Cross-Country Sprint

Days 41 & 42: June 9 & 10
Start: Colorado Springs, CO
Via: Kansas City, MO
States Visited: Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky
End: Louisville, KY
Miles Driven: 1,081
Total Miles: 7,653

Apparently, silence isn’t golden. There has been some concern that we’ve fallen off the face of the earth since we haven’t posted in a couple of days.

With the motoring we’ve been doing, there hasn’t been much to report. We sprinted across the country over two days to get to Kentucky. We’re spending a few days here before hitting the Bourbon Trail, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We stopped in Louisville to have a short respite before moving on. Thanks to the HUGE number of hotel nights, we already earned a free night in the Drury; in fact, we earned a lovely suite! It just so happens that a former Firetide colleague, Shelly Swift, moved to Louisville about five years ago. So I looked her up and we went out for drinks at Mojito’s. YUM!

To make our sprint as short as possible, we (unfortunately) ran the Interstate to get here. That’s why there’s a severe lack of pictures. Billboards, exit signs, pasture lands. However, you’ll find the most interesting pictures below, PLUS a plethora of dog pictures. Joe was expecting them.

CANDY!

CANDY! Tom knows that I cannot resist CANDY!

Filler up!

Filler up!

Crossing the...um...which river is this?

Crossing the…um…which river is this?

Jasmine loves the Drury Inn & Suites

Jasmine loves the Drury Inn & Suites

Playful pups

Playful pups

Tickle me Juliet!

Tickle me Juliet!

OOOF! That's the SPOT!

OOOF! That’s the SPOT!

A content pup

A content pup. Traveling with dogs is so great!

Did you say DINNER?

Did you say DINNER?

A scratch is all it takes to make this girl happy

A scratch is all it takes to make this girl happy

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Shawnee National Forest

Day 10: Wednesday, May 5, 2013
Start: Evansville, IN
End: Poplar Bluff, MO
Miles Driven Today: 267
Total Miles: 1,689

Today was another four-state trek. We went from Indiana, back into Kentucky, over to Illinois and finally into Missouri.

We started out in Evansville, Indiana after a good night’s sleep and a nice (free) breakfast at the hotel. We immediately headed for Kentucky to take the Ohio River Scenic Byway and then crossed over into Illinois at the Shawneetown Bridge. On our way to the bridge, we were amazed at the huge farms with what we guessed were these enormous grain conveyor belts. These contraptions crossed many miles of farmland. I wonder if it’s more economical to run the grain across the farms on these belts than to use dump trucks.

Grain Conveyor

We saw miles of this. We think it is a grain conveyor belt.

Spring is in full bloom around here. The sunny day seemed to coax the flowers into an explosion of color; bright yellow mustard flowers contrasted with the green hay fields and the dark tilled earth that was waiting for the new crop to arrive. We were pleased with our route; it couldn’t have been prettier.

Flowers

We saw bursts of bright yellow across the area in these fields of mustard flowers

We soon crossed over into Southern Illinois and into the Shawnee National Forest. Right after we crossed over into Illinois, we encountered Old Shawneetown. Aside from the mobile homes, there was an old ghost town (Shawneetown Bank Historic District) with old buildings that seemed to have some recent life in them (neon signs were not the rage way back when…). But today, it’s deserted and the area is sad. We quickly moved on and wound our way through the forest.

Shawneetown Bridge

Shawneetown Bridge across the Ohio River

Illinois State Line

Welcome to Illinois – Across the Shawneetown Bridge

The drive was, once again, quiet and lovely. While the area is a national forest, it also includes a number of small Illinois towns. We stopped at Cave-In-Rock (and the Cave-In-Rock State Park) for a short rest, and saw yet another commuter ferry that traversed the Ohio River. The park itself was not very large, but it included a nice waterfront view of the Ohio and shady picnic spots to enjoy the day. We stretched our legs and then ventured on.

We were going to try cross over into Missouri and take in some of the Mark Twain National Forest and the Ozarks, but we were getting a bit road weary. I fired up my trusty TripAdvisor to start looking for a place to stay, and we settled on a Drury Hotel in Poplar Bluff, MO. From here, we’ll have a short drive to the Mark Twain Forest and our chosen route.

I do have to say that I’m impressed with the Drury. It is a very pet-friendly hotel chain (NO additional fee) that offers both a free happy hour AND hot dinner buffet as well as a free breakfast buffet and free wi-fi. I think we’ll be staying at more Drury Hotels during this trip, but tomorrow night’s stay is a special selection! You’ll have to check back and find out what we have planned!

Pig-mobile

Pig-mobile!

Crossing the Mississippi

Crossing the Mississippi

Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge

Bill Emerson Memoria Bridge, Cape Girardeau, MO

Missouri State Line

Welcome to Missouri

It’s great to see that Jasmine has finally recovered from her stomach problems and is starting to bond more with Juliet. The girls are often snuggling together in the back seat, and both are looking out to see the sights whenever we stop.

Travel Buddies

Jasmine and Juliet are becoming travel buddies!

