Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Trials and Tribulations of Finding a spot during a Holiday Weekend

Our MO is short trips to local areas most of the time. Somewhere we can get in an hour or two at the most especially if its a standard weekend or a long weekend. I like the travel and getting there but its more economical to stay close and there is PLENTY to do and see within 100 miles of the BIG O. With all the planning and details associated with our big family vacation I screwed around and didn't get a reservation for Labor Day. We were supposed to meet up with the Thomas's at Louisville so when I didn't make our reservation in time I figured I'd line us up with a first come first served site, hey, at least we'd be at the same park even if we weren't neighbors. WELL, I called out there bright and early Wednesday morning and the lady at the desk told me she just sold her last site on Tuesday night. HUH, the park is FULL already!!!! Come to discover you don't actually have to pull your camper out and set it up at the site but you do need to go the the Campground and register and pay for a site ahead of time and OH yes pay for the night you may not plan on staying just to be sure you have a site.... After she explained this to me it made more sense, in all reality Louisville is way less than half full on Wednesday and maybe more like 25% but all the reservable are reserved and all the first come first served are paid for and tagged even if they are sitting empty.... NOVEL idea, my knowledge is now expanded. The proximity of Louisville to Omaha really leave this as a easy thing for campers to do, drive down a few days early and get a spot, and evidently a lot of them do. 15 minutes south of 144th and I-80 is an easy quick drive out after work for anyone who seriously wants a spot.

SO, in one last ditch effort to land a spot I called TWO Rivers on Wednesday morning. This campground is the same distance and is located out by the little town of VENICE south west of Elkhorn. I am thinking NO way, probably the same story second verse. The man on the other end said YEP, 13 electrical sites left but you better hurry. AWESOME BABY AWESOME... This was at 10AM mind you. I decided to run out to the campsite at lunchtime and left the office around 12:15. I pull into the park at shortly there after and ask about his 13 sites, well, now were down to TWO and you have to go take a look at the site before I will rent it to you. WHAT, just what does that mean! SO, I take a look at the site and I understand why they make you take a look, there has been some dirt work done and basically these last two sites could be classified as the worst sites in the park. HEY, live and learn I guess. I decided to take one and when I went back another guy was taking the other. The catch is this, the park had probably 10 campers on location for around 75 or so sites so the proximity to Omaha played a factor in filling this campground too. OH WELL, we are camping and we'll make the most of it and really are looking forward to more "face time" with the family.... Stay tuned for our post trip report.

Until Next Time - B

Monday, August 11, 2008

Clements Family Summer Vacation 2008

10 Days away from home is a new experience for us and one we'll surely do again. I had Matt check the house a couple of times as my AC had leaked in the past and everything at home went just fine. We've been on a cruise, several smaller vacations and various long weekends but I was a little nervous about 10 days but it turned out AWESOME...

Day 1 - Leave for Prairie Rose State Park between Walnut and Harlan Iowa
(Click on ANY pictures to enlarge)

I was off at noon and to Alyssa's final day of camp with Valerie for the bar-b-que they were having for parents. That was nice and they said they really liked Alyssa as a Junior counselor and can't wait for her to be back next year. Valerie went back to work and I took Alyssa home

and off we went. My goal was to be at the campground and set up by dark but unfortunately that wasn't the case here. Between the running and running and going to the bank and walmart and the grocery store and to get the camper and take it home, clean it out and get it all packed it was near 7:45 by the time we left. Now, I had never been to this park before but Maggie led us right to it BUT unfortunately I missed the turn and in the process of getting turned around I traveled through most of the northern part of the park all which appeared to be dead end roads not designed for big trailers. We got turned around without much trouble but it was tight and took a couple of times before we finally made it. The problem was the tight roads and big trees, in retrospect after checking out the park we were a few 100 yards around the corner from a big circle which I could have simply driven around and headed back where we came from. Cost me 30 minutes and the rest of the daylight. Once we found our site and backed in it was after 9:30 and dark, BUT the only streetlight in the campground was directly across from our site and that helped a lot. Full hook ups at this site including sewer, water and electrical. AWESOME - Friday was kind of hectic and stressful but it would be the last day like that for quite a while.

