Mediapolis – Best Burger in Iowa!

Best Burger in Iowa for 2013

Here it is… The Iowa Beef Industry Council’s Best Burger in Iowa for 2013.  It is served by the 61 Chop House Grille and Liquid Lounge in the small town of Mediapolis.  This sandwich lives up to its title!  More about that in a minute…

J = Johnnie’s (Muscatine), X = Mediapolis, M = Marr Park

It was difficult to get out for this quick little trip.  I’ve been working 50 plus hours per week driving railroad crews around in Ford or Chevy vans.  It’s a labor of love….  Seriously, it’s fun to jump in a van with little warning, run across the state, and find cool new eateries and convenience stores, not to mention discover new parks for potential camping!  When not “van trekking” in my own van, I’m doing it for a living!  Somebody upstairs must have a sense of humor.  There is not a shift that goes by that I don’t thank God for this job and pray for the safety of the crew that I am transporting.

After finishing a run across the state and back on Monday night, I got a call from my buddy Johnnie in Muscatine.  He’s been having a tough time lately and with his birthday coming up, it was a great opportunity to visit him.  I left Cedar Rapids on Monday evening and camped at the favorite Hills campground near Iowa City with plans to head to Muscatine on Tuesday.  Unfortunately, there might not be any Hills camping for a bit.  Check out this picture…..

This next picture was taken after a historic Iowa drought in 2012.  What a difference!  With heavy thunderstorms predicted over the Iowa River basin, upstream the dam will be opened even further, threatening the campground for the next few weeks.  The water is just a couple of feet from reaching the camping spots.  By the time this is posted, it is likely the campground has been breached by the raging waters.

Summer / Fall 2012

Once I got to Muscatine, Johnnie and I went out for lunch and had a chance to catch up.  We did some shopping and then it was time to hit the road.  It was a good visit for two best friends.

My buddy, Johnnie, at the China Buffet in Muscatine

I sure wish it was possible to spend more time in Muscatine.  Perhaps some day I may move there.  Who knows?  After taking off, I headed south from Muscatine on Highway 61.  The plan was to visit the 61 Highway Chop House Grille.  About two weeks ago I heard a radio program discussing their being awarded the “Best Burger in Iowa” title from the Beef Industry Council.  That’s reason enough to visit!

The restaurant looks pretty ordinary from the road – I nearly missed it.  It’s the sort of bar and grill type of place I would have normally driven right by!
What a cool looking bar!  Too bad iced tea was all that got ordered!

The burger lived up to its title of premium quality.  The Angus beef was beautifully flavored without having to add salt or other seasonings.  It came on a simple egg bun.  There were two thick slices of smoked bacon along with some cheese sauce.  The cheese sauce was made from a reduction of Budweiser Black Crown beer along with various cheeses.  It was a wonderful addition to the burger.  All that was missing was some grilled onions.  I am an onion junkie!

Who doesn’t like an ice cream cone on the road?

By this time the atmosphere was churning.  After finishing up at the Chop House, I was heading down the road when an alarm sounded that scared the shi* out of the driver.  It turned out to be the Midland weather radio – a tornado watch had been issued for the area.  One could tell that the weather was going to crap really fast and it was time to get set up for the night.  With the sky starting to blacken, I figured that a favorite campground in Ainsworth, Iowa would be a good place to stop. 
After stopping at Dairy Mart for a quick treat, I set up shop at the Marr Park campground in Ainsworth.  Fortunately, spot 41 was available.  It’s closest to the nature / visitor’s center.  With the booster, there is free, five bar strong wi-fi available.  A spot with electricity, water, and a shower house is $16.   I figured “Why not?” 
At the time of this posting, there was a warm front sitting over Iowa and severe thunderstorms were “training” over the area.  We had very high winds and a bit of hail along with lots of lightning.  Thankfully, the new antenna is working perfectly and the PVC mast withstood 60 plus m.p.h. winds.  I was delighted to see it grab 31 channels with little “chatter” during the high winds. 
While on this trip, I’ve been doing some research and am currently contemplating an exciting new project… building a tear drop trailer.  Plans are ordered and I’ll keep the readers posted.
Thanks for riding along.  I’m not sure what the next destination will be or when but we’ll do like always – just wait to see what comes along.  Whether or not I’m sleeping in the van at home or catnapping between runs at work, this vandweller couldn’t be happier.  Each day is like a vacation.
Have a terrific rest of the week.

Brad, the “Van Trekker”

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

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