Thursday, June 23, 2011

Road Trip: Indiana Dunes and Breakfast in Madison

We did a quick grocery shop before leaving Cleveland, stocking the cooler with a couple days' worth of food in preparation the long drives ahead. There would be no dining out on this stretch of the journey. We enjoyed two meals of hummus, avocado, and cheese on french bread during our eight hours of driving between Cleveland and Madison. 

By the time we hit Indiana, the weather was an oppressively humid 92 degrees. Parker was panting heavily in the back while we sweated through our clothes in the front. We, especially Parker, were desperate for some relief, so I pulled out the map and located a small lake a few miles off Interstate 90. I navigated as Amanda took us down one county road after another in search of this oasis. We finally located Lakeside Drive, only to be told by a local resident (in no uncertain terms) that there was no public access to the cool, glistening water. Defeated, we retreated to the steaming highway. 

I was back in the driver's seat when Amanda found something that sounded very promising: Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan's southern shore. We headed straight there. Parker was the first to go bounding into the cool waters, his second Great Lake in three days time. We joined him for an incredibly refreshing soak as he swam circles around us. 

Feeling rejuvenated, we boarded the Vanagon and again headed west through Chicago and finally into Madison, Wisconsin. During the last hour of the trip we encountered severe lightning, thunder, and rain. Parker was briefly traumatized in the back, huddled into a corner and trembling. Given the weather and Parker's fragile mental state, we decided to stay in the local Motel 6 (see the reviews!), one of the few cheap, dog-friendly options in the area. 

When you stay in the cheapest hotel in town you can expect to encounter some interesting guests. As soon as we walked in, a resident, startled to see a dog, informed us that he was armed and would not hesitate to shoot Parker if bitten. That sounded fair, so we nodded and moved along. When we exited the elevator on the third floor, we were greeted by a toddler wearing only diapers wandering the dingy hallway with no adults in site. It was 9:30pm. We waited around, trying to pry from the child any information that might help us return her when the mother finally showed up, unconcerned that her child was wandering naked through the halls of a seedy hotel. No words were exchanged. We entered our room and dead-bolted the door. Things only improved the next day. 

We rose early with van maintenance on the agenda. These Vanagons require special oil filters and a grade of oil that's never stocked at the local garages or speedy oil change facilities. I was already carrying the filter and necessary tools, so we swung into the local Auto Zone where I purchased five quarts of oil and did the change in the parking lot. By 9am we were ready to role. We were carrying around the waste oil when I looked to my left at a stop light and miraculously saw a sign that read “Public Waste Oil Disposal Site.” I can only hope to be so fortunate 3,000 miles from now. Plan B is to find a nice mechanic willing to let me ditch the used oil in his waste drum. 

We grabbed a great breakfast at Lazy Jane's Cafe and then headed to downtown Madison to stretch our legs before the seven-hour drive to Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota.


  1. I love reading your blog. Did you like Madison? I love that small collage town.

  2. That motel sounds delightful! The oil goes in the back?! Is that where the engine is?