Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Prophetstown State Park --- West Lafayette Indiana

Roger here....  When we knew we were spending time in Indiana, we booked two weeks at our favorite Indiana State Park.  When this park was new (Indiana's newest state park), it was simple to find a site, except during home football weekends at Purdue.  That has changed.  Even six months prior to our visit I had trouble finding a spot for two weeks.  After adjusting our itinerary a bit, I was able to secure a great campsite.  So what is the attraction?  Lots of things:  top notch full hookup and very private sites,  excellent hiking trails, beautiful scenery, history, friends, family, and serenity.  

Here is a typical full hookup campsite.  The crushed gravel pads are surrounded by a border of railroad ties, green grass, and carefully placed large rocks and trees.  No dirt or mud here, even after a downpour.

The sites are extremely private.  You do not feel like you are on display for your neighbors when you sit outside here.  This view from the roadway shows how invisible the RV units are in this very full campground.  

My view from our motor home as I write this post is essentially mature pine trees and sky.  The dove in this picture sat in the same spot every evening.  

Get a load of our campsite:

If you know us, you know we like to go on 3-4 mile hikes.  We especially enjoy our hikes when we can take our dogs without loading them into the car.  This is a perfect park in that sense.  Many of the trails consist of well-maintained grass surfaces that meander through the tall-grass prairies, ponds, and occasional stands of trees.  

There are also miles of hike/bike trails.  We don't have our bikes with us this trip (a shame), but the paved, flat surfaces are really nice for walking as well.

  The main bike trail crosses underneath this stone bridge on the way to an operating farmstead from the early 1900s.  The bridge was built from glacial boulders found in the park.

The bridge allows little-traveled State Road 225 to pass through the park without permitting access.  Our friends who have seen pictures of the bridge have expressed concern that it might not be tall enough for RVs to pass under.  It is tall enough:

As I mentioned before, many of the trails pass through tall-grass prairies.  

Using Dianne as a point of perspective (again), you can see how tall the wildflowers get in late July.  In a month the grass will be as tall as those wildflowers.

 Some of the trails pass through wooded areas.  The shade is very much appreciated on a hot summer day.

This fishing pond is a perfect place to enjoy a peaceful day.  It is 1 and 1/2 miles from the campground by hike, bike, or car.

Dianne enjoyed sampling the raspberries along the trails.  However, the wildflowers were the stars of our daily walks.

Can you spot the bumblebee?

Black-Eyed Susans

Purple Coneflowers

??  Somebody please tell me what these are!

Queen's Anne Lace, Yellow and Purple Coneflowers

The midwest has been extremely wet this summer, and sometimes stormy.  We only had one significant storm during our stay here.  However, the frequent rains have caused some flooding.

Oops!   Time to turn back!
From time to time we were forced to backtrack along the trails as we encountered unexpected (not totally unexpected) water.

We know from past visits that this area is normally not a lake, but a low-lying part of the prairie.  The trails to the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers were both closed.  Not a big deal, since there were miles of other trails and we had experienced them before.

Road had been closed due to flooding
One morning we decided to walk off the park property to see if we could see any of the flooding along the Wabash River.  We knew that State Road 225 (remember the stone bridge pictures?) would take us to a one-lane bridge over the river.  So, off we went.

Along the way, we passed by a reconstructed Native American village on the state park property.  It was on the site of Chief Tecumseh's confederation.  

We also passed the marker that documents the significant historical significance of this plot of land.  Looking around the area gives one's imagination quite a picture.  Tippecanoe and Tyler Too was William Henry Harrison's presidential campaign slogan, referring to the confrontation between himself and Chief Tecumseh.

We soon reached the one-lane bridge that crosses the Wabash River.  Even though it was officially closed due to the recent flooding on the other side of the river, a few cars did go across.

 This is a view from one side of the river from the bridge.  It looked to be about twice its normal width.  For our friends in Mission TX, the Wabash River is about twice the width of the Rio Grande.

These corn fields on the other side of the bridge are probably not going to have very high yields this year.   It was an interesting walk.  We were quite happy to have a campsite on higher ground.

Keeping with the theme of our Reunion Tour 2015, Dianne and I spent some quality time with four of her high school buddies.  We traveled to nearby Monticello for a dinner at Sportsman's Inn on the lake with friends who traveled from Chicago, Florida, Indy and Monticello.  In the picture below, Debbie (next to Dianne), and I had a class together at Purdue.   All those years ago, when I told her that I was dating a girl from her hometown, I had no idea that she and Dianne were friends.  Small world.

Karen, Margy (the organizer), Penny, Debbie and Dianne - FHS Class of '68
Penny, Margy, Dianne, Karen -- Lots of catching up going on!
The next afternoon, I grilled hamburgers for the group at our campsite.  It was like having four dates :-). 

 (Roger was great while my friends were visiting!   He catered to our every whim, fetching and pouring drinks, cooking burgers, and corralling our dogs so that my friends and I could have a good visit.  What a guy!  -- Dianne)

Speaking of high school...  Dianne's hometown, Frankfort, Indiana, is only a short drive from West Lafayette where Prophetstown State Park is located.  

