Indiana Sightseeing, Part One

Although it has been awhile since I last posted, I wanted to let you know that the next few posts will be about our much needed and overdue actual vacation trip…the first in several years. It’s hard to come up with material for new posts when we aren’t out there traveling yet. But neither do I want to overwhelm your inbox with posts every day, so I will try to spread them out. The next few posts will actually have pictures! Hurray!

I couldn’t do the posts from the road, because I forgot to take my micro-SD card adapter and had no way to transfer the pictures from the camera to the computer! And I also learned that the next camera we buy will be an SLR. You can’t see a display worth a darn in bright sunlight, and it wasn’t until we got home that I discovered some shots were out of focus, and a couple had part of my finger in front of the lens! When we can travel full-time, we WILL have a camera that is “blogger friendly”!

We left Arkansas on the morning of September 14th at around 8:30 AM. We arrived in Valparaiso, Indiana around 7:30 PM enroute to Sharon’s sister’s place. Her sister was still busy with tasks that only she could do, so we stopped at Bob Evans for a delicious pot roast dinner. We don’t have any of their restaurants close to us, so it’s always a treat to be able to go there and get a good meal.

Sharon’s sister had a luncheon planned for several relatives, some who had never been to her house before, along with some co-workers and square dance friends, most of whom we knew. On Sunday, the 15th, there were 25 people in attendance, and with the sky trying to spit some rain, most of them stayed indoors. We had extra banquet tables set up in the living room, along with card tables and other things to try to accommodate all the people.

Some had requested prior to the trip that Sharon bring her accordion, although we didn’t commit to it, but as everyone was nearing completion of their meal, Sharon got the accordion out and entertained the crowd for about a half hour.

To give you an idea of what she can do…we took a cruise on the Song of America (Royal Caribbean line) in 1985, and they had a talent show. Sharon was able to borrow the accordion of one of the orchestra members for the show, and when she started into Beer Barrel Polka, she suddenly had a 36-piece orchestra backing her up. The packed 750-seat lounge went wild, and she was the only one of all the performers that got a standing ovation!

Most of the rest of that day was spent cleaning up and then resting, visiting, and planning for our Indiana sightseeing for the remainder of the week. Our intention was to head for Elkhart, about 90 miles east, the next day and do everything we wanted to do there in one day, but that was not to be.

First of all, we came into Elkhart off the bypass, from the south side, onto State Road 19, and ran smack dab into the worst road construction tie up you can imagine. It seems everything from Bristol Street to the south edge of town was under construction, including the river bridge. We got off as quickly as possible and headed east, but not before a quick lunch stop at Burger King (another restaurant we don’t have close to us in Arkansas).

Our goal was to get to Inova credit union to transfer some funds, get to one of the salvage houses to get some RV parts, stop at the RV/MH Hall of Fame museum, and then hopefully stop at a friend’s house whom we had not seen since leaving Mishawaka in 1992. But with all the road construction, and the fact that the credit union had moved (which we were not aware of), we didn’t get to the salvage place until after it had closed for the day! We did get to our friend’s place on time, and had a good visit with them, plus an excellent meal at one of Osceola’s best restaurants with them before heading home.

However, the missed opportunities of the day before necessitated a second trip on the 17th, and this time, we hit the salvage place first. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the one item I wanted and was priced higher than eBay on another item, so that visit was wasted, except for Sharon’s sister finding a nice folding chair that she wanted. They did, however, direct me to a cargo trailer manufacturer who had the one hard-to-find part that I needed for our trailer, and it was such an odd part, that I wasn’t even sure what to search for online, so that one part made the trip worthwhile!

