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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wandering through Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, & Iowa

From Thousand Trails Indian Lakes in Batesville, IN we moved a couple of hundred miles north to Monticello, IN to an ROD park: White Oaks.  The park is located on Lake Freeman, a large lake that attracts many vacationing Indianians.  Our site was up a steep hill that leveled out to a large grassy area with around 40 sites.  Our site was nice (50 amp., full hookup), but a bit muddy … it has rained 3-4 days out of every seven since we left Branson, MO at Christmas … now that it is June we are really ready for some sustained sunshine.

There are quite a few nice little places to eat in the area including The Sportsman Inn just outside of Monticello (picture below).  Lynda had the Italian sub (delicious!) and I had the fish and chips.  The atmosphere was excellent with our table overlooking the lake where boaters and jet skis frolicked (picture of historic building below).  In Monticello itself is Harvest Time Restaurant.  It is open for all three meals and features an inexpensive menu with great food (for lunch Lynda had a cheeseburger and I had the Rueben).  A short 20 miles away is the city of Lafayette, IN (home of Purdue University).  If you are in town try Hu Hot Mongolian Grill.  It is an all you can eat Mongolian Barbeque with excellent fresh food cooked in front of you on a Mongolian grill (yum).

The Sportsman Restaurant

One of our favorite places in the area was the small town of Delphi, IN.  The Stonehouse in Delphi (picture below) is a restaurant located in an historic downtown building.  Lynda had the ultimate grilled cheese and I enjoyed a double cheeseburger.  All of their breads and buns are homemade and delicious.  We also tried a piece of sugar cream pie (we were told it was the state pie of Indiana) … sorry Indiana … it wasn’t one of our favorites.  One of the major attractions in Delphi is a length of the Wabash-Erie Canal.  Once the Erie canal reached Lake Erie from the Hudson River in New York it was extended across Indiana to the Mississippi river where goods could go to New Orleans, thus completing a huge circuit for the movement of crops, goods, furs, and other commodities.  We took a short trip on the small stretch of the canal that has been restored and listened to the fascinating history of the region.  Following our boat trip, “Mr. Reed Case” who was the superintendent on the canal project beginning in 1838, greeted us at the dock.  He built a wonderful house in 1843 that is now available for tours led by the “Reed Case” actor.  Here are a few pictures of our canal experience.

Stonehouse Restaurant

Restored Canal Boat

Warehouse as seen from the canal

Canal lock

The boat barely fits below this bridge

Warehouse now used as the canal boat boathouse

kiln for making lime

Typical bridge over the canal

"Mr. Reed Case"

The Reed Case House

Log cabin from the area

Log cabin from the area

From Monticello, Indiana we traveled 200 miles to Sublette, Illinois and stayed at a Coast to Coast affiliated park: Woodhaven Lakes.  Woodhaven Lakes is not really a campground for travelers.  It is the largest member owned camping site in the United States with 6100 leased or owned sites, but only 12 sites available for transient C2C members.  The site we were in was a curved pull-through with water and electric on one side of the coach and sewer on the other …  not ideal in any way!  Apparently the park is a popular getaway for Chicago folk to enjoy weekends in the wilderness with several lakes, swimming pools and a golf course on the property.  However, it wasn’t ideal for us.  Nevertheless, Sublette had two really good restaurants.  La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant features both Mexican and American dishes (I had Fajitas while Lynda had a fried chicken special … both were really good at a reasonable price).   The other restaurant in town is Route 52 Roadhouse Pizzeria and Pub.  It has excellent pizza starting at 3 p.m.   We ordered the garbage can pizza and it weighed around five pounds, however also highly recommended by the locals was the spaghetti pizza.  There is also an excellent meat market in town (Country Village Meat Market) with excellent sausages, homemade jerky, and even smoked dog bones (our dog Cody really enjoyed his!).  Here is a picture of one of the lakes in the park.

A deer wandered by our campsite

Moving from Sublette we went up the Mississippi River to Bagley Wisconsin and the Yogi Bear Park located just out of town.  Just three days before we arrived, the park was struck by a tornado (picture below of some of the damage) and it was still very rainy during our short stay, so we hunkered down and stayed in the park.  This is not really our type of park.  However, if we still had children at home it would be high on our list.  It has a water slide; playground with a huge bouncy mat; child sized pedal cars; and lots of organized activities for kids.  We ate a couple of times at the park restaurant (no great shakes, but great for kids) and enjoyed watching the kids play oblivious to the rain, wind, and weather.

