Trip Between Projects

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** background on my little travel buddy **


Jenny exploring “Sand Mountain”

Greetings!  We are finally into spring-like weather.  Jenny has discovered a large pile of sand/rocks used for snow removal.  It’s right behind our yard.  She loves climbing “sand mountain”.  With the warm weather Jenny’s been wanting to go outside constantly… but it must be done on a leash for her safety.

Monday afternoon we were going to take a jaunt together.  But first, there was much to do.


Old ladder racks were rusty and crusty.

Covering a multitude of cancerous rust.

I’ve been working on some home projects including touching up the ladder racks (used for the solar panel support) on the van.  Being steel, they tend to rust.  Next year the racks will get a more thorough job of wire brushing and repainting but for the time being, a $4 can of Rustoleum 2X paint did a nice job.

The squadron at work on the trailer


The plan this week was to camp on Monday but that was not meant to be.  There were a lot of projects that HACAP (Hawkeye Area Community Action Program) wanted to complete to enhance the energy efficiency and safety of my trailer house.  A squadron of people descended and accomplished various tasks including installing new bathroom vent fans, a new range hood, radon barrier under the trailer, a new carbon monoxide detector, furnace duct repair and a new front door!  Much of the time Jenny was day camping in the van outside. She was stressed out by all the voices and power tools.


New range vent hood. If it would just clean the dirty wall below it… oops!


On Monday afternoon the work was completed for the day.  I took off in the van and headed for the town of Maquoketa to have a cookout (33 miles east).  Originally, the cat was going to ride along but the weather turned warm, about 84, and it was a little too uncomfortable.  I even felt strange as the body adapted from a late winter to June-like temps in just a few days.  She will get to go along on the next trip.

A nice find at the Goodwill.

One of the destinations in Maquoketa was the Goodwill.  They have everything!  Well, almost.  I’d been looking for a tiny crock pot.  Recently mine fell over in the van and was badly damaged; it needs replaced.  But I did find this toaster oven that was in very clean shape.  It was just $8 and has already been used a few times the last couple of days.  The same model is about $35 – $40 online.


Eden Valley Park near Baldwin, Iowa… in Jackson County, Iowa.

I wasn’t sure about camping and really didn’t feel the greatest that day due to exhaustion and unseasonable weather.  The rule is if a person doesn’t feel right, don’t camp.  Instead, I opted to do a nice cookout and save the camping for next week.

For Easter, Sis had gifted four wet-aged (sealed and aged in their own juices) steaks from Allen Brothers steakhouse in Chicago.  These premium rib eyes run about $149 for 3 pounds.  They are “select” grade – among the top 2% of beef.  I had wanted to build a fire to cook the steak but due to very low humidity and high winds, it was a wise idea not to risk it.  Many counties are under a burn ban right now.  The Coleman gas grill came in handy but due to 25+ mph winds, the flame kept going out; a tent of aluminum foil kept the fire alive.

The steak was exquisite – tender and juicy.  I usually buy “choice” meat so “select” was amazing.  The veggie was broccoli cooked in a foil packet with some water, later adding cheese.  The hash browns were about a 60/40 mix of potatoes with white onions.  They hit the spot.  The chicken drumsticks were soaked in a teriyaki marinade and it’s all but guaranteed they will be cooked again on an outing.  After downing a good meal, I checked out some new places to fish later this summer.  But it was best to go home after that and get some good sleep.

The construction chaos is over for now.  The contractors are nearly finished.  One is coming tomorrow to install smart switches for the bathroom fans.  Seriously?  I figured if the bathroom stinks or you see water vapor, then it is time to run the fan.  Apparently the energy star gurus think they can better make the decision on how long the vent fans run… something about them detecting moisture levels.  Oh well, all the work performed on the home base has been free.  I’m happy about that!  I’ll get used to the auto-off vent fan.  :-/

The work schedule has been unpredictable from week to week as we settle into training a new crew and adapting to a new manager.  The “old guy” basically gets the hours the young people don’t want (like they show up anyway!).  No biggie.  I tell the boss, “I’m like the graveyard.  I’ll take anything.”  But management has been sympathetic to the desire to fish and camping and it’s still possible get some time away.  The plan is to visit a friend soon.  We have a bone to pick together – specifically a pork femur bone – and a little fishing sounds like fun.

Take care and thanks for visiting.  Safe and happy camping!

Brad and Jenny
Jones County

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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 Trip Between Projects

  1. Jo says:

    Sure is nice to get all that work done for free, we do have something like that here too and I really should sign up for it.
    That toaster over is a really great find. The tray is like brand new, I cover mine with foil every use and it looks awful I use my toaster almost every day and I know I will be needing a new one soon.

    That steak looks fabulous

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! Toaster ovens are so cool and save some energy. I’ve now got a bunch of frozen biscuits in the deep freeze so it’s nice to pop one out and bake it in the morning. Great stuff! I’ve used the oven and it’s already getting dirty. That’s a terrific idea about covering the tray. Otherwise it takes the strength of Hercules to scrub the dried on pizza cheese!

      The weather is looking perfect for a Monday / Tuesday camping trip with Jenny. Take care!

  2. my_vantasy says:

    You know I’m a dog person, but my Mom is a cat person…I’m afraid her cat might think “Sand Mountain” is a giant litterbox! I thought it was interesting that you didn’t go camping when you weren’t feeling well. I went camping once when I felt like I was coming down with something, and once when I was definitely sick, and felt cured after two nights out. I really believe in the healing power of being out in nature–both mental health and physical health. So nice to see the expensive steak. That is a pricey piece of meat–glad it was so good. Looking forward to your next trip and hoping Jenny will be able to go with you!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! Thanks for the note. I wondered if Jenny would use sand mountain for a potty box. She’s a character. On Monday – Wednesday we had strangers in and out of the house, doing construction, often making loud and unexpected noises, etc. Poor little Kitty was terrified. My sleep cycle was a little shaken up, too. Things are back to normal so with a little luck there will be some camping early next week. I’m working on some new cooking ideas. you are right. Sleeping outdoors is restorative.