Southern Indiana

Day 9 (Tue, May 7)
Start: Corydon, IN
End: Evansville, IN
Miles Driven: 157
Total Miles: 1,422

Today’s journey was filled with quiet back roads and spectacular sights. Just the way we like it!

We started the morning at our hotel with the free breakfast. While there’s nothing spectacular about a free breakfast at a hotel, the automatic pancake maker was cool. It was like a pancake “printer”. You push a button, and a minute or two later, it pushes out a pancake similar to the way a laser printer pushes out a printed sheet. The second pancake follows soon after. Okay, so they weren’t the BEST pancakes ever. But hey, it was more fun than the make-your-own-waffler machines at most breakfast buffets. 🙂

So, on to the spectacular portions of our day. After the pancake printer, we went to the Marengo Cave–a U.S. Historic Landmark. These limestone caves were discovered by a couple of kids in 1883 and were soon opened for tours. We went on a 40-minute guided tour of the “Crystal Palace” area of the cave. Since it was early and a Tuesday, we got a private tour. The pictures below don’t do the cave justice. Luckily, the bats had retreated to a lower level. 🙂 We were glad that we decided to visit the Cave…had I felt a bit better, we might have passed on the opportunity rather than stopping in Corydon. So, perhaps my cold had a purpose after all!!

Marengo Cave

Marengo Cave entrance to the Crystal Palace tour

Marengo Cave

Stalactites and Stalagmites in the Marengo Cave

Marengo Cave Pipe Organ

Marengo Cave Pipe Organ area. Weddings have been held here!

We packed up and left the hotel after returning from the cave and headed out for the open road. We decided to continue on the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which traversed Route 62 (the George Rogers Clark Trail) and Route 66 in Indiana. This route took us through the Southern half of the Hoosier National Forest. Rolling hills and a quiet, two-lane byway through this forest enabled us to take a leisurely and scenic tour of Indiana that I would never have imagined. I only thought of Indiana as flat corn country; the drive through Hoosier National Forest showed me trees and meadows, hills and valleys that were a surprise and a delight. We seldom saw another car as we snaked through this lush, green terrain. It was a discovery drive at its best.

Indiana Rte 66

Rte 66 Indiana – Ohio River Scenic Byway

Rte 66 - Indiana

This is the way we like to roll!

Along the way, we wound inland and back to the mighty Ohio, skimming by and driving through small towns and vacation spots, farmland and homesteads. We also went by a very impressive structure–the Cannelton Lock and Dam–as well as a slightly disturbing (too many bad movies) nuclear power plant.

Cannelton Lock and Dam

Cannelton Lock and Dam

Rockport Nuclear Power Plant

Rockport Nuclear Power Plant: Am I glowing?

Ohio River Scenic Byway

The Ohio River Scenic Byway ROCKS!

As the hour grew later, we decided to stop at the outskirts of Evansville, Indiana. We’re settled here for the night and will head through the Shawnee National Forest, and perhaps the Mark Twain National Forest, tomorrow.

Today was a good travel day for the dogs as well. Jasmine’s tummy problems seem to be improving, and both dogs seem much more comfortable in the car. In fact, they seem to be more comfortable with each other as well. All this togetherness is good for them!

Jasmine and Juliet

This trip is becoming a bonding experience for Jasmine and Juliet

Ohio River Scenic Byway

Day 8 (May 6)
Start: Burlington, KY
End: Corydon, IN
Miles Driven Today: 159
Total Miles: 1,265

Today was a light travel day. I woke up with a raging head cold. It’s not conducive to making decisions or navigating in uncharted territory. Regardless, we did have a lovely, scenic travel day.

We started out taking the Anderson Ferry across the Ohio River. In operation since 1871, the Anderson Ferry operates 364 days a year, taking commuters across the river–and states–from Hebron, KY to Cincinnati, OH. I had never been across it, so we thought we’d give it a try. We drove down a windy junglescape of trees and foliage and arrived at a little landing where five cars were already waiting in line for the ferry. A few minutes later, we were on board and under way. Our fare was a whopping $5, and the ferryman noted our ‘killer’ animals on board. The water was murky, most likely due to the storms that had just passed the night before. But the ride was surprisingly smooth.

Anderson Ferry Cincinnati

Boarding the Anderson Ferry

Ohio River

Ferrying across the Ohio River

What was really cool, aside from the ride, was our location on the GPS as we were crossing. 🙂

Crossing the Ohio River

GPS view of our trip across the Ohio River

Once across, we immediately hit Route 50, the Ohio River Scenic Byway. This drive goes across a number of routes–Route 50 in Ohio, Route 56, 156, and Route 62 in Indiana. We drove through the Ohio and Indiana countryside, wheeling through small towns like Patriot and Florence and finally stopping in Corydon, Indiana. We chose Corydon due to its proximity to the Marengo Caves in Marengo, In. We’ll visit in the morning and then head over to the Hoosier National Forest. We might head over to French Lick, IN (home of Larry Bird)…but that’s a decision we’ll make tomorrow. That’s how we roll!

Indiana State Line

Indiana State Line

Amazon.com

Tom suggested that I stop and say hello to the Amazon.com people, since I’m such a good customer!

Chillaxin'

Chillaxin’ after a long day