Sunday, July 25, 2021

Bloomington to Chicago

Cowles Bog trail, Indiana Dunes NP

 After leaving Bloomington we headed north to Michigan City, IN, just an hour from Chicago on the east side of Lake Michigan. In February of 2019 Indiana Dunes National Seashore became the 61st national park. Always up for a national park visit, we spent two nights at the nearby Brewery Lodge so we could check it out. (A hotel associated with a brewery had to be a decent place, right? And their beer was very good, too.) 

To get an appreciation for the 15,000 acre park we stopped by the visitor center, climbed a dune, and hiked a trail away from the water. The beaches were okay and the trails are mostly sand, although away from the beach it is fairly hard packed. Surprisingly we did not have a mosquito problem on the wooded trails but there were lots of little bugs buzzing around and biting flies near the coast. Let's just say it is not our favorite national park among those we've visited, but it was fun exploring it.

Wonder how many years before these trees are completely submerged.

View of the coal and natural gas power plant in Michican City

The beach was more scenic in the other direction

Jim climbing back up Mt Baldy dune from the beach



The Cowles Bog trail is a 4.7 mile walk around ponds, marshes, bogs, and black oak savannas that ends at the beach. Having already climbed a dune and visited the beach we shortened it a bit and didn't go all the way to the end.

It was in the 80s and quite humid, a good environment for fungi as most of the trail was shaded..





On Tuesday we moved on to downtown Chicago, where we are cat and condo sitting on the 54th floor of the Hancock Center (now called 175 E Delaware) for two weeks. We got lucky with this catsit. The condo is lovely and has fabulous views of the city and lake, and the cat is very sweet and well behaved, except for some loud meowing the first couple of nights that woke us up. I think he was looking for his people, but finally realized he had to settle for us.

Lobby is on the 44th floor, as is a grocery store..

Sweet Sydney



 Hancock Center, 100 stories tall


View of Navy Pier from dining room

It was hazy when we arrived but has gradually worsened each day due to fires in the west and Canada. We keep hoping for the wind to shift and blow it out of here.

Pretty impressive night views.



And we can see the Navy Pier fireworks display on Wednesday and Saturday nights.


We have been spending our days walking, trying a different direction each day to learn our way around and take in the sights. We have also been to a grocery store (Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Jewel Osco are within 1 mile) every day but one. We've had to be careful not to buy too much and then have to carry it home.

So far we've been to Lincoln Park and the zoo (which we found to be rather sad looking), Oak Street Beach, Navy Pier, Grant Park, Millenium Park, Michigan Ave, The Riverwalk, Chicago Cultural Center and the Rookery Building.

Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) in Millenium Park is a really fascinating sculpture.

Look closely, you can see us standing a bit left of center.

Taken from underneath The Bean

We liked Crown Fountain, too.



Riverwalk

Frank Lloyd Wright redesigned lobby of the Rookery



No comment on the building on the left


Not your typical Target

Oak Street Beach, just a couple blocks from where we are staying

From Navy Pier. Luckily the Hancock Center stands out in a crowd so we can find our way home.

More to come as we will be here for nine more days. We're glad we got to experience big city living, although with COVID we are trying to limit our activities to outdoors, so we may not be taking advantage of any of the many museums and restaurants the city has to offer. Just too many people around!


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Arizona to Indiana


Very green trail in Rogers, AR


We left Fountain Hills on Saturday, July 10, getting off to a later start than hoped for but typical for us. Made it to Albuquerque by 6:30 while driving through thunderstorms the last hour of the trip. The San Mateo Inn was just off I-40 so it was convenient but the area was a bit sketchy. And the room wasn't great but it was a very comfortable bed. Next time we will try not to stay right in Albuquerque.

We thought Sunday morning would be a good time to get through and out of town, but just a few miles east we came to a stop on I-40 that delayed us about an hour. It turned out to be an accident involving a semi. Because of the backup, traffic was very heavy and moving slowly so I came up with a longer route off of the interstate that took us through scenic backcountry New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma roads. It was another long day in the car, and we stopped for the night at a very nice Holiday Inn Express in Elk City, Oklahoma. 

Day three of driving got us to Rogers, Arkansas and a lovely Airbnb just a few blocks from downtown. We arrived early enough that we were able to get in a good walk from the apartment around nearby Lake Atalanta that was recommended by the hosts. 