Day 2 - Prairie Rose State Park

Day two was about doing nothing and liking it. We finished all the set up that was not completed

the night before and then basically lounged the rest of the day. We went swimming at the beach, played this new game we bought called "Washers", rode the

bikes a bit and RELAXED. There's something about sitting outside the camper in the morning with a nice cup of coffee and enjoying nature that is real appealing to me.

Day 3 - Prairie Rose State Park and Walnut (Antique Capitol of Iowa) Iowa

Sunday we knew we wanted to get to Walnut to do some window shopping at all the antique stores but it was HOT so we didn't really HUSTLE around to get there. In retrospect we should have been there really early to avoid the heat but that's not what this trip was all about, no agenda's and no schedules. We made it into Walnut around 3:30 and it was HOT... We did some window shopping and walked around the area with all the shops, the ones with Air Conditioning got most of our attention. One of the coolest and biggest shops did not have AC and as it was 100 outside and even hotter as we walked in the door we didn't spend more than a few minutes there. I pumped in $68 worth of gas as Walnut for our first fill up since leaving. I had promised Alyssa we would swim again today but not until it was 90 or less out, we went to the beach just after 8pm but it was still HOT... :-) This was the first night we built a fire and sat out under the stars. It is AMAZING how well you see all the stars after you get away from the lights of the city. We saw several shooting stars and had smores over the campfire and a few beers. AHHHHHH Life is good.

More about the Park - Prairie Rose is a VERY beautiful park and has a very unique set up. It has two long rows for camping both facing the west and looking out over the south east part of the lake. The front row is basically lake access and the back row where we were is elevated probably 40/50 feet and basically feels like you are on a bluff overlooking the campers below and the lake. VERY picturesque. The park did have spots that would have been available all weekend long which is good to remember and once Sunday LATE hit we were only one of 4 campers left on at the campground. They had a basketball hoop, a great shower house (which I donated my shampoo and soap to accidentally) and full hook ups. The lake is a no wake fishing lake basically.

Goods: Very rural and relaxed, picturesque, Nice beach area
Bad: Site was a little small and the sewer ran a bit uphill.
Ugly: LOTS of condensation drips off the camper on VERY hot days - My gutters need to be re caulked as the water came mostly down the seam and onto the slide as opposed to the front or back. - The neighbors sewer was a little close to our campfire.


The Dogs even had a good time.
View from our campsite.
And another view.
And another - These pics don't really do it justice.
Washers anyone?

Day 4 - Travel Day and Brushy Creek State Rec Area SE of Fort Dodge Iowa

It was HOT on Monday, and I sweat through my clothes in about 10 minutes packing up the camper and getting ready to roll. Unfortunately we were running cross country and up and down the hills to Fort Dodge and as hot as it was I was a little hesitant to crank up the AC at first. We traveled through small town after small town getting to our location and in all reality it was an enjoyable ride and much more relaxing than taking the interstate and having all the traffic to deal with. We did come across one kind of interesting deal while driving. We had a convoy of WIDE loads we came upon and wider than you average WIDE load. We actually had to slow way down and pull halfway off the road when they went by. These were bulk liquid tanks like you'd see on ICE ROAD TRUCKERS :-) and they had that type of trailer where their is no frame only back wheels and front wheels that hook directly to the load. I can't be sure but if the average semi trailer is 53 feet then these were every bit of 100 feet. I dunno, it was neat to see. The one drawback to the hills is that it seemed as though I could see my gas gage actually moving but what the heck.

When we got there I was expecting a pretty nice campsite and I wasn't let down. We had a pull through asphalt site with sewer and water and PLENTY of room. It was raining when we pulled in and I was so concerned to get set up and get the awning out so the family could get started with the inside while I did the outside that I had the awning out a couple of things unpacked and was starting to chock the wheels when Valerie proclaimed that she didn't think this was our SITE. I told her she was crazy and lo and behold she was right. CRAP... LOL... We were 4 sites over so we moved, it wasn't really that bid of a deal but I learned something there, CHECK the site number first for SURE no matter if its RAINING, SNOWING, or Dark. That surely would have sucked to have to pick up camp and move when the rightful renter pulled in at midnight. :-) By the time we moved to the next site the rain had stopped and it was turning into a nice afternoon.

