A Trek Back to the South

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May 19th 2018
Published: May 19th 2018
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Look at All the Plant Life
Oubache Trails Campground, Vincennes, Indiana

Two weeks in one place, even if two different campgrounds, is a long stay. I think we needed it, though, in order to adequately explore Chicago (Can anyone ‘adequately’ explore a big city?), and the Indiana Lakeshore of Lake Michigan. But all things eventually come to an end, so we broke camp yesterday, hitched up and headed south.

We could have taken Interstate 65 South towards Indianapolis, but I don’t particularly enjoy being passed by big semis. And, besides, part of it is a toll road and who wants to pay extra for my dual-axled tiny trailer. So we took state and US highways south. Speed is somewhat limited, but I can’t really travel more than 65 mph, so that wasn’t a real problem. And you do have a lot of stop lights and signs, especially in each little town you pass through. But it gives you a chance to absorb a bit of local color.

Weather started out OK, with overcast skies. But it was cool enough without being chilly. We took Indiana 49 south through Valparaiso, and then on down to an even smaller town. Gladys (our GPS) kept wanting us

Campsite at Oubache Trails Campground
to make U-turns and get on the bigger highways. So we finally had to turn her off. Using state roads which I’ve now forgotten, we zigged and zagged south and west until we got onto US 41 headed South. At one time, this road seems to have been a major highway, but I suspect it got replaced by the Interstate several miles east. So now, although not very busy, it is also not very well maintained which made for a few potholes.

Despite those, Joan reclined her seat all the way back and took a nap. And while she was sleeping we went through a pretty nasty rainstorm. No thunder with it - Smoochie was thankful - but there was quite a bit of wind and rain which made it difficult to keep the rig on the road. Joan, though, was tired and slept through it. When she finally woke up, we had moved out of the weather system and the roads were still damp, but Joan was oblivious to the now-passed storm.

So now it was time for lunch and we didn’t have a whole lot of luck. Since all the traffic moved to the Interstate, it is very clear that roadside services on US 41 have just simply closed. We saw lots of boarded-up former cafes and gas stations. Even Trip Advisor had difficulty finding us a place. Finally, we were approaching a town called Clinton and Joan found a spot with a couple of good reviews. It was about five miles off the highway, but we were hungry. And so we found Scooters, a broken-down place in a broken-down town. There was only one other person there, and he was nursing a beer at the bar. The waitress/bartender was happy to take our money, so we ordered a drink and lunch.

I had read that the Indiana ‘State food’ is pork. And that makes a lot of sense given the agricultural areas we had passed through. So there on the menu was an 11 oz. butterflied pork chop, locally sourced. I couldn’t pass that up. Joan had a pulled pork sandwich. Although the odds of anyone else ever being in Clinton, Indiana for lunch are pretty small, I highly recommend their pork chop. The seasoning and cooking were excellent as was the side dish of pan-fried potatoes and onions. Possibly I was just really hungry, but that seemed like one of the best pork chops I’ve ever eaten. When in Clinton...

Back on the road, we had to work our way back to route 63 and then wind our way through the city streets of Terre Haute. That place isn’t a huge city, but it still took us a half-an hour to get through it. Then on down through a maze of fruit and melon orchards all inviting visitors with big billboards. Finally, we found our exit for our campground located on the Wabash river north of Vincennes, on the Illinois border. We will be here just a couple of days before moving further east.

Ecologically, we have returned to the Southeastern USA Plains area. We spent a lot of time in this region last year when we traveled south and the vegetation and humidity here in southern Indiana is very similar to what we remembered in central Georgia, Alabama, and the Piedmont areas of the Carolinas. The campground area even has large invasions of kudzu, just like the areas further south. We have definitely moved out of the corn belt plains area of northern Illinois and Indiana and into something very different. This morning as I wipe beads of humidity off my brow and beat away the flying insects, I can feel the difference from yesterday morning. The campground host said we should be seeing 90 degree weather this weekend, after nights with the furnace on just a couple of days ago.

Culturally, this is also a very different place. The northwestern corner of Indiana is an urban center, with the steel mills and ports surrounding industrial cities like Gary and East Chicago. If there is liberal sentiment in Indiana, you will find it there. But this is redneck country, just like its ecologically similar areas in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. When we drove in with our bicycles up on top of the car, we definitely got some looks. And our vehicle is probably the only Japanese car in the whole, nearly full, campground. Most of the vehicles are pick-ups and many of them have gun racks. The truck parked right next door to me has a noticeable decal on the back of an assault rifle. I admit I’m a bit of coward for not wanting to ask him if he owns one. He’d probably be more than happy to demonstrate it for me, using my dogs as targets.

It is going to be an interesting next couple of days.


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