27 December 2012

2012-13 SOUTH & EAST COAST to Kentucky 2 - Headed South, Finally

STATS: Left 9:30am with a slushy mess and temp of 22. FYI - elevation in Kazoo is 759 and our overall car mileage is 62,377. Arrived at our hotel in East Louisville KY at 5:35p with a temp of 36. Miles driven 379 for the day. Weather was cold, but roads dry once we got on I-94. VERY busy (not as bad as Chicago though) between Indianapolis and Columbus IN and then the last 50 miles or so into Louisville. Hope for the sake of the locals it is not this bad all the time. Maybe just because of the holidays. One fill-up just north of Louisville with gas price $3.21 per gallon. Average MPG was 46.2 for this tank. Gotta love that Prius!!

Had a hard time packing due to visiting cold and warm and hot and
cold again weather zones. Started out trying to be logical with the packing process, went through a blurry haze of indecision, and then just started throwing stuff in the suitcases. Figured if we didn't have it, we'd buy it.

We'd been the Kazoo to Fort Wayne route many times. Just 71 miles east on I-94 to the Indiana border and then south on I-69. After that, mostly flat flats, windy and cigarette, alcohol, and fireworks stores everywhere. Prices pretty cheap for these three items. Liquor stores in Indiana also have a tasting room if you want to try before you buy. We usually go there for Mike's Grand Marnier. Worth the 35 mile trip from Kalamazoo straight south to Indiana.

We passed on all the auto museums in Auburn (had been there before), the Mid-American Windmill Museum in Kendallville (another time), the town of Santa Claus (named because it was incorporated on Christmas Eve), and the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion (maybe another time as these can be pretty cool).

BUT decided the James Dean Birth Place was worth a side trip. The Triple AAA (is that redundant?) said it was at the corner of 4th and McClure in Marion, so we set the GPS. This photo is what we found, but no sinage and no other houses to be seen for blocks. It looked like an old boarding house with several entrances on the sides. We didn't want to knock on the door, so we had to "ass-u-me."

It still was bugging us that we did not know for sure if this was THE place, so when we stopped at Taco Bell for a quick lunch we decided to ask some locals. The 25-ish order taker said she had heard something about it but didn't know details. Then I saw two 80-ish blue hairs, all dressed up, seated a few tables away. They were both hard of hearing, so it took awhile for them to understand the question. They said "No, not here. Go to Fairmount. He was born there and you are well directed by signs."

Well we had gone this far, so we continued on to Fairmount, about 10 miles south and sort of on our way. We did see the signs, but they were to a museum not his home. Dratz! We gave up. Later, after settling into our hotel, we sorted out the situation on-line. Yes, Jimmy was born in Marion, but the photo in Google did not look like our photo (above). Next, yes, he spent childhood years at and was buried in Fairmount, but the  museum house was not the house he lived in. So we struck out all around. We did have some fun laughing about the situation and did come across this cool bust of James Dean in a small park off Main Street in Fairmount.

Along the way we listened to two interesting interviews on PBS--one author had written a book titled "American Canopy," about the
history of forests and trees in America. He talked about lure (Johnny Appleseed and G. Washington cutting down the cherry tree (which he did not)), biology of trees, tree disease plagues (on chestnut and ash trees), history of logging, trees affecting politics, and presidents that loved trees, etc. Pretty fascinating. The other was a book called "How to be a Black Man." This sounds old and tried, but this is a current book written from an hilarious perspective. The author also writes for the Onion, an award-winning on-line mag.

Remember a while back when we told you about our "Rest Stop Rating System." Well, we only stopped at one today, just south of Columbus IN. It got a lowly 2 (basically little better than a port-a-pottie). It was dirty, out of toilet paper, walls covered with cheap yucky scratched up paneling, walked unshoveled, just not good. At least it was warm inside, but the best thing going for it was the cute little snowman outside the door. I guess some kids had made it from the fresh snowfall of the night before.

Indiana seems to be the land of big buildings. I don't mean tall, but very spread out. LOTS of huge manufacturing buildings (Vera Bradley, Nestles Quik),warehouses (Dollar General), and giant stores (Fry's Electronics, didn't know they were still around), all at least as big as a football field (no kidding). Maybe because the land is so flat, it is easy to build here. Also, large indoor recreation complexes, like tennis, soccer, and trampoline (!!?). And we learned that Ball University in Muncie was named for a big contribution by the five Ball brothers of Ball canning jar fame. And FYI, Hoosier is not a thing, just a "person from Indiana." No word origin was found as far as I could Google.

Also, in southern Indiana there are a lot of cave attractions. First, "plain" caves were advertised, but the further south the more elaborate. We saw advertisements for a cave with Christmas lighting, a cave with boat rides, and cave with zip lines. Humm... what's next?

Our first overnight  is in East Louisville, just a few miles into Kentucky. The Ohio River is the dividing line between Indiana and Kentucky. We could see at least two more huge steel bridges as we crossed the one we were on. The waterfront looks rejuvenated and lively. If warm weather was not our destination, this would be a good place to browse further

The Hyatt Place Hotel was good. Trying for an A-Loft hotel effect, but not quite pulling it off. Bed comfy, good electronics connections (meaning enough handy plugs), and nice desk and seating. Tiny toidy-shower area, but nice sink and toilet amenities. Bonus 42-inch flat screen TV and great free breaky, but coffee was ick.

Tried Bonefish first for dinner, but a big line. Ended up at Carrabba. We've been wanting to try is to compare with Olive Garden where we go to once in a while with my sister. Anyway, Mike likes OG better and I like Carrabba better. Not as big a variety on the menu, but really good bread and homemade-ish pasta. We hit happy hour, but the Long Island Teas were still $9.50 each and too lemony.

BEST OF:  Free breakfast at a roadside hotel at the Hyatt Place Louisville East. Their version of egg mcmuffin (i refuse to capitalize), but individually made with smoked gouda and regular bacon on a southern style biscuit. Also, vanilla yogurt with all the fresh raspberries you wanted. Only other better free breakfast ever was at the Hyatt Arcade in Cleveland where you could order ANYTHING off their fancy menu.

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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.