Apples, Turtles, Alligator, and Trout

Traveling North 2

Hello friends.  The message you see pictured above was from a fortune cookie that was part of the evening meal on Monday the 7th of October.  How could one not heed its advice and travel north?  This fortune came at a perfect time.  People have been quitting at work (making more work for all of us), the body was crashing (that darn ankle) and I was getting crabby.  Something had to give and I really wanted to quit… but in the long term, quitting only hurts the quitter.  It was time for a healthy attitude adjustment.

Heading north for a trip was a certainty.  The question was whether go to Decorah, Iowa or try finding some new places.  I opted to cross the Mississippi River and do a little exploring in Wisconsin.  It was a blast!

I left right after work, opting to drive in the dark for a couple of hours until reaching Buck Creek in Clayton County – right in the heart of “hill country”.  After going to bed at 3:00 AM, it was only a four hour nap before the sun reminded me to go kill some fish.  This year’s flooding had opened up a new hole and I was able to access a place that was too difficult to get to last year.  The hole was loaded with aggressive, hungry fish.  It was worth the long walk!  It did not take long to catch the limit of fish.



The next stop was across the Mississippi River in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin.  Talk about a find!  I’d seen the highly visible “Valley Fish Market” before and vowed to stop there some time.  Now it will be a favorite destination!  This place is amazing.  They have all kinds of tasty smoked seafood (I love the Hickory Smoked Perch), as well as specialty items such as turtle meat and alligator jerky.


Click me for Brad’s Turtle Soup recipe!

9_HookmanOut in front sits the old codger called “Hook Man”.  He’s a pretty friendly guy though a bit quiet.  The hook is on the right arm (which you cannot see in this picture).

One of the purchases was their own “Turtle Soup” which I saved for dinner.   A late breakfast included some Valley’s delicious alligator jerky.  It was very tender and flavorful.

Just a side note… Later in the afternoon I micro-zapped the soup, dipping a few chunks of semi-stale bread into it.  Oh, I how wanted to make some turtle soup in Iowa!  Later in the day, I returned and bought a package of turtle meat to take back.  I put together a decent recipe.  Click the turtle cartoon or click here to see how to make a tasty turtle soup.


4_Mount SterlingThe next stop was at Mount Sterling in southwest Wisconsin.  They have a well known cheese factory there called the Mount Sterling Cooperative Creamery.  I bought a couple of small blocks of Sartori Parmesan cheese which is wonderful for snacking or grating.  Its sharp, salty flavor will be great …. grated on pasta and/ or garlic bread.  The salty cheese may not last too long!

To co-op makes a fantastic sharp white cheddar cheese from goat’s milk.  Those of us who love goat cheese will likely drool thinking about an “extra sharp” product made from an already flavorful milk.  I’m debating about what to do with it – melt it on a sandwich or perhaps mix some in with macaroni.  One thing is certain, Wisconsin is renowned for some of the best cheese and apples anywhere and they live up to it.

6_Making More Cheese

Hard at work making more milk!

The next few stops took me to various apple orchards.  Western Wisconsin has plenty of places to find good apples and cheese – and that was all that was eaten for lunch.  I stopped at West Ridge Orchard and bought Dad some donuts made with apple cider.  They are popular – and for good reason.


Undecided about what kind of apples to buy, the plan was to check out one more orchard on the way back.


A collection of gourds at one of the apple orchards

Shihata Orchard near (Gays Mills) had very nice quality apples.  I chose a peck of the “Empire” apples – a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious.  These apples are a wee bit tart but work great for snacking and cooking.  The hope is to form a new habit of “an apple a day” and jump start the effort to get the weight back down a little.


8_MarquetteAfter returning from apple country, I stopped and got some more turtle meat.  Today’s project will be to make a pot of turtle soup to enjoy at work.

I camped discreetly last night free of charge and now was able to bring back a second day’s limit.  These are larger fish.  Not too much will be spent on groceries and the cats will be pretty content, too, with trout on the menu the next few days!

5_Indian CornThis was a very brief but enjoyable trip. Being held to a tight work schedule, particularly for a vandweller, is practically toxic.  Getting away from the city is both desirable and necessary.  My “support network” is the wind whispering through the trees, a gurgling trout stream, and the rustling of the leaves.  There is not a pill made that can bring the relaxation that being outdoors can.  The fortune cookie was right.  Traveling north did bring much happiness.

Thanks for following along on this journey.  Thank also for the kind comments and for checking out the links embedded in these posts.  God is still great, most people are still good, and reminding ourselves of that makes living a whole lot more fun.

It’s hard to say where or when the next adventure will take place.  Recently a restaurant in SE Iowa won an award for the best pork tenderloin sandwich….  hmmm….

Bradford, the “Van Trekker”




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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7 Responses to Apples, Turtles, Alligator, and Trout

  1. tinycamper says:

    Brad, I am so glad you were able to get away, and delighted that you took us along with you. Just reading about it calmed and renewed me.

    If I lived closer, I would impose on you to teach me how to fish. All I have ever caught were panfish on a baited hook.

    • VanTrekker says:

      It’s a deal. If you ever get up this way, we’ll get some trout. 🙂 While I was fishing, I got to talking to a man and his son. The boy was using the same kind of bait and hooks that have been serving me well for 20 years. That’s going to give him a lifetime of fun!

      Thanks for the kind words. Being able to camp is really a blessing. Fall camping is some of the best!

  2. Pleinguy says:

    Sounds like you had a fun and fruitful get away. Glad you were able to relax for awhile. Take care.

  3. Jerry says:

    Hi Brad
    I love those comments you always make between love & hate of your work. Glad your finding all these good fishing holes for you & the cat. I noticed since you switched your page views are skyrocketing, you must have found the hidden eggs of the golden goose. I’m about 85% done, will try to get trailer out to the beach this weekend & see what the lookie Lou’s think about my crazy project.


    P.S. for some reason now its also impossible to post comments from my iPad, only my main computer works, something is wrong with your posting script ?

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jerry and thanks for the note. As time allows, I will do some reading and see if I can figure out what is causing the posting problem. Thanks for reading! It’s a matter of time till the blog hits the right people and then the thing just explodes! 🙂

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