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Peru, Indiana and Other Perplexing Place Names

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Travel | 6 comments

It seems to me that Indiana has an unusually high concentration of places named after other places. When I tried to ask my aunt about this, she didn’t think it was weird that her state has cities named things like Kokomo and Brazil. She brought up the fact that a lot of states have places named after presidents, for example.

Madison county, indiana

But I’m not talking about the various Madison Counties or other places named after notable people or landscape features. I mean the ones named for a very different and far away place for no obvious reason. In Arizona, we have Miami and Florence. Indiana, however, has cities named Peru, Rome, Warsaw, Mexico, Cairo, Dublin, Paris, Alexandria, London, Manhattan, Jordan, Holland, Versailles, Shanghai, Milan, in addition to those above.

Florence, AZ benches
Does that seem unusual to anyone else?

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Orange Lights

Posted by on Jul 4, 2016 in Travel | 6 comments

Best western anderson indiana
The orange lights drifted across the night sky, while we watched with the rest of the crowd scattered across the lawn. They traveled almost single file at irregular intervals. We ruled out planes and fireflies and satellites, then jokingly settled on aliens, because it was Independence Day, and we had no other explanation.

Anderson indiana

One didn’t make the full arc. It was falling (crashing? landing?), down towards the earth. It was on fire. Some teenage boys ran out to catch it. No aliens, just the remains of a burnt sky lantern, probably being launched from the same site as the firework show that had drawn us all outside to this Anderson, Indiana lot.

Anderson indiana

With the mystery solved, they left it behind on the grass, and we all went back to watching fireworks explode.


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Mounds State Park

Posted by on Mar 17, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

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Sharing some green with you today from Indiana last summer, specifically from Mounds State Park in Anderson.

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The Mounds

Mounds State Park is named for mounds of earth built around 160 BCE by a culture known as the Adena-Hopewell, famous for pottery and mad mound-building skills.

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Actually, they could’ve been two separate cultures, the Adena building the Mounds and the Hopewell leaving their more advanced stuff around later. Or the Adena could’ve just gotten Hopewell-levels of advanced over time.

If there’s a new car outside your friend’s house, is someone visiting or did your friend just get a new car? Way harder to clear that up when your friend is 2000 years in the past. So I guess hyphenating the two names is a way to hedge archaeological bets.

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Why were they built? Maybe the Adena built them for ceremonies and then they were used for burials by the Hopewell (who may or may not just be the Adena 200 years later). The truth is we’re not sure what all people back then were into.

What we do know is that someone (ok, a lot of someones) purposefully dug out and built up earth a couple millennia ago into mounds you can still see today.

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There are 10 of these earthworks in Mounds State Park, and they tend to be crater-like, with the mounded outsides surrounding a depression with a platform in the center.

The largest one has dents in it that align with the equinox, solstices, and rising of certain stars. Known as “the Great Mound,” it is 9 feet tall and has a quarter-mile circumference. So, yeah, whatever the Adena-Hopewell were up to, they were not messing around.

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The Park

The visitors’ center has displays about the park’s ecosystem and a floor map of how the Mounds align with various astronomical phenomena.

Mounds state park visitors center

Its observation room has chairs facing oversized windows, giving you a front row view of a pond, birdhouse, and a thick stand of trees, so you can watch for birds or frogs or maybe even deer.

Mounds park observation room

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Outside is a cute little children’s garden.

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Also at the park is the historic brick Bronnenberg House, which dates from 1840. Compared to the Mounds, though, that seems like new construction.

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The White River cuts through the park, and you can fish, as well as camp, hike or picnic. There are trails of varying difficulty levels winding around the Mounds.

Mounds State Park

Our Visit

Since we were in town for a family reunion, Phillip and I got to visit the park with my uncle, who’s been going there since he was a kid, and my cousin Allison, who made sure to photobomb the butterfly video I was shooting in the pollinator garden.

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We started down trail #1 towards the Great Mound and met a harrowed-looking hiker coming from that direction, who asked if we had insect repellent – not to borrow it for himself but to make sure we were protected.

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As we approached the boardwalk, we found out why. The mosquitoes were out in force that day. Despite our deet, they didn’t seem to be deterred. I could barely stop long enough to snap a photo without those tiny vampires swarming towards my neck and head.

