I went on a Cross Country trip for work last week, so I missed my regular Sunday posting deadline. So this will be a post with 2-weeks’ worth of updates (and probably pretty long, too), but I have lots of pictures to share!
I left on Saturday to head out to San Diego, a place I’ve never visited. Indianapolis International Airport was pretty busy, being a weekend, but as usual, once you checked your bag, security was a breeze. Correct mask usage was close to 100%, but you always have a few defiant people trying to be difficult.
Airline employees are NOT messing around, and the trouble makers were given a choice; wear your mask or leave. It’s also funny how people are so anxious to get on the plane and just sit there. I’m quite fine waiting at the gate until it’s closer to time to depart. I like to minimize my time crammed into a tiny space.
We had an uneventful trip to Dallas, and it was the first time flying into DFW, where it didn’t take 30 min to taxi up to our gate. I had just enough time to grab a bite to eat before we loaded up and started our second leg of the trip. For some reason, we left 20-minutes early, and there were plenty of open seats on the flight. This is the first time flying since COVID, but it was nice to let someone else do the driving and visit a place not easily accessible by car.
On this trip, I stayed in the Gas Lamp District of San Diego. It’s a lovely area of the city that’s like a mix of Broad Ripple and Mass Ave in Indianapolis (with a baseball stadium only blocks away). Just about every restaurant had outdoor seating in what were once street parking spaces, and the later it got, the busier the streets became. I got there a little earlier than others in my group and hit a local seafood spot called Water Grill for some oysters. They came with some delicious bread and salted butter.
I stayed in the Pendry Hotel this trip. It’s a great little boutique hotel with a price tag to match. One of the interesting features of the rooms here is the showers. It’s right there, in the middle of the room, with glass on 3 of the 4 sides. The attached pub was a favorite hang out for those of us on the trip, and I made several great business connections making the trip well worth the time and expense.
After a couple of days at the conference and seeing some great places around town, it was time for the discussions to end. I opted to stay in town an extra day to do some exploring. One thing that caught my eye was the maritime museum along the harbor. I had passed it several times in our travels, so I decided to visit on my last full day in town. It was a remarkable history display and had more model ships onboard real ships than I have ever seen in one place.
After the museum, I took the train up to Encinitas for lunch. The “Coaster” runs north and south from San Diego to Oceanside and is very scenic. It’s a good way to check out the scenery outside the city for just a few dollars. My round trip to Encinitas was under $10.
Time to head back to Indy! So far, the travel part of this journey had been great, but…. You knew there was going to be a but…. I got stuck in DFW on the way back. All that rain in Indy while I was gone made its way out east and delayed my flight from New York to Dallas to come pick me up for the last leg of the trip. I ended up getting back 3-hours later than expected, but we made it back safe.
Although I was a little apprehensive about traveling across the country with the current status of the Pandemic, it was a great trip with enough activities to keep me busy the entire time. The weather was perfect, and I can see why people love it out there as much as they do. It’s always nice to get home, though. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of the San Diego area, I’d like to visit again and see some of the things I missed on this last trip.
Here are some bonus photos taken during the conference and some of the excursions we went on.
I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day weekend. I took an extra day off work to make it more like a vacation. The weather was amazing, and it was nice to get out and be active without melting in the 90+ degree heat. I just realized this post should be for Week-36, so I must have missed a post somewhere along the way… I also updated the theme to something a little fresher than what we’ve been using for several years.
I visited a new-to-me Disc Golf course north of Tipton, Indiana, over the weekend. The Heartland Disc Golf Course is located on the grounds of the Heartland Church in Sharpsville, Indiana, and was built in May 2020. Although they only have 9 baskets, they have long and short tee pads that allow you to play a round of 18-holes. There was just one other group there when I visited, and after they left, I had the place to myself for the better part of an hour.
I’m hoping to expand the recipe section of the website and have been looking at WordPress plugins to make things more professional looking, like other sites with recipes.. I’ve started using the “WP Recipe Maker” plugin and edited our recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip to reflect the new format. It’s going to take a little time to get all of our existing recipes into the new format but going forward, it should be easier to add new ones that we find along the way.
