Like a Rusty Tin Man

Hello and welcome to the blog!  It’s been a rough couple of days.  Yesterday I slipped and fell in the bathtub, banging my head, back and rear on various surfaces just 30 minutes before having to be at work.  Today I was moving like a rusty tin man and making grumpy noises.


A doe… a deer… a female deer! One of the many critters seen today at the Turkey River today.



It seems that many folks – including myself – have been grouchy lately… likely “cabin fever”.  In Iowa we’ve had blast after blast of cold weather with a little more snow on the way this weekend.  Though the average temperatures and hours of daylight are increasing, the latter half of winter becomes more active in terms of snowfall.  You can see it taking a toll.

Elkader Bridge and Dam

Elkader, Iowa bridge and dam (behind it). There are very few channel catfish above this dam. Why? Every year they migrate 39 miles from the Mississippi River to this area and are stopped by the dam, returning to deep river pools as the weather cools off.

There’s only one thing that really helps me with these winter blahs… NATURE.  While I often meditate at home, a warm, candle-lit room just can’t compare with the great outdoors.  The therapeutic benefits are not just from fishing in zero degree weather (that would get old very quickly), but they also come from observing, learning, and taking in all the sights and sounds… seeing new things along the way.   It’s the adult equivalent of a child’s “field trip.”

Oscar the Grouch

This morning I drove the car to the trout hatchery along the Turkey River, stopping at the bakery in Elkader to purchase a few items, including an “Oscar the Grouch” cookie.  It was exquisite…  While enjoying the frosting, one could discern vanilla, a hint of tangy lemon, and sweet, smooth, powdered sugar.  Many psychologists will suggest such a food meditation.  It really helps with anxiety.  (but not the blood sugar)

Fishing in the crisp zero degree weather was exhilerating and the fish were aggressively biting. (Jesse was happy with the catch.) After angling I took some time to look at a few tracks in the snow near the raceways – the long concrete runs where trout are raised.  Boot prints were likely from Gary and Wayne feeding the hatchery fish.  Large dog tracks were most certainly from pal Woody, the energetic mascot dog.  I observed prints that could have been from a racoon.  It was evident that a bird of prey had visited, perhaps in search of a fish dinner.  My only regret was not having taken pictures of the tracks in the snow.  Each set tells an interesting story!

Christmas Border2a

Today’s outing was fun and relaxing.  There was plenty of time to contemplate where the van remodel project is heading and the time it will take.  Much has been learned and it’s pretty exciting to see it starting to come together.  The weather will be improving next week and more modification activities are planned.

Camping Bed with Cats_Spare Bedroom

Jesse and Jen-Jen testing out the modified camping mattress in the spare bedroom.

The TV is already in its new location on the wall near the side doors and I’ve also made some wiring upgrades.

Here are some other goals for the next few weeks:

  • Remove the rest of the contents of the van.  (by 2/19)
  • Construct the new bed.  (2/20 – 2/21)  Sleep in the van with the modified mattress.  (usable for spartan camping)
  • Build a new small countertop (for desk / meals)  2/27
  • Finish the interior (March)
  • Paint as necessary (April)

Christmas Border2a

That’s about it for now.  Things will get pretty interesting over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned for more updates.

Thanks a bunch for visiting.  Happy and safe travels always!

Brad, Jesse James, and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa

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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"

4 Responses to Like a Rusty Tin Man

  1. Danny in Thomasville, GA says:

    Winter blahs. No like them. We are having a nice day here in south GA/North FL. I went to Monticello FL @ the new animal shelter, to do a little volunteering. I walked 2 dogs. Have pics on my fb, check your friend requests, i sent you one. That way you can see pics of dogs and cats pics. I don’t know how to add pics on my comment post.
    Glad the van re-model project is progressing. Maybe a rubber bathtub would be safer?

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Danny! Thanks for the note. I didn’t see the friends request. I might have accidentally deleted it. Can you please resent it to Bradford VT Harris ? Otherwise, I can try sending you one. The email address is if you need to send a message. I’d love to see the pictures of cats and dogs.

      A rubber bathtub would be nice… I added a rubber mat…The part I didn’t mention in the blog is the stringer in the bathtub leftover from cleaning fish. 😀

      Take care! We’re headed below zero once again. This coming week I hope to post some pictures of the van progress. It should be fixed up in time for some enjoyable camping. Spring can’t come soon enough. Take care!

  2. Jo says:

    OOHHH be careful in the tub. Some terrible injuries can happen.

    Can’t wait to see more pictures of your remodel.
    I want to get out for a couple days and I have a guy putting a latch on the interior of the door so I can lock it from inside. I had put something in myself but I can see it isn’t going to last.

    Stay warm

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo and thanks for the note. You’ve inspired me to put a latch in the back of the van by the rear doors… and maybe near the side doors, too. I’m really excited about the new sidewise bed. I found something at Walmart that will provide handy storage and keep things clean under the bed… and it will be a good way to store fishing clothes / shoes. I hope to have the bed in place in a little over a week.