The Hellish Nights

Trip Start Jul 10, 2010
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Trip End Aug 31, 2010


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Flag of United States  , Indiana
Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's happened to me on trips past where, for one reason or another, I spend much of the night driving around and, as a result, get very little sleep. Sleeping in the car is bad enough, but sleeping occasionally while driving is worse. Even worse still is not being able to sleep when sleep is possible because of heat. That was last night.
The night was supposed to be relatively simple: get something to eat in Tell City, Indiana, then find a campsite in the Hoosier National Forest to the north. Where everything went wrong was, again, the timing. The sun has set earlier as I've gone east (figure that out, right?), so I underestimated my time and wound up hitting the national forest boundary well past dusk. Well past campground check-in and well past the time to find a dispersed camping site on my own. But is dispersed camping even possible in the Hoosier National Forest?
National forests east of the Mississippi are nothing like our national forests in the West. The national forest includes trees and some roads, but in between those trees and on those roads are lots and lots of houses. The houses only end for brief periods where the road dips into a less desirable, lower area. Maybe less desirable for only me though: I like higher areas because they get more of a breeze, have less bugs and have less wildlife.
Either way, that was a hellish night. Driving slowly on curvy, unfamiliar roads (which required that I stay alert for wildlife and other vehicles) and trying to generally fill up the hours of the night when hanging out is not socially acceptable. During that period, I ended up in Bloomington. I found myself at the front of the Indiana University main campus and decided that this was a good place to stop for a while and find my way. I also found that Bloomington's coffee shops do not open before 7am on Saturdays. It was 5:15. I wound through the campus - which is quite pretty - to the back parking lot of a museum. I sat for only about 5 minutes before a man wielding a leaf blower turned the corner and came toward me. As he got close, he turned the leaf blower off, set it down on the ground outside the door and went in. He emerged a second later with two cones and set them in two parking spaces next to mine, separated by two spaces. He said nothing and never looked at me. When he went back in, I started my car and left. Too weird.
I ended up at Waffle House. Not the Waffle House, mind you, as they don't have these in Indiana it seems. Instead, it's a locally-owned, 24-hour Denny's type place. Denny's is about what it is: bad food and overpriced, but they oddly have free wi-fi and my coffee was kept fresh.  I was able to put around until about 7:05, when I moved to the current coffee shop, which features lots flies, thrift store seating and a bathroom that's got a height level set for oompah-loompah.
Wow, do I sound bitchy? I think I do, but I think you'll be able to understand where I'm coming from here. I don't think that anyone does well with 30 minutes of sleep, which I was able to squeeze in just before Bloomington and between my car going off and it getting too hot to sleep.
But salvation is just around the corner, as it's said. I've booked a hotel for tonight in Cincinnati. It cost me $59 with tax, but is a 3* and will hopefully have a comfy bed and good cable TV. That's all I want right now. Oh, and air-conditioning. I ended up wussing out most of yesterday evening and night and leaving the a/c on for the drive. It's hot, man. If you think it's just me, I would point out that the old men in the Waffle House were also telling stories about how hot it was. I think steering wheels were melting and lakes were rising up into steam, but I was only passively listening. Seriously though, it's hot out there, and I need to get out of it for a while.
Lightning was also off in the distance last night. I saw the weather pattern hanging up on an east-west band along I-70, but didn't expect to have to go far enough north to encounter it. And I really didn't: I just saw it threatening but never saw any drops.
What I did see what's lots of creepy stuff. The rural backroads of Indiana are some of the creepiest I've encountered. Part of the problem was the lack of a good map and adequate signage. My Rand McNally strangely shows more roads than my official Indiana highway map does. Yet nothing ever names the roads. It's like a New England conundrum: everyone there knows where the road goes, so why name it? At one point, I had twisted around so much on one road that I lost my sense of direction and knew not east from west. It's when you come to a T intersection that it's really tough. I spoke about this in another post, but I didn't mention the whole night driving side of it. This makes it virtually impossible. No direction, no landmarks, no other cars, no pavement markings, no discernible way toward a town.
My big question was: what the hell do these people living out there do? There were clusters of houses 20 miles from anything that could be considered a village even. How did they make their money? Where did they go during the day? Why did they choose to live out there?
Of course, I couldn't ask any of them this because, if you knock on a Hoosier's door at 3am, you're likely to get the "Hoosier" derivation, but also a rifle pointed at you. I'm not saying that Hoosiers are unreasonable, of course: this would happen almost everywhere in America.
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