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Days 78-80: Wisconsin, Indiana & Kentucky

Day 78 (8/17/14): Mukwonago, WI | Indianapolis, IN

IMG_7590After spending the past few days in Wisconsin, it was time for us to move on. As we venture further southeast, we’ll be passing through Indiana again. We already drove through Indiana and spent a night in Indianapolis on our way to pick up our trailer in Michigan. However, we didn’t get a chance to see the downtown, which Justin was bummed about. Since our route is taking us back through Indiana, we decided to take advantage and spend a day there this time around to visit Indianapolis.

To reach Indiana, we crossed into Illinois and drove back through Chicago. As we traveled through Chicago, we hit some major traffic. We also had to take several toll roads, which happened to be more expensive for a truck towing a travel trailer versus just a car. For example, one of the tolls was $2.80 for a car but $4.25 for a trailer! After having to take several toll roads, the fees started to add up, but luckily we had enough cash on us (they don’t accept credit cards come to find out). As much as we loved downtown Chicago when we visited, the traffic and toll roads (cost) reminded us why Chicago probably won’t be the best option for us. Plus, let’s not forget about the horrible winters there.

 

Day 79 (8/18/14): Indianapolis, IN

We were finally able to get a good look at Indianapolis today. Our visit began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the famous Indy 500 races. We’re not really into car racing, but it was still neat to see the track for one of the most celebrated motorsport events in the world.

From the racetrack we headed to Long’s Bakery to try their donuts. As a self-proclaimed donut connoisseur, I’m on the hunt for the best donut in the nation. Therefore, I had to try the donuts at Long’s Bakery when we saw that it’s currently the #1 restaurant in Indianapolis on Tripadvisor.  However, we were hugely disappointed in the selection, size, taste and quality of the donuts. The employees were also extremely unfriendly and unhelpful.

IMG_7456 IMG_7458We were hoping the donuts would make up for the horrible customer service, but sadly that wasn’t the case. They were small and dry, and there was nothing special about them. If Long’s Bakery is supposedly the #1 restaurant in Indianapolis, what does that say about the other restaurants there? I’m sorry to say that the donuts left a bad taste in our mouths for Indianapolis (no pun intended). In case you’re curious about the best donut we’ve had so far on this trip, it was the blueberry cake donut at Tonalli’s Donuts & Cream in Portland.

We didn’t want to let the bad experience with the bakery ruin Indianapolis for us, so we continued our tour by heading to the center of town. I’m afraid though that the downtown area wasn’t as eclectic as we were hoping it would be. It seemed to be fairly basic consisting primarily of banks, healthcare buildings and hotels. We did enjoy Monument Circle, but overall, Indianapolis isn’t what we’re looking for. Sorry, Indy! At least we were able to see more of you and rule you out for our next place to live.

 

Day 80 (8/19/14): Indianapolis, IN | Frankfort, KY | Lexington, KY

Updated Map of Our Route
Updated Map of Our Route

Since we’re seriously considering some locations in the South, we thought it would be a good idea to visit some of them in the summer to experience the humidity. Just as snow is a big concern of mine, Justin is worried about humidity. We decided to change our route in order to travel to some of the southern states earlier than we were originally planning on. This new plan will help us determine if we can handle the humidity (and the bugs!) everyone warns us about when it comes to the South.  Take a look at our original route HERE, and compare it to the map of our new and improved updated route HERE to see how we changed up the plan.

IMG_7597Leaving Indiana, our initial plan was to go to West Virginia next. But since we switched things up and decided to head South sooner rather than later, we now went to Kentucky instead. On our way to our campground in Frankfort, KY, we passed over the Ohio River and drove through Louisville. Once we were out of Louisville, the freeway was lined with dense trees and gave an occasional peak through at vibrant green fields. So far, Kentucky has been quite scenic!

We reached our campground and got set up by early afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to go exploring. Frankfort is a nice central location between Louisville and Lexington. Since we already had a glimpse of Louisville when we first reached Kentucky, we decided to venture into Lexington. I’m afraid that we were disappointed in Lexington though. It didn’t have a large downtown like we had hoped. And for some reason, the name “Lexington” seems somewhat fancy to me, but the city wasn’t as charming as I thought it would be.

Weisenberger Grit Fries
Weisenberger Grit Fries

However, we did end up having dinner at a charming restaurant called Coles 735 Main. It actually ended up being one of the best meals we’ve had on this trip! We began by sharing a couple of appetizers. The stuffed Panko Fried Avocado was good, but the Weisenberger Grit Fries were outstanding with their crisp exterior yet rich, creamy center. Also, I’m not a huge ketchup fan, but the herb ketchup they served with the Grit Fries skyrocketed the intense savory flavor of the “fries”!

Beef Shoulder Tender
Beef Shoulder Tender

Next for an entree, we split the Beef Shoulder Tender. The meat was cooked perfectly and seasoned deliciously. We thoroughly enjoyed every bite, hoping it wouldn’t be our last. Sadly though, we finished our plates. Not wanting our dining experience to end, we ordered a piece of the Key Lime Pie. The surprisingly light, fluffy texture and delicately tangy lime flavor was the perfect finale to our meal.