From Bagley, Wisconsin our next stop was Spring Grove, Minnesota where we stayed at the ROD park: Hidden Grove.  There is a two and a half mile stretch of dirt road to get into the park that coated the coach and jeep in a nice layer of dirt.  That being said, the road is smoother than many of Minnesota’s paved roads and is easy enough to navigate when dry.  We only stayed in Spring Grove one night and ate at Docs Blue Moose.  The food was good and the service was friendly.  The place is popular with the locals and was crowded even though the road outside was under construction and patrons had to walk a couple of blocks to get there.  The town is really cute with great art pieces on display (see pics below).  We planned on staying a bit longer, but weather again threatened and we thought it best to leave before rain made the dirt road slick.

The Viking Bronze in downtown park shows the town's heritage

Gazebo in the Park

Civc Building with Art Statues  ... see detail below

From Minnesota we arrived in Forest City, Iowa home of Winnebago Industries.  Winnebago has updated their electric service for coaches being serviced to 50 amp., which was a welcomed addition.  However, they still offer no water or sewer.  While here it’s up every morning at 6 a.m. to prepare the coach to travel and then over to the Customer Service Center to meet with the assigned technician.  The coach is returned between 3 and 3:30 p.m. each day.  To take a shower and wash dishes we needed to dump our grey water every three days so this adds to the stress of the trip.  While there they repaired a couple of minor leaks that became major (turns out one of the seals on the slides had been installed backwards), repaired the front door (it had been caught in the wind and squeaked terribly), the electrical panel door (broke in the cold temperatures in Branson over Christmas last year), resealed a leaky back window, resealed all of our outside seals, repaired one of the slide locks which prevented the slide from coming out, and did the 30,000 mile maintenance on the engine (oil change, etc.).  So with a good feeling about the livability of our coach and a lighter wallet we are off again.

Until next time, keep doing what you love!

Friday, June 7, 2013

From Cincinatti to Indianapolis

From Mammoth Cave in Kentucky we traveled northeast to Batesville, Indiana and pulled into Thousand Trails – Indian Lakes.  The park had a nice sign that was easily spotted, and we pulled into a parking space in front of the store (that doubles as an office) and gas station (yes they have diesel!).  Our first impression was that this was going to be an excellent park.  Before I continue, let me give the reader a bit of background.  Lynda follows the facebook page Thousand Trails/Outdoor World – The Good and the Bad.  A recent post on this page indicated that all of the full-hookup spots at Indian Lakes were taken up by annual sites and a group of pipeline workers, making none available for the transient membership.  We are not really campers … we are RVers with a rig that has all of the amenities of home (mainly because … it is home!), and full-hookups are a necessity.  To find out if we needed to rethink our route (easy enough for us), Lynda called Indian Lakes and talked with Jennifer (one of the managers).  Jennifer assured us that the post on TT – the good and bad was only a rumor started by a disgruntled guest and further assured us that there would be plenty of full-hookup sites available when we arrived. 

Back to the present.  We arrived in the parking lot and went in to register.  The clerk, a surly lady that didn’t want to be there, informed us that all that was available in the campground were water and electric sites with most of the electric being 30 amps.  We conveyed our conversation with Jennifer and asked that she give her a call, which she reluctantly did.   After some time on the phone she left, without so much as a word to us.  The young man left at the counter told us a few minutes later that we should proceed to a campsite in Phase 4 (site 15).  When we arrived the lady from the counter waved us into the site and left … again without a word.  Apparently she was peeved at us taking the last 50 amp. full-hookup site available.  The site turned out to be in the pipeliners’ area.  The area was quiet during the week with loud parties lasting into the wee hours every Friday and Saturday night (and Sunday during Memorial day weekend).  Quite frankly, we were prepared to leave the park at this juncture, as Jennifer herself never bothered to appear and the counter clerk was rude beyond civility.  However, following our conversation on the phone with Jennifer, where we were assured that 50 amp and full hookups were abundant, we purchased non-refundable tickets to the Indianapolis 500.

