Home » 2011 Cross Country Road Trip

Lake Anita State Park, IA

Friday, July 15, 2011 - 4:45pm by Herb
621 miles and 12 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Maybe I’m getting older, or maybe Lorry helped with the driving, but the 621 miles to Lake Anita from the Flying J felt a lot longer than they did in 2005. In fact, I wasn’t even planning on going this distance. Rather, my co-pilot at home had selected a campground at Walnut Woods State Park near Des Moines, which would have me parked by 6:00. Alas, it was not to be, since it was a Friday night, and the 21 sites at the campground were completely booked for the weekend. No matter how many times I circled the little campground loop, no sites would open up, and the campground hosts were nowhere to be found. I was getting really tired with the extra 20 miles in city rush hour traffic to get here and was hoping to crash in the daily overflow, but with the hosts missing I didn’t want to chance a late night ejection, so I headed out to drive the extra 68 miles to Lake Anita.

Lake Anita camping on lawnLake Anita camping on lawnNow I had a GPS to get me back the highway so it shouldn’t have been an issue. In fact I had two/three GPS’s. One was the trusty, but somewhat outdated Garmin 2610 on the dash, and the second was the Motorola Droid cell phone using Google Maps for navigation. A smaller battery powered Garmin 60CSx used for Geocaching was resting comfortably in the bureau drawer.

Still, with all this satellite firepower and the fatigue of the miles, I was having a bit of difficulty finding the best way back. And the cell phone GPS was taking me down a dirt road that the Garmin 2610 didn’t even have in its database.

That’s when the final bit of untested technology proved its worth. The boys and I have recently enabled Google Latitude on our cell phones. What this does is allow Lolo (or any other trusted friend) to look at a Google Map and instantly see where in the world you are. It has a few glitches, like when it told Lolo that I was in mainland China, or Andrew in a maternity hospital in NYC, but when it works, Lolo can instantly see where all of her “men” are at any point in time across the country.

While I was driving down the dirt road, frantically in pursuit of some pavement that would get me back to Route 80, the cell phone rang. It was Lolo, asking why I was going down that little road to get to the highway. She could actually see my little smiling face avatar move down the Google Map on her computer. I was amused, impressed, and then grateful when she informed me that the next left turn should get me back to some semblance of civilization.

In another 1.5 hours and around 7:45 I arrived at Lake Anita State Park. Even at this hour it was over 90 degrees with a comparable humidity level. And of course, since it was still Friday night, every electric site was taken, so the promise of a good night’s sleep with continuous air conditioning would remain an unfulfilled fantasy.

However, there were plenty of spaces on the “no hookup” section (I wonder why?), and I quickly found a reasonably level spot to park and ponder my situation. Since there was still an hour before the “quiet time” began, I ran the generator to get some air conditioning and poured myself a tall G&T to help loosen the pains in my neck and back. The micro-wave produced some edible fare, and after a quick shower in the RV I was primed for bed.

At around 2:00 AM the sirens went off, but I had already been up for over an hour. Now I think I know why the people of the Mid-west are as God-fearing as they seem to be. The continuous lightning and thunder storm that I could see from my bedroom window was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Heron Lake in 2002 was the closest comparable in lightning, but this included torrential rain and wind gusts that rocked the RV. Through the near continuous lightening flashes I could see my unfortunate follow campers with tents, fleeing to their cars while trying to secure the tents in the drenching rain.

At this point, I had only the sirens to contend with. I’m still not sure what the appropriate response to a siren is. As an easterner, I tried to call up Radar Now, or Weatherbug on my cell phone to get a radar visualization of the storm and any warnings, but I had no coverage. Hence, I just watched what my brethren did, and was ready to leave at a moment’s notice if someone suggested that we might be in the path of a tornado.

Finally, the storm seemed to fade away, and I was left to try and get a bit of rest before the next day’s drive to Lake McConaughy.


Lake Anita State Park is located in southwest Iowa about 5 miles south of Interstate 80. The park, which contains a beautiful 171-acre artificial lake, is very popular for swimming, fishing and boating.

There is a campground with 144 sites, all within easy access of the lake.

Lake Anita State Park location map in "high definition"

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