Something to Stew About


Sunrise at Bennett Campground

Hello and welcome to the blog today!  In actuality, the only thing to “stew about” was dinner.  More about that in a bit.

This weekend is one of celebration.  On Friday, I had a 90 day performance review at the farm-home-auto store.  Afterwards, a friend asked if I “did good” and I said “nope”, nothing turned out “good”.  The boss rated me as “exceeds expectations” or “outstanding” for every criteria.  I was delighted and it meant a lot.  It also means $$ when it comes time to get a raise.   🙂


West end of the Bennett Campground looking into the cornfields of Cedar County

Even before the good news, I had already planned to camp this weekend…more out of necessity than anything.  Work has been extremely intense lately – we have inventory coming up soon – and it’s going to be busy the next couple of weeks.  Camping seemed like a good stress reliever.

I decided to visit buddy Johnnie in Muscatine and to do a little more camping at Bennett along the way.  The drone picture above was taken under 20+ mile per hour winds, strong enough to overpower the tiny craft.  One can burn out a motor or crash land in a tree!  The picture was worth the risk.

3_Stew 3

Dinner was delicious.  I’d recently been lamenting about having somewhat mundane meals.  Then I realized it’s stinkin’ cold out (lows of 15 degrees or so).  Who wants to go outside and grill anything elaborate during weather like this?  The body has been craving simple, warm, filling food.  This beef stew was made in a crockpot (powered by the inverter).

I was reading about the difference between a pot roast and beef stew.  A pot roast is a whole chunk of meat cooked in a small amount of juice in a covered pot.  Stew consists of multiple small chunks of meat and veggies simmered in a covered pot with much more gravy.

Between the two very different dishes, I prefer the depth of flavors in stew.  Friday’s dish used 1.5 lbs of stew meat (browned at home), some garlic,  a coarsely chopped onion, a bag of petite carrots, and a can of beef broth.  The potatoes were just the large cube (about 1/2 inch) type hash browns that you find in the refrigerated section at the store.

Once the food was assembled, a timer in the van turned on the slow cooker at 10:00 AM and the stew cooked all day on “low”.   Upon arriving, a packet of beef gravy mix was added to the juices to thicken it all up.  After working hard all day yesterday, the beef stew really hit the spot.


New solar cross on top of the van. It slips into place after parking. If you look closely, you can see the stars in the background.

It was during the meal (eaten in the green chair) that I decided to modify the van a little.  For the last couple of years, the air conditioner mounted in the bulkhead doorway has not been used and is no longer needed.  During the next couple of weeks, I intend to pull out the A/C.  The bulkhead door will be replaced.  The new door will still be a split type.  The bottom door will hinge on the left and have a “cat door” opening cut into the bottom of it for Jenny.  I might even mount a little rack on the lower door for plastic forks and napkins.  The top half of the door will unlatch near the ceiling and tilt downward, making a fold-down a table top for eating, computing, etc. while seated in the van’s easy chair.


After getting started this morning, I visited the Tipton Bakery in Tipton, Iowa (10 miles to the west of the campground).  You can’t beat a small town bakery with stuff like this.  Buddy Johnnie was pretty happy with an assortment of goodies.  I had one of the exquisite cream puffs.

Tipton Bakery 3


Tipton Bakery 2

Cream puffs with Bavarian style filling… One has enough sugar for a day.    🙂

Tipton Bakery 1

More food porn… So many choices.

Johnnie and I spent the day together hitting the thrift stores, having lunch, and just enjoying a little time away from both of our jobs.  Faced with the option of camping one more night, I decided to return home tonight and save the camping fees.  Fishing?  Not this time… It will be something to look forward to in the spring!

That’s about it for now.  Have a great rest of the weekend and thanks for stopping by!  Safe and happy travels always!

Brad 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"

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