This was meant for the Two Writing Teachers website and their Slice of Life Challenge, but it just didn’t make it there. Enjoy all the same! 🙂
Hey Blog! How have you been doing? And hello to you, my faithful followers. My writing life has not been a good one over the last few weeks. It’s a combination of Covid, the end of school, a return to learn because of Covid, a lack of socialization, and the chaos in our country right now. I feel helpless, powerless, and totally out of the loop when it comes to so many different things.
So, because “like a miracle” the virus is just gone and the country is reopening (not the drips of sarcasm on your screen), we decided on a Covid Vacation. It seems like everyone is taking a vacation in the middle of the flipping pandemic, so why not us?
First, we are tent campers. Yes, we are those people who take your camper sites to put up our tent! It’s not always comfortable, but it’s always less expensive and we’ll pretty much camp anywhere!
Second, social distancing for us is a must. We are both teachers and know what happens if people don’t take this seriously. Again, we are those people who do care, so we wear masks, we aren’t seeing people but family, and we are serious about our social distancing. No, we aren’t looking for a metal, but just want people to do the right thing.
My wife has been doing some genealogy work, taking me on a tour of cemeteries to visit relatives. So, I did the same to her, taking her on a cemetery tour in western Iowa where my grandparents passed away.
But first, we stopped at The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa. This place is amazing, a shrine to the Blessed Mother Mary, created by a young priest who, as he was very sick, prayed to Mary, promising to build a shrine in her honor if his health improved. He recovered, and so begin the “8th Wonder of the World”. If you are ever in central Iowa and are needing something spiritual, whether you are Catholic or not, this is well worth the time for the visit.
Next, onto a cemetery in Alta, Iowa where my father’s parents are buried. The problem with this: Where!?! This is not a big cemetery by any means, but we were there for a while, searching them out. Finally, I waved the white flag and called my dad. Was he home?
So, a call to my aunt, and she was eventually able to talk us to their gravesites. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them, so that very cool. On to Galva, Iowa, the resting place of my mom’s parents. I had a better sense of where they were in the cemetery, but this place also had a map of where everyone was too! Yes! They were right where I thought they were too, which was pretty nice.
And finally, we called it a night in Ida Grove, a little burg south of the cemeteries. We came across a campground, set up the tent, and spend a relatively uneventful night. This campground has a pond and a fountain, so very relaxing to say the least! The goofy part about this town, the castle motif throughout! This is what caught our eye on a walk, the skate park and Lady Liberty! Either way, it was a very calm night, one we needed after a long day in the car (the campfire panini was awesome too!!).
We got up the next morning and made our way south and west toward the Loess Hills in very western Iowa. They are hills made up of entirely windblown soils and the only other place where a geographical feature of this height could be found is in China. We first went to a scenic overlook, “The Spot” as it said on the marker.
This was a really awesome view and their was a hiking trail, so away we went! 🙂 This is a very out of the way place (we did not know that at the time), so be aware of that, yet, that’s something that made it all the more intimate. Very few people, very little man, just us, the hills, and a really cool bug (if anyone knows that it is, please leave a comment!!).
We next visited the Loess Hill Lavendar Farm, which has potential, but much of their lavender had been damaged from the cold winter. This was a disappointment, but it’s good to know that it is there for future reference.
Now, the reason for the trip to begin with. We’d both seen this Travel Iowa post on Facebook about places to see in Iowa. Many of them are in our neck of the woods (Google the Driftless Region), so we’ve seen a lot of it. But the one thing we have not seen: The Tree in the Middle of the Road.
Yes, a tree, a 100 foot, 160 year old (approximately) cottonwood tree that was used to mark county lines. It was a bit underwhelming, however, to come up over a hill and see a tree right there is kind of cool!
We continued on our way to the east, towards our home. We started looking for a place to stay, and suddenly, we see an error in our plan. /sarcasmon Here in Iowa, we’ve decided that “we can’t live in fear” or ” ‘Merica” or “freedom!!” or whatever else you want to throw in there. We’ve decided that our state is done with the virus has run it’s course, so bars, restaurants, shopping, wineries, everything is back and going again. /sarcasmoff
The weather is great, the restrictions have been lifted, so EVERYONE and their brother is aiming their RVs towards the campgrounds in the area. We are hot and tired from the hike earlier in the day, we are cranky because we’ve been to three campgrounds to find them full or with no tent camping sites, and ready to throw in the towel and just head home (four hours away). We try one more and what do you know, they have one “without hookups”! Thankfully, we don’t need them, so away we go! Our supper, McDonalds, something we rarely eat, but the fries were calling to us. Don’t judge. We reach the campground, I pay for the site, and I’m directed down near the petting zoo. Uh oh. We pull down to what looks like a grassy parking lot.
This is exactly what it it, a grassy lot, usually used as a parking lot, but “marked” for tent sites. Whatever. We put up our tent, we park our car in a way that others won’t park next to us, and set of for the night. A picnic table and fire ring are delivered, we get a fire going, then go for a walk. This is when it gets interesting. This campground literally has campers piled one on top of another, each side of the road, with roads sprouting off. Social distancing? Ha! Masks? Ha (as we camped, we did not wear ours either, but we’ve been together since March). So many families, so many people, all crammed in there with little regard for the virus. I’ve been told I’m a worrier, but this kind of behavior just floors me. We make our way back to our campsite, make some s’mores (what kind of camping trip would this be without one), and head to bed. We are awoke by loud people along with the sounds of barnyard animals.
We wake up, make coffee, eat a little breakfast, break camp, and head down the road towards home. We’d wanted to make this a winery tour, but just hit them at the wrong time or wrong day. Not today. We found one, Fox Ridge Winery, just outside of Traer, Iowa. It’s a little winery out in the middle of nowhere (like most of our trip) and it was a beautiful place, with delcious wine (we’ll be back)!
We talked with the owner for a while and when my wife mentioned that she has relatives in the local cemetary, she asks my wife what names? My wife mentions her grandparents name, then another relative. The owner perks up, and says, “Why they are just down the road!” So, we take some time to visit those relatives, then finally, make our way back to our little piece of heaven.
My takeaways from our trip:
- Make your campground reservations. Most campgrounds are all online now and we didn’t realize this fact. Make sure you check it out.
- Coffee in the morning, created in an old fashioned coffee pot is SO GOOD! Much better than my coffee pot at home.
- Our air bed is pretty awesome. It’s big and bulky, but it’s much better than the air mattresses we tried for many different years.
- The second wave of the virus will not be pretty. One of the reasons we took this trip is because we are a little stir crazy too. We wanted to see about tent camping but also wanted to scout out some campers, thinking about purchasing one. The campground full of people practicing nothing pretty much cured us of any camper thoughts. Maybe later, but seeing how people were acting helped me to see I really need to get to work on an online class for my sixth graders. Heck, people here are acting very much the same way, as if the virus has just disappeared.
- It’s ok to take a little trip in our tent. We talked so much on our trip. We have places to back to visit, but this was a good “get our of dodge” trip. Something we’ll do again!
Next trip, who knows? Maybe Door County? Maybe Boonville, Missouri, where we lived for three years? Either way, we’ll be in our tent, making campfire panninis and s’mores, drinking wine and enjoying our lives together.
Seems like a great goal, don’t you think?