Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

Escaping Chaos: Back to Indiana and On to Ohio

We hit the road about 7:30 AM on Monday heading southeast for Indiana. It was partly cloudy, which was a vast improvement over the day before, so we were happy. At Westfield, Illinois, we started seeing something that we didn’t expect…oil pumps. A little further south, we came to the town of Oilfield, which was aptly named. There were LOTS of them. Turns out oil was discovered in this very flat area in the 1890s, and a boom ensued. Now the pumps are still pumping, surrounded by corn and soybeans. At Lawrenceville, Illinois we came across another beautiful courthouse. They really knew how to build back then. Now they just throw up brick and plastic structures with no character at all.

We crossed the Wabash River at Vincennes, Indiana and arrived at our first destination for the day: the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park. First, a confession: we both thought this was the Clark from Lewis and Clark. No so. George was William’s older brother and a Revolutionary War hero. Like his little brother, though, George is responsible for paving the way for westward expansion by defending settlers in a campaign to wrest the western territories from British control. The park is right along the Wabash River and has a visitor’s center and a monument with murals inside depicting various aspects of George’s life. There is also a statue of Francis Vigo, an informant for George Clark who was instrumental in his recapture of Vincennes from the British. It was a good break, and with the wind blowing, the ridiculous heat was not as bad.

After a good walk at the park, we were ready for lunch. TripAdvisor led us to Dogwood Barbecue, which we expected to be your normal barbecue joint. It turned out to be a buffet. (In order to meet the Covid orders, they served it cafeteria-style, with an employee actually putting the food on your plate.) They had several kinds of barbecue, fried chicken, salads, and homemade veggies, and all were very good. After lunch we walked around at Big Lots for a few things, then got back on the road. Vincennes is definitely a place you could spend a day or two exploring. By then the skies had changed, and we were headed into some serious storms. As we passed through Petersburg, we saw a restaurant named Fish Hut Pizza…yuck! What a combo. I’m not sure I could bring myself to go in there! At Jasper we ran into a road block on our planned route…no through traffic; probably a bridge out. After stopping to assess the situation and make sure Thor (phone GPS) was giving us correct information, we ended up circling south a little bit, and made it to the Newton Stewart State Recreation Area on Patoka Lake by 2 PM. Thankfully, we missed the worst part of the rain and caught only a little drizzle while filling the water tank. By the time we got to the site, that had stopped. Upon setup, though, we discovered quite a bit of water on the floor after putting out the slide. The strip of carpet under the front edge was soaked. It was easily cleaned up, but we are going to have Grand Design check to make sure the things we can’t see are okay. Unfortunately, the fresh water tank was acting squirrelly again. When we opened the valve, a lot was running out. We waited to see if it would stop, but it didn’t. We closed the valve and decided to run some water inside to lower the pressure in the tank and, hopefully, stop the siphon. That stopped the flow, and everything seemed to work. Despite the park having hundreds of sites, ours was pretty isolated on a large loop with only two other campers on the far end. That is, until the young couple pulled into the site right behind us…really??!! How does that happen? They did have a really cool, old camper, though, and turned out to be really quiet. (Normally it is the folks with a passel of kids that they let run around screaming until late at night that are our neighbors. Yay!)

