After making it through the busy 4th of July holiday at Prairie Rose State Park in Iowa, we continued our journey northward into beautiful, green Minnesota, where there are so many great bike trails to ride.
The four Jackson County parks on Loon and Pearl lakes are located just a couple of miles north of the Iowa border. All four of these parks (Robertson, Brown, Brown South, and Anderson) offer camping and are very close to a paved bike path leading into Iowa, Spirit Lake, and the city of the same name.
Our first night we took a site in Robertson Park, which is most heavily treed, shady of the four parks. It is pretty tight for larger RVs with all the trees, and most sites were full, but we managed to back into a beautiful site #1 right on Loon Lake.
Unfortunately, there were quite a few mosquitoes in this shady locale, and our electric cord was not long enough to reach the power pole, which was shared with the adjacent site and on the wrong side of our rig, so we were limited to dry camping. Since we didn't like any of the other few vacant sites, we decided to move over to Brown South campground the next morning.
Brown South is a much more open park, built on a field with only small planted trees, but we actually preferred the openness after going through an intense thunder, lightning, and windstorm overnight in Robertson. All those huge trees around us and high wind gusts made for a scary night with not much sleep. In our site in Brown South, we would not have to worry about trees falling on us. And as there were several more intense thunderstorms in our first week in the site, we were thankful that we did move.
Brown South's sites are spacious, our electric cord reached just fine (no shared power poles here), and we liked it so much we extended our stay twice! This is one of the reasons we like not making reservations unless absolutely necessary; it gives us the flexibility to stay longer in nice places like this.
Here's our site in Brown South. We had a view of Loon Lake to the east and Pearl Lake (for stunning sunsets) to the west. And a pretty farm with red barns up a hill beside the park. As an added bonus, the bike path runs right behind our site -- perfect for us!
There's a cool bicycle sculpture in the park...fitting!
Stay tuned for more about what we saw and did in this lovely area of Minnesota.
Like the parts of western Missouri we visited, we quickly discovered that our stereotyped views of Iowa as being nothing but flat cornfields was completely off the mark. Yep, there are cornfields galore, but flat? Uh, no. Perhaps some parts of Iowa, but certainly not Shelby County. You can actually see a representative hill at the upper left of this photo. There were also a lot of hills in the park.
If you aren't familiar with Iowa, here's where Shelby County is, in the western part of the state, fairly close to Omaha, Nebraska.
Although Prairie Rose State Park has a Harlan address, it's actually located down at the lake you can see in this zoomed-in map, about 11 miles southeast of Harlan.
Another thing we learned about Iowa is that in the rural areas, there are very few paved roads. In fact, the roads you see on the map to the right are the only paved ones: the highways in yellow, and the county roads in gray. There are a lot of other roads, but they're all unpaved.
Barry had drawn a detailed map showing all the roads in the area from Google maps, but once we got out there on our bikes, we realized we had very few choices since most were unpaved. We'd just cleaned and detailed our Bike Fridays, so we weren't going to ride them on the dusty gravel roads! So our planned ride to Harlan for a couple of groceries ended up being mostly along Highway 44, not exactly our favorite type of riding. The main part of the shoulder was gravel, so we only had a small lip of the road to ride on as there was also a serious rumble strip. Fortunately, drivers were courteous and gave us the whole lane when passing, if they could. We appreciated that!
We didn't take any photos along the road, as we were too busy concentrating on holding our lines.
The first grocery store we came upon in Harlan was Fareway and even though it was a little small, it turned out to be a real gem, with a good selection, and bag boys wearing white shirts and ties and assisting customers by taking their groceries to their cars. We felt like we'd stepped back into the 1950s!
On another day, we rode over to the little Danish-American town of Elk Horn, also shown on the map above. This route was hillier and a little longer than the route to Harlan. We also had a hotter day for it. As a result, I really suffered, but it was very pretty ride, and the town was cute. There's a Danish-American museum and the only working Danish windmill in the US!
.The 60-foot windmill was built in 1848 in Denmark and purchased here for the US Bicentennial in 1976. However, it took the people of Elk Horn until early 1977 to fully re-assemble it, so they missed the Bicentennial celebration (Source).
It was a beautiful day to view the windmill.
On the way back, I took this photo of Barry; you can see some of the hills we tackled. Fortunately, traffic was light, and the area really was beautiful.
I love the hex signs on barns. Most in this area had one.
Although Iowa was beautiful, we're still looking for flatter roads to ride. Maybe in Minnesota?
When researching Prairie Rose State Park in Iowa, we were encouraged to see on the map that it had a series of hiking trails. However, these were not the woodland trails we've come to expect from the southeastern US. They were basically swaths of mowed grass in the prairie. Barry didn't think too highly of them, but I enjoyed seeing the birds, swaying grasses, and wildflowers. And there was almost always a lake view. Sure, it wasn't the deep green forests we love, but the prairie has its own special beauty.
Here are a few photos from the hikes we took around the park. I should mention that because of the time of year, we only saw the occasional person fishing and no one else hiking. We shared these trails with only the wildlife at the park, always a plus.
We could see the campground from the other side of Prairie Rose Lake as we hiked. That's Pearl up on the hill.
We actually encountered this pretty doe on a bike ride as we cooled down in the park, but she seemed to fit the theme of this post. Right after I took this photo, she scampered off into the woods.
Next up: Bicycling in the beautiful but hilly area around Prairie Rose State Park....
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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