The Midwest

We left Pennsylvania and headed west through West Virginia into southern Ohio. We camped at Stroud’s Run State Park, had a nice campfire and relaxed in the near empty campground. What we have learned in our travels is that you only really need to make reservations for Friday and Saturday night, unless you are going to a National Park. There is always going to be an opening for mid-week camping, even in the summertime.

We were intrigued by the National Road exhibit at Fort Necessity and decided to turn north and drive on the historic route as far as we could. We reconnected with Route 40 in Zanesville, OH, which also has a Zane Grey Museum. Although the museum was named for Zane Grey it housed three distinct topics under the one roof. It had a section dedicated to its famous hometown boy Zane Grey, but also had nice exhibits on the National Road and the local Ohio pottery.

The section on the National Road has some very interesting dioramas that depict the history of the road from the initial clearing of the forests, to the toll houses being set to recover some of the cost for its upkeep, and the towns that popped up to provide the travelers moving west with whatever they needed.

They had a Calistoga wagon there, which was the 18-wheeler of its time. In the glass case were the horse’s harnesses that had the brass bells on top. While looking ornamental, they actually had an important function of being used to pay for repairs along the way due to the price of brass. It’s where the saying “I’ll be there with bells on” came from – meaning a good trip where you didn’t need any repairs.

Being from Arizona, we wondered what this area had to do with Zane Grey. Turns out he was born in Zanesville, where his mother was a Zane, and the town was named after her great-grandfather, a Revolutionary War patriot. His name was Pearl Zane Grey, which he shortened to P. Zane Grey and then to just Zane Grey. He had a baseball scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania and may have turned pro if it had not been for Cy Young. Due to Cy Young they moved the pitcher’s mound back 10 feet and Zane’s curve ball was rendered unless. Instead he started as a dentist, following his father, but then left that to become the writer we all know today. His wife, Dolly, had a lot to do with his success and was there to pick him up from his failures.

As we drove north to Zanesville we passed through Roseville and other small towns noted for their pottery, including Stoneware. The National Road made it possible for these goods to be shipped back to the east and even overseas, which lead to the pottery’s fame. Many of the local brands were there to admire.

Heading west on Route 40 is a great drive. It parallels I-70 for those that want to get there faster, but the National Road passes through some beautiful farms dominated by corn and soybeans.

In Dayton we met up with a grade school friend of mine that I had not seen since 6th grade, Carmen. We were Homeacre Elementary School grads, where our 1st through 4th grade class had seven boys and 23 girls. We both still remembered the square dancing and plays we had in Ms Raisley’s 4th grade class – lol.

We camped at Buck Creek State Park, a campground we had stayed at on our previous trip through this area 3 years ago. As we were enjoying our evening campfire, a boy came over and warned us of the raccoons. Sure enough, a raccoon came right out of the woods not too long after and tried to climb our stairs into the Roamer before scurrying off back into the woods.

The next day we stopped at the Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm for a nice lunch break and a hike. The farm had a lot of animals including a pair of beautiful Belgium draft horses and this curious pig.

The hike was through a densely forested area with water everywhere. We both miss the western vegetation where you can actually see what’s on the ground and in any direction for more than 30 feet. Everything in the East seems to be too overgrown for our outdoor adventure liking.

We camped the night at Whitewater Memorial State Park, our first camp spot in Indiana! We picked out a spot in a quiet loop. Two families showed up later with seven kids between 1 and 12. We had fun watching the bike races, training wheels included, around our loop into the night.

We ran some errands in Indianapolis the next day that also included a stop at a local REI store, getting a tip on a great place to camp for the night, Shades State Park in western Indiana. However, it was Saturday night and the park was full, so we’ll have to hit that one the next time we drive through these parts. We continued westward into Illinois and ended up camping at Kickapoo State Recreational Area.

We continued on the National Road to Springfield, Illinois and the home of Abraham Lincoln. He and Mary Lincoln raised their 3 boys there prior to leaving for Washington, DC and the White House. It was originally a smaller single story home that grew with his successful law practice and the family to its current size.

We crossed the Mississippi River again heading west into Iowa and camped the night at Wakonda State Park. We had a nice spot next to the pond that we shared with 4 Canada geese and some evening bats that were graciously reducing the local mosquito population.

Much of the drive was through corn fields, where the advantage we have with the Roamer is that you are sitting up high enough to see over the mature stalks.

As we were driving up through the farms along the Mississippi River in Iowa we spotted a sign that pointed the way to the “Field of Dreams Movie Set” – had to stop. The house, field and even the corn was exactly as it was in the movie. It was a little spooky walking out deep into the cornfield .

We camped the night at Pike Peak State Park, which was right on the hills overlooking the river. We hiked a trail along the bluff to get a good view, but there were too many trees blocking the vista. Pam slipped on the vegetation clogged trail and landed on a rock to produce a beautiful multi-colored bruise below her knee for the upcoming wedding. Luckily the colors went well with her dress.

The next day we hiked Effigy Mounds National Monument. The trails were much better and the overlook actually did provide a beautiful view of the Mississippi River Valley.

The mounds were similar to the burial mounds we saw along the Natchez Trace Trail in Mississippi earlier in this trip. Here they covered the bluffs overlooking the river and were in recognizable shapes when seen from above, this one being the Great Bear Mound.

We crossed into Minnesota and the next part of our trip.

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