With that out of the way, we decided to go to Cracker Barrel (just south of the toll road entrance on Cassopolis Street) for lunch (yet another restaurant we don’t have close to us). When we left there, we headed straight down County Road 6 (the next east/west road south of the toll road) over to the RV/MH Hall of Fame about five miles east. We hit it on a week when all the RV manufacturers were having their dealer showcase, so nearly every empty lot along County Road 6 (and I’m sure other places around town) were loaded with every type of RV you could imagine. We didn’t stop, though, since the shows were intended for dealers. Even a major part of the grounds at the RV/MH Hall of Fame were covered with RV’s. If we had the time, I’m sure we could have stopped to look at them, but we needed to stick to our agenda or we could easily run out of time. The building actually houses the museum in the front half, and the back half is a convention center, mostly used by the RV industry, so that’s where most of the dealer show activities were happening.

In the next post, I will continue with our Indiana sightseeing trip, starting with pictures of the RV/MH Hall of Fame museum, and continue with a short tour of the Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail that encompasses Middlebury, Goshen and Elkhart, and a stop at the Memorial Park in Middlebury, where Sharon’s dad and uncle are immortalized on the WW II monument. After that we move on to other interesting places around Valparaiso, including the Canine Country Club, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Valpo Velvet ice cream parlor (65+ flavors, rated the second of ten in Indiana), and then to top it all off, a short tour of Taltree Arboretum in Indiana. And yes, that (only one L) is the correct spelling of the name. (With a family name like that, what else is logical than to grow trees?) The arboretum may not thrill some of you, but they also have one of the largest outdoor model train layouts in the country! The full-size depot building is the hub of the grounds. Even if trains aren’t your thing, you will be amazed at the size and complexity of this train layout!

The last time we made a trip to Indiana was in July of this year, and before that, in July of 2008, both for funerals, and they were both rushed trips with no time for sightseeing, so it was good to finally get out and do some fun things. To be honest, we’ve only had one vacation other than to visit relatives, or attend marketing seminars, since before we left Mesa, AZ in April of 2005. Out there, we often took short trips several times a year around the state, and sometimes out of it. We have time shares, both in Mesa and Sedona, which we used to visit often, but we haven’t even used one of our time shares since June of 2005, shortly after moving back to Arkansas. We also took trips to the southeast of Arizona, to Las Vegas, and even to New Mexico and Pagosa Springs, Colorado. But since we moved back here, we have been too busy “re-establishing” ourselves again, and trying to make a living in the “self-proclaimed” “poorest county” in Arkansas. Even our truck camper hasn’t been used for anything other than business related activities since we got back here.

Yes, a vacation was definitely over due, but a vacation to other than relatives’ houses would be a gift from Heaven! We are getting there slowly but surely. We have a plan and the plan is working…literally speaking, for awhile, until we finally have our finances where we want them, to be able to get rid of this money-pit real estate and full-time again without ever having to worry about money again.

The previous trip in July was also spoiled on the way home, by having the fuel pump fail on the van, eighteen miles north of the Cairo bridge on I-57. We ended up staying in a motel overnight, but the nearby shop got us on the road the next day, a Sunday, so we still made it home before dark on Sunday. It was good that we left a day early. But that fuel pump only lasted 25 days before it went out, and then I spent nearly a month getting reimbursed for the second set of labor charges to have it replaced a second time. Since then, we also had all four tires replaced and had all the hoses and the water pump replaced. Before that trip, we also had the rear brake cylinders replaced, all new motor mounts installed and the transmission rebuilt. Other than a much-needed tune-up, that’s about the last of the major expenditures that is possible on this van! As a result, it now runs as close to a new one as one could expect, for a vehicle with 160,000 miles on it, and with not a spot of rust on it anywhere. Even with all the repairs, it still beats making payments. At least we can (usually) choose when to make repairs. You don’t have that option when committed to payments!

So look for the upcoming posts and lots of pictures in the next few days. I downloaded 127 pictures from the camera, but obviously I won’t use them all. My goal is to provide not only interesting stories, but good information on the places we visit, including entrance fees and parking situations, so that all who wish to visit these places will have an idea of what they can expect.

Until then, stay well and travel  safe.