On Tuesday we headed into French Lick, Indiana for lunch. Wow, what a nice town. There is a big resort there that sprawls across the hillside. MW (Mr. Wonderful) had already scoped it out and found a well-rated restaurant called the German Cafe. Although not my favorite, he LOVES wursts, schnitzels, spaetzle, and the like. He rarely suggests going, but this time I pretty much forced the issue. (I was sure I could find something to eat there. Why should he be denied something he loves?) One of the reviews said it was like eating in someone’s house, and it really was. The tablecloths were unmatched, and there were lots of different types of placemats, lamps, and decorative things. There was a sign that said “Grandkids fill a hole in our hearts that we didn’t know was there.” Below it were names and birthdates of four or five kids. It really was like stepping into Grandma’s home. We shared the pretzel sticks with beer cheese appetizer. It tasted fine, but the beer cheese was served cold, which was odd. MW enjoyed his meal of Zwiebelschnitzel, (a breaded, pan-fried pork tenderloin with onions), German potato salad, and Spaetzle (German noodles). I had Jeagerschnitzel (the same tenderloin topped with mushroom gravy) and Spaetzle. After lunch we headed over to O’Reilly Auto Parts to get oil change supplies for Brutus. Next we headed to Paoli for some payola to buy some peyote. Just kidding. We were looking for a hardware store and scoping out laundromats. We found both, then headed back to the campground using Thor. Man, did he take us through some back woods craziness…narrow roads with lots of low limbs, tight turns, and hills. We were thankful we weren’t dragging Petunia! As we headed out earlier, we passed a laundromat just outside of the park, so on the way back in, we checked that out. When we got back to Petunia, MW noticed evidence of a good bit of water flowing down the hill from our site. Sure enough…the water tank siphoned out through the overflow hose AGAIN! WTFudgcicles!!! We guessed the siphon started when we turned off the water pump to leave. (We don’t usually leave it on when we are away to save flooding if a line leaks.). To say that MW was ticked is a drastic understatement. Once again he got out the backup, collapsible water jug and drove over to the fill station several times to solve the problem. While he was doing that, I got on the Grand Design forum and asked for help. It is amazing how much you can learn from all of the other folks out there. MW was soaking wet and very grumpy when he finished, so we just put our feet up and watched TV for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday morning I slowly got myself together and headed out to do the big chore. On the way, I gassed up Brutus for tomorrow’s trek. A weird thing…there was a truck backed in on the side at the gas station facing my truck at the pumps. There was a couple sitting there, and I noticed them when I first got out. They both just seemed to be sitting there staring in my direction without talking, and continued to do so the entire time I was pumping. It actually made me just a little uncomfortable. They were still there when I came back out of the store, and watched me walk to the truck. The laundromat was right across the street, and when I got out over there, I swear they were still watching me. When I finished unloading the baskets, they left. It was strange, and I was glad they drove off. If they had pulled in at the laundromat, I might have said to hell with clean clothes and fled! LOL. The laundromat had booths, which made it easy to get some work done, and was super clean. A few other people were in and out, and I ended up talking to a really nice woman for quite a while. (Hi Tina Wheeler!) She and her husband have a permanent site in the RV park across the street, and we talked for a good while about travel, retirement, family, etc. The one thing I miss being on the road, especially during Covid, is social interaction. MW and I are together almost all the time, but anyone who knows me realizes that there aren’t enough words there. (If I turn up dead, you’ll know he had enough of me talking and snapped. Please tell the police.) I really enjoyed the conversation. Back at Petunia, MW spent some time under the slide area re-installing the rubber seal. He hopes that it will keep water out in the future. Later several waves of rain came through for the rest of the day. MW said the young couple next door had worked hard while I was gone to get a good fire going and cook breakfast, only to be interrupted by heavy rain. Later in the evening as I was heating up leftovers for dinner, I noticed them out there trying to get a fire started with all of that wet wood. I went and pulled out some of the barkless wood we had to give to them. We chatted for a couple of minutes, and I asked about their cool camper. Turns out it belonged to her grandfather, who loaned it to them. She didn’t know if he bought it new, but said he’s had it her whole life. It was pretty neat. I went back to my food prep and within no time they were sitting around a nice fire. Wouldn’t you know, about 15 minutes later another downpour came through. We felt bad for them. They gave up after that, and we didn’t see them outside again.

Newton Stewart State Recreation Area campground is HUGE…455 electric and 45 primitive sites. It spreads out in several directions, and the sites are close but not right on top of each other. Our site and many others were very wooded, but many were out in the open as well. There were a couple of playgrounds and plenty of shower and toilet facilities that were pretty clean. The recreation area surrounds Patoka Lake, a 8,800-acre lake, and provides plenty of opportunities for fun including boating/fishing, archery, disc golf, hiking, biking, and swimming.