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I wrapped my scarf over my head and tucked my arms inside. Allison laughed at me, but I’m pretty sure it was just that she was jealous of my scarf/mosquito net and not that I looked ridiculous.

Mounds State Park

We cut our hike short after seeing the Great Mound.

Mounds State Park

We drove to a spot near the river, where the guys wanted to explore some more. Allison and I decided to take in the scenery from the safety of the car.

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I wonder how the Adena kept the mosquitoes away.

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Sleeping In in an Anderson, IN. Inn

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Travel | 0 comments

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There are lots of reasons you might be visiting Madison County, Indiana. For me, the biggest reason is family. However, if you don’t have family there (or maybe because you have family there), you can stay at the Best Western Plus in Anderson.

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No one will wake you up in the morning by pounding on your door before your travel-weary, west-coast-time-zone bones are ready to stir and shouting “You’re not here for very long, you don’t want to sleep all day!” (You know, the Staying with Family Standard Room Rate.)

But there will be a hot breakfast waiting for you.

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I’d get my eggs or yogurt or waffle from the buffet, refill my coffee (after making the first cup with the Keurig in our room), and have breakfast with the birds. They would be outside flapping around one of the feeders, looking for their favorite seeds while I sat inside at a table by a window.

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imageMy aunt, uncle, and cousin Allison were in town for the same reunion we were and had chosen the same hotel. Most mornings they’d join us at breakfast, with Allison and her mom teasing my uncle about his snoring. I offered her the foldout couch in the front room of our suite. Even though she didn’t take us up on it (instead opting to kick her dad out of the room entirely and send him to stay with a relative that lives in the area), the point is that an extra couch/bed in your room can come in handy.

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So can a microwave and mini fridge. I tend to travel well-supplied with snacks, but you might also want to keep farmers’ market finds cool or heat up an Amish donut.

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The hotel is conveniently located right off the freeway and Scatterfield Road, my reference route for getting around Anderson. It was an easy drive to Mounds State Park or downtown.

If you have relatives in the area, chances are, they’re close too. But not as close as Best Western’s indoor pool, twice weekly happy hour, and totally optional wake up calls.

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P.S. Did you spot Mr. Cheeseface?

Thank you to Anderson Madison County Visitor and Convention Bureau! We were their guests at the Best Western Plus Anderson.

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7 Things You Didn’t Expect to Find in Madison County, Indiana

Posted by on Aug 29, 2015 in Travel | 0 comments

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There’s a view that the middle of the U.S. is nothing but farm fields.

Drive an hour or so northeast of the of the Indianapolis Airport, and you’ll find yourself in Madison County (not the one with the bridges). It has its share of agriculture, for sure, but there are also cultural and historical sites, and people passionate about things they make.

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I bet you didn’t know you could find all this in Madison County, Indiana:

1. A performing arts theater that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a Spanish courtyard under a starry sky. The Paramount Theatre Centre is one of only a handful of remaining atmospheric theaters by architect John Eberson.

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2. Large, 2000-year-old heaps of earth built up by mysterious ancient people(s) to align with heavenly bodies at Mounds State Park.

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3. Free public wifi throughout downtown Anderson (the county seat), thanks to dozens of hotspots. (PDF map)

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4. The House of Glass, a family-run artisan glass studio, which still crafts each piece by hand in the tradition of their French ancestors.

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5. A gospel music recording studio that also serves insanely good house-made cakes, Pure & Simple Restaurant at Gaither Family Resources. (Phillip wants me to add that the pot roast skillet was also delicious. So was the chicken bacon mac and cheese.)

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6. The first historic district to be added to the National Register of Historic Places – West Eighth Street Historic District. (Walking tour map)

7. The world’s largest ball of paint, a baseball that’s been coated in more than 24,000 layers of paint over the last 37 years and now weighs over 4,000 pounds.

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Where to Stay

Our homebase while we explored Madison County was a suite at the conveniently-located Best Western Plus in Anderson, which included breakfast every morning and coffee all day. (Yeah!)

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A big thank you to Anderson Madison County Visitor and Convention Bureau! We were their guests at the Best Western Plus and at Pure & Simple Restaurant. But I wasn’t kidding about that cake.

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