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West Baden Photo Experience

by Richie
West Baden

West Baden

West Baden Springs Hotel
French Lick, Indiana
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Ahhhh – West Baden.  The ambiance, the atmosphere, the architecture. There’s no other place like it on earth!

We return time and again to this magnificent hotel because it’s so special.  Built at the turn of the century as a mineral spring resort, it was the largest domed structure in the world for nearly a century, and still inspires awe today. 

West Baden and its sister hotel, French Lick, have been lovingly restored to their original 1900’s glory. The properties are about a mile apart, with a casino in the middle, and are linked together by trolley ride, shuttle bus, and paved walkways. Folks of yesteryear came here to partake of the mineral waters, and both West Baden and French Lick still offer full spa and pampering services, as well as stunning hotel rooms and upscale dining.

West Baden

West Baden Springs Hotel – FrenchLick.com

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madison

September has been miserable in the Ohio Valley – hot, dry, and dusty. It hasn’t rained in a month and temperatures have been hovering in the 90’s nonstop.  We were looking for some relief and found a whole lot of cool a hundred miles north in Madison, Indiana.

Camped along the Ohio River, we got a little breeze off the water that made a wee bit of difference in the temperature. But touring around Madison was the coolest part.

 

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Madison Indiana

Madison, Indiana
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I’m traveling a slice of the Ohio River Scenic Byway. In total it’s a 943 mile road designated as a scenic roadway because it follows along the length of the Ohio River. I’m only driving the southern Indiana portion, and as I’ve learned in the past “Scenic Byway does not always translate into “Easy Drive in the RV. The curvy, narrow, and sometimes rough road may not look intimidating in a car, but it’s a nail biter when your vehicle is over 12 feet tall and bit roll-y.

But hey, that’s the adventure part, right? Oh, and I’d like to apologize to all those folks driving behind me Tuesday morning that were late for work.

Madison, Indiana was my first stop on this journey. It’s a lively town filled with historic homes and buildings. There’s a rich history of riverboat trade and maritime industries here, and some of the old factory buildings are still standing.

 

Madison

Madison hosts a number of signature events, including the Madison Regatta where high speed hydrofoil boats race impossibly fast around the river. I’ve visited Madison many times before and they usually cater to the tourist business, but I caught the town napping mid-week in early August. Quite a few shops were unexpectedly closed. So I amused myself by walking the charming residential streets instead.

Madison has put a lot of effort into improving their waterfront and it’s a lovely stroll along a brick walkway with a great view of the new bridge. A couple of years ago the new bridge was built right alongside the rickety old iron span that had been there nearly a century. The old bridge was carefully dismantled and the new one was slid over in its place, inch by inch, on top of the existing piers. It was an engineering marvel!

 

I stayed at the City of Madison Campground with an excellent view of the river atop a small bluff. The campground is just a few blocks from the downtown area, an easy amble along historic streets. I don’t have any other transportation with me this trip except a bicycle. The motorcycle is a two-person job to load and unload, and Tim has headed up north for his annual GenCon geek convention. So that leaves me and the dog to find our way around on foot. Low gear and slow – just like my driving!

 

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A State Park Thanksgiving

by Richie

madison-1

General Butler State Resort Park
Carrollton, Kentucky
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This Thanksgiving we mixed it up and tried something different. We met my folks and our good friends Alan & Lois at General Butler State Park and let someone else do all the cooking! The Park has a swell lodge and comfortable rooms, plus a campground that’s just a short drive down the hill. General Butler offered a big Thanksgiving buffet and had a huge turnout for the feast. It seemed like all of Carrollton was there!

lodge

We used the RV as a party room for a few days. It was a cozy little den to chat and pass the time in the evening. Even with six adults plus a dog and parakeet, everyone was pretty comfortable. camp

Driving around the first afternoon we got a good look at tiny Carrollton, located on the confluence of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers. The weather was overcast and a bit nippy, and Carrollton doesn’t have a lot to offer, so we retreated for an early supper at the Lodge.

carrolltonThe day after Thanksgiving we crossed the Ohio River just a short distance downstream to visit Madison, Indiana. It’s a charming town with a bustling old-time downtown district. We visited Lanthier Winery to see their Christmas Tree Festival where dozens of decorated trees are showcased along with their wine tastings. Nearby is Clifty Falls State Park and we stopped at their lodge for coffee and enjoyed a hilltop view of the river.

madison-2 

winery

This will be our last camping trip of the year as the weather now dictates that we winterize the water lines and set the coach to rest for a while. Next up will be the giant RV show in Louisville and I’ll post a full review soon.

Happy Holidays!

 

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A Forest Bath

by Richie

forest bath

Spring Mill State Park
Mitchell, Indiana
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It’s Guys Weekend at the cabin, so that means it’s time for Girls Weekend in the RV. What do the guys do on Guys Weekend? I imagine a lot of eating, drinking, and farting goes on. What do the girls do? Pretty much the same, only with better clothes.

toast

I met up with my adventure pal, Rhonda, at Spring Mill State Park. By car it’s about a 2-1/2 hour ride, so that meant it took 4 hours in the motorhome. Mostly because I opted to take all secondary roads instead of the highway: average speed 45 mph.

Spring Mill has two camping sections. The larger side is a big open field. I like the wooded side better where there’s plenty of deep shade and songbirds. But it was a little tricky to back this beast into the campsite. I had to maneuver around a tree on a tight curve. A couple of miserable attempts later a fellow camper took pity and guided me in: C’mon back. Little to the left. Straighten out.

Meanwhile Rhonda was texting me from her car saying: I’m almost at the campsite. Just waiting for some fool to get their RV out of the road!

CAMP

Among urban types the latest craze is to take a Forest Bath. This term is borrowed from the Japanese and simply means a walk in the woods to relieve stress. And what better place to submerge yourself in nature than deep in the wilds of Indiana. Here at Spring Mill we walked through old growth forests of towering poplar trees whose canopies stretched hundreds of feet in the air.

TRAIL

Spring Mill was celebrating their centennial anniversary this weekend, and the entry fee to the state park was only 10 cents. A $3 reservation also got us a boat ride through Twin Caves, where a dozen people sat straddled on a bench in an aluminum boat. The park ranger stood in front and glided us through the cave by pushing along the ceiling with heavy gloves.

CAVE

The prime feature of the park is, of course, the Old Mill. It’s a three-story timber contraption fed by a long sluice of spring water. The grindstone is demonstrated every hour and bags of ground cornmeal are for sale. A living village surrounds the mill with various craftsmen demonstrating old-time arts, like broom making and loom weaving.

MILL

We spent our evenings by the campfire, and I’m ashamed to admit we got spooked by a couple of raccoons rustling in the leaves. The next morning our tablecloth was decorated with tiny paw prints, and the bag of marshmallows we had abandoned in hasty retreat was long gone.

FLOWERS

It was a refreshing Forest Bath for a few days. And a good get-away with a gal pal. We need more excuses to take off on this kind of trip.

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Indiana Dunes

by Richie

 

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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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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