I had been on the road four months when I entered Indiana and I hadn’t taken any real time to just be. To have no plans to visit or explore. To relax and decompress. I had been busy visiting people and playing tourist. After going non-stop for several months I felt I needed to take a week without any plans to have some time to myself before I hit Indianapolis and my next social engagement.
So I looked at the AllStays iOS app (which, BTW, is an indispensable tool for anyone needing to know where they can park their house) to find a place somewhere between Chicago and Indianapolis to plant it for a week.
I am sure I have mentioned this before, but I really don’t like commercial campgrounds and much prefer city/county/state parks to spend time. However Northern Indiana seems to be a bit sparse when it comes to my preferred stopping places, but I did find a state park in the middle of nowhere Indiana that would do.
Tippecanoe River State Park is just north of the town of Winamac, Indiana, which is literally in the middle of nowhere. This seemed like a wonderful place to stop for a bit before I continued 90 miles south to Indianapolis. And it was. Until the weekend, but I am getting ahead of myself.
I checked the online reservations system a couple of days out to see if my Sunday arrival required making a reservation and there seemed to be plenty of spots open. When I arrived early Sunday afternoon the park attendant seemed surprised I wanted to stay a week and didn’t have a reservation. As if I was the first person to show up unannounced and wanted to stay a bit. Whatever. She provided me a map of available spots and off I went to choose one that would work for me. Site 20 seemed to be a great selection so I paid for a week’s stay.
Tippecanoe River State Park
Arriving on a Sunday meant that the park was pretty empty from the time of arrival until the next weekend. I literally had a whole half of the 112 site campground to myself. For some reason the other half is where people were staying during the mid-week, so apparently I chose my site wisely. But this all changed come Friday when the campground filled up with people intent on enjoying their weekend. Translation – the park filled up with people who thought their neighbors would enjoy their poor choice in music and wouldn’t mind them hooting and hollering until the wee hours of the morning. My earplugs came in very handy that weekend!
The park itself is quite good sized, with a lot of river frontage and different areas including group camping, cabin rentals, a separate horse campground, and day use areas. I was able to get in 11 miles of riding several times by just riding the park roads and not having to cover any one road twice. There also are plenty of hiking trails, but I didn’t feel like traipsing through the muddy trails (it rained quite a bit while I was there) and dealing with the mosquitoes so I rode my bike instead.
One cool feature of the park is an original fire spotting tower – one of the only ones left in that part of Indiana. So of course I had to find it (as it was hidden down some of the trails) and climb to the top, which was a test of my fear of heights. As in I seriously considered turning back a couple of times before I got to the top cause it was a long ways up very narrow and open flights of stairs. But I pushed aside my fear of heights and somehow managed to get to the top which is above the tree line, offering a great view of, well, the top of the trees. At least it wasn’t corn.
Exploring the Area
While I had no plans to do any specific tourist stuff, it was impossible for me to stay put in the state park the entire week. So I had to see what the surrounding area had to offer. Considering I was in the middle of nowhere, I actually was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
My ABQ buddy Brian informed me that Winamac was the home base of Precision Aerobatics, a manufacturer of high performance aerobatic remote control aircraft. Brian has one of their aircraft and I was surprised to find out that the company was located in this remote Indiana location. So of course I had to pay them a visit. I had a nice chat with Cheryl who informed me that there was a local flying field that I was able to use, so I had to take her up on that offer. I hadn’t flown since Albuquerque and welcomed this chance to take to the air. Fortunately it is like riding a bike and I enjoyed making use of a nice flying field with nobody else there.
I also was pleasantly surprised to find a first class rails-to-trails bike path starting in Winamac and heading south for 21 miles. The Panhandle Pathway is a very flat paved path that gives users a wonderful view of cornfields and small towns. I went south for about 11 miles and came back, giving me a nice 21+ mile ride through the heart of Indiana.
Always in search of a good brewery, I was happy to find the Evil Czech Brewery in nearby Culver. I headed the 20 or so miles to see if they were any good. I am happy to report their beer was definitely very acceptable and their food was not bad either. In fact I ended up going there twice and was happy both times. Nice surprise to find this in such a remote location.
Culver is an interesting town. It is located on Lake Maxinkuckee and is the home of the Culver Academies which is apparently a fairly well known military academy and boarding school. It is interesting what one finds in the most unlikely of places.
I decided to spend the day in Culver the Saturday I was in the area. I wanted to get away from the state park and all the people that were enjoying their weekend there. Turns out that Saturday there was a triathlon in Culver, so I watched the bicycle riders and runners cruise down the main drag from a coffee shop with a lake view. Then I found a picnic table with an even better lake view in the park across the street from the coffee shop. The temperature was perfect and the wind was blowing slightly. Sometimes I find a great place to work and soak up the moment and experience of being able to work from such great locations.
While the whole point of taking this week in the middle of nowhere was to get some time to myself. To catch up on some things. To decompress. I am not sure how successful I was in realizing these goals. For having no planned activities and being in the middle of nowhere, I sure found plenty of stuff to keep myself busy and the week flew by. I did manage to catch up on some stuff but have plenty left on my to-do list. I am very much looking forward to taking several weeks to really catchup on everything and to get some real decompressing done. However my week at Tippecanoe River State Park was up and I had social obligations in Indianapolis to tend to, so headed south I went.