We met an interesting fellow next to us during our stay here. For the life of me I can not remember his name but he looked to be close to retirement and had a hobby of photography. He had a big fancy camera on a big tripod and he was basically hunting for pictures of nature. He shared a framed picture of a blue jay that he had that "whitetail review" is purchasing and several other pictures of wildlife including one of a dragon fly that was AWESOME. He must have been into astronomy because he filled us in on when the SPACE STATION would be coming over and we watched it for the three minutes it was flying over us. He also shared his telescope and viewing the moon with us. Very nice gentleman, I wish I could remember his name.

Kris and Cornell joined us for dinner and what a cutie he is. He and I had a great time while Valerie and Kris visited and I fed him, he smiled, and laughed and is a pretty good baby. This is Cornell, not Cornell for those of you who know them. I don't think Cornell would appreciate me calling him Cute and trying to feed him a bottle but I know Cornell likes it. :-) (Don't be confused) It was good to see them even if Cornell had to work.

We had a campfire that night after and watched a big storm build in the west, we prepared for the worst but it never made it to our location but watching the lightning and seeing it build up and pass by just in the distance was AWESOME. Of course we had a couple of adult beverages too.

Day 5 - Brushy Creek State Rec Area - The FORT Museum

We needed a few supplies so we decided to go to Fort Dodge and hit the Walmart and while we were there we went to the FORT MUSEUM. A Very interesting museum tucked away on the west edge of Fort Dodge. I wont go into a lot of details about the actual museum here but you can hit the link if you'd like to see more about it.

Alyssa gave Toby a haircut which actually turned out quite nice. We rode bikes, sat around and relaxed, drove through the park and went swimming for a bit before dark, a great time spent together. It was pretty cool over the course of the day and was a little cool swimming that evening. Its amazing how one day can be so different than the next in the mid-west.

More about the park - Brushy Creek has three separate campgrounds. Two of those campgrounds are Equine campgrounds complete with hitching posts at each campsite. There is a north and south equine site and the NON equine site where we stayed. Our area seemed like it was much newer as the trees were less mature and the pavement and everything seemed newer. The other two areas seemed unique with the set up to bring horses and there were a lot of trails running throughout the park for horseback riding. Its located a few miles southeast of Fort Dodge and I would definitely camp there again anytime.

GOOD: Big Site and Full Hook Ups
BAD: 7 Miles to the nearest ICE or supplies.
UGLY: Double check your site prior to setting up


Me and the better half.
The two wonderful WOMEN in my life.
The Fort
Brushy Creek
The traditional grilling picture. :-)
Main street at the Fort

Day 6 - Moving day and Bob Shetler Campground at Saylorville Lake (Des Moines)

Once again the drive from Brushy Creek to Bob Shetler was a nice drive. Staying off the interstate really makes for a much nicer drive and you take in more of the sights. As we are coming south down the west side of Saylorville lake I had a little conflicting information from Maggie and ended up pulling into Jester Park on the west bank of Saylorville lake. I jigged when I should have jagged. NO PROBLEM I say to myself but I was WRONG. We come to an intersection in the park where the options are LEFT to a campground, straight ahead to the Lodge and Right to whatever. So I am looking for a place to turn around and for the life of me I don't understand why I took the straight to the lodge as opposed to the left to the campground. I mean campgrounds are set up to accomodate trailers and the such and would have surely ben a walk in the park to get turned around by going that way. Maybe I just wanted to see the lodge or maybe I wasn't thinking but I went straight and went maybe a half mile and as I pulled into the lodge area I realized that something was going on at the lodge, a business meeting or a conference or something of the sort. There were cars EVERYWHERE, full parking lot, parked on both sides of the curb and anywhere else they could park. I got out and surveyed the situation and there was ABSOLUTELY NO way for me to get through and NO opportunity to turn around. Needless to say I was a little dissappointed I had gotten myself into this situation as one of the CARDINAL rules when pulling a camper is to NOT get yourself into a situation where you can't get out. We'll I made it awful hard on us but after about 15 to 20 minute of following the middle yellow line backwards out out of the lodge area while my Wife ran interference for any cars coming our way we were turned around and back on our way.

