May 3, 2005

Route 50 Road Trip: Day 3, Indiana to Illinois

Poor night's sleep in Seymour, IN. A cold room and a hard bed made for insomnia in the middle of the night and a stiff shoulder in the morning. Otherwise, though, I'm ready for the day's drive. Breakfast at Larrison's Diner in the itty-bitty downtown of Seymour, IN, birthplace of John Cougar Mellencamp.

On an impulse, I turned off of 50 at a sign for Starve Hollow State Recreation Area. Serendipity! That impulse more than made up for missing Clifty Falls yesterday. The trail system at Starve Hollow is what the Maryland DNR should strive for. The loop I put together was a mix of old roadbed with real trail: no wider than my two feet together, duff-covered, and discreetly blazed. Very intelligent signage, too, about trail length, difficulty and time necessary to hike. The Vista Trail, in particular, was a gorgeous section, running up and down ravines in a beautiful hardwood forest. Same hardwood mix as the mid-Atlantic region (Tulip Poplar, White and other Oaks, Sweetgum, assorted Maples, American Beech), with the addition of Bald Cypress scattered around the shallows of the lake.

A bittersweet experience, though, wanting to make it a wandering, time-free hike, but knowing that I have 300 miles to go for the day.

Missed photo-op on the way out of a town I passed through: A Route 50 West sign across the street from a Huck's convenience store, with a big sign featuring a winking Huck Finn. Between photos I want to take and things I want to write while rolling too fast to stop (or there being no place to pull over), I've come to the conclusion that I need a camera implanted in my forehead and a recording device in my brain.

Halfway through Day 3, Wal-Mart count= 3 since leaving home, plus a big distribution center in Seymour. I've yet to see any new housing developments or "Land For Sale" signs. It's a relief to find that the rampant development that I see back home does reach a limit along the blue highways.

Another detour off of 50 down to French Lick Springs Resort, IN, which I read about at the Road Trip USA website. The plan had been to see about getting a massage, but I'm just not making good time today. So, lunch and maybe a couple of photos, then back up to 50 and hopefully 200 more miles.

The resort ended up being the type of place with rocking chairs on the big front porch (which overlooked the golf course and a Huck's convenience store across the street) and icerberg lettuce in the $12 steak salad. The things that impressed me most were a statue of Mephistofoles (read Faust) behind the bar and the light fixtures in the ladies room. Faded glory... Must have been quite a grand place back in the day.

From Seymour, through the detour to French Lick, and on through Loogootee, Indiana has been fairly flat stretches interspersed with curves over and down hilly ridges. Fun driving. Passing through some town between Loogootee and Washington, I considered staying the night at an Amish inn, but I just had too many miles to do to give in to that novelty. West of Washington, the land flattened out and the road widened to four lanes, so I pushed the Pony up over 80 and let it run. Almost let it run out of gas, too. Had to make an emergency pull-off to look for a station. I aimed for Palestine (buying gas in Palestine would have been just too appropriate), but Vincennes was closer and I was on the red line. So, I got to visit my first Huck's.

I made no stops from Vincennes, IN, all the way through to Salem, IL. Just past Vincennes, crossed the Wabash River into IL on a bridge named for Red Skelton. I'm not kidding. This was just the start of amusingly named things in IL. Passed on the way to Salem:

- The Embarras River. Yes, only one 's'

- The town of Olney. Normal enough name, but home to albino squirrels.

- The town of Xenia, gotten to via Xenia Iola Rd.

- The towns of Iuka and Omega

- A creek named Skillet Fork

- Dums Creek, which the road crossed three times.

And, last but not least, Effingham, the town that tries to watch its language, but just can't quite.

Observation: The Pony and I have killed more bugs in one afternoon crossing the flatlands of Illinois than in the past two days through VA, WV, OH & IN. The windshield's a mess.

Checked into a jacuzzi room at the Comfort Inn just west of Salem, around 8 pm. 345 miles for the day.

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