Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bridges of Putnam County

Putnam County, Indiana is not only the home of Judy's sister Rita and husband Bob, but also that of many of Indiana's famous covered bridges. We have visited many of them in this rural, hilly farming area.

Heavily wooded hillsides, split by small, rushing creeks hide deer, turkeys, squirrels and coyotes. Traveling the many rural gravel roads through cornfields and meadows of hay often brings one to a beautiful view of an age-old historical bridge. The perfect spot for a picnic lunch.

For those who take their time and dig around a little, a visit to an old cemetery often uncovers interesting findings.

A leisurely day trip to seven bridges also included the discovery of the Boone-Hutcheson Cemetery, "home" to several apparent relatives of my boyhood hero, Daniel Boone.

The Putnam County Courthouse, center of the Greencastle city square, prominently displays on it's lawn one of the best preserved remaining German V I rockets from World War II.

  These were the infamous rockets that fell on Great Britain and destroyed parts of London before the invasion of Europe. After the War, Werner Von Braun, developer of the V I, and many other German rocket scientists came to the U.S., primarily to White Sands Missle Range and Test Center, to become major contributors in what is now our NASA space program.

 Another piece of interesting history around the square is the old Central National Bank building, site of the biggest heist of the John Dillenger gang.

 On 10/23/1933, Dillenger and his buddies arrived here with tommyguns and left with almost $75,000 in cash.  Clicking on the picture below will enable you to read it.

The building, now a retail store, is a National Historic Landmark. De Pauw, a small private university, is located near the town center. It's many beautiful buildings, fraternity and sorority houses, and students lend a cultural aspect to this quiet Mid-Western town.

After two weeks at Bob and Rita's house and a few earthquake tremors and aftershocks, we moved North to Illinois and a visit to see our kids and grandkids.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Stormy Weather

Grey skies greet us this morning but no rain. The fridge is still on and we're the second ones out of camp. A few miles on the road and we see our first turkey, one of four we will see today.

 The fresh, white dogwood blossoms stand out brilliantly against the dark green of the roadside forest. Another beautiful day.

Seeing a sign for an information center, we leave the Trace and pull into the Kosciusko, Mississippi Museum and information Center. It is here that we discover Kosciusko is the birthplace of Oprah Winfrey. We learn that she has made a continuing financial commitment to this area. Darkening skies, wind gusts and heavy rain soon hurry us on our way. We feel safe as our weather radios tell us the major force of the storm and sighted tornadoes is to the South East of us. Good that we left camp early as we passed through that area only one hour ago. The surrounding countryside is rich in American Indian history, especially the Chickasaw, Choctaw and Natchez Nations. Numerous ceremonial and burial mounds and an early Chickasaw village site can be visited. Several civil War battlefields and historical sites are along the way.

We visited the graves of 13 unknown Confederate soldiers and called it a day as the skies finally cleared when we pulled in to Piney Grove Camp on Bay Springs Lake.

Tomorrow will be mostly highway driving until we get to The Land Between The Lakes, a strip of land between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, where we will spend our last night on the road before arriving at Greencastle, Indiana and Judy's sister's house. Our last camp will be with the Corp Of Engineers at Canal Campground on Lake Barkley.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Natchez Trace

Heading North, we made good driving time today through heavy road construction but light traffic.

We saw several armadillos before crossing the Mississippi River into Mississippi at Natchez.

                          There are many beautifully restored antebellum homes here.

                              Watching the paddle wheelers on the river always reminds me of Mark Twain.

We entered the Natchez Trace at its Southern end and soon came to a tree across the road.

After a slight detour we decided to proceed on the Trace although our refrigerator, running on propane, has gone out two times today. After cleaning out the flue, we think we have it running again. Hopefully this works, as there is no commercial activity of any kind on the Trace. The speed limit has now been increased from 40 to 50 mph but the solitude of the seemingly endless roadside forest is still there. The roughly 500 mile parkway gives travelers an unhurried route from Natchez to Nashville. There is so much history here, from American Indians, French and Spanish explorers, the Civil War and early settlers traveling on the road that was then the most heavily traveled in the Old Southwest. The path became a deep depression in many places that can still be traveled today.

Tonight we are camped at Rocky Springs Camp, one of several free camp spots along the Trace. Weather still comfortable in the 80's but everyone is talking of an impending storm.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Riding the Free Ferry

Today we took the back roads North along the coast traveling the length of Galveston Island to its Northern end. There we boarded the free ferry for the trip across the shipping canal to Port Bolivar on the Bolivar peninsula.

The old lighthouse in the town of Stewart Beach hasn't been used in years.

We soon crossed into Louisiana and settled in for the night at Sam Houston Jones State Park near Lake Charles. The eerie stillness of this parks cypress swamp somehow mystifies me.

I find more splendor here that in the California Redwoods. Directly South of us is the town of Cameron. Hard hit in the last hurricane Rita, its county park on the coast, which we greatly enjoyed, is completely destroyed.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Shrimp boats are a Commin'

A short driving day brought us to Palacios,Texas, where we made our usual stop to buy fresh shrimp from the fleet, the fourth largest on the Texas coast. These shrimp have their heads removed and are quick-frozen on the boats out at sea within fifteen minutes of being caught.

We bought twenty pounds to take home to the relatives we will soon be visiting. The shrimping season begins in earnest next month and the harbor was noisy with the sounds of boats being readied for opening day.

 The catch now is mostly oysters, being unloaded in large sacks right into the warehouse.

A late lunch of oyster Po Boys and Cajun shrimp gumbo complemented the theme of the day. Dinner was ham and cheese sandwiches in the camper. We spent the night at a Passport America park, where we can stay at half price. We are having perfect weather here but are watching reports as we head Northeast toward Indiana as softball size hail fell North of here yesterday and there is severe flooding along the Mississippi River to our East. The weather will be colder as we head North, so we are taking our time, enjoying the sunshine and finishing a few projects on the camper.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Surprise! We meet old friends on the beach

This morning was spent visiting with a couple who had come to fish right next to our camper. As we talked we realized we had first met several years ago in this same spot. They now own property here and enjoy the peacefulness of this very small ocean community. The wind picked up this afternoon but that didn't stop the tankers and shrimp boats and the weather is pleasantly in the low 80's..

We moved down the beach tonight and found the statue of Rene Robert Cavalier de LaSalle. Sailing from France in the 1600's, he explored the Great Lakes and the Ohio, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. He landed here at Matagorda Bay in 1685 and established Fort St. Louis. German settlers also landed here in 1845 and traveled up the Guadalupe River to settle the Texas hill country.

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

On The Road Again

We left Hondo, Tx. yesterday in the truck camper on a seven month trip that will take us across the U.S. to Alaska. We have modified the camper in much the same way as we have the trailer by adding surge protectors, water filters, a solar system, special catalytic heater, cell antennas and booster, a macerator waste removal system and many lesser modifications. These things allow us to stay in remote areas almost anywhere for several weeks at a time if we choose to. We often stay in National Parks, Forest Service camps, and various types of public lands where there are few services but the scenery and wildlife are exceptional. We headed for a small beach on the Texas coast where we have camped in the past.

The ride was uneventful, with spring-like weather and wildflowers blooming along the roads. With the camper parked on the ocean sand, we fell asleep to the sound of the waves only fifty feet away.

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