Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Carroll County, Indiana

We had some rain while we were camping at Delphi, Indiana, but we still managed to explore our new home town. We're living in the county seat of Carroll County, and this handsome court house is in the center of the town square.

We're impressed with Indiana courthouses, especially when you can look up to see a beautiful stained glass dome,

and look down to see a hand-tiled mosaic floor and curving marble staircases. What a grand old building!

We also picked up a Carroll county brochure named "Historic Bridge Tour." We learned there are two covered bridges in our county, and we found them both. This is the Lancaster Bridge, built in 1872. That's almost 150 years ago!

We also learned that it features a "Howe-truss design, and has a unique cast-iron abutment patented in 1870." In simpler terms, it's really pretty and looks good for its age. Wouldn't we all like that to be said about us after almost 150 years?

We could impress you with a lot more dates and engineering descriptions of the metal bridges we found on our bridge tour, but Denisa prefers the description of "this is a handsome blue bridge" instead. For two people that love wandering on random country roads, this was fun to actually have bridge destinations to wander to.

Our second covered bridge was the Adams Mill Bridge--built in 1872.

It stretches over Wildcat Creek, and we love it that the trees behind are showing some fall color.

These fall leaves carpeted the floor of the one-mile trail that we walked that connects the Adams Mill Bridge . . .

to Adams Mill.

Originally built in 1831, it was lovingly restored in 1940. It was another grand and historical find as we wandered through Carroll County.

Today was good practice at locating historic bridges, because we are heading down the road towards more bridges. We are really enjoying Indiana!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Purdue University and West Lafayette, Indiana

Since we both retired from a university in Oklahoma, we enjoy touring universities all over the country. We found ourselves camped just 20 miles from Purdue University, so we made the drive to West Lafayette one morning. Our goal was to find the best-known outdoor art features on campus, so we started with the Loeb Fountain.

While Denisa was checking out the weekly farmers' market on campus, Mark is having a chat with Mr. Purdue, the namesake of the university.

Right in the center of campus is the Engineering Fountain. It's obviously a good place for students to gather. So much so, it was hard to take a picture, because so many students were gathered here.

Purdue is obviously proud of its students' contributions to the space industry. This huge sun sculpture is in the center of one of the green spaces on campus, with all the planets rotating around it in appropriately scaled orbits. Purdue likes to point out the large number of students that have become astronauts. That would include its most famous, Neil Armstrong, the first person on the moon. Signs all over campus touted "150 Years of Giant Leaps" in celebration of their 150th anniversary in 2019.

We stopped by the "Unfinished P" with its nostalgic message to students about building their life on the foundation built here at Purdue.

No tour of a major university would be complete without walking to the football stadium. We accidentally walked by a couple "do not enter" signs to get this picture inside the stadium.

Also, no tour of a college campus would be complete without lunch at its most durable eating establishment. Situated on the edge of campus, the Triple XXX Family Diner is the oldest drive-in in the state of Indiana. It was also featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" program. Even though its Triple X name might imply something naughty, it is actually named after the home-made root beer that we ordered with our burger. In the world of root beer, XXX means the best quality drink.

Situated on the edge of campus, The Triple X has been in business since 1929. The napkin holders on the formica counter brags "we were here before your Mother was born." I guess they weren't planning on such an old guy eating here today, because that isn't true for Mark.

After a seven-mile walking tour around Purdue, we have a couple other stops planned. But we will have to cross the Wabash River to get from West Lafayette to its sister city of Lafayette.

Lafayette is the county seat of Tippecanoe county, so it hosts a very grand courthouse downtown. We are finding that Indiana has some beautiful courthouses, so we had to park the car and take a look inside as well.

But our favorite stop in Lafayette was the Colombia Park Zoo. We don't usually stop at zoos, but this one was free so we had to take a look. We especially liked this Australian exhibit, with the wallabies hopping around us in an open exhibit. A Purdue student studying zoology was in the enclosure with us, answering all our questions about these small kangaroos. One answer was, "no, there are no little joeys hiding in those front pouches right now."

The Australian exhibit included this kookaburro that didn't mind posing for pictures.

We would have liked to be in the enclosure with these cute river otters, but we were separated by a wire fence this time.

River otters were once extinct in Indiana Rivers, but a relocation program has brought them back to the state. We enjoyed watching the antics of these playful otters, who gave us close-up swim-bys at the water window.

The petting zoo is popular with youngsters, so of course Denisa enjoyed it too. She especially liked the baby kids that appreciated a good neck scratch.

When she put a quarter into the food vending machine, the sound of the knob turning brought the entire herd running to her. She had to fight to get the food out of the machine, as these goats knew how to lift the door and help themselves. She was able to feed the rest of the goats before they nibbled on her (too much).

We also enjoyed the monkeys, and the emus, and the tortoises, and . . . It was a nice little zoo with a great price--free! After a big day of sight-seeing, we were headed back towards home, but we had one more stop to make. The Battle of Tippecanoe happened right here in these Indiana hills in 1811. This obelisk marks the spot of this battle between the United States army and this area's Indian tribes.

The forest around the monument includes old-growth hardwoods that were here during the battle. It was a beautiful place to brush up a little on our early American history.

We've had a good time seeing another slice of Indiana today, and we like what we saw. It's a good day when you learn a little, spend some time with kids, and eat at a XXX diner. It was a good day of wandering! 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Camping on the Erie Canal in Delphi, Indiana

As we were rolling toward our next destination, Denisa was snapping pictures through our big motor home windshield. Indiana is in the middle of corn harvest. We've noticed this interesting white line when viewing a field of corn from the side. That's when we realized that the "white line" was where the ears of corn are attached to the stalk. Being from wheat country, we didn't realize that the ears so uniformly grow at the same height on each corn stalk. We must be agricultural nerds, because we find things like that fascinating.

