On June 1st we headed out in our Pleasure-Way Class B camper van with the intent of meeting up with 19 other B van traveling enthusiasts representing 12 states and Canada as far away as Arizona, New Jersey, Texas and Louisiana. The place was Niobrara State Park
in northeast Nebraska where the Niobrara River flows into the Missouri River. The Lewis & Clark Expedition stopped there in September 1804 and met with the peaceful Ponca indians.
But first we made a slight diversion toward Pipestone, Minnesota and as we neared Pipestone we crossed the Buffalo Ridge dividing the Missouri River flowage from the the Mississippi River flowage. The natural crest was dotted with windmills stretching for miles. Minnesota gets a significant percentage of its electricity from the wind.
Our primary destination on this diversion was Pipestone National Monument
where indians came to quarry the red rock made from clay buried below limestone in shallow layer. This stone is a soft red stone about as pliable as your finger nail. It was used mainly for carving ceremonial pipes. The park has an interpretive center, pipe carving demonstrations and a 3/4 mile easy walk through the quarries.
Waterfalls, ponds, quarries and exposed rock formations are part of the walk. This is the waterfall.
This is a more refined and finish quarry near the interpretive center.
Pipestone is also a well known road food stopping place for lunch. Lange's Cafe
is located there and their triple decker cheese sandwich graces the cover of the Michael and Jane Stern's 2005 edition RoadFood book we carry with us. So for a warm up to get our road food juices flowing we had the Rueben sandwich and the triple decker. We posted them lapping like the book photo but as you can see if you are familiar with the book they did not come out as nice and pristine. But they were tasty.
We next arrived at our destination, Niobrara State Park. This is a view of the Missouri River from the high point in the park.
Here is our campground. The campground was mostly empty save for our Bs.
The next morning we made a scouting trip to the nearby Flyway Cafe
about a mile from our campground. The intent was to meet with the owner, Laura, and get assurance she could deliver breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches later in the week to our group. This was critical because breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches were not on their menu. Our local host, GGup on RV.net laid the groundwork for us on this. The Flyway Cafe is strictly a local place that caters seasonally to hunters. We noted one group of men hung around until about 9 AM and we overheard one fella get up and say we gotta get out of here for the second shift and true as said a second group of even older men arrived. We tried their recommended French toast.
Later in the week we Bs swarmed the Flyway Cafe after the lunch hour and after the locals had cleared out to have our breaded pork tenderloin feast. Had we gone earlier the BPTs might have confused the locals. A few lingered and wondered curiously about us I'm sure. There has probably never been a time in history where a cafe was swarmed with so many motorhomes with over 30 people.
Once inside everyone waited patiently as the cafe worked to deliver 30 tenderloins.
The breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches were excellent. They were true tenderloins fried to perfection. Choice of sides included fries, curly fries, pasta or potato salad. I opted for the potato salad since it was their signature specialty. The potato salad recipe was made by grating cooked potatoes instead of cubing or chopping them with a knife.
Most of our other meals were at the campground. We generally had community potlucks and just hung around and relaxed in a central location near our Bs.
On one potluck I tried out my new cast iron Dutch oven for the first time. I made a stew cooking over charcoal. I manned the pot and my sous chef and wife Nancy chopped up the ingredients. The Dutch oven has three legs to bridge above the coals and a lipped lid to hold coals on top. Amazingly on first try it worked to perfection. The coals lasted for 2-1/2 hours and maintained a steady boil and simmer without burning. The stew went fast at the potluck.
After four nights we all disbanded and headed on our way on Thursday morning. Some of us had also attended to B Rally in the Hocking Hills area in southern Ohio in May and some of us will once again gather at Moab, Utah near Arches NP again in October.
The weather, despite rains and storms had cooperated during the week. On the morning we departed tornado warnings were issued for the park. We managed to get out before that storm came through and we watched another storm cell behind us passing through into Iowa. We decided to loop south through Iowa on our way home because north of us South Dakota and Minnesota were getting the brunt of the storms. Well, that's my excuse. It was now serious BPT time. [
The first stop was lunch at the Dairy Sweet in Dunlap. IA
home of the 2005 Iowa Pork Producers Association best breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.
I had already sampled the 2003 winner at Darrell's Place in Hamlin, the 2006 winner at the Townhouse Supper Club in Wellsburg and the 2007 winner at Larsen's in Elk Horn. They are called "Tenders" at the Dairy Sweet. Just looking at this sandwich makes your mouth water and indeed it was excellent. Where would I rate it on the winner of winners scale in Iowa? I would put it better than Larsen's and Darrell's Place and neck and neck with the Townhouse Supper Club.
After, since storms were still chasing out tail, we decided to move on east toward Ames, IA. We ended up at Ledges State Park early enough to consider dinner and another BPT. With threats from my wife about my arteries and cholesterol, I won out with the promise we would get home earlier the next day by not hanging around long enough for another lunch in Iowa. That place was the 2004 IPPA winner, the Suburban Restaurant in Gilbert
on Highway 69 about 6 miles north of Ames.
This winner is probably the least known and mentioned of the five winners so far but I have to give it the nod over the others. For one the meat was the tenderest of the bunch and the frying was perfection with no excess grease.
Nancy had a salad. I have to admit two in one day is a bit much so I showed no disrespect for the sandwich but constraint and doggy bagged half of it. Since Nancy had done the same at the Dairy Sweet we had them for breakfast the next morning. Microwaving them for 40 seconds does the trick. We lucked out once again with storms and tornado warnings passing both east and west of us but did get some rain. Exploring the park located on the Des Moines River was spoiled because intervening Pease Creek was flooding the roadway through the park.
We then headed for home. Having now sampled Iowa's best I can relax, restore my arteries, stay home and relax for a few weeks, and await the 2008 IPPA winner before heading out again. That very well may be a pass through Iowa again on our way to Moab.
PS. Here is the Web Gallery view of the Niobrara BEE Social participants and their Bs.