The Frisco came to Rogers in 1881

Lake Atalanta


Over 10 miles of paved and dirt trails surround the lake


Part of the elaborate Railyard Bike Park


Lots of nice older homes in Rogers

We stayed two nights so we could do a little hiking. Hobbs State Park is about 12 miles away on Scenic Arkansas Hwy 12 that leads to Eureka Springs, a cute touristy town that we've visited before. The Dry Creek Loop portion of the Pigeon Roost Trail was a nice shady hike that we appreciated since it got into the 80s with pretty high humidity. On the way home we stopped at Big Orange, a brewery/restaurant with excellent beer and veggie burgers.




Wednesday was another long drive to Metropolis, Illinois, ending up there to avoid going through any big cities, which worked out well. We had many miles of back roads driving with very little traffic. That is how we used to travel in the RV, and this trip made us remember why we would rather take longer to get where we're going instead of fighting the construction delays, accidents, trucks and other traffic on the interstates. Since we had such a good experience at the Holiday Inn Express in Elk City, OK we reserved a room at the one in Metropolis. It was older and not well maintained, so a bit disappointing. 

We went out to get a sandwich at Quiznos in Metropolis and took a short drive to Fort Massac state park to check out the nearby Ohio River. It was too hot to walk very far but we got to see some wildlife (mom was nearby) and the river. There is supposed to be a Superman statue in town but somehow we missed it, although I doubt we missed much.


Bridge over the Ohio River from Metropolis, IL to Paducah, KY

We had a shorter drive Thursday to Bloomington, Indiana and are spending three nights at Candlewood Suites to visit our friend Ellen. We are tired of long days driving after covering over 1,700 miles since we left home. It's been one severe thunderstorm after another off and on since we got here but we did take a walk in between storms Friday afternoon and met Ellen downtown after she got off work at the library. Had an excellent vegan pizza and great beer at Lennie's/Bloomington Brewing Co. 

It cleared up yesterday afternoon so we took a walk at Leonard Springs Nature Park, had lunch and more great beer at Upland Brewing Co., and wandered around downtown. People watching is so interesting in a big college town.

Lots of stairs down to Leonard Springs

Jim and Gayle standing in front of one of the caves

Jim and Ellen at Upland Brewing

Sample Gates: Entrance to the oldest part of Indiana University campus

Today we have a short 200 mile drive to Michigan City and a national park we have not yet visited. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Sedona and Summer Road Trip

Early morning view of Fountain Hills, AZ from the Lake Overlook trail


It's been a long hot summer so far but we are now on the road heading east for a couple months of humidity. We finished up our eye and dental appointments a few weeks ago but decided to wait until after the 4th of July holiday to head out. Of course, two nights before we left I began seeing flashing lights and floaters in my right eye. I saw my ophthalmologist the next morning and fortunately did not have a retinal tear or detachment, just a posterior vitreous detachment for which there is no treatment. The new floaters are driving me crazy but they will settle down with time. Yes, it is always something.

Speaking of July 4th, Fountain Hills had a very impressive fireworks display just down the street over the lake. My phone doesn't do well with night shots but you can see they also made the fountain alternate between red, white and blue.







Last month we did another week-long catsit in Sedona. It was hot but not as hot as Fountain Hills, and the mornings and evenings were pleasant so it was a nice break. This was the same house and cats we sat for last year when Meat Loaf disappeared, so we were at least expecting it this time. And disappear he did. I let him out after dinner the day we arrived and we never saw him the entire week we were there. At least Spyder Girl behaved herself, went out after breakfast, hung out on the deck or driveway, and came in when the sun really started heating things up. Meat Loaf finally came home the day after we left. Apparently, some neighbors in the next subdivision have taken a liking to him so he spends most of his time over there.

Meat Loaf relaxing on the day we arrived.

Spyder Girl wishing I would get the camera out of her face.

It was nice to get away to red rock country again, where we did a few hikes and neighborhood walks and enjoyed sitting out on the deck. We took some photos, although not many since we have lots of the same from previous visits.

Fiery sunset from the deck


We stayed close to the Village of Oak Creek to avoid the Sedona crowds and hiked around Courthouse and Bell Rocks, and did the Baldwin and Templeton trails. There are always great views no matter where you hike in the Sedona area.



















Another day of driving is in store for today but I will try to get back to regular blogging about this trip when we land somewhere for more than one night. I can tell you that in the next post the photos will have a lot more green in them!