Friends talked us into camping with them last Saturday at Lake Red Rock, outside the pretty Dutch Iowa town of Pella, and we’re glad they did. It was gorgeous there and perfect weather. My only issue was sleeping in a tent – which I haven’t done in several years, for good reason I learned. Even though we brought padding, my bum back couldn’t get acclimated to the still-hard ground beneath my sleeping bag. I finally gave up at about 4 a.m. and sat in a lawn chair outside our tent, wrapped in my sleeping bag, reading a magazine with a flashlight under a full moon and waiting for dawn which, when it arrived, was very welcome. I walked down to the late through a clearing in the woods and found the lake lovely – still, very pale blue with mist rising, only me and the geese paddling and crying out.
We stayed at Wallashuck campground which was smaller than some of the others and nice and quiet and shaded, with easy access to a bike trail riding the lake which we rode in both directions, including to the city of Pella where we just missed getting the city’s famed fresh bologna at one of two markets in town (both closed at 4) – the only other place I look forward to bologna is in the western Kansas town of Lucas. But we did get some good sweets at one of Pella’s Dutch bakeries! (coconut and date macaroons at Jaarsma Bakery. We’re not Dutch Letter fans, an S-shaped flakey pastry filled with almond pastry, which is their real claim to fame). En route to Pella, we passed a cute b&b, The Cheesemakers Inn which I gather is run by the same folks that make gouda cheese sold at the Des Moines Farmers market (Frisian Farm.)
On Sunday, we drove to the nearby Neal Smith Prairie Life Center, looking for trails to bike and roaming buffaloes. Didn’t find either. We stopped in Prairie City at Goldie’s and tried one of its famous enormous pork tenderloins, most recently featured in the New York Times (I think we sat next to the same people when we were there!) NYTimes eats in Iowa It’s not my thing but I gave it a go – opting for the pork tenders (slightly less caloric because there’s no bun.) Cute place in former brick gas station on the edge of a quintessential small rural town in Iowa.