OKAY, so I am back to following Maggies directions and realized she gave me the right directions the first time I just chose to know better than her and I won't make that mistake again. (yea right). So we're moving south again on BEAVER Drive and we are approaching the road that will go to the dam and there we will find our campsite. I turn east on NW 78th Ave which should take us by Camp Dodge and to the dam. DRATS, the bridge is OUT from the flooding and here I am again in a place where it isn't exactly a walk in the park to get turned around towing a 30 ft trailer. We made it, got turned around after backing up the rest of the traffic that was turning around and continued on our way. WHY would they not mention, on the saylorville website, that you can not access the dam from the west due to problems with the FLOOD, not real happy. BUT, I refused to get too stressed because after all this was vacation and not the end of the word. Part of the enjoyment of camping is the journey getting there too, we sure had an interesting one on this day... What an interseting campground this turned out to be.

Day 7 - Bob Shetler, Laundry and the Iowa State Fair

Bob Shetler campground is very unique in that is site "below" the dam in the proximity of the spillway and Des Mones River. The ONLY way in and out of this campground is to pass over the spillway on a small 2 lane road and proceed to the campsite and recreation area. The spillway wasn't open a LOT but the amount of power and the rate the water was coming through the spillway was IMPRESSIVE to say the least.

Our site was basically right in the middle of the campground, look east or west and see more campground, look south and see a nice wooded area, look north and see a MASSIVE 100 ft wall of earth holding back millions of gallons of water to form Saylorville lake. Wasn't it the Little Dutch Boy who plugged the dike to keep it from flooding, if something ever happened here (not that it would but once in a million years it COULD) it would be over in a split second. :-) I could go on about the area but you can click this link for more.

Although we didn't have "full hook-ups" our site was good sized with a big patio and plenty of parking, a shady lawn for the dogs to relax in as well. Our firepit and picnic table seemed a little close to our neighbors but we were on the end and only had one neighbor close.

My experiencw is when you make a reservation online and pay ahead of time you usually drive right into the campground, find your spot and set up. Not here, we had to stop at the gate and register just like a hotel, not that thats good or bad just different than the norm.

When you go on this long of a trip and still need to keep you load weight down you plan on getting more supplies and doing laundry on the road. Thursday morning we made our way to Ankeny Iowa and found a laundry mat and did 8 loads of laundry, can you believe it 8 loads but we were good to go after that. There were actually others at the laundry mat who were camping at our exact site as well so I guess it goes with the territory. We also got a few supplies and another tank of propane

Thursday later in the day we headed out to the Iowa State Fair. We had half price admission for the day and we really had a pretty good time. By this time in the day it was a little cooler and we enjoyed our trip to the fair. I paid a guy $5 and parked in his lawn and we walked a few blocks and we were there. The first stop inside the gate was an RV dealership who had probably 50-60 units on display and a lot of them were listed at 30-35% off as a "State Fair Price." WOW, there are some amazing units out there and we definately got some ideas for an upgrade in a few years, although the Chevy will have to be upgraded before then but we'll see...

The set up for the fair is pretty neat as its surroundings all appear to be permanant, lots of buildings and grandstands and the one thing that really stood out to me was all the FOOD vendors there. If there was ONE there was 100 and a couple of our favorites included the deep fried snickers and the footlong corn dogs, not to mention the $9 beers... We saw the butter cow and Shawn Johnson sculpture from afar and that was pretty cool. We spent too much money trying to win stuffed animals and the such but I guess thats just what you do when you're at the fair.