I was hoping to get to the Farmer and the Flea outdoor market this weekend, but the rain on Saturday kept us inside. However, I’m planning on visiting next weekend and will share any unique finds I discover.
And finally, if you’re a fan of Rick and Morty, you might be interested in the First teaser trailer for Rick and Morty live-action starring Christopher Lloyd, Jaeden Martel.
So how was your 2020? It was an interesting one to say the least. Something we’ll all remember the rest of our lives. My New Years resolution is to try & revive the blog with a weekly posting format that will allow me to build each post as the week progresses and publish the summary once a week.
The following is a 2020 recap by month via pictures I took along the way. Warning, there will be a LOT of food pictures. If you follow me on Social Media a lot of these are re-posts but I’m adding more context. You can click on each one for a larger image.
- Finally made it to Working Man’s Friend for a legendary burger. Why did it take me so long to visit?
- Celebrated a successful 2019 with the team from work (Cowboy Ribeyes at Sullivan’s)
- Started playing with Sports Betting (have turned $50 into $400 this year).
- Had the best Calamari EVER at King Dough.
- Interviewed the founder of Clustertruck and got a behind the scenes look at the downtown operation.
- Made a killer Deep Dish Pizza to celebrate Super Bowl LIV.
- And some homemade Coconut Marshmallows for for people at work.
- Correctly guessed the winner of the Daytona 500 and turned $5 into $53.75.
- Covid is starting to get a lot of coverage in the news and we start testing a new video collaboration tool called “Zoom”.
- The Covid Memes also start to become a daily sight.
- Last burger and Fry combo at Kreuger’s in Indianapolis (they closed after this).
- I put the 3D printer to use and start printing sanitation hooks for friends and family.
- The Work From Home revolution begins as office parking lots start looking like a late Friday afternoon every day of the week.
- Found a new casserole that is the definition of Comfort Food.
- Got a free speed bump on the home Internet so working from home was lightning fast!
- Baked bread and ate a LOT of BLT’s throughout the year.
- Had to upgrade the home networking setup to make the speed boost more usable.
- Took advantage of a new Kincaid’s butcher shop opening up right down the street (Spud Buddies and Flank Steak).
- Early in May I had a Covid-19 scare and proceeded to the Lilly testing sight in Downtown Indianapolis. Test was negative.
- Added some flair to the Zoom background in my makeshift dining room studio.
- Continued to help keep Kincaid’s in business.
- And the BLT’s were the go-to meal when working from home.
- Operation American Resolve was a tribute to the front line healthcare workers.
- Followed by a Blue Angel’s tour of the USA. They flew right over my office when they visited Indianapolis.
- Civil Unrest brought out the ISP Chopper to keep an eye on things downtown (Flight track from Flightaware).
- The Rose Bush in the front of the house decided to flex and brightened up the landscape.
- In June I set off to Indian-Celina Lake in southern Indiana for some camping. It was nice to have the campground pretty much all to myself!
- The guys at work decided it was time for some Socially Distant Golf so we hit up a small little public course on the east side of Indy.
- My Son wanted Pizza one night so we made pizza!
- Bought a new Police Scanner to keep up with all the things going on downtown.
- The YoHo General Store in Solsberry, Indiana was a place to stop for lunch…
- …While I visited the Tulip Trestle in Bloomfield.
- George Floyd mural on Mass Ave in Indianapolis (not my photo).
- Right before the July 4th Holiday we received bad news about Kincaid’s. They would end up being closed much longer than they anticipated (until October).
- We celebrated Independence day with a BBQ chicken on the Big Green Egg.
- Once of many beautiful sunsets from the backyard in 2020.
- Introduced my son to the Soft Shell Crab roll at Ocean World in Indianapolis.
- Lucked out on an NBA wager to end the month.
- I found and tried the “Danzig” of wines (80’s music reference if you didn’t know).
- Discovered COCONUT ALMONDS! These are addictive & don’t last long after bring purchased.
- Re-visited an old friend at Shapiro’s Deli. They took a big hit in 2020 but were still producing a quality product when I visited.
- It was time to update my Avatar.
- Speaking of visiting, we took a road trip to Gas City and tried Payne’s Fish and Chips. The Fattoush salad was delicious and they cook up a mean plate of food. Well worth the visit if you’re in the area!
