Day #81 – Lovely Lanesboro

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Oxbow Campground and Zoo
WEATHER:  Rain Rain Rain!!!  Cool.  High in the 50s

It rained quite a bit during the night and then continued almost all day.  Although unpleasant for us, it must have been just miserable for all the tenters.  Since we are trying to conserve battery, we didn’t run the heat and it was quite cool.

So, to escape the discomfort, we went in to town and did laundry.  Why not? 

Then, off to Lanesboro, a really cute little town in the rolling hills of southern Minnesota.  It is a popular tourist town, especially among motorcyclists and bicyclists.  There are lots of trails nearby.  The town has cute shops, restaurants, and bars.  We met up with a friend that I know via international studies programs at my alma mater.  She works in this restaurant, The Old Village Hall, that used to be the fire department and village hall. 

We had a superb lunch, thanks to her friend the chef/owner.  I had crostini  with salmon roe and smoked salmon…

George had their specialty hamburger and today’s  homemade tomato/bacon/chive soup…

Berta had a burger with blue cheese…..

Happily, it wasn’t raining in Lanesboro like in Rochester, so we walked around the quaint village some.

On the way back to Rochester, we stopped in a little town that has a nice brewery.  When we arrived, there were about 4 customers, including us.  A half hour later, it was packed with about 50!  A 79-year-old lady sat next to me.  She lives on a farm nearby and drops in here.  She talked my head off!   It reminded us of a local British pub, with locals gathering.  Very nice!

Then, even more socialization…..we stopped by a former co-worker’s house for wine.  We had planned to  sip a glass on her patio that overlooks some rolling hills.  The cold and rain put a damper on that, so we moved indoors.   It was good to talk with her and her husband.

Back at the campground, we faced a problem.  It appears that our battery is going.  George says that it has “lived” longer than expected.  We normally can go 3-4 days without electricity, but the reading today showed it was getting dangerously low.  Without the battery, we will have no water (as we need the water pump) and nothing can run…..e.g., the refrigerator.  I can use the propane gas stove, so I started cooking dinner, and filled up the tea kettle with water from the community pump, just in case. 

George found the campground host and told him about our dilemma.  It turns out that many tent campers left early due to the foul weather, and one of the RVers on a site with electricity left.  The host said we could move there.  Hooray! 

It was pretty comical…..George got us hooked up, the minimum amount possible, while I stored away pots and pans that I was in the middle of cooking with.  We moved to the new spot, plugged in, and are deliriously happy! 

DINNER:  Shrimp fajitas.  I sauteed shrimp, onions, and green peppers and flavored with fajita seasonings.  I spread that on tortillas and zapped in the microwave (as we have electricity!!!) with some cheese to melt.  Quite delicioso! 

Day #80 – Back home (well, former home)!

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Oxbow Park in Byron, outside of Rochester.  County park with a zoo along a river.  Very nice setting.  Some electric/water sites.  Nice bathrooms.  Picnic table and fire pit.  $28/night.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Frigid in the AM, turning into a nice day.  High 65

It was freezing all night long, dipping to below freezing.  We kept warm under a big pile of blankets.  When we got up, we saw frost on the pick-up.  Wow – end of May!

To preserve our battery, we are not using Joy’s furnace.  Instead, we turned on the portable catalytic  heater.  George used it to warm up his coffee, too.

I found a hiking/bike trail near the brewery where we were staying and took a nice morning walk in the crisp air.  Then, we took off for Rochester.  The drive was beautiful, through lush fields.  The corn is just starting to come up.  We drove the Amish Byway.  The highway shoulders are wider than normal to accommodate the Amish people’s horses and buggies. 

We did see some buggies parked in the towns that we drove through, as the Amish bring vegetables, baked goods, and quilts to local Saturday farmers’ markets.

We arrived at our campground around noon and were able to set up.  We have stayed in this little park before.  Other times, there have been 4-5 RVs.  Being Memorial Day Weekend, it is jam-packed.  Lots of people out and about.  Lots of tents.  Every site has a campfire going.  Our site is beautiful – right next to the creek and nestled against some beautiful wildflowers. 

We went in to town and met with our daughter Alexis and her boyfriend Graham. We went to Abe’s, one of their favorite places for drinks and to pick up some vegan take-out for them.

Back at the campground, we made a fire, too and enjoyed the pleasant evening. 

