Camping with Mister Duke

Mister Duke Jasper Harris looking at the scenery outside from the safety of the van.


Hello and welcome to the blog.  This was another short weekend.  The strategy is to work more short shifts and pick up a few weekend hours…even if it means 6 day work weeks.  Working six shorter days seems to help the old bones a little.  Nonetheless, it was still possible to get a little camping time in with the black tomcat Duke.


Tent camping area at Wapsi Park


Whereas I’ve been following Jenny’s life practically since she was born, Duke’s first four years were a mystery.  He was passed over for adoption because so many people are afraid of black cats.  His first four years were spent moving from home to home and then to a farm.  Now he’s struck it rich… and so have I.  Duke has been an amazingly loving fur baby.  Most nights he sits on my thigh as we watch TV together.  But in the year that we’ve been friends, he has never had any desire to go outside!


The view from the van

On Saturday afternoon I packed up the van and we headed over to the Wapsipinicon State Park in Anamosa – just 2 miles from where I live.  This time of the year the camping is cheap – just $11 / night including electricity.  It was also close to home should the kitty not do well.

When we arrived there was a gentle rain that did not stop until just before dinner time.  I set up the van for camping, plugging in the electricity and getting things ready for cooking.  With the van doors open, Duke was content to look out while I was starting to cook dinner.  After his hamburger (with melted cheddar) was done frying, I closed the doors.  Mister Duke loved his cheeseburger meal and ignored the cat food.


The supper was homemade chili.  It was cooked in the wok pan which rested on a propane burner.  For this purpose, the pan worked great!  I’ll paste in the recipe below.  In addition to the tasty soup (with sour cream and shredded cheese), I’d brought along a nice chopped salad kit.


Chili soup, salad, corn, and some slices of various kinds of sweet breads.

The dinner was very satisfying although I’d really spiced it up.  At one point I coughed from the peppers, sneezed, and the nostrils burned!  Talk about throwing flames!  But it doesn’t have to be made that hot.  After the chili supper, Duke and I settled back to watch TV.  All night long he cuddled, looked out through the back window, cuddled so more, etc.  He was a perfect little angel, perhaps due to being scared.  Jenny, on the other hand, is a feisty little brat and one has to watch every second to make sure she doesn’t run off!


The Wapsipinicon River


It was an enjoyable little overnight trip.  I am going to have to take more short excursions like this for the time being because of the weather and the need to put in some extra hours.  But it’s still fun to get away and experience some fresh air.  Duke did very well and perhaps he might go on a longer trip next year… or maybe just a little outing to the bluegill pond.  In any case, he’s bound to have more fun!

As promised, here is the chili recipe.  I made something like this about seven years ago on another van trek but somehow the recipe was lost.  This is very similar.  This concoction is a little strong on the veggie flavors – a welcome change from some of the meat-heavy recipes – but sour cream and cheese kind of mellows it out well!

That’s about it for the time being.  I’m not sure about the next van trip but next weekend is scheduled off.  Of course, some kids will call off and it means more $$$ in the budget.  We’ll see what happens.  In the meantime, the van has a new radiator and it’s ready to roll… with either fur baby!

Take care and thanks for visiting!

Brad, Jenny, and Mister Duke
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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