- Took another trip to Indian-Celina Lake early in the month.
- Tried to predict the future and placed a $5 bet on Notre Dame to win it all (they play in the semi-finals on the day I’m writing this post).
- Took another camping trip a few weeks later. This time a multi-day, multi-state adventure. Starting in Madison Indiana at Clifty Falls. Just in time for the first Presidential debate. Bingo cards from the No Agenda podcast.
- The next day I headed farther south to Mammoth Cave. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid. I picked a great time to visit. The crowds were non-existent and the camping area was wide open.
- You aren’t allowed to burn regular firewood at this park so you have to use Bio-Blocks. I was skeptical but they actually worked great!
- Continuing the multi-day, multi-state adventure I started the morning with a drive to Nashville, which is in the news the week I write this because of a huge explosion.
- While looking for a BBQ place for lunch I drove by Hugh Baby’s and the smell drew me in.
- I ended up ordering the Mushroom Swiss Smash Burger (with SMOKED MUSHROOMS) and it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. I still have dreams about it 3-months later.
- Traveling northwest to Land Between the Lakes I drove around a corner to find a giant Minecraft looking structure. Turns out it’s a Charcoal Blast Furnace. I ended up seeing several of these on my travels and each one was just as interesting as the last.
- Woke up to a COLD morning at Land Between the Lakes, probably because I was camping lakeside.
- That afternoon I drove up to Garden of the Gods for some breathtaking views.
- After arriving home I turned on the first episode of Ted Lasso (best show of 2020 in my opinion) and proceeded finish the season by the next day.
- The following weekend I met some family in Auburn to tour the Cord Duesenberg Museum. It was HUGE and totally worth the 2-hour drive from Indianapolis.
- Work had me downtown a few days later and I just had to stop in and get some Bison Meatloaf at St. Joseph’s Brewery.
- Oct 31 was a sad day. The BEST James Bond (Daniel Craig is a close second) passed away at 90 years of age.
- Indianapolis continued to be boarded up because of the threat of election day violence.
- Left the office & had a Weinermobile spotting!
- Discovered a clever artist in Indy (@itghostwithoutsaying on Instagram).
- The Cobb Salad at Bru Burger, it’s a work of art.
- Red Bird in the front tree, trying out the new iPhone 12 Pro.
- Hoagies & Hops was selling Taylor Ham (pork roll) and I could not pass up making a classic sandwich (pork roll, egg, & cheese on a Kaiser roll).
- I think I found the Cookie of the year
- 2020 even caused Trader Joe’s to shut down
- I decided it was time to make some chicken stock for some upcoming soups and stews.
- Even though most agree Die Hard isn’t a Christmas Movie I thought this was funny.
- And last but not least, The Oatmeal figured out how to properly end the year.
Well if you made it this far THANK YOU for sticking with me. After realizing I was neglecting the blog I felt it was time for a super post to get caught up. As I said above my goal is to post a weekly summary with all of the things I found relevant throughout the week. We’ll see if I can actually pull it off.
It will be interesting to see what reverts back and what stays the same. I think working from home, for some, is going to be the new norm. I can’t help to think masks will be part of our way of life for years to come, especially during flu season. I’m glad we all made it through 2020 and I’m looking forward to, hopefully, getting back to the way things used to be.
See you next week!
Thursday – This year I decided to take a little winter break trip with my 16 year old son. Las Vegas was going to be a new experience for both of us and I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’d been told several times it’s OK to take kids there. I used Costco Travel to purchase a package that included Airfare, 2-Room Suite and Full Sized Car. It was pretty reasonable given the trip was during the holidays. I’m sure we could have spent less if we went a different time.
We arrived at the Indy airport about 2 hours before the flight and had to park in the garage due to Fast Park and the long term lot being totally full. That was $100 I was not planning on spending…
We ended up flying through security and sat around for an hour and 50 minutes. Go figure… TSA staff said we missed the early morning rush. Given it was “the busiest travel day” of the year I expected some long lines. I think the most I’ve ever waited in the Indy TSA line is 15 minutes.