DINNER:  Home-made soup.  I made this yesterday, in an attempt to warm up the trailer using the stove-top.  It was a vegetable cheesy potato soup:  I sauteed onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and summer sausage.  Then, I added beef broth, chunks of baked potato, a dollop of cream cheese, and some cheddar cheese.  It turned out great.  Sides were salads and a Take-N-Bake French baguette, crispy on the outside from the oven. 

Day #79 – Another day keeping warm in breweries!

LOCATION:  Calmar, Iowa
CAMPGROUND:  PIVO Brewery and Art Studio, part of Harvest Host.  Huge, gravel, flat parking lot.  Very welcoming staff.  Sandwiches and bar food.  Huge beer selection.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cold!  High 41

We woke up to a dismal rainy day so decided to drive on to Decorah. 

We checked out Toppling Goliath Brewery in Decorah.  It is quite famous as an up- and- coming brewery. 

We had a nice panini there for lunch and tried one of their beers.  It was really hopping.

Then, on to PIVO where we stayed the night.   It was still cold, but the sun came out.   This brewery wasn’t as busy and felt very welcoming.  After getting settled in, we went in to the brewery to taste some of their beers and have dinner. 

We generally sit at the bar so we can chat with the wait staff.  Today, our server is a teacher who just returned after teaching on an Indian reservation for 10 years.  She and her husband were 4 hours north of Fairbanks by airplane.  She said could do grocery shopping twice a year!  She should write a book.

We had a very nice evening and kept warm inside. 

DINNER:  A Cuban sandwich with kimchi on the side. 

Day #78 – Staying warm and cozy in a brewery!

LOCATION:  Petosi, Wisconsin
CAMPGROUND:  Petosi Brewery, a Harvest Host site.  We have been here before.  So easy to park in one of their large parking lots.  We are next to the event center across the street.  The staff in the brewery are some of the best we have ever experienced.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  COLD!  Rain all day.  High 45
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  30 minutes

We walked along the Mississippi River levee at the Dubuque brewery where we stayed overnight until it started raining about 9:00 AM.  There were thousands of May-flies, mostly dead along the sidewalk. The robins were stuffing themselves happily. The flies come out, mate, then die, all within 24 hours, and always in May. The only other times we have seen them have been near the Mississippi, too. They must like it here.

With nothing much to do, we headed out.  We had only a 20-mile drive, across the Mississippi from Iowa to Wisconsin and a bit north. 

This is our 3rd time staying at Potosi Brewery.  It is very welcoming, and it is in a convenient location for stopping, yet away from highway noise.  It is on the Great River Road. 

To keep warm, we went in to the brew pub, sat at the bar, chatted endlessly with the bartender, and ate some hot soup for lunch.  We charged our devices and I did some internet work.  They weren’t busy and didn’t mind us hanging out.  We learned that all of their profits go to charity. 

In the afternoon, George napped under a ton of blankets while I read.  Then, back to the brewery to get warm again.  What a difference 24 hours makes!  Here is George yesterday at about 5:00 at the Dubuque wine bistro…

And, here I am at 5:00 today, wearing my gloves, scarf, 4 layers of clothes, and a rain jacket.  And COLD! 

The brewery houses the National Brewery Museum.  We took a self-guided tour.  There is a lot of beer memorabilia..

This is a picture depicting camping in Potosi along the river…  Just like us! 

Redeeming tickets from the museum, tour, George got 2 free beers.  We nursed our drinks very slowly at the bar, chatting this time with a different bartender, and ate a very slow, drawn-out dinner. 

DINNER:  As an appetizer, we ordered popcorn with bacon droppings.  Our main course was a portobello panini and baked potato. 

The atmosphere is very convivial.  Potosi is a small town, so everyone seemed to know everyone else.  Very homey. 

By the time we finished dinner, we were ready for an early bedtime, under the covers.  Thank goodness we have extras to pile on.  We both slept with our ski caps on.  They really do help retain the body heat. 

