Before our failure to start problems in mid-Nebraska, the plan was to continue through the state into Iowa and spend the weekend at Waubonsie State Park. After the starting problems delayed us, and with Flatwater Repair’s strong recommendation, we headed straight to Omaha to get our probable fuel-air leak checked out by Interstate Power Systems, and if resolved that day we could then continue in to Iowa. Theoretically this could leave our recently developed route and timeline back to Florida mostly intact.
Having arrived at Interstate on a Saturday too close to the end of their half work day for them to do more than take a cursory look, we made arrangements to come back Monday morning. We checked the route to Waubonsie, and seeing that it was an hour from our current position southwest of Omaha, we looked at the notes from our state by state route planning research to find a back up option. We discovered that the Hitchcock Nature Center was only half an hour away, also just across the Iowa border.
We called the ranger station, and they assured us they had plenty of spots left. We made a quick stop for supplies and pulled into this small, county owned campground less than an hour later only to find that we had really pushed it: the park has 18 spots total and 16 were filled! We picked the better of the two remaining, and watched the last site fill before sunset.
As the post title suggests, this park is partial hook up: electrical only, 20, 30 or 50 amp. But what the park does have is excellent overall value: RV sites run $15 per night with no extra fees for the shower houses, dump station, water fill station, and shockingly usable wifi.
I mean really usable: strong signal, plenty of bandwidth, and no “browser page capturing” that can cause technical glitches with different computer platforms. Even when the park was filled we had no trouble any time of day with basic functions. We didn’t think to try full video streaming until the park emptied out on Sunday, at which point we were fully able to use HBO Now and other similar services.
If this were just a one night way station we would have been thrilled with the services offered at only $15/night. But this place is way more than just a stopover, it is a nice destination for a several day stay. The 1,268 acre park has 10 miles of hiking trails, a lodge, interpretive center, playground, archery range, and a hawk observation tower above the tree tops. We took advantage of the trails and platform, startling a deer on the former and spotting two bald eagles from the later.
As I said, the park was completely filled on Saturday, and the friendly campers turned out to be almost entirely locals that frequent this park and a couple of others nearby on many weekends during reasonable weather. There were two camp hosts, though it was not clear if this was a usual situation, and one seasonal couple using their fifth wheel as a home base since Hitchcock was closer to most of his railroad work assignments. By Sunday it was just the two camp hosts, the seasonal couple, us, and one other family that showed up for a three day stay as part of their “gap year” following college graduation and before starting either work or a masters program.
Several of the park residents made reference to the better value of Iowa versus Nebraska public camping parks, specifically suggesting that in the neighboring state they tend to nickel and dime you on extra costs, such as dump station fees and coin operated showers. They thought we should look into several other very affordable parks in Iowa as well. While we are not going to be able to do that this year, we will keep it in mind for the next time we pass through the midwest.
At the end of our first year we plan to review many of our lessons learned and experiences, and one intended topic will be the “best” and “worst” places we stayed using varying criteria for what is good and bad. I strongly suspect that from a “bang for your buck” view, Hitchcock Nature Center will be near the top of the list.