Saturday, July 3, 2010

2010-22 Indiana

Southern Indiana

Campsite:  Whitewater Memorial State Park.  $16-$26 depending on the day as they charge differently for weekdays, weekends, holidays etc.  Beautiful grassy and treed sites, but campsites are fairly close and busy on weekends.  22 over-the-air  HD TV stations.

Campsite:  Elkhart County 4H Fairground.  $19 for Water and Elect.  Beautifully maintained Fairgrounds and the least expensive place to stay in the area.  30 over-the-air HD TV stations.  Just minutes from downtown Goshen IN.

I arrived at a state park in southern Indiana on Saturday, usually not the greatest time to get to a state park.  But as luck would have it, and luck was on my side today, the camp registrar, gave me one of the few paved, pull thru sites.  I felt like I’d won the lottery.  It’s like having a deluxe campsite.  An estate site next to common gravel sites.  A large paved parking area and patio with a big picnic table.  Giant shade trees provide a canopy for the grassy campsites against the scorching sun. No tracking in mud and dirt into the camper… this is what campers dream of.

Being in a state park over a weekend, I see all the family activities, kids and whole families riding their bikes, campfires blazing even in the heat of the day. Trying to use up all that wood they’ve brought on their journey and then on Sunday, one by one they pack up and head on out and go back home.  Having no home to go to, except for the one I travel with, I get to enjoy the ebb and flow of these weekends and the quieter days that follow, as the “ weekender's” vacate the campground leaving behind empty grassy campsites, awaiting the next weekend.

Or, I’ll head on out and tour the area like today where I ended up in the hamlet of Metamora Indiana and the Whitewater canal.  It’s one of the few places that one can take a ride on a passenger barge drawn by two horses.  And it’s the only place in the world that has a covered aqueduct.  Now how cool is that.  The small town that developed next to the canal is now pretty much a tourist town filled with quant shops in historic buildings.  The State Historical Society runs and maintains this small section of the canal as well as a grist mill.  Now here’s an interesting fact.  After the very brief rise of barge canals that were replaced by the steam engine trains, the canals had a second life by placing mills along the canals.  Over 100 on the Whitewater canal alone utilizing water power to run all those mills.  The State of Indiana went bankrupt over building the canal and a second constitution was later written that stated that Indiana could never again purchase anything on credit.  To this day, Indiana continues to have a conservative government paying cash for everything and has never been in debt since.  Something Washington and many states could learn from.  I learn something new every day.

Indiana has the most covered bridges in the Nation, if I have my facts straight.  I drove around Rush County in the SE corner of the state where many covered bridges are still in service.  I drove through two of them. Many of them built by A.M. Kennedy and Sons.  Kennedy was quite a salesman.  He would go to a town that was putting out a bid for a covered bridge and unlike the other bridge makers who would bring a set of plans on paper, Kennedy would bring a model of one of his bridges.  He would then have his full grown son stand on top of the model bridge and hop up and down on it to show how strong it was.  He usually got the job.

The weather has turned a beautiful 72-78 daytime and evenings are expected to be in the high 50’s.  Low humidity too.  Just perfect.

In the town of Liberty, I went into the library and one of the staff told me about some of the history of the area, including the fact that inspiration for the Little Orphan Anne who was really Mary Alice "Allie" Smith originally lived in the area.  I also stopped by the Post Office and to take a picture of the restored WPA painting.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could put all those people getting Unemployment benefits to do public works projects like the ones way back when the WPA and CCC programs were created.  I think a lot of people would feel better about getting the extended unemployment benefits if they could do some work in return.  Just a rambling thought as I travel the back roads.

Northern Indiana

And today, Wednesday, it was another moving day as I traveled up the eastern side of Indiana along hwy 27.  A two lane country road as straight as an arrow.  I enjoyed the miles  and miles of rich farm land, stitched together by water towers peaking over the tops of the trees every 10 to 20 miles indicating a small town or crossroads community.  The corn fields are lush with green stocks waving in a gentle breeze.  Farms, silos and farmhouses every couple of miles.  Early on I saw the most beautiful brown fox with his pointy ears and big fluffy tail run across the road, continually looking left, right and back behind him.  Just a gorgeous creature.

I’m Staying at a the Elkhart 4H County Park.  They have 4 or five plots of mostly grassy campsites.  Only one other camper in my section next to the race track where I get to watch the horses training.

This is Amish country.  Where ever I drive, there are black horse drawn buggies on the roads.  Unlike Canada, where they have gravel skirting along the paved roads so the Amish can ride on the side of the roads.  Here the Amish must drive their buggies on the pavement.  Even the local Wal-Mart has a covered stall for their horses.  Or one can see the women and some men riding bikes to and from their neighbors in the area.  Women wearing their simple long blue dresses and white dolly type hats.  The men and boys with their home made pants, shirts and suspenders and straw hats.

This is home to many of the Rv manufacturers and I’ll be taking tours of a couple of them.  And no I’m not buying one.  But always fun to see how they are built.  One of the places I’ve toured already was the Carriage 5th wheel plant.  They can build and assemble 5 per day. Well built units, but very heavy.  None are built unless a dealer has ordered them and it appears they are back to full production.  A Good sign since so many camper manufacturers have gone out of business.

 I even went to an Amish furniture builder, Carlyle Lehman, who does custom work just for Rv’s.  His business is called Focal Wood Products LLC.  Carlyle, with his full beard (no mustache), clear bright face with the most intense brown eyes that look right through you.   I had a chance to see his workshop, a second home on the property that they are using just as a showroom and the grounds.  Beautifully landscaped with 20 foot high shrubs, flower gardens throughout and lush grass lawns.  His wife takes care of the house’s and yard work.  Carlyle worked as a quality control manager at one of the Rv manufacturers before teaching himself his carpentry skills.  Oh and he had all the electric power tools and machinery along with a/c etc.  Wonder if he still rides in a horse and buggy?  Probably.

In Elkhart, I visited a few Rv surplus places and could have gone crazy buying more stuff for the camper, but limited myself to a new extendable brush for washing the camper and a side table that folds down to as little as 6 inches wide and opens up to create a small table that can be raised up to any height for eating or for ones laptop.  And of course I made it to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.  An impressive new building only about 3 years old and has a wonderful display of old campers from the late 20’s on up to today.  Less than half the campers are available as the rest are still in storage in California.  Still worth the visit as I felt like I was going to the Mecca for Rv’ers.  I particularly liked the home made custom units and one made for May West.

I’ll be heading to Lower and Upper Michigan to visit with family (Ann and Dorothy) and friends in July and will probably only post a short report during that time.  I’m also planning on heading into Canada around Thunder Bay to visit with my good friends Elaine and Gary and may even get to visit friends in Minnesota but they tell me the state bird (the mosquito) is voracious this year so I’m not sure about that visit yet.

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