So Far in Cedar Falls

We’re in Tracy’s hometown, and I tell you what. You know when you’re driving through someone’s old stomping grounds and at every corner they say things like, “Well that entire complex is new,” and “I think my dad had a special dinner there once,” and it goes on and on and is annoying?

I actually love it when Tracy gets in that mode. The Midwest is so foreign to me: the flat landscape, the easy-going people, the ubiquitous John Deere tractors. This would all roll in front of my eyes like an old-style black and white animation loop—but Tracy’s stories fill in the moving pictures with color and context.

Biking and Floods

We’re staying at a fairly new campground (regrettably with not a single mature tree here) because it’s so close to downtown Cedar Falls, which has been revitalized in many spots and was super-fun to stay in when we visited the last few years. We’re here in different circumstances now of course—in many ways.

From this campground we can easily get downtown (and really anywhere) via a giant network of biking trails. Yesterday we scoped out the basics of where we can bike to, but recent flooding turned us back over and over.

The Cedar River here floods every spring (don’t quote me), and the flat farmland takes quite a while to recover. The peak of this current flooding will be tomorrow evening, but the water rise is so quick that the trails we rode on this morning were covered with water in the evening.

We did get to the dam downtown, where a rock band was practicing “Hotel California” in the parking lot, oddly with all their amps and microphones. Tracy thinks he knows the guitar player from years and years ago.

Par for the course, I was looking at and photographing the river, but I was thinking about Tracy’s stories. (The band is under those trees in this pic.)

Biking’s so easy (when it’s not flooding) that Tracy’s cousin surprised us at the campground while he was out riding. He sat for just a bit at the picnic table and caught us up on family news, then biked off before the water could cover his path back home.

Big Woods Lake Campground

Campgrounds just recently reopened here in Iowa, and we were lucky to find an open site when we pulled in on Monday, probably only because it was during a giant storm. By now the campground is entirely full.

It amazes me that people who live out in this beautiful farmland, with so much space to themselves, spend their weekends packed like sardines in campgrounds like this. Invariably, the adults make campfires (no matter the time of day or temperature) and walk around comparing details of other people’s campers, and the kids ride anything with noisy wheels around and around and around the campground loop.

I’m wrestling with the fact that the very thing I dislike the most about this life is what so many people choose to do for vacation. Clearly I’m missing some element of understanding here.

One reason they’re here is that this campground is next to a lovely lake with a paved trail all around it. I need to get out there at the crack of dawn so I can enjoy it, away from the parents with a kazillion kids learning to ride scooters and the couples with three energetic rescue dogs at the end of too-long leashes.

Tracy takes all this campground culture in stride, but it sets me on edge.

Another amenity this campground has that people must love are the full hook-ups (electricity, city water, and sewer), which means I took a shower two days in a row already. I was able to do a boxing workout right next to the trailer (to the fascination of some kid on his bike, whom I was hoping to mortify so he’d pick another route) and then showered right after. My word.

And there’s campground WiFi. This is a good thing in that it allowed us to join our old trivia team for the weekly Zoom trivia night (team leaders pictured here pre-pandemic). Go Team Donner Party! (Team members Bootysweat, we missed you this week.)

For me, the sour side of constant WiFi is access to news. But then you know what that’s like. When we pull into a place with Wifi, a firehose of world news shoots at me every time I get the urge to pick up my phone. I need to learn how to restrict that.

All this aside, our week here is young.

We’ve just begun catching up with Tracy’s people, which is the reason we’re here—and that will make this campground and all the people here well worth it. Plus, if only I could sleep at night, I’d walk around the lake at sunrise and soak in the land and light, just Banjo and me.

6 thoughts to “So Far in Cedar Falls”

  1. The photos are so beautiful!. Breathtaking! Tracey looks so happy on his bike! I think the loud people you are running into are just Loud wherever they go and the campsites are just a new place to be loud. Like when I go to the beach and I go there for restful walks and beach waves but some people are there for the commotion and “excitement” of the boardwalk and heavy drinking! 2 Different worlds on what is relaxing~~

  2. I *completely* get it about campground culture – that it’s anathema to everything I enjoy about life on Earth. Some of my favorite memories are long-ago solo mountain hikes in the snow. Burning Man though, that was intriguing. No kids, no dogs, no electricity unless you brought your own, and anything but quiet.

    1. Yeah, I would not go to Burning Man expecting quiet, that’s for sure! Glad I’m not alone with this frustration.

  3. Reading your expectations early on about peace and quiet and nature, and knowing what I know and have heard about campground (specifically RV) culture, I wondered if you’d find what you wanted. I’m sure depending on season and location you will find a balance. Silver lining – corona will give you something of an excuse to keep distance. XO

    1. After we make our rounds of visiting folks (as much as the virus permits) and doing paperwork and other business in certain states, we are HEADING WEST and plan to be away from campgrounds as much as possible. We’re getting a ton of solar panels installed and learning about land we can stay on where there’s not a person in sight. Don’t you know though that after a while of doing that I’ll be complaining that I’m lonely, LOL!

  4. Aww, I remember the Donner Party’s fun times at Shuckin’ Shack when we would throw all those cracker wrappers into the built-into-the table buckets.

    I’m loving all your photos, especially the final sunrise(?) photo. It’s a beauty!