United’s puddle jumper to O’Hare decided it didn’t want to fly causing us to not only get to O’Hare late but also miss our connecting flight. They had to re-book us on an American flight & it included a 4-hour layover in Chicago. At this point we were hoping our bags made it to Vegas.
The flight to Vegas on AA was uneventful but as expected our bags didn’t make it. The United app said they were on an earlier flight. When I talked to AA they said the bags were still in Chicago and would be on a flight that got in at 1:30am.
Exhausted after 12 hours of miscues we filled out the necessary paperwork, picked up our rental car, and headed to the Venetian hotel for the night, hoping our bags would be at the hotel in the morning.
Friday – Still on Indiana time I woke up quite early and checked the United app, sure enough the bag status had changed to say they had, in fact, been on the 1:30am flight. A call to United pointed the finger at AA and the call to AA baggage claim went unanswered.
Since we had a full schedule for the days I decided to head back to the airport (10 minutes away) and directly to the United baggage claim. You know what? Our bags were sitting in the lobby with no indication that they needed to be sent to the hotel. I was happy to take possession and wasn’t even asked for any kind of ID or luggage tag check, scary right?
With our missing luggage in hand we freshened up and made a beeline to the Hoover Dam with the anticipation that the earlier we got there the better. We were right, as we were able to get tickets for the first tour and watch the masses pour in as we were finishing the tour.
Unfortunately the recent rains had flooded part of the tour so we were unable to go into the dam, but the remaining tour, including the power plant, was very well done and fascinating! I highly recommend this tour but make sure you get there early.
Since we were so close you Arizona we dipped into the state to pickup a Geocache and claim a log in a new state. It was on an abandoned bridge along the highway so it was a quick stop.
Boulder City was next on the itinerary for sone lunch and further itinerary planning. Boulder City Brewing Company hit the spot and we were back on the road headed southwest to check out the Seven Magic Mountains along I-15.
Seven Magic Mountains can bee seen from I-15 but you need to exit several miles before the art display or you’ll need to backtrack a dozen miles or so. It’s an interesting display of painted rocks and it’s quite the tourist destination. I was amazed by the number of people vitiating on a Friday afternoon.
We completed our Friday drive with a stop at Del Taco to see how it stacked up to Taco Bell. In one word… BETTER. It was super clean inside and the food was nice and hot. The key difference between Del Taco and Taco Bell is the freshly grated cheese and the sauces. We were both glad we stopped and really wished we had one of these in Indy!
The rest of the day consisted of us wandering around the Venetian hotel and trying not to get lost. It’s amazing how many high end stores and restaurants they had under one roof. We found a new British Pub and closed the evening out with some proper grub and a pint of Guinness for me.
Saturday – Sleep came a lot easier than the night before now that we’d secured our luggage and walked more in one day than in recent months. The filling pub food didn’t hurt either. We awoke with the sun and finalized our plan to head out into the desert and explore some of the less famous landmarks in the area.
If you can, it’s a good idea to get away from the Strip to eat. We found a neat little place called Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast. It’s a small, family run, breakfast/lunch spot with Lulu herself taking care of customers personally. Our breakfast sandwiches and chorizo veggie hash filled our bellies before our journey into the desert to check out some of the lesser known landmarks.
We headed Northwest out of the city and really enjoyed the scenery. The roads were in great shape and traffic was pretty light. We drove for about an hour before stopping at a rest area to stretch our legs. From there we headed South for 2 hours. Along the way we found a few places to stop and take pictures.
Unfortunately one of the stops was not planned and included a roadside discussion with the California Highway Patrol. As soon as I saw him approaching us northbound a quick glance of my speedometer told me it was probably going to end up with a traffic stop. It’s VERY easy to speed in the desert, especially in a rental car that you’re not familiar with. If I would have had my Valentine 1 Radar Detector I might have had enough notice to check my speed. In the end it was a pleasant discussion with the Trooper Friendly and a ticket for a lot less over the limit than what he clocked me at.
We proceeded south to the town of Baker to check out a few places. Alien Jerky was a HUGE tourist draw. It’s a pretty cool looking building and very easy to spot with the Alien light poles. The other landmark was the World’s Largest Thermometer that stands 134-feet and commemorates the record 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius) recorded in nearby Death Valley on July 10, 1913.