Thursday we were up early and headed east. The plan was to take IN-56 all the way to Madison, but at Salem we were detoured. What should have added about 12 miles to our route ended up adding more like 40 because they took us all the way to the outskirts of Louisville, Kentucky, before turning us back north. What the heck?! I wonder if some businesses don’t give them kickbacks for routing detours in their direction. It was truly ridiculous. We finally made it to Madison, Indiana and crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky. We took an immediate left and headed east on KY-36, then joined US-42. That drive along the river was really interesting. There were quite a few HUGE plants (and I’m not exaggerating in the least) including North American Stainless and Nucor. There was also a power plant, which might have been there just to supply all the factories. At the same time, there were some magnificent houses overlooking the river. We made it to Warsaw, Kentucky in time for lunch, and stopped in at Hometown Pizza. I had a grilled chicken salad and MW had a Hometown Sub. Both were delicious, and no disrespect to either, but the pickles they served with it were the best! They were from Pop’s Pepper Patch in Louisville, Kentucky. You can’t buy them in stores, but we will definitely be ordering some! We decided to take a pizza with us for supper, since we won’t get to the campground until late. Back on the road, we zig-zagged east in order to miss going through Cincinnati. With all of the unrest, we’ve been avoiding what I call the “urng”…the orange city markings on the atlas around larger towns. We had already left the flat farmland and entered rolling hills earlier in Indiana, but now, as we turned away from the river, the land was becoming much more hilly with small mountains everywhere. That made heading west to east, or vice versa, south of Cincinnati tough! We passed through Crittenden, Piner, and Demossville, and let me just say, the roads were MUCH worse than the ones I mentioned above returning from Paoli. Some were one lane, and there were quite a few steep climbs and sharp curves. MW was tense, and I puckered on more than one occasion. We were almost to Butler when we came upon a height sign for an upcoming bridge…9’6″ maximum. Well, dang! Petunia is 12’8”. (That is one of the dangers of traveling back roads, the RVers talk about, but in the 2 years we’ve been traveling, that is the first time it has happened.). Thankfully there was an easy place to turn around, so we headed back to Demossville, then detoured south. It all worked out, but we were happy when we finally hit the John T. Brown Jr. AA Highway. We continued to Maysville, Kentucky, which is a beautiful town, but we were just too tired at that point to take much notice of specifics. Crossing the Ohio River yet again, we finally entered our third and final state for the day…Ohio. For the last leg, we followed OH-41 north to Paint Creek State Park. As we passed through Bentonville, Ohio we saw a sign for the Bentonville Anti-Horse Thief Society. I had to look that up. In operation since 1853, it is the oldest continuously operated group dedicated to the prevention of horse theft. The group would ride after horse thieves, and if they apprehended them, would hang the criminals without a trial. The society paid a $10 reward, which was split among those who captured the thief. When more cars and fewer horses made their mission obsolete, they decided to continue as a social club. They have thousands of members and an annual banquet. After taking on water (and thankfully, not having the siphoning issue), we checked in. We struggled a bit to get Petunia into her spot…once again the combination of narrow roads and narrow sites, along with a curve in the wrong direction on the road, didn’t give us much room to maneuver. There was also a large tree with branches that were low enough to hit the AC units on Petunia and break off. Thankfully, they didn’t cause any damage. As always, MW came through in the end. While we were working on it, a neighbor walked over and offered to help. He was a CDL instructor, and he gave a few pointers. After we finished setting up, we fixed ourselves drinks and walked over to chat with him and his wife. It was almost time for bed when we returned. Other campers had been steadily streaming in, so the park was more crowded. It was much louder than previous campgrounds, and it wasn’t even the weekend yet.

On Friday MW checked the water tank and we were at 2/3, which we attributed to having to sit on a hill when we filled. We decided to take the water bag and fill it on our way back from town. We headed into Hillsboro, Ohio to check out the town and run a couple of errands. On the way in we passed a farm that specializes in show cattle. Huh? I really thought that show cattle were the sole purview of the nation’s 4-H clubs. Turns out there are people that only raise show animals. They also make some big bank selling said animals’ semen. My sense of humor gives me a lot of jokes that could be inserted here (and MW and I had quite a few juvenile laughs), but I’ll save you. You’re welcome! We also passed the prettiest barn I’ve every seen, unless you lump in the stables at the breeder ranches in Kentucky horse country. Hillsboro is a very pretty town. The downtown is nice, but what stands out is the number of very old houses that are restored and maintained There must have been some major industry there way back to have so many large, lavish houses. We popped in to Frisch’s Big Boy for lunch. The food was adequate, but nothing to write home about. Then we picked up supplies at the grocery store and Walgreens before heading back out to the lake. The drive back along US-50 is beautiful. There are several high spots with long-range views and beautiful farms. Back at the campground, we were amazed at how many more people had showed up. All but eight or ten sites were filled for the weekend, and there are around 200! There were lots of unsupervised little ones, and we had to be careful driving around the road. It was still very hot outside, so we stayed in and watched a movie and a little Dark Shadows (we are about halfway through the entire set). As night approached, it just seemed to get louder outside. (I remember how glorious it feels as a kid to be able to stay out and play after dark. They can’t be denied that feeling!) When quiet hours arrived at 10 PM, though, we found out that we were camped in the middle of the rudest and loudest bunch of people we’ve ever seen at a campground. Kids were riding up and down the road in front of our site on what sounded like old, metal skates. Campsites were full of parents, both drunk and sober, laughing and talking loud. The guy behind us kept slamming his door. (What the hell could he have needed inside every 10 minutes or so?) We turned the air on high and did our best to ignore it. The place didn’t quiet down until about 12:15 AM. I was going to go out and say something, but I would have had to go to probably 20 sites. It really was crazy. MW was able to go to sleep earlier, but I didn’t make it until about 12:45 AM. Ugh! We’ve talked about getting up in the morning at 6 AM and slamming the door, turning on some music, etc., but then, that would make us as rude as them. Instead, MW sneaks out every morning at about 5 AM to shower and no one hears anything at all.

