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Time to play catch-up: INDIANA

So I thought I'd use this down time during Lorraine's recovery from surgery (and the quarantine) to catch up on my travel journaling. I have fallen woefully behind. Shame on me. This blog is longer than usual but that is because there are so many pictures. And even though it only covers our stay in Indiana, while in the northwest corner of state we drove into Illinois to visit Chicago. So grab yourself a cup of coffee (the caffeine will help you stay awake) and enjoy the post.

Last time I posted was way back during our incredible visit to the granular slopes of Golden Bear Sand Dunes in Michigan.

We found western Michigan to be a truly a magical place (in the summer time, of course) with its abundance of natural beauty sprinkled with Rockwellesque small towns; it far exceeded our expectations. In the 36 states we have visited along our journey, we have not come across its equal.

Sadly, we bid a fond adieu to the state and headed south to "The Crossroads Of America": Indiana. The "Hoosier State".

We scheduled our trip to coincide with the national rally of Grand Design RV owners at Elkhart, Indiana. It was still a few weeks out so we decided to see the rest of the state beforehand.

Our first stop was at Cedar Lake Ministries RV Park. It was about a three hour drive from our former campground. It was inexpensive, small, some what run down with dirt pads and roads, and since the campground's rules expressly prohibited axe-murders from staying here, it suited us just fine.

Being less than an hour from Chicago, we decided to add that to our itinerary. So after settling in, we loaded up the truck and headed to the home of "Abe Froman, the Sausage King".

Chicago! The Windy City. Fortunately for us it was a beautiful day because the only parking we could find was about two and a half miles from the downtown area (the parking attendant took pity on us and let us park for free, saving us $60!).

With all the stories in the news of gun violence in the city, we expected to find this:

..Instead, we found a captivating symphony of culture, art, and architecture.

"The Bean" is one of the coolest pieces of art I've ever seen (or should I say, experienced).


We also tracked down two interesting (but lesser known) historic sites while here:

A famous building once sat on this now-vacant lot (pictured below). It was demolished in 1967 but what occurred here defined Chicago for nearly a decade..

On this spot, on February 14, 1929, seven gangsters were gunned down in what became known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. We were surprised (and a bit disappointed) that no historical marker designated the spot.

I pulled these two pictures from google:

The original building fell victim to urban renewal. The town manager said it's a piece of Chicago history they don't want to be reminded of. I would beg to differ.

And believe it or not, about a mile from the above lot, is another historic landmark in "mobster" history:

This was the theater where gangster John Dillinger watched his last film: Manhattan Melodrama starring Clark Gable.

On July 22, 1934, as Dillinger was leaving the theater with a lady friend, FBI agents were waiting. Suspecting he was walking into a trap, he bolted for the alleyway. Shots rang out. One bullet tore into the back of the neck and exited through his right eye. That shot killed him. He was 31.


Another very interesting Chicago attraction that we would highly recommend is the Museum of Science and Industry.

It houses many fascinating displays including one which I particularly enjoyed the German submarine U-505. It is the only German U-boat captured by the Americans during active patrol (1944).

Although required by the Geneva Convention to report the names of all imprisoned enemy combatants, the U.S. decided that the capture of this sub and the code books it contained was too valuable a secret to reveal. The seamen from U-505 were kept at a separate prison camp in Louisiana and the Germans informed that they had been killed in battle. Additionally, U-505 was repainted to look like an American submarine and towed to the Bahamas. The prisoners were released after the war's end.

Here are a few of the other displays at the museum:

This is a really cool museum where you can experience mind blowing, "hands-on exhibits and have the chance to navigate through a mirror maze; manipulate a 40-foot tornado; climb aboard a World War II German submarine; take a run in a human-sized hamster wheel; descend into an Illinois coal mine; board a 727 hanging from the ceiling; transmit your pulse to a 13-foot, 3-D, beating heart; and much more! It’s fun and interactive!"


Lastly, we feel no visit to Chicago would be complete without a visit to these last two iconic attractions:

First) The 110 story Willis Tower (former known as the Sears Tower) so you can get a one-of-a-kind view of the city from 1400 feet above the ground:

..Yes, it was very scary walking out on this plexiglass observatory! We closed our eyes, walked onto the platform and waited for the cameraman to yell "open your eyes". Some people were even crawling out on their hands and knees!

Looking at the street below from the observatory. Those tiny yellow squares are school buses.

I had to chuckle when I saw these at their gift shop..


Secondly) Giordano's: This pizzeria has been serving up Chicago-style stuffed deep dish pizza for almost fifty years. Their pies are in such demand that you have to place your order about two hours before your expected arrival time.

Imagine a small pizza weighing close to fifteen pounds and you get a pretty good idea what Chicago-style pizza is like! Even though we are pizza lovers, this was bit much for us.


We ended up walking over twelve miles that day and it was worth every step. The city is a multi-faceted metropolis where each unique component hangs like a glittering crystal on a fancy chandelier, whose absence would be noticed if missing.


Before moving onto the next chapter of this story, I wanted to mention one very nice couple we met at our campground. This is Michael and Sannie.

They were very warm, funny and hospitable. We thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them. Hopefully we'll meet up again "down the road"!

And now, on to Indianapolis!



After another three-hour drive, we pulled intoWhite River County Campground just outside the small farm town of Cicero. It was one of the finest county parks at which we've stayed. "It has 106 modern and primitive campsites, playground, large group facilities, laundry facilities, RV hook-up, hiking trails, canoe launch, fishing, river views and access, bath and shower facilities, and picnic shelters and tables." And, at about $30/night and only 45 minutes from Indianapolis, it was just perfect for us.

