Christmas Camping


Santa and Brad at the Christmas Celebration in Muscatine.

Hello and thanks for stopping by.  I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!  In between busy work shifts, the farm store had the day off.  I spent Christmas with buddy Johnnie in Muscatine.  His roommate was gone and Johnnie had nobody to hang out with.  It was a good decision to visit.


Immediately after work, I headed out for Christmas eve camping at a familiar place – Fairport, just upstream from Muscatine, Iowa.  It’s a favorite location.  Surprisingly, this time I was not alone.  There were three different camping units there.  One was a small camping trailer that had plywood placed all the way around the bottom to block cold winds and snow.  From the looks of things, the person was planning to stay a while!

After the lights were put up on the van, it was time to settle down for a warm and tasty meal.


Bambi Casserole


The casserole (aka “hot dish” for those from up north) was cooked in the crockpot in the background.  It consisted of 1 lb of ground venison, tater tots, cream of mushroom soup, some stale french dried onions, mushrooms, frozen peas and carrots, and Velveeta shreds.  The meat was browned on the stove at home and the dish assembled the night before.  On Saturday (Christmas eve) morning, I stopped by home on the lunch break and turned on the slow cooker in the van (which was plugged into the house).  The casserole cooked all afternoon and finished during the 60+ mile drive to the overnight destination.  It was amazing – easily one of the most comforting foods possible.  🙂


Johnnie with his “Golden Girls” T-shirt, a gift from last Christmas. He will flip when a new one arrives in a few weeks….

In the morning I picked up Johnnie and we went to the free holiday meal at the Muscatine YMCA.  The food was good last year but even better this time.  We also got seconds which were greatly appreciated!  Though there were a few restaurants where one could dine on Christmas, a restaurant would not have had the caring that we experienced at the YMCA.  It was warming to the heart as well as the belly!


Tasty stuff… The potatoes were the star – they were fresh, not from a box.


After the meal, everyone got to choose a bag of random Christmas cookies to take home!

After a big meal and falling asleep sitting upright on Johnnie’s couch (I was out for the count), we headed south to the cities of Columbus Junction and Conesville to see some lights and visit Johnnie’s old stomping grounds.


The 262 foot long “swinging bridge” in Columbus Junction was lit up for the holidays.  By now the weather had turned bad with 30 mile per hour winds, rain, and the temperatures were dropping.  We had encountered wet/ icy spots with the van.  Nonetheless, I decided to traverse the footbridge despite the cold / wind / rain / darkness.  Johnnie was afraid to attempt it.  Okay, so in the middle when the slippery bridge really started to sway, I wondered if it was a good decision!  But it added a little excitement – what the heck!


Quite a collection of inflatables near Columbus Junction, Iowa

From there we saw plenty of Christmas lights and enjoyed a fun drive.  It was a relaxing and pleasant Christmas… and it was good to have a close friend to spend it with.

A word about Jesse…

Last week had gone by very quickly following the death of my beloved camping tomcat.  I miss the little guy and when at the store – or even the YMCA dinner – I forget and think about things to take home for a treat.  But Jesse is so much better off and right up to the end he was loving and gentle.  Jenny was mourning for a few days but she is doing much better too.  She’s stepping up to take over as the bossy matriarch of this homebase… and nagging me to no end.  🙂

Thanks for visiting today!  Safe and happy travels!

Brad and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa


When I go to work or come home, Jenny is right by the front door with a “nose kiss”… This little girl is my princess!

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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"

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