Pre-Christmas Trip Day 1

Repurposed for the holidays, this “turkey” basket was a gift from my sister and was filled with cookies. Now it has pine cones from a camping trip (covered with pine scented oil)

Hello and welcome to the blog. It’s been a busy week getting ready for Christmas. The weather has again been quite warm so one more camping trip seemed like a good plan.  I’m also feeling a lot better.  The new baby aspirin regimen seemed to help with the left arm going numb.  I did forgo the planned Christmas buffet with Santa, opting to eat a little healthier and leave the heavy food for Mr. Claus.

This is the Christmas card going out to friends and family… Most of these are pics from the blog.

Wednesday is the last day of the autumn season.  Though it seemed like the previous trip would be the last one of the fall, we’re experiencing unseasonably warm weather that was not predicted a few weeks ago… Other than a cold burst around Christmas, it’s looking warm through New Year’s Eve.

Despite the somewhat nondescript building the toy muesum is a real treasure!

The first stop was the National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville, Iowa.  (also the town where the “Field of Dreams” baseball diamond is located.)  Dyersville, located west of Dubuque on Highway 20, is the home to three of the larger farm toy manufacturers:  Ertl, SpecCast and Scale Models.  Farm toy (basically a toy of anything related to farming) collecting is a hobby enjoyed all over the world.  Manufacturers create all kinds of replicas of such famous brands as John Deere, Massey Ferguson, Case IH, Mahindra, Oliver and so forth.  There are thousands of such toys displayed in the many collections that this facility has to offer.  One will find plenty of learning opportunities, whether for adult or child.

A toy model of a 1920s style farm. The wheels on the tracter are made of metal rather than rubber. There are no electric wires or poles.


80s style farm


Early 1900s New Holland motor. The cooling water is stored in the tapered tank. In other brands, cold weather would freeze the water jacket and things was break due to expansion. Not the case with this motor!


This beautiful, hand made replica is nearly all made of wooden parts.


I spent quite a bit of time looking over all the toys and exhibits.  The museum was fascinating and well worth the $7 entrance fee.

The little toaster oven will cook an 8×8 metal pan of food. Talk about handy!

From there the next stop was at Pike’s Peak campground near MacGregor.  At this time of the year it only costs $11 for an electrical site.  I took full advantage of 20 amp service, running the space heater inside while the food was baking away.

Supper had a Mexican theme.  Instead of “Merry Christmas” it must have been “Feliz Navidad”.  The red enchiladas were made with crab and shrimp… a favorite that friend Beto taught me how to make when I was a dishwasher in a Mexican restaurant in Iowa City.  The middle enchilada was made with a gift – two fresh pheasants that a friend had recently shot.  I cooked them with green chile peppers and made a cream & cream of chicken sauce… along with a bit of habanero pepper cheese to add a little heat.

A peaceful night’s sleep.

The beans are a favorite.  They are a package mix flavored with chorizo sausage.  It’s sort of like the “Potato Buds” of refried beans.  I also used Zatarain’s mexican rice, the only mix I could find where you add tomato to it – most like the real Spanish rice.  I also added a ton of green onion and fresh garlic.

After the tasty meal it was time to relax.  From the laptop I watched an old movie dating back to 1978, the comedy “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and laughed the evening away.  If a person has never seen this classic with Barbara Eden, I’d recommend it.  It made for a fun time!

At the moment it is Tuesday afternoon and that’s all for this post.  I’m in Decorah right now and plan to visit several light shows on the way home.  It was a fun morning with some more good food and a “Bow-rito” for a canine friend.  Sadly, five lovely fish gave their lives today, too.   🙂  That will be on the next post.  For now it’s off to do a little shopping in this beautiful town.

Thanks for riding along!  Take care and have a safe Christmas holiday!

Brad (and Jenny at home)
Winneshiek 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 Pre-Christmas Trip Day 1

  1. my_vantasy says:

    Love the dioramas at the museum. We have a local museum with dioramas that go from pioneer times into modern cities. The details are incredible and you could spend hours just noticing every little thing. I had to smile and roll my eyes –I saw “Harper Valley PTA” at the cinema in 1978! Glad to know it is still funny after all of these years. And as always, your dinner looks muy delicioso!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! I’m surprised about having not seen that movie till now. It was cheesy and funny in that 70s way. Just what the doctor ordered. That museum also had a number of dioramas depicting various methods and tools for corn picking from manual methods to modern. I could have spent a day there… Fun stuff! I just got back from the trip minutes ago and ended up eating cold leftover enchiladas on the way back… They still taste good cold, surprisingly. Thanks for the note and take care!

  2. Jo says:

    I love museum’s too and this one looks like fun.

    I was drooling over your plate of food. I notice you don’t cook in the van, which may be a good thing. But to get electric so cheap and it isn’t very cold why not set up at the picnic table.

    Our weather seems to have swapped areas it is so cold here and is going to get even colder. Sure happy I have heat now.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo. When it does get colder, I’ll likely do something in the van – perhaps homemade soup in the crockpot. I’d thought about cooking in the van but the temp was okay last night so I did it on the picnic table. Since the table and power pedestal were close, I dragged the table right up to the outlets. That made it easier and didn’t make a mess inside the van. But I’ve cooked with a gas grill inside the van before… I worry about doing that though, for fear of fire.

      Great to hear you have heat. I stopped by the trailer and cranked up the heat a bit ago. At night I now use the van’s old space heater and get the bedroom toasty; it helps with the arthritis. It also attracts Jenny who loaves being toasty.

      I’ve eaten twice on those enchiladas and still have some for tomorrow. It is so fun cooking fancy stuff camping. But once it gets colder outside it’s back to the microwave or crockpot… maybe George Foreman and grill something.

      Take care!

  3. Pam in Louisiana says:

    That is a really nice card you will be giving out for Christmas. That green John Deere made out from wood is so nice, so much work putting that together. If you ever get a chance I would love to know the basics of how you made the crab and shrimp enchiladas. Your turkey Christmas basket is the perfect decoration for your van.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Pam! Thanks for the kind words. The crab and shrimp enchiladas are really easy to make. I always “wing it” but it goes something like this…

      8 oz package of flaked imitation crab, chopped
      1 package of frozen cooked medium shrimp, thawed
      1 bunch of green onions chopped (white parts for filling, green for the top)
      1 large can of enchilada sauce (red)
      sour cream and green onion tops to garnish
      1 package of flour or corn tortillas.
      2T butter
      8 ounce package of shredded mild cheddar cheese

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

      Cook the onion in the butter until softened. Add shrimp and crab, and 2T enchilada sauce, cooking over low heat until just warmed up.

      Pour a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce into the pan to keep food from sticking. Add some filling to each tortilla along with a sprinkle of cheese. Roll up with ends open and place in pan. Pour the rest of the sauce over and top with cheddar cheese.

      Bake about 20 minutes or until warmed through and the cheese is just starting to turn brown.