This is Charley (L), who Charley the Cat is named for,
and his wife Leslie, pretty in pink
Her cousin, Charley, and his wife Leslie invited us to accompany them to the annual Frankfort Hot Dog Festival.  Dianne was a "Puppette"* in the Frankfort High Hot Dog Band.  

*Puppette = skimpy (for the '60s), glittery outfits, white boots,  and dance routines with pom-poms

(For some reason, Roger finds that very, very funny...Frankfort High School does have the unusual mascot name of the "Hot Dogs." -- D.) 

Jean and Bill Beard - My First Bosses (1969)!!
Dianne's first job after high school was at Beard Industries, a local business that built grain dryers. As we sat down to enjoy a concert, we were surprised to see that her first boss was being honored as this year's Legend of Frankfort.  

Waiting for the band to begin
The main event that evening was a rock concert with Frankfort graduate Kyle Cook.  Kyle was the lead guitarist (and a vocalist) for the popular band Match Box 20.  Their free concert at the Hot Dog Festival was an unexpected treat!
Frankfort's Own Kyle Cook on Vocals

We leave Prophetstown State Park tomorrow to pursue other adventures, but we will definitely be back.  Our next post... MEMORABLE SIDE TRIP TO CHICAGO.
Awesome sunset through the pine trees at Prophetstown -- photo not even enhanced

The pet picture of the day shows Big Chuck thoroughly enjoying some outside time at our campsite.  (He began his life in my cousin Charley's barn on his farm, and has never lost his love of the outdoors!  -- D.)

Pretty Boy!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Roger's Best Day Ever --- Purdue (The Great University of the North)

Roger and Neil

Hi all, Dianne here.   Lest you think that Roger never gets a "best day ever," this blog will put that notion to rest.

We are at  Prophetstown State Park outside Lafayette, Indiana for two weeks.   We have been here many times, ever since this park opened in the days before we began full timing.   It is our favorite camping spot in the state of Indiana, but we'll save our day-to-day adventures at the state park for an upcoming blog.   

West Lafayette, Indiana is also home to Purdue University, Roger's alma mater.  He is a loyal Boilermaker fan.   We pay extra to Direct TV just so we can get the Big Ten Network, even though we no longer live in the state, so he can keep up with his beloved basketball and football teams.

   Roger chose the agenda for one of our days at the state park, and guess what?   It involved a short drive to campus.   I'll let him take it from here:

Roger here...  The opening picture shows me 'n Neil Armstrong (Purdue graduate) chillin' in front of the Engineering Building named in his honor.  The picture to the right represents Neil's (first man on the moon) steps on the moon.  It is also a good introduction to the 7.61 miles that we walked on this day:

Dianne's UP bracelet readout 

I did indeed lay out the itinerary for the day:  walk around campus, have a brew at the Chocolate Shop, eat lunch at the XXX Diner, visit the bookstores to buy a new hat.

CAMPUS MEMORIES...  Hail, Hail to Old Purdue...

We started our walk at the Village, heading for the center of campus.  My past memories were of red-brick buildings, sidewalks, and not much landscaping.  It was immediately apparent that some of that has changed.  There are still red-brick buildings, but there are many new ones.  The sidewalks now run parallel to bike paths.  The trees that were "sticks" when I was a student have now matured.  

My graduation ceremony was held in the Elliott Hall of Music.  It is much the same.  This structure that was home to big name entertainers on football weekends, was built as a replica of the Radio City Music Hall in New York  --- one difference, the Hall of Music at Purdue has one more seat.  I saw Cher, The Fifth Dimension, Chicago, Bob Hope, The Temptations, Dionne Warwick, The Supremes and many others here.

The Bell Tower was not there when I was a student;  however, it is certainly a nice addition.  The school song, Hail Purdue,  chimed as we walked past.  Yes, I still remember the lyrics.

There was more new construction than I expected.  Many of the former parking areas are now the sites for new buildings.  We crossed the paths of a multitude of tours.  All the young people were wearing the same backpacks.  Orientation?  Recruitment?  

The fountain in front of the Administration Building has been moved to another location on campus.  I used to wade with friends in that fountain at night when no one was around --- probably weren't supposed to do that.  Oh, the rebellious days :-).  It has been replaced by the walk-through fountain below where wading is encouraged.

Purdue was founded in 1869 as a land-grant University.  University Hall sits on the original quadrangle and is the oldest building on campus.  I had several classes in that old building.

I was fortunate to graduate from a Big Ten University with a storied history.  Amelia Earhart joined Neil Armstrong and others as world renowned graduates.  There were famous athletes from Purdue, as well.  Let's follow the Boilermaker train tracks to Ross-Ade Stadium.  Ross-Ade Stadium has the unofficial name as the Cradle of Quarterbacks.  Just to name a few:  Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Mike Phipps, Gary Danielson, Jim Everett, Kyle Orton, Mark Herrmann, 
and Drew Brees.

The football stadium has undergone quite a few changes since my days at Purdue.  The upper level of the horseshoe now spans the entire curve.  Luxury seats and suites are housed in the new press box.  The upper level of the "ugly" bleachers under the jumbo tron have been removed.  A beer garden for members of the John Purdue Club (and possibly season ticket holders) now occupies that space.  

