Marching bands and cigarettes – Indiana

Following an adrenaline packed day at Cedar Point we hit the road Chicago bound, along a route that saw us skimming across the northern parts of Indiana. Famous for being the birthplace of both Axel Rose of Guns ‘n’ Roses fame and the rev heads favourite the Indy 500 (we’re purely fans of the former), we blitzed across the hot tarmac of the motorways with Appetite for Destruction on the stereo, stopping only to purchase super cheap liquor and tobacco. Stopping at a small-town middle of nowhere McDonalds to use their free wifi, we were served by three of the heaviest set, triple chinned women we’ve ever seen. You couldn’t hold out much hope for the younger thinner employee as she passed the time on her break stuffing her face with a couple of burgers and a large fries, washed down with a supersized coke. But this stop also introduced us to the new Jalapeno Double cheeseburger (with deep fried jalapenos…this is one tasty spicy burger and we’ve voted it McDonalds best burger to date!) and a catch phrase that would stick with us for the rest of the trip. A couple of older local farmers walked in and ordered the ‘gel-app-ano’ double…we’ve never been able to call it the properly pronounced ‘hella-penyo’ burger since.

‘Life is just a playground, you make your own fun’…Anon.

Needing a place to stop for lunch, we pulled into quaint little Elkhart, which you’d miss if you stayed on the motorway. As Dirty Vegas ‘Days Go  By’ played on the stereo we drove past the trolley buses to our intended destination, a craft brewery with one of the weirdest names you’ll come across –  Iechyd Da (or cheers in Welsh). Unfortunately this place was closed the day we arrived, so we parked across the river right near some sweet sculptures of a marching band who’ve had their instruments cut off, which makes it appear that they’re all marching whilst smoking cigarettes.

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One thing you’ll notice if you’re road trippin’ out this side of the USA is the corn field ‘waste not want not’ mentality. Not entirely sure who drives this, but everything from chocolate bars to ketchup to mustard has high fructose corn syrup added, and all of the fuel has at least 10% ethanol added (not your friend when you’re driving a 1980’s pre-ethanol van). But to us humans, the high fructose corn syrup (or HFCS for short) is a lot more worrying. Corn syrup is super chemically processed to give it a sugary sweet taste, and due to its low cost it replaces sugar in a lot of foods across the USA (trust us, read the labels, you’ll be surprised!). However there are huge health concerns relating HFCS to increased diabetes, heart disease and obesity among other things, as well as the potential impact to bee colonies across the country which are dying for unexplained reasons. The good news is it seems that the people of this here country are starting to wake up to the bullsh*t they’re being fed (literally) and the industry is starting to be pulled into question.

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Needing a place to stay for the night and not having had much downtime in the last few weeks, we decided to set our sights pre-Chicago and pulled into Indiana Dunes State Park which we’d read was a great place right by Lake Michigan. The helpful friendly guys at the local info centre directed us to the Dunewood camp ground, where we followed an old American school bus painted bright pink and full of kids to find a site.  We waited for them to check in before choosing our site, a wise move as there was water balloons and silly string strewn all round their vicinity the next morning.  One of the little twerps even had the nerve to eyeball Sarah for a whole three minutes for hogging the sink as his fun with water balloon was temporarily on hold.

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Dunewood is setup awesomely, with big wide leafy sites, each with it’s own parking, picnic bench and firepit, and perfectly spaced that you can barely see, let alone hear, your neighbours. We spent a relaxing afternoon having a few quiet beers and playing cards, before taking the bikes on the one mile ride straight to the lakeshore for some rose wine (purchased for $17 for a three litre cask…cheap Indiana booze) while we watched the sun set. One of the most perfect afternoons of the trip, but made for a slightly wobbly ride back to the campground which by this point was pitch black.

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