santee Lakes State Park in Santee, SC. It’s only about 10 minutes off of I-95 so it makes for a convenient overnight stop.
We stayed at Alex’s house from the 11th through the 16th. The original plan was to head west on the 15th but a huge, and violent, storm front covered the Great Plains states. We waited until the storm cleared the area.
On Saturday we went to both Finn and Teagans soccer games and then on Saturday night, there was a birthday party for “T”.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
We left Alex’s house about 7:30am. The drive west took us through rural Virginia and Pennsylvania. It’s been a good Spring in this area. Rain and plentiful sunshine. The farms and woods are all beautifully green. Tonight we’re at a rest area on the Ohio Turnpike. For $20/night, you get a separate RV area with electric hookups, water and a dump station. It’s the first time we’ve run into a setup like this in our travels. It’s certainly convenient if you’re just transiting through an area. Of course, if you chose, you can park, for free, in the truck parking area. We’ve stayed in the truck rest areas before but it’s not our first choice. Between the noise of the idling trucks and the exhaust fumes, we never get a decent nights sleep.
Another long driving day; nine hours. The goal was to get out of the very congested areas from around Akron, OH to west of Chicago, IL.
Tonight we’re camped all by ourselves, along the bank of the Hennipen Canal at Bridge 23 near Annawon, IL. What a wonderfully peaceful place this is. From this point on, our driving days will be limited to perhaps two hours.
I-80 through PA, OH, IN, and parts of IL has been converted to a “turnpike”. As best I can tell, that simply means toll booths were built. The PA part cost $18. It cost $27 to get through OH, “only” $7.50 through IN and the small part of IL was a measly $1.35. $53.85 in tolls. For the money, I would have expected high quality roads. Only IN roads were in decent shape. All other states were very much in the need of work. The OH rest areas were great; probably the best we’ve seen, although FL has very nice rest areas as well. PA and IN were fair, at best. We didn’t get much for our money.
Gopher and I were up this morning about 6:30. When we went outside, there was a guy nearby fishing for carp with a bow and arrow. He would walk along the canal bank and look for telltale ripples in the water then take a shot. I watched him get one carp that he guessed to be around 6#. He said, he’s taken them up to 10# and has seen them pushing 15#. Mostly he just does it for sport but said carp are real good smoked.
In Iowa we filled up with gas at “only” $3.57/gallon. That’s the least we’ve paid on this trip. The most expensive, to date, was $3.99 at a Flying J in IL.
We drove the 45 minutes to the Clark’s Ferry C.O.E. campground in Montpelier, IA.
There are several COE campgrounds all along the Mississippi River but this is the only one opened in April. We had our choice of campsites and are now camped directly on the west bank of the river.
What is now the state of Iowa was part of the Louisiana Purchase(LP) of 1803. The eastern border of IA is the Mississippi River which was the eastern boundary of the LP. The western boundary of the LP , over time, became the crest of the Rocky Mountains. To the north was the 49th parallel which, with the Convention of 1818, became our border with Canada. All, or parts of, thirteen states were eventually formed from this huge area. At the time of the transfer of the LP to the U.S., no really knew when the northern or western borders were. IA was admitted as the 29th state on December 28, 1847.
We took the very rural route from last nights campground on the Mississippi River west to Pella then to the COE campground where we are tonight.
One article I read about IA said that right at 95% of all the land is in agricultural use. Nothing has been planted yet because the frost danger hasn’t passed, but the farmers were busy preparing the fields for corn, soy beans, sunflowers, and such. We passed dairies and hog farms. It’s spring time and there were foals, calves, and piglets everywhere.
Pella is an interesting town. We were here a few years back as well, but can’t recall just when. We’ve traveled so much over the last several years we have trouble keeping track of where and when. This part of Iowa was settled by the Dutch in 1843. In 1847, 800 Hollanders left the Netherlands in four ships seeking freedom from religious persecution and settled in this part of IA. The land in the newly created state, was being sold for $1.25/acre.
This is where the high quality Pella window factory began. On our last trip, we toured the largest working grain mill in the US. It’s powered by a Dutch style windmill.
We also took a nice walk around the city square in Pella stopping at the Jaarsma Bakery for a Dutch apple pie and a few oatmeal cookies. We figured that since we basically bought apples and oatmeal, it really doesn’t count as junk food.
This COE recreation area is part of the Lake Red Rock complex. Lake Red Rock is Iowa’s largest lake. We’re at the Howell Station campground. It’s the only campground open this early. We got a great site overlooking the Des Moines River. First thing, we all took a nice walk while the sun was out. Tonight it’s supposed to get close to freezing.
Come Memorial Day, the pleasure of pulling into a campground and having a choice of prime sites will come to an end until Labor Day. From Memorial Day until Labor Day, the plan is to avoid campgrounds with electric hookups. That tends to eliminate the majority of campers.
The plan was to spend another day at the Howell Station campground but it was cold and cloudy with a misty rain so about 1:00 we gave up and continued the trek west. Tonight we’re at the Carson City Park campground. $5/night for a site with electric and water. It a very well maintained park with a baseball diamond, a soccer pitch and a play ground. It’s us and one other RV.
This is our last day in Iowa.
Today’s first stop was the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, IA. It’s a National Parks designed facility that explains the four historic western trails. The Lewis and Clark expedition, and the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. There is a very informative movie plus an extensive display of metal sculptures depicting the time from the Corps of Discovery through the westward migration on the Lincoln Highway.
Tonight we’re at the City of Seward, NE, Blue Valley campground. $7/night for us old folks.
After that, it was off to the Whole Foods store in Omaha, NE. They have the very best prepared salads we’ve ever come across. Tonight’s dinner was crab cakes and salmon patties from Whole Foods.
Then we stopped to visit the Holy Family Shrine near Gretna, NE. The shrine is located on a beautiful 23 acre site overlooking the Platte River Valley.