So here is the real deal on Indian Lakes.  The campground is divided into five phases.  Phase 1 is a large area with some sites on the lake, but is entirely taken up with annual sites.  Phase 2 was undergoing construction, so was unavailable when we arrived, but was ready for a rally that came in for a long weekend.  Phase 3 has been sold to KOA.  They have made some improvements, but it is unavailable to Thousand Trails members … unless you pay the KOA prices.  Phase 4 is a nice section of some 44+ sites with 50 amp. and full hookups, but is taken up entirely by pipeline workers.  Phase 5 has cabins, that are being renovated, and numerous sites with water and electric only (mainly 30 amp.).  Phase 5 is available for transient members and has some very nice spots next to the lake.  It is probably ideal for most campers who will come for a few days, dump on the way out and go home, but it wouldn’t work for us.  Phase 5 also has a number of annual sites, taking up many of the premium sites on the lake.  The camp had a pool (not opened), miniature golf, activity center and store with fuel.  If you are a camper this is a great spot.  There are many bike paths, golf-cart paths, and areas for children to run and play.  Indiana got quite a bit of rain in May and the park was generally saturated, but still usable in spots.  The grass was cut and well kept.  In addition, it is located around 30 miles from Cincinnati and 65 miles from Indianapolis.  There are also several very nice local restaurants.  If this is your cup of tea … enjoy!  But a lack of available basic services obliges us to give it a "4" on the Moore Scale of 1-10.  Campers would, I’m sure, rate it higher and those in annual sites may give it a solid 10.  Here are a few pictures.

The Park looking toward the Moon

The Moon a few minutes later

While in Batesville we ate at Lil Charlies a few times.  They feature great sandwiches and burgers for lunch and have a nice menu with steak and shrimp in the evening.  In addition, they brew their own beer.  A small four ounce sample can be had for $1.50 … just right for us lightweights.  We also tried The Sherman Inn, named for the civil war hero, for breakfast.  There we sampled the local specialties: Goetta, a mixture of pork sausage, pin oats, and spices (Kim liked it) and deep fried biscuits with cinnamon sugar (Lynda loved these).  Another nice local place is Walhill Farms, a former horse farm and race track.  They boast The Butcher Shop Bar and Grill, which features fancy sandwiches and other fare.  For the best chicken you have ever tasted drive over to the historic German town of Oldenburg and eat at Wagners Village Inn Restaurant.  We had the family style chicken dinner for two (it fed us for another couple days).  The chicken is pan fried in lard (not your diet food), but the crust is delicious and crispy ….  Yummmmmm!

Sherman House Inn

Wagners Village Inn

The Butcher Shop Bar & Grill

We drove over to Cincinnati several times to shop.  They have it all: Costco; Walmart; Starbucks; Bed, Bath and Beyond, etc. etc.  Of course all of the chain restaurants are represented in numbers there … so take your pick!  While there we visited the Cincinnati Zoo.  This is a really nice park to see.  It is not as large as San Diego, but is nicely laid out with all of the usual characters.  Here are a few of our animal pics.

Bronze Rhinos at the Entrance

Zoo Entrance


Baby Gorilla

Albino Lion

Scarlet Ibis


The highlight of our trip was the Indianapolis 500.  Lynda had followed the Indy since she was a little girl, listening to it on the radio with her father before it was televised and never missing a race.  It has been a Memorial Day Sunday “must see” since we were married.  However, she had never attended the actual race in person … so this was one off of the Bucket List.  Our tickets were for the grandstand on the main drag to the finish line between the fourth and first turns.  This year’s race was really exciting with lead changes happening on almost every turn.  The noise in person is much louder than on TV, but we came prepared with earplugs (you really need them!).  We paid for parking in the infield (it was all that was left) near the Snakepit and also bought VIP Snakepit tickets.  If we ever come back for a second time, we will get VIP parking far in advance (the police escort VIP parking in and out) and try to get a bit closer to turn one.  The Snakepit turned out to be a drinking place for 20 somethings so we took a quick look about and went to the grandstand.  Turns out that our parking was also a gathering place for the party crowd and we didn’t get out of the park until about 1.5 hours after the race had ended.  Altogether a wonderful day!!  Here are a few pictures.

We Honor The Fallen on Memorial Day

The Brickyard

The Snakepit

Runners from the Boston Marathon complete the Marathon at the Indy

Release the Balloons

Kanan's Faithful Cheer their Hero

Racing at the Indy

 Until Next Time Keep Doing What You Love!!