Catch-Up Post: TN, IN, IL, OK

 Well, it's a new month with AT&T so we can upload data once more. We are now on our way home, a few days earlier than planned, since my 30th high school reunion--the reason for this trip--was unceremoniously canceled at the last minute. I felt a mixture of relief and keen disappointment, especially since I was going to get to be the DJ for the party. (Lisa just felt enormous relief.)

So, we hit the road Saturday and made it to western Oklahoma, where we were forced to stop by the severe cross winds (sustained 25-35; gusts up to 50 mph). We fought 'em for a while, but then jumped off I-40 in favor of a state park in a canyon, whose red rock walls have been sheltering us from the worst of the winds all afternoon.

While it is frustrating to lose 1/2 a day (we had been planning to make Amarillo), it's just dumb to ignore weather hazards when you clearly have a choice. Plus, we were out of water, hadn't had Internet for a week (lots of to dos to do), had low tire pressure, and road weariness. Best to address all these things. So, that's what we are doing. So, now on to the brief catch-up post.

We ended up camping right by Opryland in Nashville, after finding that the spot we picked right off the Trace wasn't our cup of tea. Pricey, but sometimes it's worth it to have hookups and a feeling of security.

In the morning, we drove into the Opryland complex (goodness, it's huge), trying to find the free museum. No dice. So, we simply took in the size of the hotel, got heebie jeebies, and drove off to our real destination...

...Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, continuing our presidential theme. Ended up spending almost 6 hours here. Gorgeous fall day, very good audio tour and costumed guides (rare to find both), and lots to see. Except for the Indian genocide part of his presidency (yikes), I have to say that he did get some things done that we could use with doing today.... Some photos of the day:

Then we cruised north, up through Franklin,

Bowling Green (no time for the Corvette or Duncan Hines museums), and on to our next tourist stop, Mammoth Cave.
We spent the whole day there (it IS mammoth, after all), taking the New Entrance Tour in the morning, having lunch at the authentically retro coffee shop in the hotel, and then taking the Historical Tour in the afternoon.

Something like 550 steps, 3 or 4 miles--good exercise! We were happy to get back in the RV at the end of that day.

But we had a VERY close call with a deer there. (I made eye contact with her as she jumped over the Sprinter's tiny hood.) Suffice to say, we ordered the deer whistles that day, recommended by Sharon and Mohammed of St. Augustine, and will install them on all our vehicles when we get home!

After the caves, we drove up through Louisville at rush hour (a much easier city than Nashville at the same hour!) and to our overnight in Clarksville, Indiana. This made an easy morning drive (albeit densely foggy) into Indy to visit with Lisa's parents. Cannot believe we forgot to take pictures! It was even an exact 2-year anniversary of seeing them in Florida on our Tioga trip in November 2008. We had a very nice visit, with Rocksie getting a safe resting spot for $20 at a brand-new storage facility. (We even squeezed in a trip to the movies to see Harry Potter 7/Part 1.)

Since Lisa's parents were heading down to Louisiana for Thanksgiving, we hit the road on Monday and took our time getting over to our Thanksgiving destination. We took the oh-so-familiar back roads of Indiana over to visit our alma mater. The campus has changed so much, but we enjoyed seeing some of our favorite places:

The academic quad, with the new gingko trees

East College, always beautiful, with a little bit of remaining fall foliage

The view down the street toward one of our favorite taverns (which is now a "pub"). Just says Midwest to me.

Wish we had gone for lunch here, instead of Marvin's. I was all prepared, camera and all, to do a Roadfood review of Marvin's famous (as in, shipped all over the world) Garlic Cheeseburger (GCB), but we were so disappointed. Bland and personality-less.  Should have gone to Moore's for the pork tenderloin, but we knew we had at least 2 of those in our future. 

Rocksie in front of our old sorority house. Never thought I'd say that!

 Then we carried on west to Turkey Run state park, a park I remember from my childhood. (Not camping, of course, just for day use.) Turns out there was only one other camper there, a trailer that looked like it'd been there for quite a while--lights, awnings, all manner of outdoor set up. The weather was turning ominous and by 6PM we were in a tornado watch. Very nerve wracking. The ranger finally stopped by to, we thought, collect the $17.42 fee (yes, that's right), but instead, he told us to pay at the office in the morning. I was at least able to ask him where we should take shelter, if necessary, since the bathhouse near us was locked up for the season. He assured us he'd come get us if the watch turned to warning. But it was a very tense night--some gusts made me jump out of bed, ready to do who knows what.

We detoured through my home town of Mattoon and completed the Thanksgiving grocery shopping, scoring the hard-to-find fresh Brussels sprouts, and having a pork tenderloin at the Coles County airport. They are famous for these "elephant ears" but, again, memory trumped reality.

On the way to Pana, I had to show Lisa the very famous tourist attraction in Gays, Illinois:

Yes, that's a two-story outhouse....

We arrived at our 4-night stay at my brother's house and settled into his driveway at the back of the yard. Great spot! We only had 10 amps, so we had to be careful with the heater, but we managed 4 days of showers and freezing temps just fine. He also brought us a take-out tenderloin from the Pana bowling alley that was just to die for. Wish we'd have reviewed THAT one.

Here are some scenes of the festive celebration for a dozen of the Cason clan (both of my brothers, their wives, the granddaughter and her family):

Lisa and I cooked much of the feast and our hostess did all the shopping ahead of time and the very impressive decorating. Team effort!

Sharpening our Grandpa Cason's knife

I'm finally getting this posted from 16-degree Albuquerque. It is time to get home (although we've heard that home has had some hard freezes, too!). Time for some of those great free pancakes at our Bernalillo campground and then west to Arizona.

Next post will be the trip summary!


  1. I'm patiently waiting knowing you are having a good time and your stories will be worth the wait.

  2. I knew it would be worth the wait. I've added the Pana bowling alley to my list of places to eat next time we go visit my Dad in Decatur.