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May 2016

Indiana Dunes

by Richie
Indiana Dunes

 

INDIANA DUNES

Indiana Dunes
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Along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, just east of Gary, lies Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Hugging 15 miles of shoreline, this National Park Service property has a State Park located in the middle. And here in this lovely setting we are relaxing for a few days.

PARK

It’s a welcome relief to the previous couple of nights we spent in Chicago – parked on the tarmac sandwiched between tractor trailers. That was a clever spot to camp downtown, and we weren’t too terribly nervous about the dicey surroundings, but it sure is an improvement to be tucked under the trees in a calm, serene state park.

SAND

We spent several days hiking around the lake, dunes, and marshes. There’s plenty of well-marked trails to amble, mostly easy walks. We were looking forward to Trail #2 which had a long boardwalk across an even longer marshland. But after walking for an hour we found the boardwalk, well, boarded up. It was in disrepair and quite dangerous. So a quick consult of the map diverted us to Trail #9 which climbed up steep dunes with ankle deep sand. A more strenuous hike to be sure, but worth the view at the top.

TRAIL

These dunes are really impressive. They’re not the puny mounds of sand found in Florida, but large hillsides with old growth forest of black oak and beech. In the woods a variety of spring flowers were in bloom, and on the dunes thick prairie grass waved in the ever-present breeze from the lake. Way out in the distance, across Lake Michigan, you can see the skyline of Chicago looking for all the world like the Emerald City of Oz.

FLOWERS

The communities surrounding the National Park offer plenty of activities for tourists. But the weather was a bit nippy for long excursions on the bike – a mid-May cold snap kept us closer to camp and bundled up in gloves and hats. I did manage a short ride to neighboring Beverly Shores, a swanky lakeside community with a public pavilion and beach access. There I found, along the lakefront, a cluster of residences called Century of Progress Homes, which were featured at the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair and relocated to this area by an ambitious contractor. Pretty in pink!

Century of Progress Home

Century of Progress Home

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Chicago!

by Richie
Chicago!

City skyline

McCormick Marshaling Yard
Downtown Chicago
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Chicago is a beautiful city, filled with friendly Midwest folks and some of the finest restaurants and stores in the country. And the startling green water of Lake Michigan adds a special backdrop to the extraordinary architecture. It’s always been one of my favorite cities, and now especially so because our good friends, Andy and Maxine, have a second home right in the heart of downtown. We spent a couple of wonderful days exploring the town with them, being chauffeured in style and treated to their favorite places, all within walking distance of their grand 39th floor apartment. CHICAGO 1

Back on ground level, over by the giant McCormick Place Convention Center, we are dry camping at one of Chicago’s best kept secrets – the Marshaling Yard. Here a half dozen RV’s are lined up next to tour buses and semi-trucks in a 12 block parking lot squeezed between Lake Shore Drive and the commuter train line. It’s a busy yard with trucks coming and going, but fortunately quiets down at night. There are no amenities here, you’ve got to bring your own water and power, but for $35 a night it’s hard to beat the downtown location. m yard

We spent a gorgeous afternoon wandering around Navy Pier in between rounds of dining at fabulous restaurants. A huge Italian grocery store called Eataly was an experience all its own. Not only do they have a dizzying array of cheeses, meats, pasta, and desserts, but each grocery section has its own cafe where you can order up any Italian goodie you can dream of and eat it right there. I didn’t want to leave! CHICAGO 20

 

CHICAGO 2

We had a great time with our friends and it reminded me how I much love a big, sophisticated city with all its cultural diversity and exciting street life. Love it, as long as I can return to toes in the grass and hugging trees. Which will be our adventure tomorrow when we head east… CHICAGO 10

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Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

by Richie
Tippecanoe and Tyler Too
Wabash River

Wabash River

Prophetstown State Park
Battle Ground, Indiana
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We are camped in northwest Indiana where the Tippecanoe River meets the Wabash. This was originally the site of the largest Shawnee Indian village in the Midwest. And here Chief Tecumseh and his brother, The Prophet, prevented settlers from encroaching westward. That was highly unacceptable to the governor of the newly formed Indiana Territory.