In addition to the fabulous food, the service was also impressive. Our water glasses never went empty (a huge pet peeve of mine for restaurants), and the waiter was happy to give us advice for our time in Lexington and Kentucky. When we told him we were staying in Frankfort, he showed us an alternate route to take back to our campground. The serendipitous detour took us on the Kentucky Scenic Byway, also known as the Dreamer Driving Tour.

Dreamer Driving Tour (our route is highlighted in yellow)
Dreamer Driving Tour (the route we took is highlighted in yellow)

It was an incredibly scenic drive through lush, green pastures bordered by white fences. There were numerous horses grazing in the distance, and the sublime scent of freshly cut grass permeated the air. As the sun set, it cast a surreal glow over the countryside, making for a glorious scene. This drive has been one of our favorite experiences during this trip so far. I highly recommend taking the Kentucky Scenic Byway on Versailles Road and Dreamer Driving Tour turn-outs between Lexington and Frankfort!

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Days 4-5: Kansas, Missouri, Illinois & Indiana

Our days have been a blur lately.  So much farmland with endless barns, fields, and trees along the way.  Living out of hotels and a suitcase got old pretty quick, so we’ve been driving like bandits! Focused on getting to Michigan to pick up our trailer, we’ve been passing through quite a few states on the way.  After seeing Oklahoma, it was at the top of our list.  However, while we were staying there, we saw a tornado warning on the TV.  That was a rude awakening! As much as I liked Oklahoma City, I’m afraid the possibility of a tornado was a deal-breaker.

 

Day 4 (6/4/14): Oklahoma City, OK | Wichita, KS | Joplin, MO | Branson, MO

After Oklahoma, we drove through downtown Wichita, Kansas.  We took the I-35 highway from Oklahoma City to Wichita and decided that the I-35 should be called the Armadillo Murder Highway because we saw 5 dead armadillos on the side of the I-35 on the way to Wichita.  Lots o’ road kill! Aside from the armadillos, the greenery between Oklahoma and Kansas became slightly more scarce, but the churches became larger with the occasional massive cross marker on the side of the highway.  I think it’s safe to say that we were officially driving through the “Bible Belt.”

Our next stop after Kansas was Missouri.  The route required a 2-lane highway with the random creepy dilapidated farmhouse on the side of the road.  We started verbally labeling these farmhouses “TCM” for Texas Chainsaw Massacre as they reminded us of the movie and the site where it took place…haha! A fun little road game.  🙂 We were heading to St. Louis, MO but decided to make a couple of stops along the way.  Our first detour was Joplin, MO.  When we first saw the sign for Joplin, Justin remembered that a catastrophic tornado had taken place there a few years back, and he wanted to see the tornado site along with how well the town had recovered.  It’s looking good with many newer buildings.

After Joplin, we headed to Branson, MO.  With more theatre seats than Broadway, Branson is known as the “Broadway of the Midwest” and has always intrigued Justin.  Branson had a small-town America feel to it with a Main Street for it’s downtown.  We stayed the night there and walked around Branson Landing, a shopping center by Lake Taneycomo where we saw the mesmerizing water and fire show.  The same people who choreographed the fountain show for the Bellagio in Las Vegas also did the $7.5 million fire and water show for Branson Landing.  The lake had an eerie yet enchanting fog hovering over it.  Later that night, there was a crazy storm with crashing thunder and bright flashes of lightning! The torrential downpour of rain formed rivers of water that ran down the hilly topography of the town.

 

Day 5 (6/5/14): Branson, MO | St. Louis, MO | Illinois | Indianapolis, IN

When we headed out the next day, the rain continued.  From Branson to St. Louis, we came across the world’s largest rocking chair standing 42’4″ high! There was also a surprising number of vineyards and wineries that we passed along the way.  I had no idea that Missouri made so much wine! How random, right? Once we got to St. Louis, the first thing we did was look for a good BBQ place.  How could we come to St. Louis and not try St. Louis-style ribs?! We headed to Pappy’s Smokehouse and stopped for lunch.  Thank goodness! It was seriously the best BBQ we had ever had! We could smell the sweet smokiness sauntering through the parking lot as we approached the restaurant, teasing us with the mouth-watering BBQ to come.

From St. Louis, we drove through Illinois (don’t worry…we’ll make our way back to see Chicago) and continued on to Indiana where we stayed the night in Indianapolis.  On the way, we passed the Mississippi River and also happened to see 4 more of the “World’s Largest” items – World’s Largest Wind Chime, World’s Largest Golf Tee, World’s Largest Knitting Needles, and World’s Largest Crochet Hook! Once we got to Indianapolis, I forgot about the time change and didn’t realize how late it was because it was past 9:00pm at night, but it was still light outside.  What a trip! We had White Castle for dinner (my first time!) and then crashed.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see downtown Indianapolis because we had to get up early the next morning to get to Michigan in time to pick up our trailer.  More on our trailer next time! 🙂