The entire stadium is now surrounded by red brick (what else) and an expanded concession area.  When I was a freshman, a year after the Bob Griese Rose Bowl win over USC, Purdue was ranked #1 in the nation until a heartbreaking loss to Ohio State.  I have hated the Buckeyes ever since :-).

The Purdue Boilermaker

Across the street from the stadium and next to the indoor practice field sits the Student Academic Center that was donated by  Purdue icons, Drew and Brittany Brees. 

 Dianne and I were actually at the Ohio State game when Brees threw a last minute touchdown pass that paved a trip to the Rose Bowl.  We joined thousands of others who stormed the field at the conclusion of the game.  Great memory.  A trip to the Rose Bowl with friends ensued.  Needless to say, I am now a Saints fan.

John Wooden Drive leads the way to Mackey Arena, the home of Boilermaker basketball.
Mackey was built when I was in high school.  Purdue lost the first game in the new arena by one point  to #1 ranked UCLA (coached by John Wooden).  The Boilers have not lost many games at Mackey since then.  Most of those losses were two years ago :-).

Mackey Arena has also been surrounded by a red-brick edifice that houses expanded concession areas, cafes, and lounges.

Soft, cushy seats, have been installed for the wealthier season ticket holders.  When I was a freshman, Purdue's men's team played UCLA in the final game of the NCAA Tournament at Freedom Hall in Louisville.  Unfortunately, a Bruin by the name of Lou Alcinder (Kareem Abdul Jabar) ended the dream that year (1969).  I attended every game that I could that year, and have attended countless more games with my Dad since then during the years of Gene Keady and frequent Big Ten Championships.  Dad had season tickets.  Mackey can, and usually is, a magical place.  Looking forward to a really good season this year with Coach Painter and a returning lineup.

Just a couple more pictures from Mackey...  There are certainly plenty of Big Ten Championship Trophies on display.  Far more than those of Arch Rival Indiana.

This is John Wooden's athletic sweater from his days as a player at Purdue.  He was the driving force on the 1932 team that won the national championship (prior to the implementation of the NCAA tournament).  OK.  Enough of all this sports trivia.  I know that Purdue people are probably the only ones who are interested.  On to the Village.


Just off campus, Harry's Chocolate Shop is the iconic campus watering hole.  It opened in 1919 and was rumored to be a speakeasy during prohibition with a chocolate shop as the front for the illicit imbibing in other parts of the building.

  All that walking around campus has built up a little bit of a thirst. 

Thousands upon thousands of Purdue faithful have passed through this door. (BTW, that is Dianne's reflection in the glass.)  A long-standing Purdue tradition is centered at Harry's on home football weekends.  Students crowd the bar before the game dressed in costumes, have a few beers for breakfast, then head to Ross-Ade Stadium.  Go Ugly Early (Harry's trademark) refers to this morning tradition.  It was afternoon by the time Dianne and I arrived, so we only felt the need to have one emblematic brew.

They do serve food at Harry's, and it is not bad, but I had something else in mind for lunch.


This is not what you think :-).  The XXX refers to Triple X Root Beer.   This greasy spoon in the village was opened as a root beer stand in 1929.  It was here when my Dad went to Purdue, and he ate here frequently.   It has not changed much since then, except maybe for the crowds.  

It is still an old-fashioned diner.  All the patrons sit on stools while the staff takes orders and delivers food behind the counter.  No visible updating here.

It was fun eating in the same building where my Dad used to eat when he was a young man.  

The food was good, too.  

Since we were in Indiana, Dianne and I both ordered an Indiana classic --- the breaded tenderloin.  You can find these delicious sandwiches in other states, but in Indiana they are everywhere.  This pounded and flattened pork loin is breaded and then fried.  The tenderloin MUST be bigger than the bun, or it is not a true breaded tenderloin.

The reputation of the Triple XXX was not harmed by a visit from Guy Fieri from the foodie show, Diners Drive-ins and Dives.  The featured food was the breaded tenderloin that we had, but the restaurant is also known for its chopped steak hamburgers.  Both of us were fully satisfied with our meal, but then we saw something that a girl across the way was eating --- a black and gold sundae.  Uh-Oh.  So much for the calories that we burned walking around campus.


Everyone knows that the number one item that you look for in a campus bookstore is not books, but clothes.  My old Purdue baseball cap was discarded last year.  It was in pretty bad shape.  I needed a new Purdue hat.  Since Dianne had told me that this was my day, I felt obligated to find one.  Not all baseball caps look great on me.  It must be the shape of my head.  Who knows?  BUT, due to this problem, I was forced to try on a multitude of hats in three different bookstores.  Much to Dianne's chagrin.  

Should I use this squirt gun on me or Roger?

I never did find the right hat, but did buy a couple of shirts.  Dianne is going to have to take me back.

We did indeed walk 7.61 miles today, if you include the morning walk with the dogs.  Time to relax in the hammock that we brought all the way from Texas for just such an occasion.

Boiler up!