En route to Bellevue State Park, IA. Well, leaving early morning from St Louis, MO was uneventful. Just plenty of trucks swerving just outside the city limits and just over The Mississippi due to some heavy crosswinds. An event better observed from afar than to experience up close and personal.
There were plenty of vehicles experiencing the winds on the I55 corridor this day, when upon reaching a long stretch of the road we saw a school bus being passed on the left by a semi, and the wind caused the bus to swerve not only into the trucks lane but also onto the shoulder. It was buffeted left and right up until the truck had passed it by a length and a half where the bus driver finally got it under control. Thank God it missed smacking itself onto the ditch or the truck.
Traveling on this road we found ourselves at a CrackerBarrel Restaurant! Woohoo! It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten here (not location) where I really dig the wall art, locations are remote of course, but the fireplace, nick-nacks, and candies are well worth my stop. We ate well, and since Selene was craving it since we started our vacation she was very happy we found one on our trip Northbound toward our next destination.
This trip took us into the middle of Illinois’ farm lands, then into a scenic route in Iowa where we witnessed some the effects of the Mississippi rivers’ flooding. We were getting sporadic signal on our phones so getting weather updates were a tad sketchy. However this route was incredible, with a closed off section where my little car ended up performing like a mini 4×4 for a stint in Iowa.
We drove North on Route 52 with some of the most incredible vistas, and dips, dives, and curves with colors to match a picturesque fall painting. Sunny, cotton ball clouds, and barely any traffic to speak of. Loved every minute of it entirely. With the winding roads, farms left, and right of the road with Red barns that are a staple of this trip. I will most definitely place this route on my top five list.
We arrived at our location provided by our GPS provided Google maps app, and it was of course Not the location for our campsite. There were signs directing visitors to their office, yet there really was no office to speak of, much less personnel on premises to assist anyone that day.
So, we drove into town and since we needed ice (not really) I drove into the gas station, paid for a few bags of ice and had a quick conversation with the attendant where she informed me that they not only sold beer, but whiskey! I was so happy and giddy, that I not only paid for the bags of ice, that I proceeded to get into the car and was going to drive off until Selene asked if had the ice. Yup, I was so distracted by the knowledge of them selling whiskey that I forgot all about the ice. Video
Well, on the way back onto the route I had assumed was our campgrounds we noticed another vehicle driving like we were, as if lost trying to find something… we drove further south than what the GPS/Google maps took us at first and found our campsite. It was a nice little spot, which was located just outside the modern bathrooms/ showers but no hot water at all.
The campsite we had reserved was very open to the elements especially the wind that was blowing pretty steady, and the temps were dropping mighty fast. The site was okay, not too small but large enough to set up the tent and a cooking pit with a swivel grill top to cook on an open fire which made it a pleasant change of pace than trying to cook atop the logs. I did like the grill top to place cooking items on so I don’t burn my hands.
Well, the first night we had tacos, and a lot of Cholula hot sauce on them. Man, tasty doesn’t come close to what this was in my mouth. Those tacos went down fast, along with the beer I purchased in St Louis. Scottish ale beers. I’ll have to find the actual bottle brands because they are very good if you’re into Scottish style ales. Purchased them at the Craft Beer Cellar locates in Clayton, MO.
Here are three of the remaining bottles from a set of six I purchased:
De-li-ci-ous! They are an acquired taste, but if you’re willing they are well worthy of your palate.
Well, we froze our butts off the first night at camp when the temps hovered around 30F. To be honest, we were much colder standing outside setting up camp, and cooking/eating than actually being inside our tent snug in our sleeping bags. Her bag was rated to 20F, while my bag as rated at 40F. Guess I’d chosen wisely about stashing extra camp clothes to wear inside my bag just in case of an event such as this.
Heck, we were warm inside the three season REI tent. Plenty of mesh for air circulation 😳🤔 and a warm fleece blanket thrown atop the bags to help ward off anything the clothes and bags did not take care of. The icy wind was constant, and man I needed to use the bathroom mighty bad so I made sure I got it taken care of prior to jumping into the tent to crash. Someone (shall remain unnamed) 🤫🤭🤣😂 did not heed my advice and woke up around 5:30am to frost everywhere.
