Western United States Adventure 2017

June 24, 2017 - Onawa, Iowa, United States

This trip begins as the story of a terrible flood in central Michigan that completely washed out roads all around us and delayed our departure by one day.  We had intended to take the ferry across Lake Michigan but had to cancel those plans and reboot.

We managed to pull out of the driveway at 7:00 a.m.; well rested and ready to drive as far as the KOA campground in Onawa, Iowa.  I had canceled our previous reservations elsewhere for the night before, made these reservations, and had been able to adjust our reservation for The Badlands from two nights down to one.  All was well.

Our driving options toward Grand Rapids were limited.  M-20 was closed west of Mt. Pleasant.  Blanchard Road was still suffering a gaping wound, and as we drove down M-46 we passed a sign indicating that M-66 was also closed.  We’ll have to wait until we’re home to find out the extent of this flooding but clearly, Isabella County was a disaster area.

The drive was pretty uneventful once we made it to US-131.  The familiar roads to Chicago allowed us to relax and just enjoy/tolerate the journey.  We avoided the traffic of Chicago by taking I-80 across Illinois and most of Iowa.  As we were approaching Le Claire, Iowa; located on the Mississippi River; Bill mentioned that Le Claire was the home of Antique Archaeology of TV’s “Pickers’” fame.  We decided to take a quick detour. Antique Archeology


Finding a place to park a trailer was a bit of a challenge in Le Claire; particularly near the AA location.  We eventually settled on a spot uphill.  After chatting with the man who owned the home beside which we had parked, we were able to make the quick walk to AA.  It was interesting to see how cramped the building was into the hillside.  On television, the parking lot appears quite large and one does not get the impression that there are other buildings so close by.  There are.  We did a quick perusal of the main shop; bypassed the second building; and headed back onto the highway by 1:00 p.m.

I’m struck by the Sinclair gas stations and “Kum and Go” party stores (whose name I somehow find disgusting) along the highway.  We entered into Madison County, Iowa and saw a notation on the map about the location of the bridges.  It was the first time I’d realized that “The Bridges of Madison County” was set in in Iowa.  I guess I’d thought Minnesota or Wisconsin.  Definitely not Iowa.  The other overwhelming issue when driving through Iowa; as a huge fan of the musical “Music Man”; is that I keep wanting to sing, “Well, there’s something about the way that Iowa people treat you if they treat you which they may not do at all.”  The song keeps looping and looping through my head.  “You are in I-O-Way.”  Sometimes it sneaks out of my mouth.  Poor Bill.

After around 733 miles of driving we reached the KOA campground off US-29 in Onawa, Iowa.  The young lady behind the counter was much more interested in resolving scheduling conflicts for the rental cycles for the young campers than she was in checking us in.  The campground was on the banks of Blue Lake across from the Lewis and Clark state park.  We finally set up camp only to discover that I had not locked the refrigerator after packing.  All the meat that I had frozen and food that I had packed was spilled out onto the floor and thawed.  I was so disappointed.  In complete honestly, I didn’t even realize the fridge locked!  About two weeks before our trip we had determined that our old 1995 Starcraft Starter model pop-up was terminally ill.  The lifting mechanism had begun slipping and the top had developed rot.  I had been researching new pop-ups since January.  My original thought was to buy a small motorhome, but I just love the “tent” feeling of a pop-up.  Bill agreed with one condition; it had to have a shower and a shitter; so-to-speak. I’d discovered a Rockwood Freedom 1950 model that met all of our needs.  On a return trip from working in Syracuse, New York we had stopped by a dealer in Monroe, Michigan and hauled one home.  It has a lot more “bells and whistles” than we are used to making us a bit anxious.  The incident with the refrigerator confirmed my anxiety.

We did arrive early enough to have some time to relax before nightfall.  Nightfall?  No such luck.  Our camping site was directly under the main mercury vapor light for the campground.  Not only did night never come, we also attracted every bug in the surrounding county!  We settled into bed for our first sleep in the new pop-up.


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