IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ ALL MY PRE-TRIP RAMBLING, SCROLL DOWN TO THE CAMPGROUND REVIEW---
It is fall. It is my absolute most favorite time of the year to go camping!!!
Now that our projects are done on the house, the new bedroom window is installed, the siding is closed up, and the bedroom ceiling and walls are completed. It's time to throw a few things into the motorhome and hit the road. It doesn't take us long. The weather reports were looking good for a couple weeks worth of camping, so we thought that it's good to hit the road.
Our goal is to try out some more of the Army Corp of Engineer Campgrounds that are located by the far western border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, along the Mississippi River.
A few years ago we had stayed at the Eau Galle dam near near Eau Claire in the Spring Valley Recreation Area. We liked staying there, so we wanted to check out some more of what the Army Corps of Engineers has to offer.
It was good to get the motor home out and try putting some miles on it across the state. This year's maintenance projects involved a few things:
- new brake calipers and brakes on the front tires
- a complete flushing and refill and cleaning of the radiator
- Steve also added an auxiliary heater core from a used school bus to help increase the flow of circulation.
We hit the road at 9am with a full diesel tank and full propane and sunshine in the sky. There was very little wind and when there was, it was to our backside. That really helps the fuel mileage. We headed west on Highway 22 and meandered our way along a combination of state highways and county roads.
We really do not like the interstates much at all. Who wants to see the same strip malls and shopping centers and same franchises over and over and over? There's never anything interesting to see when we drive on an interstate.
Instead, we will meander along on the back roads and watch the scenery as it rolls on by with each passing mile.
I really enjoy using my outdated defunct version of Microsoft Streets & Trips. I think mine is 2007 or maybe 2012? I enjoy using the applied POI (points of interest) files I have accumulated over the years. It has notations of campgrounds, boondocking sites, Walmart stops, and other places of interest that we have seen or been to over the years. I have notations of what campsites are good and what campgrounds we have stayed at, or prices we have paid. What I really like is it is spread across the entire big screen of my laptop and not just a little screen GPS on my phone or a dash unit. I can adapt our trip as we go, zoom in or zoom out, estimate distance, or look for other interesting things as we travel. With my cell phone set as a hotspot, I can look things up on the internet while we are driving and adjust our plan as we go. It has a GPS dongle from a USB cord that sets on the dash. There is a built in roll out desk tray for the laptop right at my passenger seat. I am The Navigator!
A couple years ago, my old Acer Windows laptop died, and I had upgraded to a new Chromebook. But it didn't have a CD drive. I could not load my Streets & Trips program into the Chromebook. Nor would Chrome run my Windows application even from an external CD drive with an adapting app. I tried many different ways to get it to run and just gave up. I really missed it.
I tried using Google Maps but it just wasn't the same. A month or so ago my oldest daughter Erin gave me an extra laptop that had belonged to one of the kids. Oh joy! It had a CD drawer! Now I could run my Streets & Trips again. Although this laptop is covered with sea turtle stickers from granddaughter Chelsea, it will now function as my traveling laptop in the motorhome, sea turtles and all.
See how nice and big the screen is and it shows all of our stops... where we want to go where, we have been, and I can put little push pins all along the way of things that we have seen or want to go back to see if we missed it this time. I keep all different map files from different vacations and trips, as well as a big Master map of all of my POI points of interest files. I especially like that it leaves a blue "mouse trail" of everywhere we've been! It's really neat to zoom out and view the state, or across the entire USA with all of the little blue trails marked of where we have been. Kind of like a traveling scrapbook.
It was a beautiful sunshiny day but the temperatures were climbing up into the mid 80s. We were very pleased to see that our engine operating temperature stayed in the 180 to 185 range, which is just perfect! That is what we were hoping for. So it looks like all of Steve's efforts to flush and clean the radiator, as well as install the extra heater core, did it's job.
