Van Changes and Not Camping on Monday

Albino catfish. It’s true color was even brighter yellow.

Hello and welcome to the blog.  It’s been an interesting week.  The plan was to camp on Monday but that didn’t happen due to a change in plans.  But it was a fun day anyway.  But first, here’s what happened a few days ago…

I’ve been doing some more fishing locally and ended up with an unusual catch – an albino catfish.  The female fish was quite meaty.  Her color was a sort of “pavement marking” yellow with a bright white belly.   Thankfully it was not on the endangered species list in Iowa  – I thought to check after it was skinned and sitting in brine!  This fish was part of Monday night’s meal.  Later in the post there will be a recipe for Brad’s Smoked Catfish.

Hmmmm…. I guess that’s the “love” of fish… probably not the love of fishing! Too darn bad if it is… 🙂


Monday’s plan was to do some camping somewhere.  Unfortunately, the plans kind of went to crap.  I had to get a tire rotation / balance on all four wheels of the van.  No problem, I thought.  Having bought T.P.P (tire protection plan), on last year’s new tires, this was included for free.  But when I got to the Theisen’s Farm Store in Anamosa, they said they could not put my van on the lift.  That’s peculiar because they used to do my oil changes and tire work whenever needed.  I ended up calling the store in Maquoketa, 33 miles to the east, and had to have it done there.  With no cheap camping nearby (I wanted electricity to run the fish smoker), it meant heading home instead.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Donna Koppes-Schewe, stripes

Friends Jim and Donna

It used to be all-you-can eat meals but I’m eating healthier. You can’t beat a good salad at Schakey’s Place restaurant!

Instead, I stopped by the small town of Oxford Junction and visited Donna, the proprietor of Schakey’s restaurant, and enjoyed a salad.  She’s kind of like a second mom and was just the person to enjoy hanging out with.  Next door is the Treasure Vault second hand store.  I ended up with a couple casserole dishes.

Jenny’s litter box is behind the extension cord. The microwave is under the bed.

Camping never happened this week but the van is ready for comfortable rest any time.  In the last post I’d mentioned that there have been a couple minor changes.  After two years of truly crappy sleeping on the transverse-mounted bed, I was recently dreading camping and being kinked up sideways.  One night a good idea poppped in my head.  The bed had been shortened a couple years ago by around six inches or so.  Excited, I hopped out of bed in the middle of the night to do some measuring and yes, turning the mattress looked doable!

The bed is back to lengthwise and fits within an inch of the old green easy chair.  I’ve slept on it a few times and it’s possible to stretch out the 5’10” body all the way.  If I stretch ALL the out, the feet dangle a bit over the mattress — just like at home.  Gone is the problem of having to sleep diagonally with the feet on a separate surface.

One of the best aspects is that I can still use 100% of the abundant under-bed storage from the transverse configuration.  At some point it will be necessary to build a new mattress support near the chair but that old extra support shelf (made for diagonal resting) is temporarily holding.  Jenny’s litter box and the microwave are still underneath.  But now there is also a very large open area available up top near the head of the bed and the passenger’s side wall.  For now Jenny’s cat bed is up there and I’ll likely add a tote or some other storage.  It’s been a win-win-win scenario.

Backside of old blackout curtains

New black material on blackout curtains.

The other exciting change has been with the blackout curtains in front of the doors.  They were green inside but the dang Walmart panels had a white backing, thus ruining any ideas of stealth.  I found some lightweight, practically opaque black fabric for just $2.99 a yard, cut it to size, and glued it to the back of the green panels using good quality fabric glue.  The adhesive worked so well that I did not have to do any sewing!  Now if you look at the back windows not only do they appear opaque, one doesn’t realize (unless looking closely) that there are curtains at all!  The two panels can slide back and forth on the rod for a nice rear view for Jenny when we are camping in safe locations.

Instead of camping on Monday night, the albino catfish was brined and later smoked at home using the electric roaster / smoker.  The brine was one I developed by taste, only finding out later that a very similar recipe existed on the Internet.  That figures.  But I like mine.  Here is the recipe:

Brad's Tasty Smoked Catfish
1 cup water
1.5 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup kosher salt
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Clean and rinse 2 pounds of whole or fillets of catfish (skin off).  
Mix the brine ingredients well, place in a zipper storage bag.  Add the fish.
Shake and turn periodically in the fridge, marinating for a day or two.  
Smoke over hickory wood.  

If you don't have a smoker, I'd add a dash of "Liquid Smoke" and bake in a 
greased baking dish at 300 degrees until done. 

Despite the yummy sweet and smokey flavor, the catfish doesn’t seem to bother the blood sugar!  What a delight!  Buddy Steve loved it and I assured him there will be more.

Just got done mowing the yard and now it’s off to the Fawn Creek Pond to try and get another fish or two.  Hopefully there will be some camping soon -perhaps even some driveway camping tonight. The new bed arrangement sure has made sleeping outdoors enjoyable again.

Take care and thanks for visiting!

Brad and Jenny
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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