Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Welcome to the Midwest – now turn on your Weatherband radio station!

Yes, NOAA weather alerts are now my favorite pastime. Yesterday it was Weather Warning #661, which was in effect: severe thunderstorms, capable of heavy rain and nickel-sized hail that can damage vehicles, winds up to 60 mph, flooding, etc.

But, let’s back up a few days. I was so eager to get to Melody’s home in Indiana that I drove two longer days (300+ plus miles) instead of three shorter days. Somewhere along the way I passed this smiley water tower. Can anyone see it and not smile?

In Indiana I stayed at France Park. This park covers many acres and has lots of tall trees and a lake.
After traveling in Jeremiah II for five days – and asking for directions three times – I arrived in Converse, Indiana, to visit granddaughter Melody and her husband Derrick. They are temporarily living with Derrick’s dad, Roger Cottrell, while they find jobs and housing. Derrick is hoping to become an Indiana State Policeman. I parked in the long driveway alongside the house – wonderful accommodations!

Converse is a lovely very small town – dollar store, small grocery store, gas station, post office and not much else – where many residents have large backyard gardens. Melody has married into a large extended family; it seems they all live 30 minutes or less from Converse.

For my four days there Melody served as my personal trainer! Each morning I’d go to the house for a weight workout, and then most morning workouts would be followed by walks of between 3 and 6 miles! We walked all over town. We also went to the towns of Peru (they pronounce it Pee-ru), Kokomo (lunch at ??? – yum!), Amboy, and Marion. One day we went to visit Jane and PaPaw (granddad) and get veggies from their garden. I got to enjoy their animals – Ninja and Izzie, Sheeba breed of dogs common in Japan and Chu-Hi a Russian Blue cat.

I got to see Melody’s Mount Fuji hiking pole.
It was a wonderful visit that was all too short. And the weather was super. But soon it was time to head to Medford, Minnesota, via Illinois and Iowa.

I continued my drive, this time heading back toward the west. I choose to drive highways rather than Interstates for several reasons: my comfortable speed is 55 mph and I enjoy driving through the numerous small-to-medium-sized towns. Once I got to Illinois’ eastern border and could check road conditions, specifically Mississippi bridge crossings, I planned a route that took me west and then north to Rockford, Illinois. Here I spent the night at Blackhawk RV Park, and what a delightful place. It has a mix of “summer, weekend, and overnight visitors.” As usual, I walked around getting acquainted with other campers (a plus for traveling solo). I met a couple who have been spending summer weekends there for 27 years, a couple big on birding and have many and varied bird feeders (I got a crash course on birds that visit there in the summer and a couple that have set up an elaborate model trains setup.

I crossed the Mississippi at the upper west part of Illinois and entered Dubuque, Iowa. Being on the Big River, this pretty large city has quiet a history. And this city wins my “best marked city” award. I was traveling on highway 20, changing to highway 52/3. This took me through several downtown streets – an easy way to get misplaced. But not in Dubuque! The signs were well-placed and easy to see. Thanks to it being Sunday, traffic was light. Whew! I breathed a sigh of relief after successfully negotiating the route. Dubuque would definitely be a city to explore further.

Never a dull moment along these highways! Along the way I met up with huge farm equipment traveling from field to field and also this huge bale of hay!

Eventually I arrived in Charles City (also known as Chuck Town) mid afternoon and found “R Campground” that sits alongside the Cedar River. This is the same river that devastated several Iowa cities. I’m parked under some tall, leafy trees just 75 yards from the river.

After settling in – about 4:30 p.m. the sky darkened. It looked like it should be twilight instead of just late afternoon. And then the lightning and thunder brought a downpour. That’s when I turned on my Weatherband radio and heard the “severe weather warning” that included Floyd County (where Charles City is)! As it continued to rain, I became concerned for my nearness to the river. Would it overflow and flood the campground? Would the trees protect Jeremiah from any damaging hail? Would the winds and potential falling limbs damage Jeremiah? Oh, dear!

I called the RV park office. Would they come down and let me know if evacuation was necessary? I was assured that they would indeed let me know. Somewhat comforting. Before leaving home I had prepared a “ditch bag” with water, shoes, rain jacket, energy bars, cat food, portable radio, first aid kit, etc. Also during storm threats, I put the ditch bag, cat’s crate, my cell phone and computer near the door in case I have to make a hasty retreat on foot.

By 8 p.m. the storm ended and the severe weather warning for Floyd County was canceled. And the sun came out again. And I slept well.

This morning, Monday, July 7, I was hoping to get in either a long walk or a bike ride. And then I listened to the weather report. More storms were headed this way. Severe Weather Warning #662 included Floyd County. Oh, well, I really needed to stay in and get some writing work done. Rain, lightning and thunder arrived as I worked. Than it cleared up only to return about 4 p.m. This time it was Severe Weather Warning #663. It was a repeat of yesterday evening.

It is now 8:30 p.m. and the sun is making its last appearance. It’s been a productive day.

Tomorrow I’ll unhook and head north. I’ll stop in Mason City (cross your fingers for speedy Internet there) for shopping and then further north to Medford, Minnesota and my Minnesota cousins.

Quick addition – Tuesday morning. The Cedar River is running very high! And now I’m parked just 50 yards from the fast-flowing river. From my window I see that someone chose a poor place to park. Couldn’t resist taking a photo.