Seasons And Other Things are Changing

Jesse and Jennifer_a

Two pretty happy pals.

Hello friends and welcome to the blog today!  Fall officially starts at 12:38 PM tomorrow (Monday).  The summer has sure flown by!  There’s been a lot going on lately and changes are coming in more than just the weather.

You might have noticed the 50th birthday countdown clock on the upper right hand corner of the screen.  It seems to be ticking by all too quickly.  Like Pastor Jackson, my neighbor, saild the other day, “Just remember that for Christians these days are the toughest we’ll ever see.”  That’s a comforting thought in light of some of the crazy news any more.  Oops, I digressed.  (as is so often the case…)

Later in November, Sis and I are going to a destination for a birthday celebration.  She asked where I would like to go and [predictably] the response was “Decorah”… Some things just never change.  Some never should!   😀  There will be some fun posts in November…

I love shrimp

She loves eating Jesse’s cooked shrimp… and almost everything but her kittenn food!

Our new buddy Jennifer had some changes this week but is doing great!  I took her into the Iowa Human Alliance on Friday.  The I.H.A. runs a high volume spay and neuter clinic (16,300+ surgeries since January 2013) for cats, dogs, and rabbits.  Licensed vets use the latest techniques such as a “flank spay” (two small incisions in the side used for removing her female parts) to minimize impact to the animals and keep the prices very low. The bill for a licensed vet to check Jennifer over, spay her, give two shots, a flea treatment, and “paw-dicure” (trim nails) was just $70 vs. much more ($200+) at a regular veterinarian’s office.  She’s recovered from the surgery very well and is eating like a horse.  Please check out the website for the Iowa Human Alliance.  They do a wonderful job.  The volunteers are awesome people and, of course, are pet lovers.

Obamacare2Jen-Jen gets great medical care despite our living on a shoestring budget.  My own medical coverage was just restored (thankfully).  With the new Obama Care plan (which changed Iowa’s Medicaid), the income limits were dramatically reduced and I lost health coverage – devastating news for a diabetic.  As much as I love the new job at Walmart, it was neccessary to cut from 40 hours a week down to just 24 hours per week of working to get coverage reinstated.  Buying insurance on the exchange was cost prohibitive and would have more than eaten up the other 16 hours per week of additional working.  That’s pretty tough because I love the Walmart job and would enjoy putting in MORE hours and making a better living.

Sometimes it was easier just living in the van.

Corned Beef and Brussels Sprouts

Sometimes there’s nothing like a homecooked meal!  Corned beef and cabbage in the van…

But not all is bad news.  Afterr having lived in a van in the country yards away from 100 crapping bulls, tightening the belt is not too diffficult.  There are resources available such as utility assistance programs out there – I used one last year. Several great food pantries exist in the area.  I’ve recently been “shaking the bushes” asking hunting friends if they know of any venison sources such as locker plants, etc. that help the needy.  Walmart is also a treasure hunter’s paradise for markdowns; it’s been possible to freeze lots of salmon for future meals.  I’ve even got a few trout tucked away, too.  Nobody in this household is going hungry… despite the desperate meowing at 4:16 AM.   😀

Fuel SaverThe van camping has been reduced a little due to the impact to the gasoline budget.  One thing that helps is the HyVee Fuel Saver program.  Buddy Johnnie and my sister have been great about adding credits to this account.  When shopping at HyVee the other day, I bought 50 cans of Friskie’s cat food for Jesse.  That added a discount of 50 cents / gallon (maximum 20 gallons), knocking down the fuel price of a 20 gallon fill-up by 10 bucks!  If anyone has a friend in the midwest who shops at the HyVee grocery store and would be so kind as to put a few credits (which don’t cost anything!) on my account, I’ll email you my phone number,  It’s free money that really assists with the camping trips.  Thanks!

Teriyaki Salmon 4 at Goeken Park

This might be the meal featured in the first video… and some cool scenery, too! Leaf pictures, maybe?

Cooking videos coming soon!  This will be a fun change… In addition to adding more drone vidoes this fall, I plan to start making some cooking videos which will also have some scenery shots edited in.  Food is often discussed on the blog though not always what one would think of as camping food.  Would you believe in 40 years of fishing and hundreds of nights of camping, I’ve never made a “S’more” ?  (and probably never will).   Hopefully the first cooking video will be made while camping at the beginning of October during the fall leaf trip.

That’s about it for now.  Life’s never going to get easier and change never stops changing.  The old saying about lemons and lemonade is getting tired though.  I tell folks “When life throws tomatoes at you, pick ’em up and make some tomato soup.”  (Add in heavy cream and fresh basil by the way – it’s amazing!)

Take care and very happy and safe travels!

Brad, Jesse James, and Jennifer (“Jen-Jen”)
Jones County, Iowa

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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6 Responses to Seasons And Other Things are Changing

  1. shadowmoss says:

    Love your attitude, and your recipe for creamy tomato soup! Working out insurance is almost a full time job itself, and one that keeps a lot of us in our jobs longer just to keep the status quo rather than sort through the other options (or lack of ).

    Love the new addition to the family as well.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks for the comment. The insurance thing is so messed up. If a person made a modest income you had a chance… It’s been taken away so there is little incentive to work very hard. Thankfully, living a minimal lifestyle for the last few years has made it possible to do a lot with very little. I feel bad for struggling families.

      Thanks for the kind words about Jennifer. I’m out of town today and miss her! Jesse will take care of her but there’s no kitty here… They’re good company. 🙂 She loves playing outside and I’m sure will be a good camping pal.

  2. Jo says:

    I won’t even go into the insurance mess. So I will just say you are doing a great job making things work for you and your little fur babies. Jen-Jen blends in so well next to Jesse I almost didn’t see her there.

    Gas here has gone back down but still not as low as it was a few months back. Hope you can pick up a few more folks to donate to your gas. We don’t have those places here.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo. Jen-Jen is sitting on the left shoulder right now. She’s recovering well after the surgery… and bites fingers to make me stop using the computer and spend more time with her. I was going camping nearby tonight but ended up cooking a good meal (it’s on a video now) and then came home… I figured that the $14 camping fee could be saved and used on the next trip for gas. In a way, it’s fun to see how money can saved by eating cheap and camping free. The last few years have helped in that regard. 🙂

  3. my_vantasy says:

    I’m in the same boat as you are regarding Health Care. I reduced my work hours to keep my Ohio Medicaid. Also like you, I very rarely eat traditional camping foods when out. Of course we made plenty of s’mores when my children were little, but now I prefer something different. Glad Jennifer is up and moving around. She and Jesse are adorable together …and that’s a big compliment coming from a staunch dog person like me! Ha ha.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi and thanks for the kind words. I’m kind of the same way – more of a cat person rather than dogs – but love playing with cute neighbor dogs. Jennifer and Jesse are getting along better than I had expected. The Christmas afghan is on the couch and the two kitties spend a lot of their time cuddled up together – best of pals. I’m really looking forward to taking Jen-Jen camping some day.

      Thanks for sharing about Ohio Medicaid. It’s tough wanting to work but having to make these adjustments. Those of us who have lived with minimal possessions can survive. I don’t know how the young kids do it (most are less frugal). Take care! — VT