Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trapped in Iowa

We are at the municipal campground
in Keokuk, Iowa, right on the Mississippi (map). And by right on, I nearly mean right in -- when we arrived yesterday the river was within inches of the bank. If we wanted a campfire. there is an enormous supply of driftwood littering the river trail east of here. The level has dropped about a foot since we arrived.

Today we are the only ones here, although there was one other rig when we arrived. This area has room for five rigs with 30-amp power; a bit further downriver is a much larger lot with perhaps a dozen pedestals with 50-amp power. That lot is more spartan, having once been the parking for a long-gone casino riverboat. It, too, was empty when we arrived.

At $16 per night it's not exactly a bargain, but we needed the power, and having a riverfront site mostly to ourselves is nice. The Keokuk Junction and BNSF rail yards are across the street, so we have a view of the towboats out one side and the trains out the other. We're right at home here, and both those modes of transportation have the effect of making Odyssey look lilliputian.

Camping is paid for over at the museum, housed in a land-locked, century-old paddlewheel towboat called the Geo. M. Verity. When we wandered in there today to pay we found out that the bridge and road southwest of here across the Des Moines river and into Missouri, on our planned route of US-61, is flooded out, and so we are "trapped" here. We can see if the flooding subsides tomorrow, or we can cross into Illinois and back again at Quincy.

Last night we walked a few blocks uphill to The Cellar restaurant and bar, which had a panoramic view over the river and inexpensive but tasty food. Tonight we are working our way through leftovers. If it cools off a bit later, we may walk out onto the remains of the old highway deck on top of the railroad bridge, now an observation platform. From there can be seen the massive Lock #19 and the last remaining bit of the Des Moines Rapids Canal.

We drove through most of downtown Keokuk on our way here, and although we somehow missed the statue of Chief Keokuk, I think we got our fill of the town. Today was so hot we mostly stayed inside, which was fine since we both had Red Cross projects to work on, including an hour-plus conference call this afternoon. It was when we wrapped up that call that we decided to just spend another night, not yet knowing that the river had already planned that for us. Tomorrow we may extend yet another day, if it looks like that will buy us a pass back onto our preferred route.

It's good that our plans are very flexible. Yesterday we were unceremoniously booted off the Great River Road in downtown Muscatine by some kind of construction project. The detour, just a block into the riverfront, took us all the way inland to US-61, and, once there, we decided to just stay on that all the way to Burlington, whose eponymous rail line is the forebear of today's BNSF. The River Road would have followed SR-99, which isn't riverside anyway.


  1. I live in Burlington. Have been following your blog for at least a couple years. Would've been neat to see you driving through. Do you ever have blog readers knocking on your door out of the blue? If you had stopped in Burlington I wouldn't be able to control myself to at least drive by to see your bus.

  2. @Damie: If the weather had been just a bit cooler, we would have stayed in Burlington at the casino. As it was, the water park next door almost tempted us to do so anyway. In the end, we decided to press on to a place with some power.

    We have, indeed, had people just show up and knock on the door. However, we always prefer an email, text message, or phone call first, so we can arrange a convenient time. We usually make time for our readers when asked in advance.

    Sorry we missed you.

  3. Hi Sean and Louise. As you know, we were in the same area a couple of weeks ago. We sure enjoyed the Great River Road and can re-live it again via your blog.


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