BOOK:  “Evidence” by Jonathan Kellerman.  One of his books in the Alex Delaware series.  Kellerman is a pretty good psychological thriller writer.  A page-turner.  4 stars out of 5

Day #77 – Enjoying the Mississippi River area

LOCATION:  Dubuque, Iowa in east central part of state, on the Mississippi River
CAMPGROUND:  Stone Cliff Winery, part of Harvest Hosts.  More like a wine bistro.  Lovely setting near the river with outdoor seating.  Super easy parking in their  large parking lot.  Level and quiet (except for some trains).  Great location for walking along the levee.
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Sunny.  High 75

It was a dark and stormy (and noisy) night, as they say.  Trains went by throughout the night and a big storm thundered around us.  Lots of lightning, too.  It rained really hard and the wind flapped our window screens.  We were again happy to discover no leakage from the rain this morning.   We are quite puzzled. 

We hung out at the Clark’s Ferry ACOE campground in the morning, again enjoying our view with the river traffic. 

I got in my steps by walking down nearby farm roads.  I saw a turtle, then 2 bunnies let me get quite close to them. 

Then, on to Dubuque, tonight’s stay.  We had to drive through Davenport which was busy with traffic, and a short ways on Interstate 80.  I-80 is almost as bad as I-10.  We saw an accident where a semi-truck bumped a car down in the ditch when the car was coming on to the highway.  The car had rolled and medics had just arrived.  Of course, this gave me visions of this happening to us! 

Needless to say, we arrived safely and got set up here.  We went in to the winery/bistro to have a glass of wine.  The building is an old brewery and is very interesting.

We sat outside to enjoy the weather and to take advantage of their excellent wifi

Our neighbors Rod and Gayle Brown from Retama Village live about an hour from here during the summer.  They joined us for dinner and wine at the winery. It was fun to catch up.  We shared some pizzas with them. 

Day #76. Smack dab on the Mississippi!

LOCATION:  Near Muscatine, Iowa in SE part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Clark’s Ferry Army Corp of Engineers Campground at Mississippi River Pool 16.  One of the best campgrounds we have stayed in!  Our site is right on the Mississippi.  Most sites have river views.  Spanking clean bathrooms/showers.  Electricity.  Water nearby.  Dump station.  Fire pit and picnic table.  Perfectly level, paved, long site.  All for $10/night!  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 74

We left Ardon Creek Winery, last night’s Harvest Host stay, fairly early as rain was predicted and we didn’t want to get stuck in a wet field.  The owners told us that they once had to pull a stuck RV out with a big tractor.  Yikes!

Since it is early in the week, we gambled that our site would be available for an early check-in.  Yes, it was vacant, so we moved in even though it was still early AM.  Our site is perfect – We are just a few feet away from the Mississippi River. 

We enjoyed a quiet morning watching river traffic. 

We went in to nearby Muscatine in search of a brew pub.  They do have one, but it wasn’t open yet.  So, we found a fun bar with a lot of local beers, located in a very old-looking building.  After lunch, we strolled around the downtown.  Many of the old buildings have been preserved nicely.

We learned that Muscatine was once the “pearl button capital of the world”. Making the buttons out of the river’s shiny mussels was a huge business.  They harvested all of the mussels, and they have now mostly disappeared. 

We stopped at this grist mill, one of the first in the country, built to mill lumber and later grain. 

Back at the campground, I walked around.  Even though not many sites are occupied today, every single one has a “reserved” sign on it for this upcoming Memorial Day weekend.  I’m sure today’s quiet atmosphere will morph into craziness then. 

DINNER:  Tex-Mex rice and beans with chopped up brat pieces.  Side was mushrooms stuffed with a cheesy spinach mix.  All quite good.

BOOK:  “Piece of My Heart” by Peter Robinson.  This is a British detective series I come back to.  I enjoy the characters and especially like reference to the pubs and scenery of North Yorkshire where we did a housesitting assignment.  4 stars out of 5

Day #75 – Another state, another Mississippi River crossing, another Harvest Host winery!

LOCATION: Letts, Iowa in far SE part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Ardon Creek Vineyards and Winery.  A Harvest Host site.  Nice grassy, level area to park.  Very nice owner helped us set up, giving us the option of parking on the gravel entrance, concerned that the grass might be too soft.  Good wine.  Nice patio seating area.  Very very quiet.  We are the only ones here.  A porta-pottie!  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Hot and summer-like.  High 85

We hung around Ridge View Winery, using their electricity for air-conditioning.  The morning soon became hot so the A/C was welcomed. We took off for another night’s Harvest Host stay.

We zig-zagged through farmland north and west.   Nothing eventful on the route, other than some massive farm machinery that took up all of one lane and part of my side of the road, too!  We crossed over the Mississippi River from Illinois to Iowa.  We think this is our 14th crossing on this trip. 