Once the sun came up we started prepping breakfast. I had fire pit duty. The good thing is that when you light a fire with wood the night before you will end up with something in the pit that will light faster the following day, and it’s much easier than trying to light wet wood to begin with. There was enough charcoal, and believe it or not some of it was still warm which meant I had a great chance of starting my fire fairly quickly. Love kindling that’s very dry since it makes lighting the larger pieces of wood much easier.
Breakfast of champions was bacon, eggs, served with croissants! Woo! That was good. Had my multiple cups of coffee that is always freshly ground in my hand grinder, and my aero press to make the coffee. Delicious!
Once we downed the breakfast it was a game of “let’s get the signal to get messages in / out for the next step of our journey”. It was funny trying to find a spot when’re there is any type of signal to your phone, and once we had it it was gone just as fast. Anyone experience this type of frustration? I don’t necessarily appreciate driving long distances just to grab a signal or WiFi from the gas station but that’s what needed to be done so we did. We also grabbed some more firewood. Heehee, I like my fire pit so much I like to feed it.
Well, once we had a signal we reached out to daughter #1 as to our location, logistics, and itinerary for the next stage of our trip. Well, as sketchy as the sending was, and our reception was even worse. That was until we were able to communicate via voice that everything was cemented. But getting that magical antennae to work took concerted practice and Selene is a Star! Here she is as the human antenna used in order for me to speak on the phone. Love her!
Planning, communication, and logistics taken care of she began the arduous process of getting our last resting spot for us in IA! Man, the logistics of where to stay, and for how long are frustrating especially when people advertise something online and you call to reserve that spot. Turns out it’s a hook and bait scheme for travelers. Like an apartment in Airbnb (I will not advertise this one) quoted a price per night that actually doubled in price once we selected the payment for the reservation.
We were not very happy, and sitting in front of the bathrooms where the signal was strongest Selene took to making reservation of the room in Mainstay in IA. Much cheaper than the one Airbnb’s advertised in Galena to reserve. Also it’s much bigger, and it has a kitchenette. Sweet! Score! Oh, did I mention it has a real bed? I love camping, and backpacking much more. However a real bed will never be out of my comfort zone when traveling.
Well the reservation was done, and daylight was dwindling I started to make the fire a tad larger for cooking our dinner. Let me give you an idea of what food should look like, and as a reference the large pot in the picture is a 5qt so imagine if you will the size of the meat that is placed in the fire grill. Arrachera for him and her wrapped in foiled with yellow onions, and seasoned with Adobo. That’s how we roll, and made plenty of tacos with that meat. Man, now I’m getting those meat cravings once again while writing this.
That was freaking delicious! I wanted to take pictures of what it looked like, but once we started to eat everything planned went out the window! Well, we spent the last night in Bellevue and finally saw the park/DNR employee drive around and basically just wave hi, and check on the water pressure of the spigots, but that was about all the interest they had about the campers around there. We did meet a couple from Texas, they were very nice.
Once the night came we started packing up our site, and getting the large items ready to head out the following day so as to not have much to do the following day and give ourselves a cushion of driving time to our final destination to see daughter #1. Stopped at Richman’s Cafe in Bellevue, with a good selection of breakfast foods, and fast service. The ladies in the diner sat together while their husbands sat part from them and just had a great time sharing stories, meals, and coffee.
It was a collection or retired game warden, fish and wildlife administrator, and an active Warden and other town officials sitting there having a great time. Funny guys, and you can tell by their vibe that that is how their neighbors are treated also. A place I’d like to come back to again. The game Warden came by our table and introduced himself and we chatted for a bit about camping, hiking, and hunting. Yes, we covered it all with a span of five minutes. Cool people.
We finished eating, took our time driving up Route 52 towards Dubuque, and man the scenery!
We took videos on our GoPro en route to Dubuque. The colors, shades, and scenery are pale in a picture. You’re going to have to experience this yourself….
Stay tuned for Part 3……this is where I’ll post the links to the videos on the GoPro but it maybe edited for time of course.