We are seeing the combines pulling into the fields along the highway, and trucks heading to the big grain elevators.

Even with all the space in those big elevators, they are having to pile some of that bright yellow corn on the ground already.

The soy beans aren't nearly as pretty as other crops, as they are now dried out and ready for harvest as well.

We have to make one other observation from our time on the road through Indiana. Today we are on a four-lane divided highway, but the speed limit is just 60 miles per hour. We certainly aren't in any hurry, and I guess the rest of Indiana isn't either.

We were on the road almost two hours today, before we pulled into our new home town of Delphi, Indiana. We are in one of the three campsites here at the Wabash and Erie Canal Park. Right in our back yard is a tiny sliver of the 468-mile canal.

We took a walk over the pedestrian bridge to get a better look at the Wabash and Erie Canal--the longest man-made waterway in the Western Hemisphere. Right here through Delphi, Indiana, was once the best way to move people and goods all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

We are camping right beside the tow path where the mules walked, towing the barges up and down the canal. The Canal Park has a miniature barge on metal skids, with a rope attached to practice our towing technique. Nope, this mule couldn't budge it.

The mules' tow path is now a bike trail that we enjoyed one evening. The water in this section of the canal was an interesting turquoise color for some reason.

A red iron bridge, turquoise water, and the purple twilight sky made for a beautiful bike ride color combination.

The bridges allowed us to make a loop around the canal, so we also crossed on the blue bridge . . .

and walked across the wooden suspension bridge just for fun.

The Wabash and Erie Canal is no longer in use, and much of the hand-dug canal from the 1800's has collapsed. So part of our bike ride along the tow path was among trees that weren't there when the canal was operating.

But some of the big old trees in the forest surrounding the water have been here long enough to tell some good stories. We're wondering about the stories from this old tree that we could literally walk inside.

The water that filled the canal came from the Wabash River. Our tow path bike ride took us all the way to sunset point, that overlooks the Wabash not long before sunset.

We think we're going to like it here in Delphi, living along the Wabash and Erie Canal!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Home in Nappanee, Indiana

After boondocking without any hook-ups for five days in Elkhart, Indiana, we headed thirty minutes south to the little town of Nappanee for another free camping site. We head read that Newmar Corporation has free water and electric sites for their motor home customers. They even extend that invitation to motor home owners of other brands if they take their factory tour. Since we love tours, this was a win-win situation for us as we settled in among the Newmar motor homes around us.

When we were shopping for a motor home four years ago, we were specifically looking for a 33-36 foot diesel model with a good reputation for being durable enough for full-timing. Newmar was definitely on our short list of finalists, as they make a fine product. We really enjoyed the tour we took here, and it was our favorite because we got to see work actually being done in the manufacturing plant. Taking the 10:00 tour meant that all the workers were busy. No pictures were allowed inside the plant, but we got to see them actually install two slide units, add a fiberglass wall to a 45-foot motor home and then cut out the holes for the windows and slide, move motor homes side-ways to the next work station with air cushions . . . It was a very educational tour that we would highly recommend. At the end of the tour we were free to look through some of the latest and greatest of the Newmar motor homes.

We also made an appointment to take the motor home tour at Thor Industries, so we headed a few miles up the road to Wakarusa, Indiana. Since we were a little early, we stopped in at the Wakarusa Dime Store. They are famous for their giant jelly beans. They are made from their special recipe just for this little dime store.

Unlike the other two RV tours, Thor allowed us to take as many pictures as we wanted. We started with the Freightliner frame at the very beginning of the process. The bad news is that our 3:00 tour meant that all the workers were gone for the day, so we didn't get to see any work being done. The good news is that we were free to walk right next to the line and look at things closely.

We were led by two salesmen, who explained what we were seeing. They were quick to point out how Thor's processes made a better motor home than others. We continued walking down the manufacturing line until those bare frames were beginning to look like motor homes with walls.

These drawers are stacked beside the line, ready for the motor homes that will roll by this station tomorrow.

This motor home is labeled with an orange sign that reads "last unit out." That means that no one goes home tomorrow until this home (and all the ones in front of it) are completely finished.

We didn't get to walk through any Thor motor homes, but these shiny models only lacked the final inspections and cleaning before they are ready to be shipped to their new owners.

We had a great time touring RV manufacturing plants here in Northern Indiana. We discovered that Nappanee is in the middle of another pocket of Amish farms. We enjoy driving these little roads where a stop sign might mean waiting for a horse and buggy to pass.

Just down the street from our camping spot is Amish Acres, known for its good restaurant. It also includes this big round barn, which has been turned into a musical theatre.

A couple peacocks were patrolling the brick pathway in front of the barn. We don't know if peacocks molt, but this fellow's beautiful tail feathers seemed to be missing.

We haven't had many flower pictures lately, so perhaps one picture of a very big flower at Amish Acres will make up for that.

We haven't been getting as much exercise as we usually do, so we went in search of a hiking trail. We found this heavily-wooded trail right in our new home town of Nappanee.

It must be fall, because more bright yellow sunflowers greeted us here.

Since we've been on the main RV tours that we wanted to see, it's now time to head on down the road. The clouds were stacking up to make a beautiful sunset on the last evening we were in Nappanee. We walked away from our camp site to get a clear view of the sky to watch the sunset.

That's when we heard that familiar clippity-clop of hooves and saw this horse and buggy flash in front of us. Have we mentioned that Denisa is really going to miss the unexpected pleasure of these buggies? We also must mention that Mark is really going to miss the expected goodness of the Amish bakeries!