Sunday, September 16, 2007

University Alley

We are in Spencer, Indiana, at what just may be the smallest Wal-Mart in the country (map). There is actually a very nice state park, McCormick's Creek, just a couple miles from here, but (1) it was Saturday night on a nice weekend, so we figured it to be either full or with very limited options for Odyssey, (2) the trees looked to be very low, even out at the entrance station, so we did not want to risk getting stuck, (3) the park was heavily wooded, meaning probably no satellite access, and (4) the weekend rate is over $25, and we didn't need any amenities such as power last night.

This weekend is the annual Owen County Apple Butter Festival here in Spencer, as we discovered on our way into town, so we were a bit nervous that parking may be scarce. Fortunately, the Wal-Mart is far enough away that it is unaffected by the festival. The down side to that is we can't just wander over to check it out.

After we made the decision yesterday to head towards Texas, I plotted a route in our customary way, which is to say mostly avoiding the Interstates. I also wanted to stay out of Illinois for the first leg, and looking at the map revealed a nice "blue highway" due south through Indiana, US-231, roughly midway between US highways 31 and 41. We opted for a relatively short stint on I-65 south out of Merrillville and away from the Chicago megalopolis, turning off onto 231 in Wolcott.

Now, I knew that 231 would run through or past West Lafayette when I looked at the map. However, the thought did not cross my mind that the road might actually run right smack through the middle of Purdue University. We enjoyed driving through the campus, which was very slow because Saturday, of course, is Game Day. Students were everywhere, in many cases apparently accompanied by their families, which was puzzling until a quick check of the football schedule revealed that yesterday's game against Central Michigan was also "Family Day" and "Band Day" (the Boilermakers won, which was probably a good thing for us as we rolled through town). As we passed fraternity row, we noticed RVs parked everywhere, including on frat house lawns. I'm guessing family and/or alums have an RV tailgating tradition at Purdue. Had we been there a bit sooner, we probably could have parked in half a dozen spots on campus and no one would have been the wiser. Not being football fans, though, we settled for being waved at like celebrities by the coeds.

We had hardly gotten over being amused by the whole Purdue experience when we rolled into Greencastle, which I confess I did not realize is the home of DePauw University. Unlike at Purdue, US231 did not wind right through the middle of campus (DePauw is a much smaller school), but we still saw plenty of academic evidence, including more waving coeds.

We always enjoy the blue highways and all they have to offer, but yesterday's drive was especially rewarding with the two establishments of higher learning along the way. Even the road got more interesting in the southern half of the state, with the flatlands yielding to gently rolling hills.

From here we will continue on 231 as it follows the White River into Worthington, then continue on Indiana 67 to Vincennes, where we will pick up US41 south, taking us all the way in to Kentucky.

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