2022 Week 39 – What the Cluck is Going On?
If you follow the Indianapolis food scene, you have undoubtedly seen the explosion of chicken-focused restaurants popping up all over the place. IndyToday has an interactive map showing most of the places around town that are open or coming soon. But, unfortunately, they missed a few, namely Zaxby’s, Chick-Fil-A, and City Bird (which just opened near my house).
Existing fast food places are revamping their menu to compete as well. For example, Shake Shack partnered with Hot Ones to offer their take on the Spicy Chicken Sando, and Panera is hawking their Chef’s Chicken Sandwich. Burger King is even lacing up the boxing gloves and putting their Ch’King out there for everyone to make fun of (update: It’s already gone). That’s a LOT of Chicken action!
I’ll be the first to admit that I like a nice chicken sandwich, but I’m trying to remember the last time I actually had one! I compared Popeye’s vs. KFC when they were in the headlines & liked both equally well. The Nashville Hot spice that’s so popular these days is just too damn spicy for me. Even when I order it mild, it can be a gamble, depending on who made the sauce that morning (looking at you, Big Lug, and my favorite Willies Special salad). I have a Nashville trip on the calendar & I’m debating if I will make a trip to Prince’s Hot Chicken or just head to my all-time favorite Hugh Baby’s for a Smoked Mushroom and Swiss burger (probably the burger but MAYBE both?).
Another trend, for lack of a better term, is new Fast Food locations not building a dining room! These are pickup only, and it’s kind of like a Ghost Kitchen with a sign and drive-up window. Slate Magazine has an article detailing this new trend. I can honestly say that on the rare times I purchase Fast Food, I eat it in the car anyway, so the lack of a dining room has no impact on me at all.
If you’re going to eat in your car, you’d be wise to pick up a Steering Wheel Desk. These things are game changers, and I have used mine while road tripping to eat in my car, pull out the laptop to do some remote support (last job), or even play a game of solitaire while waiting out a rainstorm while camping. It slips in the pocket behind your passenger seat and is always at the ready.
And finally… According to Toast (the Point of Sale company being used seemingly everywhere), Indiana residents are the best tippers in the country, averaging 21% per order. BUT, is it because we’re too nice and feel the pressure when the cashier flips the iPad around and waits for us to decide between 15%, 20%, and 25%?
2022 Week 15 – Looking for Lunch in Lawrence
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been doing some work in the Lawrence, Indiana, area a couple of days a week. It’s not a place that I frequented very often before January, but I decided to explore the food scene when I started spending time here. Specifically, Lunch in Lawrence.
Pendleton Pike and 56th St are long strips of chains with nothing unique standing out on the surface. But, dig a little deeper, and you can find some hidden gems owned by locals serving some quality food.
Fitzgerald’s Catering & Lunch House – Ft. Ben
First written about in Week 6 2022, Fitzgerald’s is located in an unassuming (former barracks building?) off Otis Ave. It’s an assembly-line-style lunch counter run by a hard-working group. They feature scratch-made items, even down to the pickles served on their Cuban sandwich. They can get quite busy, and seating can be limited, as people like to linger and talk. The restaurant is clean, and the service is prompt and friendly. Fortunately, they offer online ordering that’s always been ready when I got there to pick it up. They announce the daily specials on Facebook and have a good variety of sandwiches, soups, and salads. The Cobb Salad, Cuban, and Roast Beast sandwiches are my favorite things to order.
Porter Books & Bread – Ft. Ben
This place looks easier to find on Google Maps than it really is. You place your order in the basement of a multi-story, multi-tenant building and climb the spiral staircase to the seating area above. The walls are exposed brick with bookshelves and some great music playing in the background. Their house-made Ficoccia is used for several of the sandwiches and comes with the salad. I think the Octavius Salad is one of the best in the area, and the Vonnegut Sandwich will not leave you hungry if you manage to finish a whole one.
The Grill – McCordsville
While technically not in Lawrence, it’s close enough for me to drive to for lunch, so it’s on the list. The Grill has an over-21 side and a family dining side. Both times I visited, I sat in the bar. I’ve only ordered one thing both times, and the Fried Chicken salad hits the spot with a nice-sized salad with a large portion of pounded out sliced fried chicken breast on the top. The service is very friendly, and you can tell this is a family-run place with the father of the group running the show.
Tritan Brewing Co. and Bistro – Ft. Ben
The Bistro at Tritan is only open Fri/Sat/Sun for lunch, so I’ve only been able to have lunch there once on a Friday. I first wrote about it in Week 8 of 2022. It was a toss-up between the fish and chips or the tenderloin. My server asked how hungry I was and when I said quite a bit, she didn’t even hesitate to recommend the tenderloin. I really enjoyed this sandwich and would order it again if I’m in the area when the Bistro is open.
Notable mention to Jacomo Pizza that I’ve had for lunch a few times but never took any pictures. It’s pizza, and we know what that looks like. It’s quick if you get a slice or two of the daily special and scratches the itch if you want pizza and/or a fast lunch.