Looping back to Las Vegas on I-15 was pretty uneventful until we went through Mountain Pass. There was a nice covering of snow and cars pulled over along the side of the road for miles. They weren’t stopped because of the road conditions they were stopped because people wanted to PLAY in the snow along the highway! It was a weird sight and one of the stranger things we saw on the trip.
I hear that no trip to Vegas is complete until you visit In-N-Out Burger. We had some time before the car was due back and were both getting a little hungry. As my Son’s suggestion we ordered a pair of Animal Style Doubles and Animal Style fries. It was a solid meal. The Animal Sauce differentiated it from Steak and Shake or Smash Burger. I’d eat here any time.
Sunday – Today was the day we decided to be tourists. We slept in a little and hit the Grand Lux for breakfast. This is by far the most reasonably priced restaurant in the complex. I’ve eaten at the one on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. They offered a $30 breakfast buffet that looked very good but we knew we would be walking a lot today so we both decided against a huge breakfast.
Up to this point I hadn’t even put a penny in a slot machine and I was starting to get the itch. My son wanted to watch some sports in the hotel room so I had an hour or two to explore on my own. I visited the casino desk and got my loyalty card with some free credits on it and hit the slots.
WOW you can blow though some cash pretty quick on the slots. Once I got about $30 down I gave that up and switched to Roulette and Blackjack. At least with these games you can slow down your losses. I went up and down $100 in each direction and ended my adventure with a loss. It was a lot of fun but I think I prefer the newly legal sports betting back in Indy that I can do from the comfort of my couch.
We ventured out of the Venetian complex on foot and walked the strip a bit. It wasn’t very busy in the morning so we enjoyed that. You can tell the city has spent a lot of money on security. There are 4-foot bollards along both sides of the street for it’s entirety as well as several elevated pedestrian bridges to get people across the street safely. Cameras are everywhere and the police presence is noticeable. It feels like a pretty safe place to be overall.
Caesars Palace and the Bellagio are filled with more high end shops and restaurants. In fact, all of the hotels we walked through pretty much looked the same. We made a big loop and walked for a few hours before returning to our room to watch some football.
Dinner was back at the Grand Lux where we enjoyed a really nice pasta dish and some mini beef wellingtons. We also picked up a cookie and croissant at the Bouchon Bakery for breakfast. By this point we were worn out and called it a night. We had a 6:50am flight on Monday and we were both ready to relax.
Monday – 4am came really early but we were both ready when our 5am Uber showed up. It’s such a short trip to the Airport I didn’t worry too much about time. Well, that was a mistake. TSA at the Vegas airport was packed and they were searching everyone and pulling every 3rd or 4th bag off the conveyor for further inspection. People were stressing out about making their flights as it was taking 60+ minutes to get through the queue.
We made it on our flight and after we pushed back the pilot came on the overhead and said we had a warning light and had to go back to the gate. That took about 30-minutes to figure out and then we had to get more fuel. We ended up leaving an hour later than scheduled and had less than an hour to change planes in Chicago.
Other than the lady next to me elbowing my ribs evey time she moved it was an uneventful flight. With the tailwind it was shorter flying back then when we went out.
Once in Chicago we had to basically go from one end of the airport to the other. Our flight was scheduled to leave on time but after we boarded we were informed that we had to get a de-icing and it would be another hour before we could take off. It ended up taking 90-minutes from push back before we went wheels up. So basically every leg of this trip had some kind of problem or delay. Now I remember why I like to drive everywhere!
Back in Indy and our bags actually made it, even though the United app said one was still in Chicago. It was good to get home and we talked about our trip all the was home from the airport. My son wan’t to go back when he turns 21. I think we can make that happen!
So the take away from this trip is this. United Airlines had a LOT of issues, Vegas is HUGE and can be VERY EXPENSIVE if you’re not careful. The Hoover Dam is amazing as is Del Taco and In-N-Out Burger. Get a car and get out of town but watch your speed. If you’re going to gamble be prepared to lose. Enjoy the people watching, you won’t be disappointed.
We’re already talking about or next trip and trying to figure out where to go… Thanks for reading!
I’ve been planning an overnight getaway to the Hoosier National Forrest (HNF) for a while now. I prefer weeknight trips to avoid the rush of weekend warriors that fill the campsites throughout the US.
