Highway 218 Trip – New Places to See

09_Mitchell Dam Bar

Just my luck… The “Dam Bar” doesn’t open till 4 PM! Photo taken at Mitchell, Iowa

Hello, friends!  What a fun trip this has turned out to be!  There are plenty of new pictures to share.  The trip is not yet over and I’m still 100+ miles from home.  Tonight there is an 80s rock concert in Waterloo and it sounds like fun!  Hopefully, in a day or two, the concert pictures will posted.  In the meantime, here is what’s been happening on the first day of the journey.

Can you believe this?  It’s repeatable!

I will have driven over 270 miles for 07_caseys gastwenty cents worth of gas.  To the left is a picture of the fuel purchase.

A previous post mentioned the Hy Vee grocery store fuel saver card.  That’s how this was possible.

Each week I watch the advertised specials that offer the Fuel Saver discount.  This week’s bargain was irresistible.  Batteries (a package with 4 AA, 4AAA, 2C, 2D, or a 9V) were offered for $2 a pack with a 10 cent per gallon discount for each.  I bought 13 packages (knocking off $1.30 per gallon).   That put me over the top – more discounts accumulated ($3.63) than the cost of gas ($3.46)!  They have to charge you a penny to get the pump turned on.  There is still 17 cents leftover to get the ball rolling again!

The trip started on Wednesday afternoon, following a work meeting that delayed things.  The original plan was to go to Decorah, but it seemed like fun to visit some new territory.  I ended up close to Interstate 35 near the Minnesota border, northwest of Cedar Rapids.

Just getting underway, I had to make an unexpected stop in Waterloo for a quick repair.  Maple sap from Dad’s tree glued a wiper blade to the glass and then the wiper arm was ruined when power was applied.  Grrrrr… There went $68 for a part.  Thankfully, I could replace the part myself after a visit to the Chevrolet dealer.  No need to hire Mr. Goodwrench.  No problem, the van was back on the road in minutes headed to Nashua and its famous landmark.

1_churchThis is the Little Brown Church in the Vale.  The church dates back to the civil war era and is a popular destination in the area.

Please visit their website to learn of the unique history of this famous little church.  You can click above or on any of the next few pictures.

I found the building to be open to the public, though nobody was inside.  Despite not being huge, there is plenty of room for a church service, wedding, funeral, etc.  The building architecture and inside furnishings remind me of the church from “Little House On the Prairie”.

3_churchHere is a photo from inside the church.  A sign reminds people not to bring food or pets into the building.

Prayers are welcome.

The church continues to hold services and preaches the same doctrine as when it was created.   It is a Congregational Church.

Below is a statue behind the church.  The person appears to be holding a small animal, possibly a little bear cub?




From the little church, I drove north to St. Ansgar, not far from the border with Minnesota.  Turtle Creek, a stocked trout stream, flows through the Boerjan Wildlife Area northeast of town.  This creek is narrow and access by foot can be tricky near the north end.  I had a very difficult time catching just one brook trout… then realized the stream had not been stocked for a week.  I had misread the schedule!  That’s okay… Only one fish was needed to test a recipe I’ve been working on!


06_Turtle Creek
This photo was taken at the “upper end” of Turtle Creek.  In addition to an excellent parking / camping spot (100 feet from fishing), the lower end of the stream is even better.  There is secluded, stream-side parking about 400 feet from the road and shaded behind trees.  I was delighted to find that there are many such places in this area where a van camper can park for free, completely unnoticed.  Camping is perfectly legal in most of the Wildlife Management Areas.


15_Otranto Campground


Wednesday night was spent camping at the Otranto Park campground.  This quiet little campground is scenic, has modern toilets, and even a shower room.  It’s conveniently close to Highway 218 and a spot with electricity is $16.  With the high temperature being 95 degrees with a dew point of an oppressive 77 degrees, air conditioning was welcome… and necessary!

Thursday’s breakfast was trout almondine, along with some unique side dishes.  Realizing that making salads and such can be time consuming, I’ve been working on some deli-type, easy (and healthier) side dishes that you can quickly mix up and take with in the ice cooler.  The progress has been exciting!  I’m hoping to have the e-cookbook ready to share in late October.

08_Mitchell Dam

Dam over the Cedar River at Mitchell, Iowa
“Interstate Park Campground”

At the moment, it is time to hit the road and head toward Waterloo.  I’ll be passing through the beautiful town of Waverly and plan to have a Blue Moon beer at a sports bar where a friend works.  It’s called “The Fainting Goat”.  I hope their bar is open, unlike the darn Dam Bar in Mitchell.  (which is worth visiting when in the area again!)

Thanks for stopping by.  Take care and enjoy the rest of your summer.  Kind regards and safe travels.  Thank you also for the kind words and comments.

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"

3 Responses to Highway 218 Trip – New Places to See

  1. Dragonfly says:

    Can’t wait to hear about the Waterloo Rock Concert.
    I think the statue is Saint Francis Of Assisi, patron Saint of animals. Anyone else know?

    • VanTrekker says:

      I think you are correct. There is some similarity in the Internet pics. Sis mentioned him, too. BTW, I had to keep the moderation turned on till the problem with the Captha is fixed… I “lowered the shields” and the spambots attacked. I hope to get that part fixed soon. Thanks for the comment!

    • VanTrekker says:

      My sister did a little research. The statue is actually supposed to be Jesus holding a little bear cub.