Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hoosier daddy?!

Total distance: 1577.6 km

It's worth noting that one of reasons we headed into Indiana, apart from the desire to notch up another state, was the desire to visit the home state of one of our favourite science fiction authors, Philip Jose Farmer (and also one of his best-loved characters, Kickaha). Since we wouldn't be detouring to PJF's home town of Terre Haute we instead aimed for the Hoosier National Forest, as Kickaha is always described as having a Hoosier accent.

On Tuesday morning we went through our usual pack-up routine of breakfast, drying out the dew-covered tent as well as we could, and then stashing it all away.  After zooming along the 4km between campsite and park entrance, we took a left and headed towards Charlestown.  As the oatmeal we'd had for breakfast hadn't really satisfied, we decided to stop at a cute little restaurant on the entrance of town, which was basically a train that had been converted.  The "gourmet sandwiches" it boasted had us intrigued, so we wheeled our bikes up to their patio, and were immediately warmly greeted and invited inside.  The food turned out to be quite nice, especially their choice of soups, and we had a very nice chat with the various staff members.  We found out from them that the word "Hoosier" does in fact apply to anybody from Indiana, rather than just those who live around the Hoosier National Forest or any one particular part of the state.

When we had finished our meal, we discovered that it had started to rain.  Luckily, our second breakfast had revived us and filled us with gumption, so we just shrugged, put on our wet weather gear, and headed off.  We were pleased to find that the terrain from Charlestown onwards was nowhere near as hilly as we had been led to expect, and certainly a nice break from what we had been dealing with recently.

When we reached Jeffersonville, which is part of the cluster of towns level with Louisville on the other side of the river, we unfortunately got epically bogged down by getting groceries, which made the entire day a bit of a write-off when it came to travelling.  However, we did find a motel room that was only barely more expensive than some of the campsites we've stayed at, which, although extremely convenient, was also a little disturbing.  We tried to have an early night but, as usual, failed and ended up going to sleep at midnight.  Go us.

On Wednesday morning we packed our belongings and discovered that  I (Sundance) had lost the stuff-sack for my raincoat. This upset me quite a bit, because, sentimental fool that I am, I was quite attached to it as the jacket and stuff-sack were a birthday present from my parents. Anyway, I held us up epically by back-tracking to the supermarket from the previous day and checking the aisles, the bike parking rack, and their lost-and-found before eventually deciding that it was a lost cause, and we had better make some headway or waste the whole day. But if you're reading this in Indiana, between Charlestown and Jeffersonville and you find a black-and-red stuff sack somewhere along route 62, contact us via this blog, okay? :-) Please.

In any case, we soon headed out through Clarksville, skirting the freeways and following smaller roads as much as possible, emerged through New Albany, where we got a good view of a bridge that led to Kentucky and looked like the Sydney Harbour Bridge undergoing the later stages of mitosis, and headed up a long, gruelling hill to reach Edwardsville. Quadriceps ready to burst, we stopped to admire the view at the top, and got chatting with a couple of locals who recommended we follow a smaller road that ran between the interstate and route 62 - much less traffic. After following this road up hills and down dales and past dogs who were obviously in desperate need of something to bark at and chase (at one point an overweight bulldog on its ridiculous stubby legs fell flat and slid along on its face while trying to get up from a yard onto the road to chase us. Hilarious!) we coasted gratefully down into the town of Corydon, and pulled up next to a Mexican restaurant. The scrolling sign in the window advertising fish tacos drew is in quite successfully, as we've been hooked on fish tacos since spending last January on Maui.

The folks in the restaurant decided we must be fitter than them, since we showed up on bikes, and smelled like we'd been riding them for a while, and got chatting to us about where we were going and where we'd been. Presently we headed off, on their advice, to camp at O'Bannon Woods state park and got to the appropriate turn-off before dark although the road turned out not to be as curvy or dangerous as they'd warned us. We then slogged up another enormous hill or six-hundred until we made it to the actual park office, only to find a map informing us that there had been a
"primitive" campground (i.e. one for tents) about 500 metres further along the road past the turn-off. Arrrggghhhhhh! One really frustrating thing about camping in the US is that they don't seem to consider the possibility that you might not be travelling in a motorised vehicle, or in fact might not be sleeping in an RV or caravan, and hence don't tell you about "primitive" campsites until you're so far away from them that the only reasonable way to get there is by driving. And so we decided not to head all the way back to the main road, but rather to find a flat patch of dirt between all the bitumen-covered RV campsites to put up our tent.

Thursday morning broke peacefully, apart from the roar of a park maintenance person clearing leaves off the campsites with a bobcat. Because after all, we don't want anyone to have to park their humungous RV on some leaves! Camping has nothing to do with encountering nature, now does it?

Make breakfast, pack bedding, dry tent, pack tent, admire morning sunlight on pretty autumn leaves, wash, rinse, repeat. Are you sick of reading about our morning routine yet?

We left the campground and decided to head out of the park along a gravel bike/hike trail, rather than retracing our steps from the previous night. Some of the stretches of trail were a bit loose and muddy, but fun, and when we got to the bottom we found that the trail ended at an old iron bridge over the Blue River (which was actually quite muddly and brown) which no longer had a proper surface to it, just the iron framework which was decidedly rusty. Clearly we would have to go back up the trail we'd just come down, and retrace our path from the previous night. So instead, we did this;

And now that we've given all four of our parents several panic-attacks...

Crossing that barrier refilled our gumption tanks, a lot, as it made us feel like we were not going to let anything get in our way, and all those folks on motorbikes and driving their RVs couldn't have done what we just did.

We proceeded along a minor road along the riverside through the town of Leavenworth (although I'm not sure it really was big enough to call a town), up a killer steep gravel road which had us cursing the inventor of gravel roads, and then headed into even more hills as we went towards our goal of Hoosier National Forest. We finally got there, and had a well-earned lunch of tuna and salad sandwiches just before the town of Sulphur (notice the spelling!) and found that the national forest was really just a bunch of little towns and cow paddocks with some trees around them. We stopped in a shop with a huge cabbage growing out the front to find out which way was most scenic and least hilly, and were rapidly rewarded by the terrain levelling off and heading somewhat downhill. We even managed to admire some of the scenery when we got away from the scattered population centres.

Just after dark we cruised into Meinrad, and set out to find the local abbey, in the hopes that the staff at the guest house would let us set up a tent somewhere on the grounds. Instead they monks arranged for us to have a free room for the night, complete with internet connection. And now, showered and fed, we are off to get some well-earned rest.

Oh, and just for the record, the hoosier accent sounds a bit like a southern twang, but more "rounded", almost as if there's a hint of Irish brogue mixed in. It can be quite charming, really.


  1. This is Steve Stenbro from Jeffersonville, IN.
    Enjoyed your posts. I serched HighWay 62 all the way from Charles town to Jeff No bag. I stopped an looked at a couple on nets on the road, thought maybe your bag would be close by and a cop stopped and asked me if I was having car trouble. I told him your story he told me nothing had been turned in. I think you lost it where you put your raincoats on.

  2. Hi Steve, thanks for looking. I guess I've just got to accept that it's gone - but thanks for saying hi, and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.