It is Sunday, about five days after Dad passed away. The last few days have been very busy, arranging for the funeral service, handling financial details, and talking to family and friends. It’s been draining. I’d contemplated a trip somewhere but had dismissed it, unable to justify leaving when there is so much more that needs to be done.
This morning I woke up thinking about Dad. While half asleep / half daydreaming about things to do, these words just sort of entered my mind — “Take my car.” There wasn’t any real decision; it just felt like I was supposed to leave.
With no destination in mind, I headed north with the fishing tackle and bait, a Rice Krispies bar, and a jug of iced tea in search of something to take my mind off all the stuff at home. Though recently posting about the “final fall fishing trip” for the year, it seemed the rules had changed. Nothing cures the blues like a good drive and some fresh air… and a few fish.
Along the way, I spotted a bald eagle in a tree along Highway 150 near the town of Rowley, 40 miles N-NW of Cedar Rapids.
Bald eagles were made famous in recent years when a camera was placed high in a tree in Decorah, Iowa to watch a family of the birds. The Decorah Eagle Cam had received millions of hits as people all over the world tuned in. Eventually, the new baby eagles grew and departed. The nest went dormant but it is back in use once again. You can Google and look for the webcam but I did not put a link to it here. It’s the golden rule thing…
After arriving in Decorah, the first priority was to do some fishing. At this time of the year, the trout stocking is over. A person has to walk a ways to catch anything. I’m not fond of December fishing because it’s usually hit or miss.
The first fish caught was a decent size. I had just cast and was reeling in the bait in some shallow water when there came a huge surprise. Unknown to me, the water ran under the bank and this lunker was hiding in the pocket. He bit aggressively. Once I saw him, it was apparent he was a whopper.
Trout tire easily. I worked him to the bank, hooked a finger into the gills, and flung the fish to a safe distance from the water. Thank goodness the camera was in my pocket!
“Big Daddy” came in at slightly over 19 inches from mouth to tail… This was the largest trout I’ve caught in close to 40 years of fishing Iowa streams. (starting back in the days when Mom washed my mouth out with a bar of soap for using words learned from Grandpa during those fishing trips) Nobody will ever convince me that this fish wasn’t a gift from God during a very difficult period in my life when something this significant was needed.
After the fish were cleaned (I caught four in total), the temperature began to drop quickly. While driving through Decorah and seeing the sights, a sign said “Phelps Park”. I’d not explored that part of town and figured “Why not?”
Phelps Park sits high on the hillside, with a great view of the downtown area. The other part of the park overlooks the Upper Iowa River. The orange colored land you see to the right is the Decorah Community Prairie. A walking trail along the bluff follows the river. It’s a “must visit” next spring.
Near Phelps Park is the Schulze Kiln. In the late 1870s, this and several other brick kilns were in operation in the area, eventually being shut down around 1920. What you see above is a downdraft kiln. It was stoked from the sides (in 10 places) and the heat was drawn down through the floor, traveled along a tunnel, and then escaped up through an external chimney. I read that the downdraft kilns were more efficient for brick making. There remain numerous dwellings and commercial buildings made from these locally produced bricks.
The kiln and Phelps Park are just two more cool things about this amazing community. When time allows in the spring, there are more places to see and things to do. (Note – this post didn’t mention Decorah food for once… Now that’s a first!)
After the sun went down, I went to Pulpit Rock Campground on the north side of town. The grounds were configured for a Christmas LED light show with various businesses sponsoring each display. It was amazing! I took quite a few spectacular photos and will share them very soon.
Thanks for taking the time to ride along and enjoy a little Sunday drive. Take care.
Bradford, the “Van Trekker”
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