Late Fall Camping and Some Sadness

Hi and welcome to the blog.  It’s sure been a tough autumn season.  I took a short camping trip early in the week to help deal with stress and anxiety… only to return to some more worry.  But that’s later in the post.


Maquoketa Caves Campground, about 33 miles east of Anamosa.


For some reason it felt like I needed to go to Maquoketa in Jackson County, a peaceful town about a half hour to the east.  The plan was to take Jenny and have a quiet rest under the pine trees.  She refused to go as I packed the van; she was opting to hide.  When I picked her up Jenny howled in disagreement and got to stay home.  She’d rather be with Duke!



After arriving in town, I stopped at the Goodwill, a favorite destination.  On the agenda was a different chair for the van – something with more storage space underneath but at the same time tall enough to more comfortably sit at the fold down table.  I found a perfect chair for the needs for just $5.  It is a wooden one with a cushion – much like the kind they have in the waiting room at a doctor’s office.  It’s not as cushy as the old “green throne” but has more benefits including just being easier to use for this old guy to put on his socks!  I’ve already put a clean tote under it to hold napkins, plates, silverware – items that I use a lot but that never had their own separate space.


Simply, plain, comfortable… It was worth $5.  I can also go outside in seconds!


After parking, I started a nice fire.  Lately I’ve been working lots of extra hours and the old body was sore, particularly the feet.  I sat in the new chair with the shoes near the fire and the radiant heat worked wonders.  Wood was available for a donation and with nobody else at the campground, I built a larger fire.  It felt fantastic!


Dual crock pot serving dish… Each side is 1.25 quarts. This batch is ham ‘n’ beans and the other side is a jalapeno corn casserole.



Supper was cooked in the dual crock pot thingy – the only present to myself from the Black Friday sale.  I love this cooker and have already used it for multiple recipes.  Before leaving for the trip, a homemade beef stew with ribeye steak, carrots, potatoes, and fresh pearl onions was made and lightly cooked the night before.  In an ice cooler was the second crock containing an egg / ham / bacon / cheese casserole that tasted like quiche.  I got up for bio reasons about 1:30 AM started the breakfast dish cooking.  The breakfast warmed the belly to match the feet.  For cold weather cooking, this dual slow cooker was a good investment!


Supper was a pre-mixed cranberry salad with sweet dijon dressing and a hot bowl of beef stew… Nothing fancy but it tasted great on a 38 degree evening!


I woke up fresh and ready to hit the road at 5AM.  It’s a work thing.  Often I will help open at 5:15 AM so getting up that early is second nature.  There’s an old saying….


Somehow I came up a little short in all categories but still keep trying.


The deer were also up and around pretty early.  I had to dodge one coming out of the campground.  You can’t miss them all but I am extra careful during rut season.  I had one T-bone the van a couple months ago, leaving only a small hoof print in the wheel well.

It was a fun little trip and the relaxation was incredible.  You can’t beat that radiant heat.  During periods of neuropathy and arthritis, I plan to camp in the driveway to repeat the treatment.  After doing some Googling, I saw this is a great therapy for diabetics.  It works!


Way to go Dukey! You have a pretty vet tech holding you! When I go to the doctor they make me hide my face and stay six feet way!


Now the sad news.  When I got home, Duke was keeping to himself.  That’s not unusual.  But he was feeling poorly… and it went downhill.  On Thursday I took him to the animal hospital and he will be there until Saturday.  They are giving him fluids and some medication to help him start eating again.  We’re not sure why he quit eating and drinking but the lab results were quite encouraging.

I was tempted to put Duke to sleep but couldn’t.  This little guy saw me through the darkest of times this year.  He hunkered under the covers in August as hurricane force winds tore parts of the roof off and shook the crap out of our mobile home.  He also saw me through that darned “mystery lung virus” early in 2020 which my doctor thinks was Covid.  (I still can’t taste or smell right).  Duke was always there.  It was my turn to be there for my buddy.

Oh yeah, the “green throne” from the van?  I was going to burn it in the campfire Monday but instead hauled it home.  These two critters were using it Tuesday night.  Now to find a place for it… Maybe in the cat’s bedroom… or mine.


They immediately claimed the green throne.


The vet clinic advised that Duke is doing better this morning (Friday) and we’re hopeful.  He’s got a great chance to pull through.  Below is our Christmas card for 2020.


The Christmas cards ordered from Wal-Mart. Just a word of advice, get the ones made in the store. Who knows when the ones I ordered via the PC will ever arrive!


Take care and thanks for visiting!  Have a happy late fall season as we approach winter.  It’s turning cold and snowy in Iowa over the weekend.  It’s about time!  Safe and happy holiday travel to all the camping buddies!