Guess what we encountered 4 miles from the winery???!!!  Another gravel road!!!  It wasn’t as bad as yesterday’s but we followed the gravel dump truck and it was very dusty.

The vineyard/winery is lovely. 

We are parked in a big grassy area where cars park when they have their Friday night concerts.  It seems pretty dry, but we will leave early tomorrow morning as rain is predicted again. 

This is the view from our front door, overlooking the grapes and the winery/tasting room.

We tasted their wines and bought one white and one red we liked.  Once the tasting room closed at 4:00, we took our drinks to their patio and enjoyed the late afternoon.

It was a bit hot, but it cooled off nicely.  Most Harvest Host sites do not have amenities, so once summer is in full swing, we may not be staying in many.  I do like my A/C! 

DINNER:  Thai pho.   I made the noodles according to the package.  Then I made a soup/sauce for the noodles – sauteeing a bit of leftover pork, onions, mushrooms, ginger in sesame seed oil, then adding  fish sauce and broth.   It was my first time making pho, and I will make it again.  Probably spicier next time. 

Day #74 – Really off the beaten path!

LOCATION:  Mt. Sterling, Illinois – in west central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Ridge View Winery.  Yes, another Harvest Host winery!  Super nice host who guided us to our level, grassy spot.  A bit of a challenge to get here (see below).  Music on Sunday afternoons – delightful.  Wines were not our cup of tea, but other drinks and food available.  Water and electricity available for $15.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Finally the rain stopped.  Partly sunny.  High 84

What a nice surprise to awake to something other than rain!  We had our typical Sunday morning breakfast – George’s grits and eggs, but could not watch “CBS Sunday Morning” while we ate.  We only have 4 channels here, and they are all the religious kind asking for money.  😦 

Since we were not in a hurry, I took a long walk to get in my 11,000 steps for the day. 

Then, we were off to a new state.  Illinois will be our 10th state so far on this year’s trip.  We crossed over the Mississippi in Hannibal, Missouri and quickly got into farm country.  The roads were pretty bad and like a roller-coaster. We stopped to change drivers, and almost got stuck.  Joy is now covered with mud. 

The owner had told us to call him a half hour out so he could give us directions and advice about the roads.  We couldn’t reach him, then lost cell service,  so we just plowed on.  The road got worse and worse.    I said “At least the roads are not gravel”.     Uh oh…..I spoke too soon!

The last 5 miles to the winery were on very loose gravel. George drove about 10 miles an hour to keep us on the road. 

When we arrived (thankfully), the owner greeted us and guided us to our parking spot.  He asked us about our drive, and we learned that we had come the  WRONG way!  Had we been able to reach him before our arrival, he would have guided us here via the blacktop road, not the gravel way. 

We are parked right next to the vineyard, a bit away from the winery itself – nice privacy.

We walked up to the winery to enjoy their Sunday afternoon music. 

The band was excellent and brought in a big crowd.

After catching up on computer needs with their wifi inside, we sat outside on the patio to listen to the music.  The owner somehow knew  that we are from South Texas, so introduced us to two couples who winter right near us.  We enjoyed chatting with them.

We spent the entire afternoon listening to the music and watching people dance.

Wanting to support the host, we bought a meat and cheese platter and took it back to Joy for an appetizer.  It was a little warm, so we paid for the electricity hook-up and turned on the A/C.

The music stopped at 5:00, and by 6:00, we had the vineyards and winery to ourselves.  Beautiful and very peaceful! 

DINNER:  A meatless meal, as it seems like we have been eating heavy, meaty food lately.  I used the rest of the tikka masala sauce, but instead of pouring it over chicken, I served it over a bunch of stir-fried   vegetables – julienned carrots, mushrooms, onions, and a little spinach.  A good way to use vegetables. 

BOOK:   “Girl from the Channel Islands” by Jenny Lecoat.  This was an excellent book, fiction but based on a true story of a Jewish girl’s survival during the German Occupation of the island of Jersey.  5 staqrs out of 5!

Day #73 – “Travel is fatal…..”

LOCATION:  Near Hannibal, Missouri
CAMPGROUND:  3rd night at Indian Creek ACOE campground at Mark Twain Lake
WEATHER:  Rain – all day!  Cool.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on their accounts….”.  This is one of my favorite quotes from Samuel Clemmons aka Mark Twain.  He was spot on when he wrote that, and it is pertinent in today’s world, too.

