Re Re’s River Camping Trip

1_Ree Ree Picnic Table

Even cats like camping!

It’s been a bumpy week.  I worked at the gas station throughout the Labor Day weekend and had forgotten about how difficult some of the “out of towner” type customers can be.  The light at the end of the tunnel was being able to take a short little excursion to the Iowa City area.  But then something scary happened.

On Labor Day, Dad had a TIA – a mini stroke – and had  be taken to the hospital emergency room at 4:30 PM.  I was unable to leave work until 5:30.  That happens when you are working alone.  The nursing home and hospital staff had him well taken care of until I was able to get there.  Thankfully, the stroke symptoms reversed and Dad is doing well.  It is kind of a scary thing but at least it is confirmation that he is in good hands and receiving the best of medical attention 24 hours per day.

After making sure everything with Dad was all right, I decided to head out of town for a day.  It’s time for a check-up and lecture from the family doctor in Iowa City.  Now that the weather broke and the temperatures are closer to 80, there was a chance to make good on a promise to take Serena (also known as “Re Re”) camping.  She seemed to want to go and kept jumping into the van as it was being prepared for the trip.

River JunctionThe destination was River Junction – a small campground along the Iowa River, about a half dozen miles south of the favorite Hills Campgound.  We got down there later in the afternoon and poked around in the grass and woods.  I was taking bug pictures and she was chewing on grass.

Though having visited and fished at this location numerous times (including when I caught sturgeon fish and ended up with a bad infection), I didn’t remember ever camping there.

With the nice weather, there was no need for air conditioning.  According to the charge controller, the Astronergy solar panel was pumping out a healthy 12+ amps of current all afternoon long, plenty of electricity for the CPAP and and other devices.

1_butterflySerena was content to poke around in the weeds as I took pictures of various things. We have an agreement.  I photograph the bugs and she tries to catch them.  Having lost most of the vision in one eye, she’s not much of a threat to anything.  Still, Serena meowed and purred through much of the afternoon and seemed to have as much fun as I did.

We were both getting hungry.  I had been working on several new recipes over the last couple of days.  Serena likes to sniff and sometimes taste what is being cooked.  In general, she does not like people food.  One whiff of the cauliflower cheese soup got a nasty review (backing up, twitching the nose, and sneezing) from her.  The potato salad was a hit and she slurped up a plate of mayonnaise and egg goo.  (I got the onions and potatoes)

6_benchAs I cooked supper, Re Re rolled in the dirt and then relaxed under this cement bench and table.  Since this area floods often, the furniture is made of concrete and is attached to the ground securely.  For those small in stature, such structures are perfect for shade and comfort.

The main course for the evening meal was Mahi Mahi and salmon fish, seared in olive oil.  The grocery store has been running little 4 ounce portions for $1.25 / a piece.  For $5 a pound, you cannot beat the value.  This was one “people food” that Serena did approve of.  She loves salmon in any form.  Then again, who doesn’t?

4_Ree Ree CounterRe Re and I enjoyed ourselves even with little to do.  Every day is unique, peaceful, and fun.  If only everyone else could see it that way.

On Tuesday morning I saw a man interviewed on a TV news show as he was packing up his camper after the Labor Day weekend.

I wrote down what he said:  “If you’re always on vacation, it isn’t special any more.”  Something about that haunted me a little.

Maybe that is true in his life, but I would rather live all seven days a week – not just a couple weekends out of the year – in a more simple existence.  Each day is special that way!

3_Sitting in the chairThe two of us were pretty tired by the time the sun went down.  We both had some fish in the belly and the energy level had crashed.  Serena had well taken over the seat (a plastic boat chair from Walmart) at the foot of the bed.  That’s okay.  It fits her little body a lot better than mine!


I sat outside until the sun had set, watching the fish make ripples in the water as they fed on passing insects.  Jet contrails lit up the sky, illuminated by the nearly invisible sun.

Insects of all kinds chirped, buzzed, and clicked.  Eventually, it became dark enough to go inside.

Tonight there was plenty of time to reflect.  God is good.  The universe is beautiful.  Nature is peaceful.  When a person is out here camping, he or she is isolated from the sins of ourselves and others.  It will always be special… no vacation required.  Living in a van has taught me that.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit.  If you are in Iowa and want to hang out some time, email me at

Take care!

Bradford and Serena – the two Van Trekking “cool cats”

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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"

2 Responses to Re Re’s River Camping Trip

  1. tinycamper says:

    So glad your dad recovered from the mini stroke, Brad.

    I love it when you take Serena with you. I’m surprised she stays around the camp and doesn’t disappear. She is a special little van trekker. 🙂

    Sounds like a very special time for you. Yes, God is good, and nature restores my soul, too.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks! Having time to camp and relax is so nourishing to the soul. It gives a person a chance to think. It’s fun to share that time with a special little cat. She has taught me a few things about priorities: explore, eat, sleep, repeat, and fear nothing. Have a good one!