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"

10 Responses to Late Fall Camping and Some Sadness

  1. John Abert says:

    Hi Brad! Sorry to hear that Mr. Duke is feeling ill. We hope he recovers and has a good, long life yet. We love reading your camping stories, and it’s easy to see that it’s far less stressful when you don’t have to carry everything you own witb you. This will be our method, too, from now on! Have a great winter and stay safe!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi John! Thanks for the comment. I visited Duke this afternoon at the animal hospital. He’s doing better but looking tired. I said the word “cheesyburger” and by golly he stood up as if to say, “PLEASE!” That’s his favorite food on the planet (in moderation). Jenny is upset but I’ve been spending all kinds of time playing with her and that’s helped to some degree. I hear about not carrying a lot! Any more, all I have to do is grab the meds, throw food in the cooler and away it is… But with the crappy weather coming, most of the camping the next few months will be in the driveway. LOL. Take care! VT

  2. Heidi says:

    I am sorry to hear about Duke. I’m glad to hear that he’s doing better though.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Heidi and thanks for the note. It’s been so, so tough. He’s been a great pal through some of the darkest days of 2020. Jenny is a mess without him, sniffing his blankets and such. I visited him tonight at the animal hospital and he seems better but still kind of weak. I have him some rubs all over his sides and I heard a rasp, then a few more, and then the loudest purr I think he ever has made. I hope he can come home soon. Duke’s sure got lots of pretty girls fussing over him at the animal hospital. Take care and thanks! — Brad aka VT

  3. Jo Harmon says:

    Maybe that’s why Jenny didn’t want to go camping she new something wasn’t right with her buddy Duke. Wishing for the best outcome for him.
    I love that double crock pot, I bought myself a Kobo e reader since I closed my acct. with Amazon and I can nolonger put books on my Kindle, Amazon holds the rights which I think stinks. With the Kobo you can download books from anywhere and even the library, something you could not do with Kindle. Its a shame that they can hold on like that since you pay plenty for the Kindle now it will just go to waste and it wasn’t that old.
    Your new chair will make things more comfy for the table and you can still put your feet up on a stool or something.
    I tried to see your page yesterday and nothing would happen, glad it was OK tonite.
    Take care and happy Holidays

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! In retrospect, I think Jenny knew before me. Duke is so thin and I have food everywhere. I’m not sure how much he is eating but he does seem to be drinking. It’s tough. Perhaps he will bounce back. Time will tell.

      The green chair is coming in handy. Duke has been sleeping in it a lot. It’s right next to where I work on the computer.

      Sorry about the page loading slowly. I boosted the hosting plan and it’s not helped a bit. Some days it’s quick, others are slow. They are going to get an unhappy call from me pretty soon. I’m not getting what I paid for and readers are suffering. I’m supposed to have unlimited memory and an extra processor to speed things up. GoDaddy really sucks at web hosting.

      I will have to look at the Kobo reader. I’m disgusted with the Kindle tablet I bought last year. It is so FULL of extra crap – adds and apps and all. I should have gotten the cheap Walmart one! Take care! — VT

  4. John says:

    Hi, Brad. I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now and, with as crazy as this year’s been, your positivity and optimism has been a treat to read. I’m happy you got out to go on a camping adventure, even if it was short! I’m pulling for Duke over here just outside of Cincinnati–he’s a trooper and he’ll come out of this better than ever!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi John and thanks for the note! It’s been quite the year! It was fun to get away from home for a bit but it was sad when I came home and saw Duke sick. He was in the hospital a couple of days. I’m leaving food and water all over the house and trying to get him to eat. I’m not sure if he is or not or Jenny’s just loading up. But he’s still very affectionate and spending the nights with me. I nearly put him down but am so glad that was not the case. He’s not suffering – that I can tell – and we’re still able to spend time together. Nature will have to take it’s course. Thanks again and take good care! I’ve got a new woodworking project to talk about soon… and driveway camping is going to be happening soon. (It’s REALLY cold here)

  5. my_vantasy says:

    Oh no. Praying for complete healing for Duke. It is cold, snowy, and infectious in Ohio. I am trying to keep my focus by doing the Christmas Countdown and reading a chapter of Luke every night. I am also gathering the ingredients to make the vegetable casserole you shared last month (or was it two months ago?) Pandemic time is killing me here!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! Thanks for that email! Yes, I feel the same way about the pandemic. It’s been a tough time at the end of 2020. I need to read the chapters out of Luke, too! Let me know how that casserole turns out. It’s great weather for it. Take care!

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