Monday, July 1, 2013

Driving Day: Lake Anita State Park

Somewhere along the line yesterday afternoon my phone decided it was in Central Time, I’m not sure if we actually were in Central time as I never saw a sign on the highway indicating that we had crossed over, but I figured I was close enough to the line so I’d just go with it. (In fact I thought Indiana had opted out of Daylight Savings Time and that I’d lose the hour when I crossed out of Ohio, but no…).  This morning I woke up at 4am because I heard a loud ca-thump, ca-thump noise in the distance.  At first I thought it was thunder, but a quick look at the radar told me it wasn’t thunder.  I finally decided we must be near a military base that running maneuvers or something.   Turns out I think it was highway noise – despite the lovely woodedness of the park, we were only a short distance from I-74. At first I was perturbed at being awake at 4am, but then I realized it was really 5 and I’ve been getting up at 5:30 and I’d gone to bed early so, after dozing a bit until 5:30 I just got up and got moving.  I figured if I got on the road early I’d get to Lake Anita early and have time to enjoy the park.  This was a plan that didn’t work on Friday but I was hopeful today would be different. 

I was looking forward to my stop at Lake Anita! A few years ago when we were planning out Alaska trip we stumbled upon an amazing blog of some folks who travel in a Lazy Daze class C RV and have taken a cross country trip every summer for the last 10-15 years!  They had posted detailed travel logs with campgrounds and activities! They both are very good writers and their stories are very entertaining.  They had taken an Alaska trip and it was very similar to what we’d already planned for ours!  Their website, Lolo’s Extreme Cross Country RV Trips, has become my go to site for planning RV trips. As I was planning my trip west I discovered that the Gadius’ always stop at Lake Anita State Park in Iowa when they pass through.   I knew I had to check it out!

The driving today was uneventful! It did not rain at all, not one drop! YAY!  Illinois is flat as a pancake.  It’s just a whole lot of flat nothing.  The only exciting thing was that I think I saw Jason Aldean’s tour caravan heading east on I-74!  First I saw two Prevost tour busses traveling together – that seemed odd, but not totally unusual. Then there was a giant semi truck that said “Jason Aldean” on it and had a picture of him larger than life.  Then over the next 20 miles or so I saw 6 more Prevost tour busses towing toy boxes.   Prevost busses aren’t uncommon to see on the road, but 8 at once is rare! I checked his website to try and see if could have been him, his next show is in Ohio, but it’s not until July 11.  I couldn’t tell where the last show was. 

Around 11 I crossed the Mississippi and into Iowa!  Uncharted territory! I’d never been to Iowa! Almost immediately after entering Iowa I came to The Iowa 80 Truck Stop.  It claims to be the largest truck stop in the world and was featured on reality TV show on the Travel Channel or Discovery or one of those.  I hadn’t expected to pass it and I kinda wanted to stop, but I also kinda didn’t want to stop.  I ultimately didn’t stop, opted to keep going and get to Lake Anita.

Iowa is a lot like Illinois, a whole lot of open farm country! Iowa is better than Illinois though! It’s not as flat, it’s more rolling.  And it is pretty, in it’s own right!  There are farms everywhere you look, and miles and miles of cornfields and windmill farms.  I realize most of the corn growing in the cornfields will be used to feed cows or turned into high fructose corn syrup, but they were nice too look at!  Iowa also has even spaced, frequent rest areas – about every 30 miles – and they tell you at one rest area how far it is until the next! Most of the exits had plenty of services – lots of truck stops and opportunities to buy diesel.  The majority of the travelers on I-80 are truckers, RVs and oversize John Deere farm equipment being moved on big flatbeds. This actually made the driving easier!  The speed limit was 70 and I set my cruise at 70 (I get better fuel mileage when I go 65-70), and I was passing people.  Everyone out there was driving a large vehicle so we all kinda got along!  Right now, Iowa is my favorite state to drive across!   I’d happily take Iowa over any section, no matter how short, of 95!

My leave early, arrive early plan worked this time!  I pulled into Lake Anita State Park a little after 3!  Lake Anita is a wonderful place!  most of the campsites have a lakeview!  I was able to get a perfectly level site right on the front row with a great view of the sunset! (Which means I’ll have to stay up for it!).  One of the big draws for me at Lake Anita was the opportunity to go swimming! It hadn’t panned out for a Caesar Creek so tonight I was hopeful.  Turns out the swimming beach is a long way from the campground.  You kinda needed to drive.  boo.  A quick study of the map however revealed that there was a bike path you could walk. It was a long walk, but you could walk.  So, since I’d been in the van all day and I really wanted to move a bit I gathered my stuff and headed out.  It only took about 40 minutes to reach the swimming beach!  When I got there and saw the lay of the land better I studied the map and discovered that the bike path went all the way around! I could walk the rest of the way to get back to the campground! 

P1130478Part of the bike path by the campground


Lake Anita


There were bunnies everywhere!


The swimming beach left a lot to be desired.  It was very shallow and the bottom was squishy and full of “seaweed” – or is it “lake weed”? I waded in and swam one lap back and forth across the deepest part and decided that the walk was more interesting so got out and continued around the lake.  Lake Anita is very small – it was about 5 miles around and the trail wound around all the coves.  The banks of lake are covered with flowers and grasses and trees! There are all kinds of birds, bugs and lots of bunnies!  Between all the animal action and the views of the rolling farmland and the windmills it was a great way to spend an hour or two! 

Now I’m just waiting for the sun to go down so I can go to bed! LOL! 


The lake in front of my site


Tomorrow I’m not sure what I’m going to do, I have on the agenda to stop at Lake McConaughy in southern Nebraska, another Gadius’ family favorite (and I was talking to a guy at the beach and he suggested it too..), but if I get an early start like I did today I may want to just drive the extra 100/150 miles and get into CO tomorrow.  I want to stop at the Pawnee National Grassland in Northeast CO on Wed on my way into Loveland and they have a campground, it’s off the beaten path but I might be able to make there tomorrow and then have more time for exploring before heading to Loveland.  I’m going to play it by ear tomorrow, maybe take a long break at the Lake and keep going?  I’ve really been enjoying these state parks each night, but I’m ready to actually be in Colorado!

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