Alyssa and Valerie had a great time and thats what really counts. (I had a good time too). By the time we got back we were tired, no fire, no smores, no beers, just off to bed.

Day 8 - Bob Shetler, Saylorville Lake Tour and RELAXIN

Friday once again nothing much was on the agenda, we knew we wanted to swim and take a look around. We drove completey around the lake and checked out all the other campgrounds. They have a couple others that look pretty nice as well and one other that is pretty dumpy so we know what our choices are when we get to this area again. One dissappointment was that NONE of the swimming beaches were open yet. Evidently they haven't been able to get them all back up to snuff since the flooding and I would assume they may not know about debris that may have moved in under water where the beaches are. They have a REAL neat marina on the East central part of the lake by where the Saylorville Drive (hwy415) crosses over the lake, it includes hundreds of sailboats and houseboats moored in the lagoon. By the time we decided to snap some pictures it was too late but really a cool site.

We played some washers, went for a bike ride and had some great steaks and grilled chicken breasts along with a little wine and a nice campfire before bed on Friday night, an EXTRA relaxing day and we were happy with that.

Bob Shetler Campground - GOOD: Interesting, level site, immaculate shower/rest rooms

BAD: Hornets nest in the electrical box

UGLY: Washed out bridge and no access from the west

Day 9 - Bob Shetler, Guests and Adventureland

Saturday was our trip to Adventurland and the Hildings were coming to join us for the park and a night of camping. We met them at the park shortly after noon and spent the entire day there. We saw a magic show and rode a few rides. I think Brett and Brooke are becoming roller coaster junkies at an early age, nope, not me, at least not anymore. My putting skills were "masterful" on this day and I won stuffed dogs for all the kids. I made a trip mid-day out to the car because as usual in these places you end up carrying more than you care too. Actually its a NO Tobacco park so I didnt mind the walk because I was "jonesing" by then anyhow.

Adventureland has really grown up over the years, I remember going there in the 70's as a kid, it was a good vacation spot for the Clements family back then. There are actually several rides still there that were there back then. Everything was really spread out back then and now things have pretty much filled in the gaps all over the park.

We only had really two dissappointment during the trip to the park. One was one of the staff who proceeded to swear to her friend while Alyssa and I were standing there waiting for our foor. I bit my toungue the first time but the second time I let her know that I had an issue with her Customer Service and wasn't really pleased. (We'll just leave it at that :-) ). The second one was with the new water slide they have called "Cocomo Cove". Now I won't say it in itself is bad because it really is a pretty cool set up but we were expecting maybe a pool or a wave pool or something a little more. AND we had planned on spending our last couple of hours there at the end of the day but as we were walking in at 6:45pm we learned that part of the park closed at 7pm. We hurried and made a few runs down the slide none the less. Check out the park here


Win me a puppy daddy...
The Hilding Clan
Cocomo Cove and FTF Inspiration.
A little splash never hurt anyone
Train at the park
Uncle Matt trying to win that CUBS helmet.

Once we made it back to the campsite we proceeded to grill some food and have maybe one or two too many adult beverages. Our sleeping arangements worked a little better this time and I believe a fun time was had by everyone.

Day 10 - Moving day to HOME

We'll Sunday came as we knew it would. We didn't really rush around to get on the road as we really weren't ready to go home. Matt helped me pack up some stuff and they hit the road about an hour before we did. Once we finally hit the road it was the interstate all the way home and boy that will make a guy tired real quick.


Sometimes we take everything we have for granted. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life and how "busy" we make ourselves sometimes we forget to "stop and smell the roses". This kind of trip will let you get a little "whif" of the roses and help you to realize there is more to life than fighting the daily grind. I feel real blessed and lucky to have had this chance and spending a GREAT amount of quality time with my girls was a blessing. We probably had more face time together during this 10 day vacation than we do in a months time in the "regular" world. That's too bad but thats what makes times like this very special...

Until next time... B


Wearing IOWA garb in Cyclone country
Bob Shetler campground
Overflow gorge at Saylorville

BYE BYE, See you next time...