It was funny (and totally coincidental) to see a writeup in the latest Indianapolis Monthly this month. Even more so that they featured one of the areas I was going to visit. Kind of made me feel better that I’d picked a good spot to visit!
I started southeast of Bloomington in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness area. Specifically at the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower. This is one seriously tall tower! My plan was to make the trip to the top after some exploring.
After checking my map one more time I headed down the Out-and-Back Terrill Ridge Trail. I had been told from a co-worker that there were some good camping areas at the end of the trail as well as a pioneer cemetery.
As you van see it’s a pretty flat twin track trail that is used to access the cemetery. There was a sign indicating you could drive back there with permission. At the end I found the cemetery but there were N0 Camping signs everywhere so I continued to scout around.
About a 1/4 mile back there was a bend in the trail and I totally missed the sign that showed the spur trail that take you back to a Lilly pad covered pond and several disbursed sites.
Having marked a few GPS waypoints for future reference I headed back to the car. Unfortunately my IT Band started to act up half way back to climbing the tower was out of the question. I just wanted to get off my feet! It’s kind of funny an IT Guy ends up with IT Band issues…
I decided to head down to the Saddle Lake Recreation area and scope things out. They have 2 camping areas. One that’s primitive (North Face) and one that has electricity (South Slope). I decided to drive through the first one and see if there were any spots available. Sure enough the weekday excursion paid off. Plenty of sites! Since I didn’t have a reservation I stopped by the Camp Host site to see what I should do.
That’s where I met Wendy & Jerry. The had been hosting at the North Face campground since April and the had a pretty nice little setup going. This was Jerry’s first year as a host and he said he was really enjoying it. Wendy had been hosting for several years prior.
They bickered a little about which campsite to assign me, each thinking the one they had in mind was better than the other. In the end we ended up in North Face Site 18 in the and it could not have been more perfect. It was a big site with plenty of room for my 3-man tent. You could have setup a 10-man tent and still had room.
I purchased a couple of bundles of firewood and Jerry offered to bring them by once I got settled. He came by about 20-minutes later to deliver the firewood and see how I was getting along.
After a filling meal of Mountian House Chili Mac, a few IPA’s I brought back from San Antonio, and a nice campfire I retired for the night to rest up for Day-2. The tacos dipped into the 50’s and it was a very comfortable night.
As usual when camping nature is usually your best alarm clock. I was awakened by numerous song birds each singing their identifiable melody. The air was cool and, as usual, a little damp. The tree cover helped minimize the dew and kept things a lot drier than I was expecting.
I packed up camp and made sure the fire was completely out by stirring up the ashes with a stick and feeling for any warmth. We were all good!
I was heading back to Indy today but I wasn’t in any hurry. I remembered seeing an interesting rock slide the last time I was in the Marengo, Indiana area and decided to check it out before taking a tour of the Marengo Cave U.S. National Landmark.
The rock slide was right next to the road (Highway 64 near Milltown, IN) and it looked like a huge hole deep into the rock. There was a mining operation in the area as well so that might have caused the cave-in.
Marengo Cave is a nicely run operation. The whole property is clean and very well taken care of. They have camping sites available as well as places to hike and have a picnic. There are 2 tours available and you can buy a discounted package to tour both. Since I want to visit again I choose to take the shorter of the 2 tours that lasted about 40-minutes.
The Cave was discovered by 2 kids in the late 1800’s when the took a candle down into a sink hole and eventually found the first of dozens of rooms in the cave system. It’s an interesting story and the caves are worth a visit if you’re in the area.
I was passing through a little town when I saw the sign above. I had to turn around to come back and get this shot. I thought it was pretty funny.
So all in all I’ve only scratched the surface of the Hoosier National Forrest and I have several trips in the planning stages for next year (maybe one more this year if the weather cooperates). There are so many trails and places to camp it could take years to see them all. I feel fortunate we have such a well run National forrest in Indiana and I plan to visit again soon!
This trip came about from a casual conversation with a co-worker and the tips and suggestions he provided made this a very enjoyable few days! Do you have a favorite place in the HNF? I’d love to hear form you.