We did encounter some road construction right before reaching La Crosse. A lot of orange barrels seemed to be placed way too close to our lane, and it was a little bit of white knuckling for a ways. Once we reached La Crosse, we turned south on Highway 35.
NOW FOR THE CAMPGROUND REVIEW:
Our first goal was to reach Goose Island which is located on Army Corps of Engineers land along the Mississippi River. What we didn't know is that it is operated by the county. Although it's a beautiful wonderful park, there are over three hundred and fifty campsites!!! It is a bit large for our taste. The other disappointing thing was because it is run by the county, they do not accept our America the Beautiful Senior Pass for half price camping. At $31.00 a night, that is a bit high on our budget. We decided to stay anyhow, but our campsite could only be occupied for two days, and we would have to vacate by the weekend. We are sure by the weekend that place is going to be jam-packed.
We went to the nice site that the gal picked out for us, which was waterfront. It was a very beautiful campsite with tall trees in the background lining the waters of the Mississippi River. Some people had their boats and kayaks parked nearby. The sites were roomy and spacious and there was a lot of grass. But the whole left side of our motor home was exposed to the hot sun. That can be difficult when the temperatures are high, that is the side our refrigerator is on. We do have two additional muffin fans we added to the top vent to help with cool air distribution over the coils. But it's just better to not make it work so hard, if we can find a shady spot for the that side of the motorhome.
We got settled into our campsite and walked around a little bit. Binney gave it her sniff of approval. We cranked up the air conditioning because the temps were crawling up the thermometer.
We didn't even feel like cooking outside, so Steve made a delicious pot of his famous Texas hash. Right before we left the house, we picked an abundance of tomatoes to get them off the vines in case of frost. The leftover green ones are ripening in the house, and all of the red ones were taken along in Ziploc gallon bags. So the next few days, we have to keep thinking of dishes to use up our tomatoes!
We drove around the campground after dinner, and snapped some photos.
To the north part of the park, which reached into the next county, there are six different picnic shelters in large areas set aside for groups to rent for day-use. There's a very nice boat landing as well as several other kayak and canoe launching areas. The swimming beach appears to be well-kept. All of the campground sites are level and easily big rig friendly for the electric sites. Some of the tenting sites are a little more sloped.
All of the facilities, shower buildings, dump stations excetera seemed to be in tip-top shape. There were two camp sites of camp hosts alternating being on duty, and a cute little mini golf course nearby. It appears that there are hay rides on the weekends for the children. I am sure the place is a lot of fun and not too far from town for additional entertainment with families.
Cell phone signal is adequate, and although there is park Wi-Fi available, it was sporadic and difficult to connect to. We were parked very near one of the Wi-Fi towers, but it's still didn't operate well enough to keep a connection very long. It may work differently on other days, depending on how many people are around the tower and using it.
The park is in impeccable shape and we chatted with one of the workers. He has been there over five years, and that's a testament to a well-run park ... to keep employees that long.
I would say the only downfall or negative thing about the park is listening to the trains nearby. But that is to be expected because the trains run frequently up and down the shores of the Mississippi. All of the campgrounds throughout the entire area along the Mississippi have that, so it's just something you have to get used to --- or go camp somewhere else. Lol!
MILES TRAVELED TODAY 242
The next morning, as we sat with our coffee, we perused the map and looked on down to the next Corps of Engineers campground area. The next one is called Blackhawk. So we decided to hop in the Saturn and drive down there. It was only 15 miles away from Goose Island. We checked out the campground and luckily there were eight sites available throughout the weekend! The gal wrote the numbers down on a piece of paper for us so we could drive throughout the park and select which one we wanted.
The best part? The fees are only $19.50 a night. Now if you apply our America the Beautiful senior pass, we get it for half price! That brings it down to $9.75 a night. That means we could stay three nights at this campground for the single one night rate at the one we stayed at the night before.
My next blog post will be a campground review of Blackhawk COE campground near Genoa, Wisconsin.