Mid-Ohio Trip – Toledo to Naperville

Day 5 – Wednesday, May 29

I was awakened during the night by a brief thundershower, but wasn’t curious enough about the time to actually check. A lazy morning, sleeping in and taking my time to get going. A nice breakfast, as far as these things go (eggs, sausage, fruit, bagel).

I visited with Joan, Junior, and Susie before leaving Toledo at noon. Because I wanted to take a break at Indiana Dunes National Park it seemed expeditious to violate Rule #1 and utilize the interstate. In this case, it’s not just interstate, but turnpike. In retrospect, I’m not sure it was worth it. I had to pay $11.25 in tolls between Ohio and Indiana. There were several construction zones that slowed things down, the road surface was some of the worst of the trip, and truck traffic was so heavy they were running nose to tail in groups of six to eight the whole way. On top of that it’s monotonous; I really fought to stay awake. Back roads might have taken me thirty or forty minutes longer, but I’m sure would have been better.

I took a lunch break at one of the service plazas there. I always try to get a seat with a view of my car. Not because I want to watch the car but because I want to watch people looking at it. People go out of their way to check it out. Highlight this time was when a father took a picture of his 6 or 8 year old son standing next to it. (And another one, a few miles from my destination: in a car next to me at a light, the father asking the son if he sees my car. “It’s a green race car just like the one you have. Can you see it?” Then he turns to me and says “Nice car!”)

I’ve been fighting technology the whole trip. Navigation by phone has not let me down on the cross-country drive. (I nearly credited that to having brought an atlas with me, but that can’t be the reason because I managed to leave it in the motel in Mansfield.) But things have not been all roses. At Ruth’s I tried to bring up a map of nearby motels. It kept showing me motels in Mansfield. But I’m not in Mansfield! “Maps is off-line”. Tried to connect to her WiFi but my phone didn’t see it. Managed to find a hotel almost at random. In the hotel I couldn’t connect to the internet. But if that’s my biggest complaint on this trip, I can live with it.

On the plus side, getting through Chicago, I imagine, is much better with the navigational aid. Had I had to do this the old-fashioned way, I’d have picked a route before hand and had to stick with it regardless of delays. It would have had to have been a simple route with minimal turns. Anything complicated would require a passenger to keep me on route. But with satnav, when there was a delay it rerouted me, and the final route was actually quite pleasant: along a section of the Little Calumet River and through the Waterfall Glen Forest Reserve (passing by the Argonne National Laboratory).

On I-94 I saw a red car stopped on the side of the road. Too late I identified it as a Ferrari. Had I seen what it was quickly enough I’d have pulled over and stopped. I’m pretty sure I’d have been totally unable to provide any assistance unless the guy’s cell phone was dead.

Today’s miles: 288 road Total miles: 1,657 road, 281 track

Diversion: Indiana Dunes National Park

This was a very brief visit, so I’m sure I’m not seeing the whole picture.

It’s an interesting little park. It lies along about fifteen miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. It’s not a big park, but it’s one of the most botanically diverse of the National Parks. It’s also one of the newest. I was wondering how I had never heard of it until I looked it up: it became a National Park in February of this year.

Great Marsh, south of the dunes

I intended to take a very short hike, about three quarters of a mile on the Dune Ridge trail. From the map it’s pretty straight-forward. A lollipop: hike south from the parking lot to a junction, go to the right, make a loop, return to the junction and take another right turn to return to the parking lot. But it wasn’t that simple. Somehow I never made it back to the trail junction. Instead, I found myself north of the parking lot, overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan.

Well, that saved me the trouble of getting in the car and finding my way to the beach. And it was probably twice the distance I intended on hiking, so that’s good. I made my way down to the beach and walked west a bit. There I met a man who was clearly searching for something. I asked him what he was looking for. “Rocks. I collect interesting ones for my garden. My wife sent me out today to get more red ones!” While we chatted, he found one that looked to have some fossils in it and one that was a piece of beach glass, along with a few others of a variety of colors.

I never did see anything resembling the sort of sand dunes I had imagined. I was thinking along the lines of actual piles of sand. Like the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, or the Imperial Sand Dunes in California. These dunes are considerably different. They’re covered with vegetation. It’s only obvious they’re sand where they’re eroding. They have signs up saying not to walk on the dunes. The trails I walked were sandy only in a few places. Not at all what I expected.

Keep Off Dunes

To the south is some wetlands. I’m not sure if there’s more water there now than usual, given all the flooding I’ve seen elsewhere. The vegetation on the dunes isn’t exactly sparse; it’s like walking through a forest with lots of ferns as ground cover. Also appears to be something like blackberry brambles, although I don’t know what for sure. And they regularly do controlled burns there, so there’s lots of charred wood on the ground. I saw only a very few wildflower types and no animals. I did hear quite a few different bird songs, but never saw the birds. I understand it’s a popular place with the Chicago bird watching crowd.

It was a brief stop, but well worth it.

More photos here: Indiana Dunes National Park