Hula Hoop Tree and Jenny’s Birthday Celebration

Hi and welcome to the blog.  It’s been a busy time – the fast food job is more hectic than ever thanks to folks having some extra stimulus cash to spend… and they sure are doing it!  I’m picking up extra tiny work shifts; a fraction of the additional work earnings will go into the camping fund – whenever it will be possible to utilize the campgrounds.

Recently there’s been some reflection as to what to say in the blog these days with respect to current events.  Then I decided to focus more on just about everything else…things that are more uplifting!  There are so many changes in all of our lives – some good, some bad – but we have to adapt and keep going.


Rest in Peace, “Hula Hoop Tree” of Amber, Iowa


This next item was something I’d anticipated happening.  One of our landmarks disappeared this week near Anamosa – the beloved Hula Hoop Tree.  This old, dead tree was located on a fence line near Amber, Iowa along a paved, 55 MPH road.  After a storm blew through in 2015, two Hula Hoops appeared on branches.  Then more of the colorful toys were added… and more… and eventually this old tree became a tourist stop as many wanted their photos taken by the unusual object.

Charming as it was, there were was concern about the risks involved.  Visitors would run across the highway in front of passing traffic to take a picture.  To get near the attraction, one would have to walk through a steep ditch.  Someone even cut the barbed wire fence behind the tree and trespassed on private property.  Occasionally a toy would blow off a branch and strike a passing vehicle.  The land owners finally decided the tree was too much of a liability and it was cut down.

Currently there is a fund raising drive to come up with a new Hula Hoop tree… or some other structure to throw Hula Hoop toys on.  The thought is to find a much safer place for families and children to enjoy.  When life hands you a setback, you adapt and often the solution is even better than the original.  I’m looking forward to seeing the next iteration!


Jenny’s birthday cake… A can of premium cat food with whipped cream.


A reminder of another life change happened this week.  ]A few days ago a Facebook picture of former kitty pal Serena, the intrepid, one-eyed camping and van dwelling cat, popped up.  After 16 years of companionship, her death was one of the deepest scars I’ll ever carry and the photo brought the pain back.  We were that close.  But Jenny was born a day or so after her death and took over my heart; today is Jenny’s fifth birthday.


Jenny (and friend Cathie) when she was about 3 months old. I fell in love with this little brat from the second I met her.


In addition to the cat food “cake”, Jenny received a handful of toys, took extra outdoor walks today, and got a half-dozen or so birthday serenades (she likes those!).  Jenny seemed to enjoy the extra attention.

At the same time, I owe this amazing little girl my life.  About four years ago I was slipping into unconsciousness with a life-threatening blood sugar of just 37.  At bedtime I’d mistakenly taken 80 units of powerful Humalog insulin instead of Lantus insulin; this little angel incessantly howled and scratched my hand and chin, rousing me.  The E.R. doctor said to be good to her because without her intervention I probably would have passed away.  (My neighbor died when his sugar dropped to 32).   Jenny is one in a million and she sure had a great birthday today.


Happy Birthday, Jen-Jen!


The little princess might be having some extra fun soon.  In the near future there is some vacation time scheduled for fishing and camping. The campgrounds are not open yet but there are other options still at play for primitive camping.  It all depends on the weather.  The plan is to cook up some good food (with fresh fish) and share a fun recipe or two along the way.

For now, take care and thanks for visiting.  I hope everyone is safe and still has the chance to enjoy some outdoor fun.  Best wishes from rural Iowa!

Brad and Jenny and 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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