Although you can't see it from the above picture, our site backed up to the White River. One day a hard rain came through and you could watch the river rising closer and closer to the top of its banks. Fortunately, the storm dissipated before swollen river crested.

Cicero is a small farm town with a population of 4,000. As in many of the small communities we've visited, everybody seems to know everybody, and the condition of one's harvest and livestock is of active interest at the local coffee shop.

Although small in size, it more than compensated with charm.


Stuck out in the middle of an Indiana cornfield, is the state capital. Although smaller than I expected, we found the city to be clean, modern and easy to navigate. It seems a very pleasant and livable community.

Whenever we visit a new state, if possible, we always like to visit the capitol building. These historic time-capsules tell much about the state's development. Through displays, murals, photographs and relics the state's history unfolds before our eyes. And we found Indiana's history to be.. fairly boring.

Lands once traversed by Native Americans, was settled by the French in the 1670's, ceded to the British after the French and Indian Wars (1763), then turned over to the newly-formed United States after the Revolutionary War. It became a state in 1816. The statehouse was built in 1888.

The House of Representatives chamber

As far as statehouses are concerned, Indiana's is smaller than most and not quite as ornate but beautiful nonetheless.


We have a family member that is a big NASCAR fan so of course we had to make a stop here and snap a few pictures:



In prior blogs, I've written about our love of old cemeteries and how we enjoy locating the resting places of the famous and infamous. We enjoy piecing together the histories of family plots, enjoy the chiseled monuments designed to express grief while bringing some degree of comfort to the grieving, and lastly, we enjoy the tranquility of the grounds. Not many neighbors causing disturbances here!

Indianapolis is home to Crown Hill Cemetery.

Probably it's most notorious occupant is this man:


That's right, this cemetery is the final resting place of John Herbert Dillinger. The oldest of two children, and son of a grocer, he was born, raised and buried in Indianapolis.

Souvenir seekers keep chipping off pieces of his headstone, forcing the cemetery to replace it every few years. He is buried next to his sister.

A few other interesting gravestones we found:

Lucy Ann Seton: Crown Hill's first interment on June 2, 1864.

Jefferson C. Davis: Civil War General who killed his own commanding officer, but was quickly restored to his own command because of a shortage of experienced leaders.

Eli Lilly: Founder of the Eli Lilly & Company.

Abel Streight: Civil War Colonel that led his troops on a raid far behind southern lines. His regiment was captured and sent to Libby prison in Richmond, VA where he orchestrated a successful escape by tunneling under the prison walls.

This beautiful statue was dedicated to Albertina Forrest by her grieving husband.

A memorial to Confederate soldiers who died while being held in northern prisons.

Gravestone of Benjamin Harrison the twenty-third president of the United States.

One of the cemetery's most beloved grave marker for Mary Ella McGinnis, a young girl that died (1875) from "lung congestion" at the age of five.

Edward Black, the youngest soldier of the Civil War.

Wikipedia says of him: "Black was recruited at the age of eight, on July 24, 1861, as a drummer boy for the 21st Indiana Infantry. He was told to return home later that year and did as told. He returned later that year and enlisted again, but this time with his father. He was captured at the Battle of Baton Rouge, but was freed when the city fell and discharged in September 1862. He re-enlisted in February 1863, and served with the 1st Indiana Heavy Artillery until January 1866."

Sadly, during the war, his left hand and arm were shattered by an exploding shell. He died at the age of 18 (1871) from "injuries and trauma" he received during the war.


One last highlight from our stay at White River County Campground was a random visit from two other Grand Design owners. Meet Vivian (on the left) and Connie from Chokoloskee Island, Florida. They were also heading to the Grand Design Rally in Elkhart.

Vivian, an interior designer, loves to tinker and graciously helped me install a new faucet in my RV. She has provided me with countless RV maintenance tips. Connie, a former college professor, is also an amazing photographer from whom I have learned a great deal.

Below are a few of her stunning photographs.

You can see more of her photographs here. She also writes a very successful photography blog titled Getting the Shot, which can be found here. They are great people and we value their friendship highly.

Okay, time to hitch back up and move on. From Indianapolis we are headed north to the Elkhart and the Grand Design national rally, an event we've been eagerly anticipating for quite some time.



If you ever purchase an RV, you owe it to yourself to attend one of your manufacturer's rallies. A while back we attended a smaller regional GD rally in Crossville, Tennessee. It was so much fun we decided to attend the national rally. The mother-lode of rallies!

This is a group picture taken from the GD rally.

Over 400 rigs from all over the country and over 1,000 attendees. It was four days of seminars, factory tours and connecting with fellow GD RVers. Many evenings were spent around a campfire exchanging road stories and sharing traveling tips.

One of many seminars.

There was also plenty of food! Grand Design technicians were on-hand to fix any minor manufacturing issues you were having. We've loved our GD RV and have had very few issues, but we did get them to come over and replace a defective ceiling light.

The rally was held at the county fairgrounds and they had us pretty packed in.

Below is a birds-eye view of the fairgrounds. Now, envision all the open spaces below, crammed with RV's. That's what it was like. Our site was inside the oval shaped dirt track (red arrow).

The downside to our location was that we occasionally would have to outrun some harness racers that were using the track! It was like a giant game of "Frogger".


Another word about Elkhart: more than 80 percent of recreation vehicles sold in the U.S. are produced in Indiana, and roughly 65 percent of that production takes place in and around Elkhart.

Grand Design is relatively new to the RV industry having begun in 2012. But their commitment to quality and standing behind their product has catapulted them to become an industry leader. Their motto is "Doing the right thing." And they have done right by us.

Their manufacturing facility is here so we arranged to take a tour.