Place peas in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add water to cover 2 inches above peas; let soak 8 hours. Drain peas, discarding water.
Bring peas and 7 cups water to a boil over medium-high heat in Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours or until peas are tender.
Cook bacon in a large skillet 5 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon.
Sauté onion and bell pepper in hot drippings in skillet over medium heat 5 minutes or until tender. Add vegetable mixture, remaining 3 cups water, rice, and salt to peas. Cook, covered, over medium heat 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Garnish, if desired.