Iowa #48

Yeah, we have one of those camper sticker maps to show where all you’ve traveled. I made Dave promise that we wouldn’t route through a state just to spend the night to justify a sticker on the Airstream map. “Oh no, babe I’d never do that! We are winding down on our four month trip and gradually heading home to Mississippi now. And guess what? North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa were scheduled for our route home. We needed those to complete the lower forty eight states. Imagine that?! Interesting…. So, now I understand why the map looked strange.

Sometimes you find the perfect place to stop for lunch and rest on the drive between campgrounds. Coon Rapids, Iowa.

Prairie Flower Recreation Area Army Corps of Engineers Campground

Polk City, Iowa • Aug 30 – Sept 2, 2022

This is our first Iowa campground ever. We had a great time biking the Neal Smith Trail all three days we were there. It ran 28 miles start to finish. This trail has it all!! Prairies, wild flowers, lakes, rivers, forests, dams, harbors, wildlife, and is completely paved. Being here for three nights we divided the trail and made three trips from the campground. Our first day here was a moving between campgrounds so we just rode some campground loops and a few miles of the trial south just to check it out (10 miles RT). Second day we peddled to the northern end of the trail from the campground (20 miles RT). Third and last day, we peddled south again, but kept going to the end and a little more (37 miles RT). We would highly recommend the Neal Smith Trail bike. Also, people from this area recommended High Trestle Trial and claim it as their favorite. We would love to come back one day and ride that too!

Our site a Prairie Flower. Getting ready to peddle.
Prairie grass, lakes, and dam.
Great rest stops on the trail.
Several harbors along the route. This one looked like houseboat city.
Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge was a striking split two lane bike bridge crossing the Des Moines River. We rode over it and then turned around heading back to the campground.
Wild flowers and a squadron of white pelicans. This is the only time we saw pelicans on this trail, but saw many bodies of water.

• Between campground •

I’d seen the Des Moines Art Center on Trip Advisor and we timed it on a travel day between campgrounds to arrive early enough to secure a parking spot for our camper and eat lunch before entering at their 11:00 AM daily opening. We thoroughly enjoyed this eclectic museum and spent a couple hours enjoying the paintings and sculptures. Every room we entered had a guard/docent who happily chatted with us about the paintings pointing out interesting peculiarities and histories about the art and painter. It felt good to see people so energized about their job. Amazingly this was free. (We made a donation at the end.)

I guess anything can be art! Loved the bright colors.
An original Grant Wood. Same artist that painted American Gothic.
A little bit scary…
And, my favorite art work in the Des Moines Art Center. He does like to chat!

Wallashuck Corps of Engineers Campground

Pella, IA on Lake Red Rock • 9/2 – 9/6/22

We moved from one to another Iowa Corps of Engineers camprounds. Unfortunately, it continues to get hotter as we move south. Luckily, we prefer to do most of our biking, hiking, and kayaking as early in the morning as possible. Less heat, and definitely fewer people.

Our first full day at Wallashuck COE we peddled the Volksweg Trail from the campground. We headed north (20 miles RT).

The bike path can be seen on the left. This is the Wallingslock Creek which flows into Lake Red Rock. You can also see Red Rock Marina.
Dave waits patiently while I stop to take my pictures.
This bike ride ended in Cordova Park with a nice little stair climb of 170 steps.
Time to take a pulse at the top! The view was well worth the climb. Dave even rode his bike here again the day we kayaked and re-climbed it!
The Cordova Park Observation Tower at the end point of our bike trail today.

This was once part of the parks water system. In 1995 it was transformed into an observation tower. Industrial strength fiberglass was used in the handrails, stairs, platform and ceiling.

A wee bit easier going down!
Nice views from the top. The clearing at the top right of the loop is a two mile RT hiking trail that we enjoyed.

Kayaking Roberts Creek

Okay, I admit it, I’m a sucker for pelicans. I am embarrassed to say that I have around 75-100 pelican figurines in about every kind of material you can think of….. glass, porcelain, jade, metal, wood, ceramic, pewter, and on and on. I don’t collect ‘things’ any longer, but would probably not be able to resist an artsy pelican in a material that I don’t already own.

It was thrilling to witness all the varieties of birds on this little rock island in the lake. I really couldn’t paddle close enough to get very good pictures. When I first started aiming in their direction the first to fly off were the ducks. (The brown blurs). It looks like a Great Blue Heron is also a rock island member along with many, many, seagulls. There were two sections to this little island and this side held the pelicans and seagulls. The other side was almost all seagulls.

The day before this paddle we biked on the Volksweg Trail over the causeway on the horizon. I remember seeing the Little Rock islands and thinking that the larger lumps must have been white pelicans and the small ones seagulls. It was fun to see that I was right. The Roberts Creek paddle was pretty good but did get a little choppy on the way back in. One of our judgement criteria for our adventures is how much wildlife we see. We saw all that is pictured and also a bald eagle. There was some kind of fish (grass carp maybe) that partially came up on the shore and skittered back into the water as we paddled by. THAT was certainly new and interesting for us. Large fish of some kind were also jumping around our boats. It was a successful nature viewing day!

Labor Day was our third day here and last bike ride on the Volksweg Trail. We rode the trail south to Pella from the campground (25 miles RT). This part was even more scenic and fun. But, was a little rougher riding with a couple of miles of expansion cracks which were pretty jarring at times. This trail was very much worth the effort even with the rough parts.

This was one of the off shoot campground roads. We love to get off the trail and explore.
There were several Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds along the way which meant there is a dam somewhere.
We rode across this bridge and got up close to the dam.
Okay, got to say it….. Dave had to ride all the way to the dam door!
I love yard art! We rode on to Pella and this windmill made of bicycle parts was in a yard along the trail.
Pella was a quaint beautiful little town. Lucky for Dave the shops were closed since we were there so early.
Main Street in Pella with almost no traffic so early. We drove through a couple of days ago and it was packed with cars and pedestrians.

Vermeer Mill on Main Street in Pella
Dave checked out the plaque and learned that this windmill is the largest still functioning in the U.S.
So, I’m busy taking pictures of the windmill and these two ladies come walking by and asked where I’m from. I’m sure I looked very much like a tourist! It’s fun to get off your bike and talk to the locals!
On the return from Pella we rode out on a partial bridge that had this sign on it. I’ve never been in a Bald Eagle Refuge. That is cool! As we came out on this bridge there was a bald eagle sitting on a boulder in the river and we saw several on the trail. It doesn’t matter how often we see them, it’s always thrilling!

I’m truly amazed that we made Iowa our 48th mapped state for the Airstream. It is a gorgeous state with biking, kayaking, and hiking opportunities. Well, there can always be another trip to this area.

Our next stop on the way home is Ray Behrens COE in Perry Missouri.

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