On Saturday morning I was exhausted. I stayed in the bed later than usual, then moved to the recliner and dozed a little more. (I’m wiped out and a grouch when I don’t get enough sleep.) When I finally forced myself to get it together, I headed back to Hillsboro to get some work done using the wifi at Bob Evans. (I also had a nice Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad for lunch.) After I had been there for a while, a group came in and sat at a table nearby, three women and a baby. We ended up talking a bit across the aisle. Turns out one of the women was Sharon Hughes, who writes “In the Kitchen with Sharon” for the Times-Gazette. They were all very nice, and I, once again, got to enjoy conversation with someone other than MW. Bonus! After they left, I ended up working for another couple of hours before heading back to Petunia. I did get a take-out piece of Peanut Butter Pie to take back to MW. Before going to the site, I filled up the water bag again. When I got back around 4 PM, the evening’s chaos had already begun. Later we had leftovers for dinner and watched an old movie. (We have a few compilation DVDs that have the worst movie-of-the-week-type films. We’re still trying to find a good one.) By dark there was a full-blown party going on in the campground. We knew what the night held, so we turned on both air conditioners to see if that would help. It did, somewhat, but it turns out that I can’t sleep with that much noise going on right above my head, either. Everyone finally quieted down about 12:30 AM, and I surrendered to sleep a little later.

Sunday MW was in in the mood for breakfast, so we got up early and headed back to Hillsboro and Bob Evans. After that, we decided to play tourist for a bit. We headed east on over to Bainbridge, Ohio. Named for Commodore William Bainbridge, a naval hero from the war of 1812, it is the home of the Harris Dental Museum (not open), whose sign says first dental school in the United States run by John Harris. One of his students, his brother Chapin, went on to start the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the first formal dental college. We continued through town to the Seip Mound State Memorial. This is the central mound in a group of geometric earthworks. Unfortunately, the others have been degraded by farming and erosion. They were built by the Hopewell Indians between 1500 and 2100 years ago for burials. It was a beautiful day and hadn’t gotten too hot (yet), so we walked around a bit.

Our next stop was the dam at Paint Creek Lake. The park is spread all over the place. The dam is earthen, and you drive over it to get to multiple playgrounds and picnic areas. We drove down below the dam, then to the outflow. The latter had a nice, paved path running along the river with beautiful picnic areas. A family was down at the river’s edge, splashing in the rocks, and several people were fishing in the outflow pool. The path was very shaded, and one side was a rock wall with neat caves up high. It was a nice walk, but by the time we got back to Brutus, it was HOT and time for us to head for the rolling home.

The first thing to say about Paint Creek State Park is that we will NEVER stay there again. It is the responsibility of the park managers to enforce the rules, and they definitely don’t do that as noted previously. The other big issue is that they don’t clean properly. The bathrooms were trashed on Saturday, were exactly the same (with the same trash strewn around) on Sunday, and were still that way on Monday despite the mass exodus of campers on Sunday. The grass was maintained fine, but the trees were in desperate need of trimming. Our rig is 12’8″, and we were dragging through unavoidable limbs and leaves driving through the actual campground and in our site. Taller rigs may run into stuff that could do some damage. All that said, it is a pretty campground with lots of sites spaced out nicely.

That’s all for now. Next up…West Virginia. See you on the road!

Talisa

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2 Comments

  1. Charlie Norton

    What a great report!

    • TJP2018

      Thank you! I’ve been doing this for a couple of years. It allows my family and friends to travel with us. Have a great day!

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