Five Places to Visit Around a Cozy Campground
I’m Frannie Shoemaker, and my favorite thing about retirement is camping with my husband and friends. We travel a lot of places, usually state parks, but our last trip we stayed in a private campground in Southeastern Minnesota. Some people think that camping is all bugs and dirt and hard work, but not the way we camp. Let me take you around River Bend Campground.
The Shoemaker Trailer: Our camper is a thirty-foot travel trailer. My husband, Larry, and I bought it used several years ago and Larry was not surprised when I made some modifications inside. (He says I will probably redecorate my coffin after I’m dead and buried.) I like a more rustic feel than most newer RVs have, so I recovered the fold-down couch and the dinette benches with blue denim. I didn’t like the beigey-taupe border either so I took it off, painted a stripe and stenciled a border of acorns and oak leaves. A hand-quilted laprobe in navy, red and green made by my mom and throw pillows made from old jeans warm it up even more. Larry’s brown leather recliner, a wrought iron lamp and black cabinet hardware finish it off. We don’t spend a lot of time inside but when the weather’s chilly or rainy, there is no cozier place on earth.
The Campfire-The campfire is an activity in itself. Larry and my brother-in-law Mickey argue every trip about how to build a fire. Larry prefers a ‘teepee’ style and Mickey likes the ‘log cabin’ form. But their spats aside, the fire is where we gather every morning with mugs of steaming coffee and end each day, with glasses of wine, iced tea, or beer. It’s where Mickey plays his guitar while we try to sing. It’s where we argue politics, discuss recipes, and try and solve mysteries. And it’s also where we, especially Mickey, cook up fabulous meals, often in cast iron pots on an ingenious swing-away grill. Our meals beat any restaurant around. Near the fire is the picnic table, covered with a bright vinyl tablecloth--the scene of those fabulous meals, games, and crafts. Mickey’s wife and my best friend, Jane Ann, usually provides a wonderful bouquet of her garden flowers in an old canning jar as a centerpiece.
The Campground Office: The office is attached to the front of the owners’ residence and usually manned by Mary Louise Larson, one of said owners. Mary Louise almost fills the office, not only with her plus-size body but even more with her joyous personality and booming laugh. She registers campers, sells fresh eggs and a few other groceries, doles out information about nearby attractions, and always lends a sympathetic ear to troubles. Her cat, Phun Munki--so named because of a marked resemblance to a sock monkey--likes to lay on the campground registry and pass judgment on all who enter.
The Pie Shoppe: In nearby Reston, an old wooden building serves as a stop for hundreds of cyclists every summer who wish to experience their wonderful pies. Bike racks surround two sides of the building. Over a long counter inside hangs an old chalkboard touting the wide selection of homemade pies available on any particular day. Customers get their own drink from urns of coffee, water and tea, and laminate top tables with mismatched chairs invite them to sit and savor. Which we always do. Sometimes we see the beginnings of a mystery in the Pie Shoppe.
The Old Power Plant: Clinging to the side of a 200-foot cliff on the Burden River is a hulking cement derelict built in the early 1900s to provide power to the Burden River Valley. There is no road to it and it was built by lowering materials over the cliff. The first time Larry and I passed it on a canoe float several years ago, we were chilled by its gaping windows and air of abandonment. So we were not completely surprised on this most recent trip when we hiked down a narrow path to it, picked our way through rusted beams and debris to find....
River Bend Campground is the fictitious locale of Peete and Repeat, but is based on Eagle Cliff Campground in the Root River Valley of southeastern Minnesota. There really is an old power plant and a great pie shop in nearby Whalen.
Peete and Repeat is the third book in my cozy campground mystery series that follows the adventures of retirees, Frannie and Larry Shoemaker, and their friends while RV camping. The first book, Bats and Bones, is based on Maquoketa Caves State Park in Iowa and is an Indie BRAGMedallion honoree. The Blue Coyote, the second book, is based on Ledges State Park, also in Iowa. In Peete and Repeat, a biking and camping trip to southeastern Minnesota turns into double trouble for Frannie and her friends as she deals with a canoeing mishap and a couple of bodies.
I am a retired teacher and test development specialist with three children and eight grandchildren. My husband I camp a great deal with friends and family. Except for finding bodies, nearly all of the mishaps in the books we have experienced or witnessed. Before you go camping, you’d better check to make sure Frannie Shoemaker hasn’t reserved the next site. Camping can be murder!