In the News

Country Cabins Hotel In the News – Chariton IA

From time to time Country Cabins Motel is in the news and featured in various blog posts and newspapers. The links below are provided for your viewing pleasure.


Glamour Camping Comes to Iowa
Posted: September 22, 2014, by

CHARITON, Iowa- It’s a term that has emerged in recent years, Glamour Camping, or for short “Glamping.” The website describes it as ” It’s a way to experience the splendor of the outdoors without forgoing the creature comforts you can’t live without.”
Read More…

Very nice story about the new military cabin done by Roger Riley from WHO TV 13 in Des Moines.


One of Those “Oops” Moments
Article by Frank Myers

This article was also written by Frank Myers after Jerry’s cabin fell down all by itself one nice summer day.


The Boys of Highway 34
Written by Mike Kilen

The boys of Highway 34 Written by Mike Kilen Jul. 19, 2013 |

Register reporter MIKE KILEN tells the stories of Iowans across the state. Contact him at and read more of his work at Des

The Boys of Highway 34 WHO THEY ARE:

Nick Cattell, owner of Country Cabins and Glamour Camping Resort, and Norm Paulsen, who opened a complex of western-themed shops, on a stretch of land on the edge of Chariton, Ia. FIND OUT MORE: Go to and

The “old boy” lived in a pine-pole cabin until he got drunk on Amish wine and ran into the ditch. His kids threw him in the nursing home, but he was drunk, not dependent, so he broke out and set about adjusting their inheritance. That’s how Nick Cattell said he got a good price on the old boy’s chunk of land just off Highway 34 on the edge of Chariton. And it’s how he met his neighbor, Norm Paulsen, who shared Cattell’s leanings toward creative rural development. They occupy this stretch of unusual highway attractions that don’t make sense unless you actually see them. Paulsen’s complex is a series of western-themed storefronts that grew from the Frontier Trading Post. It expanded from country crafts and cowboy hats straight to the cutting edge — a barn he loaded with junk that “pickers” can rummage through and bargain for just like they do on cable TV. Then there’s this year’s addition, a rare miniature golf course with real grass. The 74-year-old also has discovered the wonders of karaoke machines and now sings every Saturday night in his saloon, where the stiffest drink is soda pop.

Not to be outdone, Cattell logged onto the Internet to find something fresh and found an international trend called “glamping,” or glamour camping. Fancy tents with butlers, beds with high thread-count sheets, and tree houses with luxurious furnishings made sense to him, since all he had was an old building that was once the Lake Vista Supper Club, which he had converted to apartments. He took to making it glamorous — at least compared to sleeping on the ground in a soggy tent. He divided the apartments into spacious suites with themes and attached vintage trailers to the rooms — one is even inside a room — and earlier this year opened Country Cabins and Glamour Camping Resort. One would be hard-pressed to find as unique a slice of roadside Americana anywhere in Iowa.

“The way we define “glamping” is really experimental travel,” offers Chad Taylor of, who has seen the trend spread to the United States in recent years. “It’s a place where you can experience nature with the creature comforts of home.” Here in Lucas County, that means camping indoors. But it certainly is experimental — two guys scrounged for bits and pieces of old buildings, including some famous local structures, and nailed them together to fit neatly into trends. “So many towns have parks and a town square, but you always look for something that sets you apart, and this is unique,” said Sandra Knebel, who is on the board of Tourism Lucas County. “We could find only one other place in the world, and that’s in Germany, that had (built-in) campers.” Cattell let his grand kids pick a theme for each suite, which range from tiki to Harley rooms, but coupled the kitsch with an unusual pairing — touches of local and personal history in each suite. He took lumber from old barns around Lucas County and timber from the grounds of the old Mallory Castle, a noted structure that was torn down in the 1950s, as well as two fireplaces. He made towel bars out of old butter boxes and had TV stands made from his mom’s old screen door. The old boy’s cabin door became a headboard. In one room is a wooden roulette wheel. “The ‘old boy’ used to have his buddies over and gamble. I found it in a secret compartment behind the fireplace,” Cattell said.

The bonus: vintage trailers just outside the door of each suite that come with the package. Cattell bought a 1967 Globe pull-along camper for $1,000 and a moped, added a 1974 Airstream and a large Keystone fifth wheel to link to the suites via a side door and accompanying deck. He even put a small teardrop camper inside one suite. He will add a fully-furnished tepee, cabins and RV sites to the grounds in the next year. A trail leads through the woods down to Lake Ellis, and Red Haw State Park is just across the highway. The Hy-Vee trucker does the work himself, along with wife Deb and son Brad, who manages the day-to-day operation. He’s one of those nuts-and-bolts men, looking younger than his 54 years. On his afternoons off, he constructs entire decks, and in his spare time digs hard into local history. He can give a stand-up lecture on the origins of the town and its noted railroad tycoon Smith H. Mallory, who built what locals called a “castle” that was torn down in 1955 — “the biggest mistake ever made,” Cattell says. Today, he lives on the acreage where the castle once stood.

Cattell is a fitting match with Paulsen, a man with a deep voice that resembles the late radio personality Paul Harvey, and is more of a showman. The retired teacher from Florida first came to Iowa to help his sister with her downtown craft shop, but bigger ideas quickly formed. “You can’t shut my brain off,” he said while eating a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich in the back room of his bait shop. “It’s so much fun being creative and accomplishing something.” He bought the acreage off the highway and built the trading post, then the saloon, then the bait and tackle shop and a pickin’ barn, full of his auction finds. “Most people quit, sit on their butts and die,” he said. “But I guess my satisfaction is seeing people happy. Seeing people enjoy themselves gives me joy.” Kids now bring him their first fish to photograph and hang on the wall. He watches the grandparents and grandchildren dancing on the large wooden dance floor of his Soda Pop Saloon, where there are no howling drunks, just the sound of Paulsen and daughter Cindy Reyes singing everything from Buck Owens to Frank Sinatra on Saturday nights. The low-slung structure has slide-up garage doors all around to roll up in nice weather and provide the feel of a giant screened-in porch. “I always wanted to sing. I was a music major when I was young. So with the advent of this karaoke machine, my god, I’m going to give it a go,” Paulsen said. “The only reason I feel bad is I didn’t start singing until I was 65.” He’s not done scheming. He’s adding to his unique real-grass miniature golf course by building a nine-hole chip-and-putt golf course, which his neighbor Cattell affectionately calls “hillbilly golf.”

The two of them are a pair. Given a minute, more ideas emerge, even when the roof caves in. The “old boy’s” cabin next to the resort did just that in early July. So Cattell decided to pull up the walls, keep the old fireplace in the middle and make it a cozy open-air shelter. Cattell was friends with the old boy until he died in recent years. But the stories of him live on in this unusual place, where his old petting zoo sheds have sunk into the ground and await reinvention. He would have fit right in with this new team of Cattell and Paulsen, the former carrying a hammer, the latter a microphone, hammering out “Truck Drivin’ Man” with a little yodel. “Yodeling,” Paulsen said, “is a dying art.”