Day 9 – Iowa

Penny and I had a fairly early start the next morning when we woke up in Beaver Dam State Park Turtleand decided to take a walk/hike around the area to see what we could find, and get a look at the lake I knew was nearby.  It was clear the “trails” here didn’t see much use.  We took the “trail”closest to our campsite down to the lake, and I’d guess we were the first to do so all summer.  They reminded me of the trails we used to take in the woods behind my house growing up.  In other words, they weren’t really trails as much as they were sections of grass and plants that had been beaten down into a fairly defined direction over time.  What does it matter? Well, lots of plants touching you the whole way, which is a great opportunity for ticks (common in the area) to transfer to your person.  It also means its pretty much just wall after wall of spider webs that you’re walking through the entire time.  We did, however, get to see a turtle hanging out just next to the path on our way to the water.  When we go to the lake it was early enough that no one else was there.  The restaurant that sat on the dock was closed for the week, but I doubt it gets very busy, even at its peak.  Penny and I took a quick walk out to the end of the dock and grabbed a picture.  She had mixed feelings about the floating surface she was walking on, but eventually decided not to care and got in some good sniffs.

Penny and I decided to take the road back to camp rather than fight through another patch of spider webs.  Fortunately, the camper broke down without incident.  When we had gotten in the night before the camp host was off duty for the day, so we had to pay on our way out in the morning.  He asked what our plans were for the day and I mentioned we would be stopping in St Louis on our way to Des Moines.   He tried to convince me with all his heart to skip St. Louis, claiming anything not bolted down would be stolen, including my car, my camper, and worst of all, my dog.  He also mentioned the high number of murders in the city since the beginning of the year.  I suspect this guy hasn’t been in any sort of city in quite some time.  I chose not to mention to him the two shootings that recently happened near my house just hours apart.  Not to suggest that’s a regular occurrence, but I certainly wasn’t going to let some crime prevent me from seeing the city.

We pulled into St Louis and probably spent 25 minutes driving around looking for somewhere to park. First, scoping out spots to park for free.  Eventually we gave up and tried to park in a few paid lots, however none of them had spots suitable for my car with the camper.  The section of the city we were visiting had lots of old, original cobblestone streets.  As you can imagine, these tight and bumpy roads aren’t ideal to be pulling a trailer down.  Eventually I gave up and parked in an area marked for buses only.  I closed up and hoped I wouldn’t get a ticket.

Joe & Penny under Gateway ArchAfter climbing the steps facing the river you reach the top and see a huge lawn, one we’d later discover was pretty swampy from all recent rain.  With the sun overhead, there is a large shadowed path cut through the grass, moving as the sun shifts throughout the day.  It would be a great place for a picnic, if it wasn’t like walking across a recently used sponge.

Once we were done strolling around the park, it was time to get some lunch.  Joe had recommended a Hot Salami Sandwich from Gioia’s Deli, which won the prestigious James Beard award.  I strolled up at lunch time and anchored Penny to a bike rack, thinking it would be a quick trip in and out.  Once I stuck my head inside I realized how foolish that was.  The line wrapped to the back of the store and did a u-turn, before reaching all the way around to the same counter you were waiting to get to.  I dropped Penny off to relax in the cool air of the car before I waited my turn for the legendary sandwich.  I respect Joe’s taste in food and drink, so my expectations for the sandwich are pretty high at this point.  When I got to the counter I requested a Hot Salami Sandwich, served however is traditional.  That turned out to be on white bread, not toasted, with pepper jack cheese.  The salami stays hot from the time its made, to the time its served, and is still warm when you bite into it.  I’ll be honest, I thought it was just okay.  Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

I’d finished stuffing my face with what turned out to be a deceptively large sandwich, and it was time to make our way towards Des Moines.  So far throughout the drive there’s only been one state who sticks out to me as having particularly bad roads – and it was Iowa.  The road had these seems in it at just the right distance that it would bounce the trailer around an intense amount if you weren’t going just the right speed, which wasn’t always legal.  The bouncing of the trailer could be felt in the car and it was so obnoxious and persistent that I was eventually nauseated.  The good news is, just as it was getting to be really irritating, I made it to the Whole Foods to pick up my Amazon packages.  Or so I had thought.  I had accidentally entered in an address in Des Moines, rather than West Des Moines.  20 minutes later we made it to the right location and I was able to grab my packages from the Amazon locker.  Finally, I had my CB Radio!  I plugged it in, confirmed it lit up, and turned it back off.  I’d make my radio debut to test it later.

Penny and I made a quick stop at Walmart to pick up some groceries and then made our way to Cherry Glen Campground at Saylorville State Park, just north of Des Moines.  Once again, the sun was nearly down when we arrived, so seeing the spot was a bit difficult, but there were fewer obstacles like trees over hanging the pad, so I took a pass at backing into the spot.  Of course, there was an older guy sitting outside his camper at the next site over, watching me take multiple attempts at getting it into the space properly aligned.  Eventually I made it in the spot, and of course right as I shut the car off, that seemed to be when he was ready to head in his camper.  Either he didn’t want to talk to me (which was fine, the feeling was mutual), or he had been ready to head to bed but then stuck around for the free entertainment of me backing into the site.  If it was the latter, I can’t blame the guy.  In college, my friends and I used to sit at the Dunlawton Boat Ramp in Daytona Beach on windy days and watch people screw up backing their trailers into the water and then trying to trailer their boats.  Having grown up with a boat in the family, I used to be a pro at backing up with a trailer, but given the ~8 year gap since I’ve driver with a trailer, I’m a bit rusty.

Once I got the site set up, I was completely drenched.  The humidity was still crazy high.  I figured I’d relax by a campfire, so I tried building one real quick.  Typically I can set up a fire and get it burning pretty quickly.  This time I did not have that same experience.  For starters, the wood I picked up at the gas station on the way into the park was damp.  Not from sitting in water, but just from absorbing the humidity in the air.  Of course I hadn’t noticed that until I was starting the fire.  I also forgot to bring my homemade fire starters (toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer lint), and kindling from the ground was useless given how wet it was.  It also seemed like the camp host recently put out a fire in the fire ring and emptied the coals after soaking them.  The inside of the fire pit was actually more wet than most of the surrounding ground.  After sitting in a smoke cloud created by the wet wood for a while, I finally had half decent fire burning.  It lasted for about 90 minutes while I wrote a blog post, and then burned itself out. I didn’t fight too hard to keep it alive, given that it was getting pretty late.  I wrapped up my blog post and climbed into bed with Pig Pen.  We were wiped after covering nearly 450 miles that day.



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