So General William Henry Harrison (later to become our ninth president) launched his army against the entrenched Indians in 1811. Harrison initially offered a negotiated peace and Tecumseh would have likely accepted. But his brother, The Prophet, stirred up a bloodlust among the warriors claiming that he had seen a vision of victory and that Shawnee braves would be impervious to the white man’s bullets.

Cheifs

The Shawnee attacked at dawn and were soundly routed by Harrison’s army, who burned the village to the ground and scattered the tribe. Disgraced and ostracized, The Prophet spent the rest of his life trying to reestablish his prominence, moving ever westward until he finally died in Kansas City. Tecumseh, however, went out for revenge. He joined up with the Canadians and spent several years chasing Americans around Lake Erie, including burning Detroit, until he finally met his demise in battle up in Ontario. Thus was the War of 1812.

BATTLEFIELD

Meanwhile, a popular songwriter wrote a catchy tune about the Battle at Tippecanoe and Harrison’s victory. It  later became a campaign jingle – Tippecanoe and Tyler Too – when Harrison ran for president with John Tyler. Improbably, Harrison died of pneumonia one month after taking office and Tyler became President Number 10.

Harrison

Harrison

Here at Prophetstown State Park (named after the unsuccessful Chief) we have paused for a much needed rest. Interstate 65 through ALL of Indiana is a mess – terrible, broken pavement interspersed with numerous construction zones (keep working on it guys!) After five or so hours of a bumpy, turbulent ride we were happy to dismount in this quiet and secluded campground. It’s Indiana’s newest state park and they did it right with spacious sites and plenty of privacy landscaping. We paid a few extra bucks for a large pull-thru space that has full hook ups – meaning electric, water, and sewer – a nice luxury after a long day on the road.

PROPHETSTOWN


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Derby at Keeneland

by Richie
Derby at Keeneland

derbyware

DERBY DAY – On the first Saturday in May the Kentucky Derby race is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Seventy miles away in Lexington, at an equally celebrated race track, Keeneland hosts The World’s Largest Derby Party. And we gladly joined their festivities for the day.

Built in 1936, Keeneland is on the National Register of Historic Places and still maintains its old-time charm with tree lined avenues and rock wall fences. The movie Seabiscuit was filmed here because it’s so authentic to the period. Keeneland has a long tradition of racing, and is also the world’s largest Thoroughbred auction house.

keeneland 1

This gorgeous property is situated on several hundred acres along Versailles Road (pronounced “Ver-Sails” in the local accent) and is surrounded by all the swanky horse breeding farms that make Lexington famous. Even the Queen of England keeps her horses here!

keeneland 2

We arrived at Keeneland early in the morning to secure a good parking spot for the motorhome and settle in for a long day of tailgating. A line of RVs were already encamped in the designated area and the party was waiting to start. In the lull before the race day crowds descended, the dog and I took a walk around the mostly empty grounds.

tailgating

Around noon the party wagons started rolling in and parking areas quickly filled to overflow capacity. Our friend, Rhonda, joined us early in the afternoon and we trotted over to the grandstand, grabbed some seats and scrutinized the racing form. Tim did a good job of picking a horse in one of the pre-derby races based solely on its name, Camelot Kitten, and he walked away with a big wad of cash. Now that’s handicapping!

Derby at Keeneland

The skies opened up right before the Derby Race so we hightailed it back, tote tickets in hand, and watched the race on our own JumboTron screen in the coach. None of us had the Derby winners, but a call-in bet by my Dad netted $30.

D20

Since the parking is free and we are settled in nice and cozy, we’ll just camp here at Keeneland overnight and head back home tomorrow. Add in Tim’s big win and this was a swell Derby Day!

winner

 

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