We did a lot of Mark Twain things today…

First we went to his birthplace in a town called Florida. 

We had seen the edge of it yesterday from the pontoon boat on the lake.  There is a Mark Twain “shrine” in the remnants of the town, but it was closed today.

We did see a replica of his house.  He lived there until age 4, when the family moved to Hannibal, on the Mississippi River. 

We wanted a bite to eat before we sailed on the Mark Twain paddleboat for the afternoon tour.  Our choices were the Mark Twain Dinette and the Mark Twain Brewery.  Guess which one we chose??!!  Back to the brewery for a beer and their tacos.

Then, we hopped on the Mark Twain paddleboat. 

Being a gloomy, rainy day, there weren’t many people with us.

The captain gave an informative narrative as we sailed along.  There were several huge barges like this one on its way to pick up grain. 

This is the island where Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer hung out…

Then, we returned to the Hannibal dock

Two of the Harvest Host places where we will be staying next week called me to warn me about driving/parking conditions due to all the rain that we have had.  Something to worry about  (me, not George)!

Back at the campground, the rain finally let up a bit, enough for George to get a good fire going.  The trick was to store the wood in the back of the pick-up all day to keep it dry.

I did my delicious Nick Stellino meatballs recipe using some of the sausage from one of the Harvest Host farms where we stayed recently.  With more than enough meat for the meatballs, I made hamburgers (hamburger meat + Italian sausage) with the extra.  George grilled them over the fire.  I will freeze and use later.

When he doesn’t have a good grill to use at a campground, he places this wire grate on top of the fire pit so he can use it to move the meat around.  He had found this small Weber grill grate that some camper had left at a campground a while ago.  It works well – the openings are smaller, too, so the meat does not fall through.

DINNER:  While he was grilling the hamburgers, I made the Nick Stellino meatballs and sauce.  They really turned out well. In spite of my efforts to cut the recipe down, we still ended up with a LOT of meatballs!  Sides were a salad and a French baguette – the Take-N-Bake kind. 

Day # 72 – A lot of Mark Twain!

LOCATION: Near Hannibal, Missouri in NE part of state
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Indian Creek at Mark Twain Lake
WEATHER:  Cool and rainy

We got up early and zipped to the marina to pick up our pontoon scheduled for morning rental.  The pontoon is brand new – I think we are the first to have used it.  A little pressure not to  ding it up or anything!

We sailed around the 55,000 acre lake.  We had the lake practically to ourselves. It is a good thing George had GPS on his phone to figure out where we were!  The paper map was not that helpful. We thought we were going toward the dam, but it turns out we were going in the opposite direction. We finally found it…

We passed by the town – Florida – where Mark Twain was born.  This historical site marks his birthplace.

Here is the captain doing a fine job!

Unfortunately, it was quite breezy out on the water and I had not dressed appropriately.  Then, it started to rain.  Boo-hoo.  I slid down to sit on the floor with my back against the wind to give me a little protection…

We sited the walkway up to our campsite (or so we thought).    It is a trail that abruptly ends at the water.  George wanted to run back to the camper to pick something up.  We decided it made more sense for me to go, as I needed to use the bathroom, too!  🙂

So, I climbed up the rocks then up to this platform, onto the path – in flip flops.  Much to my surprise, when I reached the top, nothing looked familiar.  It was the wrong campground loop!  Later, we spotted about 5 more of these platforms.  It was too much work to climb up.  And, I was afraid the pontoon would get stuck in the rocks, so we gave up. 

We finished the ride about noon and headed in to Hannibal, the boyhood home of Mark Twain.  Most of the downtown is dedicated to Mark Twain.  We had lunch at the Mark Twain Brew Pub, right across the street from the house where he grew up.

Much of Hannibal seems depressed and we wound up in an unpleasant part of town where we found a laundry.  Coin laundries are sometimes hard to find, and they are always packed.  This one was really run down.  One dryer had a plastic bag cover as the glass had broken…and it was running! 

Back at the campground, George made another fire.  He grilled some sausage for my recipe tonight as we munched on shrimp cocktails for an appetizer, in front of the fire pit.

DINNER: Leftover cassoulet to which I added some extra sausage.  Side was a lettuce and tomato salad.  George had eaten a big platter of blackened catfish at lunch, so wasn’t very hungry.