While there are not many local restaurants in Lawrence, there are enough to have some variety when in the area a few days a week. I still need to check out the Garrison at Ft. Ben and the Caplingers location on Pendleton Pike. It’s also been a long time since I visited Mama’s Korean, so I may have to fix that soon.
Following up on my initial review of Grammarly in October 2021, I’m still finding it a HUGE resource to make sure the communications (and blog posts) I have are concise and properly formatted. I’ve learned I have a big issue with missing commas, and Grammarly has made me more conscious of that and helped my grammar along the way. It’s still not a cheap utility, but if you make a living communicating with people, it’s worth checking out.
And finally, The Urbanist posted a video of a strange skyscraper in New York City with no windows. These kinds of buildings are not that unusual, in fact, we have a similar AT&T building in Downtown Indianapolis, but this one is very unique looking.
2021 Week 22 – Camping Do Over
May last camping trip was a wash out so I decided to try it again last weekend. This time there was no rain but the temps were a lot higher. I decided to take a different route, bypassing the I-69 construction, and wound my way south through Jasper and Ferdinand, Indiana
Ferdinand has a monastery similar to the one down the road in St Meinrad. But this one has a brewery and food! I stopped in for a late lunch of Pizza and Beer. While not they best pizza I’ve ever had it hit the spot, especially with the Sister Betty Blonde Ale I washed it down with.
After lunch I decided to finish out my last 9-holes of Disc Golf at St Meinrad. I expected to see a lot more people on the course being a Saturday but was pleasantly supersized the crowd was more like a week day. There was no need to rush and I was able to enjoy a nice round.
The Indian-Celina Lake Campground I like to test equipment at is just inside the Central time zone. In fact it’s so close my electronic devices (and car) will constantly switch back and fourth between time zones. I’ve started wearing an analog watch (Citizen ProMaster Diver with EcoDrive) to make sure I know the actual time. The Citizen is a great watch that uses the sun to keep itself charged. It also keeps amazingly accurate time. I think I’ve only corrected it twice the entire time I’ve owned it. This thing is built like a tank and it’s a nice change from the Apple Watch I wear during the week.
Another item I tested out last weekend was an Exped MegaMat sleeping pad. I bought the MegaMat last October but had yet to take it out to try it in the real world. It’s been great to lounge around on in the house over the winter but it really shines outside in a tent. The MegaMat comes in several sizes and I opted for the XL (extra long) version since I like to stretch out.
One really nice feature about the MegaMat is it self inflates. After you unroll and open the main valve it takes about 15-20 minutes to get to about 95% of where I like it. I can then take the manual pump that’s included to top it off and make it perfect.
This sleeping pad is thick and a little bulky so it’s only really good for car camping or a very short hike to the campsite. It feels like a memory foam bed when you’re laying on it and if you’re a side sleeper you’ll be happy to know it’s supportive enough to keep your hip from digging into the ground. It was worth every penny and I would not hesitate to purchase it again.
I have another camping trip planned in a couple of weeks and I’m gearing up for a trip to the Allegheny National Forrest this summer. So look forward to more trip reports and gear reviews throughout the year.
2021 Week 19 – Mini Road Trip Part 1
I took the day off last Friday & headed down to Southern Indiana for some sightseeing, Disc Golf, and camping. With the knowledge that State Rt 37 was closed in Martinsville I decided to take State Rt 39 that runs parallel to the west. I also wanted to check out the Goethe Link Observatory along the way. Unfortunately it was closed.
My next stop was Spring Mill Park, which I have not been to in years. When I got down to Mitchell Indiana I realized it was lunch time so I stopped at my road trip favorite McDonalds.
Being lunch time in a small town the drive-thru was backed up to the street so I decided to go in. There was a clear division of masks and no masks. The older the person was the more likely they were masked up. The younger crowd not so much. It was an otherwise uneventful visit until I got back to my car. This was the BEST quarter pounder I had EVER had! It was seasoned a little more aggressively than normal and was LOADED with onions and pickles (like, double the amount). I never thought I’d ever enjoy a fast food sandwich this much. The fries were as good as always and someone was a little heavy handed with the salt on those as well. No complaints here!
East of this location I noticed a sign for the Gus Grissom Monument and I decided to check it out. I drove right by it the first time as I ws expecting it to be further up the road. It’s actually right behind the Mitchell police department and it’s quite the monument!
What an amazing monument to an American Hero. Little did I know there was ANOTHER tribute to Grissom at Spring Mill!
Spring Mill was a lot bigger than I remembered and was pretty empty that day (benefits of visiting on a weekday). I remembered to purchase my annual park pass at the gate. HIGHLY recommended if you are going to visit any of the state parks throughout the year. It pays for itself after a few visits. The Spring Mill Inn is in the process of remodeling on the outside but was very nice on the inside. I could see spending a new nights here while exploring the area trails and activities.
There’s more to this trip than I’ve listed here but I’m going to save that for the next post. It was great to get out of the house and get back outside after a miserable 2020 and a longer than usual winter. The Allegheny National Forest trip I canceled last fall (because everything was closed) is being re-scheduled and there should be some good travel posts coming up this summer.
Finally, I came across this video on YouTube last week. I never knew this job was available in the Military!
Trip Report – Hoosier National Forrest
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.