Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Scenic Indiana is a real treat

In four years of making trips college and home, the phrase “Indiana’s natural beauty” never entered my mind.

The miles of farm fields along U.S. 41 and Highway 63 in far western Indiana made the three-hour drive seem longer. The stretches of long, flat terrain lent itself toward two things: Boredom and speeding (and I have the tickets to prove it).

Two decades later, the family and I recently drove for hours on state highways and local roads in southern Indiana. Now the phrase “Indiana’s natural beauty” is embedded in my brain.

A four-day getaway ran the gamut from Charlestown State Park just northwest of Louisville, to the cool depths of Marengo Cave, to the somewhat commercial - but kid-friendly - Holiday World. Plus some good eating and trip to Nashville, Ind., wedged in along the way

It is a side of Indiana that begs to be seen again.

I will spare you the vacation slide show, but the highlights include:

- Our son Ben, 6, gently holding a Red-spotted Purple butterfly we found along a trail path (at left).
- The biggest wolf spider we have ever seen (and hope we never see in the house).
- Catch-and-release of various frogs and toads.
- A couple of winery stops that proved kid-friendly as well.
- The guy who told me I look like Tony Stewart (I think that was an insult.)
- The wonder and beauty of caves, forested hills and the winding Ohio River.

The list goes on.

We endured a little bit of “are we there yet” from the kiddos, but the six of us enjoyed each store, park, restaurant and unscheduled stop along the way. Although the relatively tight quarters of a hotel suite and the time in a mini-van could easily give way to frayed nerves (or at least a scene from National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movie series), the trip was amazingly relaxing – thanks in no small part to the beauty that surrounded us on the two-lane highways or river overlooks.

The gloom-and-doom talk about the economy seems to discourage the idea of taking a vacation. Yeah, gas is $4 (and up) per gallon. We we still decided to pack up the suitcase, hop in the car and see a side of Indiana that is unlike the Indiana we see in the middle part of the state.

Not only will you experience river bluffs and thick forests, but you will also help the economy. Trekking around Indiana and stopping at uniquely local stores and restaurants keeps those entrepreneurs in business. Why eat at a chain restaurant on vacation when you can partake of uniquely local fare while overlooking the Ohio River?

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