Major holidays present a problem for RVers like us who don't like to make reservations, at least not months in advance, since we don't want our route or timing to be constrained too much. The 4th of July in particular is a major vacation time for US families, so parks that accept reservations can book up months in advance. We knew we'd have to do our research to find a spot where we could stay for the duration and not end up spending the 4th in a Walmart parking lot!
Our research turned up Prairie Rose State Park near Harlan, Iowa, which only takes reservations for half the sites. After leaving Weston Bend State Park in Missouri, we made our way into Iowa. A new state to color in on our "states visited in the RV" map!
Upon arriving at Prairie Rose a full week before July 4th, we discovered that here a camper could actually "save" the "non-reservable" sites by showing up ahead of time, paying, and putting his or her payment receipt card on the post, whether or not they actually occupied the site. For the 4th, a lot of local folks had done that, planning to arrive for the coming weekend and wanting to ensure themselves a spot. This practice makes it a bit tougher for we out-of-towners to get a site!
Fortunately, though all the full hookup sites were taken, we were able to find an electric-only site right across from the lake.
We experienced a bit of a rough day as one of our leveling jacks broke (the housing for the motor at the top), so we had to use boards under the driver's side front wheel, as you can see in the photo above, to level the coach. After getting leveled, slides out, and all set up in our site, we needed to fill our water tank. Our luck was getting no better; we discovered that the water spigot right next to our site was broken!
I walked up to the camp hosts' site and asked them about it; yep, they were aware it was broken. They generously drove me back to our site with two of their extra water hoses to help us try to reach a farther spigot, but even using their hoses and two of ours, we could not reach the next spigot, so we had to pull in the slides, move Pearl, fill the water tank, and get her all set up again. Whew!
Fortunately, once we did get all settled in, this view made the ordeal worth it. We enjoyed some amazing sunsets during our stay.
And it was pretty nice during the day too.
We ended up staying at Prairie Rose until July 6th. Most folks arrived on Thursday or Friday before the 4th of July weekend, then left on the 4th (a Monday), so after a very full park for the weekend, it was much more to our liking the last couple of nights we were there. And of course, there were the sunsets!
We surely wished we had kayaks here as this small, tranquil lake did not allow motors that caused a wake, and it was so peaceful and tranquil. Kayaks, canoes, and pontoon boats made up the boating traffic.
We'll have a couple more posts on things we did while staying in the park, so stay tuned. It really was a gorgeous part of Iowa!
The Weston Bluffs Trail is a short hiking/biking trail accessible from Weston Bend State Park near Weston, Missouri. From this trail, you can head northwest into Weston, which we did several times, or southeast into the rural countryside. Part of the trail runs alongside the Missouri River and the Burlington Northern Railway.
We had never gone southeast on the trail but determined that we could take it to get to a produce stand we'd seen as we'd driven into the park several days earlier. We took our mountain bikes since this portion of the trail is unpaved. It is quite well-packed in most areas; there were only a couple of spots where a bicycle with narrower tires might fishtail.
The produce stand was well-stocked inside with beautiful fruits and vegetables as well as bulk spices, honey, and other foods. We picked up quite a few things, loaded up our packs, and headed back to the campground.
Although the trail itself is has only the gentlest of inclines, on the park road back to the campground, there's a large hill to pedal up. We'd already conquered this hill twice after our trips into Weston, so we knew what we had in store.
In this graphic from Google Maps, the campground is at the left point on the map, and Weston is on the right point. The flat part is the trail to Weston and is very similar to the part of the trail we took to the produce stand. I don't need to point out the hill!
Here's Barry starting the climb. Most of it is around the bend. I was thankful for the extra low gears on my mountain bike!
After we caught our breath, we unloaded our haul back at our campsite. We got all this fresh produce, plus local honey and cherry jam, for $23.15. Not as cheap as Mexico, but not bad at all. And the produce was delicious!
Stay tuned as we leave Missouri and move on to our next state!
Weston, Missouri is a town that caters to those of us who like an adult beverage or two. Behind this innocent looking "country store" facade downtown lies something entirely unexpected, if you hadn't done your research ahead of time. But of course we had.
Instead of foodstuffs, hardware, candy, and other knick knacks you might expect to find at an actual country store, this is actually the retail storefront for the McCormick Distilling Company, the oldest continuously operating distilling company in the United States. Naturally, we thought it worthy of a stop on one of our bike rides in the area!
In addition to the distillery's history, impressive too is their store's tasting policy. Per day, each adult is allowed two tastes of any liquor that they sell for 25 cents each. And was it ever a hard choice, as they sell a lot of products. Check 'em out.
The "bartender" explained many of the choices to us, and with some difficulty, we chose. I tried their Madagascar Vanilla 360 vodka, which was delicious, and a caramel-flavored whiskey I didn't like as much. I love caramel flavor but am just not a whiskey gal. Barry tried their imported tequila (from Mexico, of course) and their unique "Fireshine", a blend of real moonshine (corn whiskey) and cinnamon liqueur that tastes just like a fireball. Yum! Needless to say, he had to purchase that one!
Now you see the wisdom of their tasting policy. After plying you with two small shots, I wonder how many people are able to resist a purchase? Very few, I'd wager!
The actual distillery sits right on the edge of town nestled in green rolling hills. They give hour-long tours that are reported to be fascinating, though we did not take one. We did happen upon the place on one of our bike rides on a later day, though.
The distillery in the white buildings at the back.
Another well-known and excellent place for libations in downtown Weston is the Weston Brewing Company. Here is some history of the brewery from Wikipedia:
The Weston Brewing Company was first established in 1842 by German immigrant, John Georgian, and was one of the first lager beer breweries in the U.S. Five arched, limestone cellars, dug to a depth of 55 feet below ground, were constructed to create the ideal conditions for Georgian’s lager beer which needed to be stored below 60 degrees. The brewery closed in 1919 when prohibition, otherwise known as "the great experiment", was signed into law. In 2005 the Weston Brewing Company reopened and one of the cellars now houses a unique bar which requires patrons to descend down through a small rock faced tunnel to get to the large, cool, cavern like bar.
We visited the brewery for lunch (not the same day we went to the distillery, mind you!) Since we had our bikes with us, we did not descend into the cavern-like underground pub but sat outside in the breeze where we could keep an eye on our wheels.
We ordered a beer flight so we could try all the beers brewed here. I wasn't a fan of the stout, but the others were all quite tasty. Additionally, the brewery makes a line of beers and ales called Root Sellers. These are sold in cans and are really unique. We split a Carrot-Apple Ale, as we just had to try it. It is made with carrots instead of hops and is dangerously good! It's in the pint glass in the photo below.
After a healthy (and not totally liquid!) lunch, we split a piece of lemon chess pie with raspberry sauce. Delish!
Before hitting the road, we bought some of the Root Sellers beers to go. These are available in grocery stores but are more reasonably priced when purchased directly from the brewery. A four-pack of 16-oz cans is just $6 each, no tax. Barry is a root beer fan, so we got those for him.
We actually rode back a couple of days later for another four-pack of the Carrot & Apple Ale and and four-pack of this hard ginger ale, which we hadn't seen before. Isn't the label and name just perfect for us? It is oh-so-delicious.
Weston has a couple of wineries as well, but we passed on those since we'd recently visited a winery in Hermann and were well-stocked on wine.
No matter what you're drinking, or if you simply want to sip something different, it seems that Weston has it!
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.
Favorite Travel Blogs