Monday, April 18, 2022

What's Thousand Trails Indian Lakes Like? And Eldo's Birthday

Lots of green spaces for picnics
Indian Lakes, Batesville, IN.  April 18, 2022.  Site 4552   High: 50's-60's, Low: 30's -50's.  ATT signals excellent. 5G one bar. Not needing to use our T-mobile hot spot at all.

We are at Thousand Trails, Indian Lakes, which is in Batesville, IN. It's a BIG, beautiful park with over 154 NEW, 50 amp sites, lots of ponds, a lake, a new pool area, a nice dog park, and a campground store/fuel station on the grounds. They sell propane there as well. This park is a jointly owned KOA and Thousand Trails park so there is a KOA section attached to the Thousand Trails park. 

The new sites are amazing! Unfortunately, they didn't plant very many trees in the new section at all, so as the grass starts to grow between the very wide sites, that's about all that's going to be green and there won't be any shade at all. Many of the sites on the outside edges have already been claimed by seasonal, especially the ones that back up to the woods, of course! 

new section at rear of the park

Currently, the total number of sites are well over 800, including the many, many seasonal and annuals. We aren't privy to how many of the sites are for transient (overnight, passing through or a two to three weeks stay,) so that number might mislead you, as the number of sites for Thousand Trails camping members is always limited.  Here we are, in the middle section of the park, phase 4B for a few days. It's a nice site but along the main road from the front gate to the other sections of the park, so lots of traffic. 

our site #4552 phase 4B

Sparky was told that when all the sites in the different phases are completed, the park will be BIGGER than Orlando Thousand Trails RV Park which currently has over 1,000 sites. 

another view of the new section

We like Batesville for the following reasons...There are extremely few park models in the park. There are seasonal/annual site clusters so if you are in an RV and only staying for a few days to a few weeks, you are assigned in the areas where others are doing the same thing. At some Thousand Trails parks, you get sandwiched in between park models and it's extremely difficult some times to back your rig into a site on narrow streets lined with park models. We like it that we are surrounded by other RVers and not residential park model owners. It's just better to be where you feel comfortable and have a similar life style--the nomadic lifestyle!

common area at Indian Lakes

Sometimes we imagine that park model owners are probably not too enthusiastic with RVers and their visible sewer hoses snaking all around the ground lot and occasional smells that go with that when you dump your sewer tanks into the system. But we could be totally wrong about that. Many a wonderful friendship starts up at an RV park because EVERYBODY, well, almost  everybody started out as an RVer, then settled down when they found a park they truly loved, and then maybe bought a park model to stay for long periods of time.

There is ample green space, huge green fields, ponds and lakes, AND the roads are very decent in most areas of the park but a couple. You can ride a bike easily all over the park and get a lot of miles in. You can fish. You can kayak if you have your own. They just completed a new pool construction project coupled with a wading/shower spray fun stuff pool for the young ones. (Sparky forgets what you call that!) Oh, yeah. A splash pad! There is a nice building for an activity center. There is a beautiful playground for the kids. 

There are three laundry rooms currently. Sparky loves it that families are here. It's a great mix of young and old, and of course, Sparky loves kids and interacting with them.

The sites whether they are back in or pull through, are spacious and wide. Plenty of room between you and your neighbor, and they are LEVEL--hallelujah! and are gravel. However, there are very few pull throughs in the park. There are some in the old section as you first come in, and seem to be readily available because they are older and not as level, then there are some pull thrus in the new section at the back of the park, but most of those are already taken by annuals or seasonal it seems. Here is a sample pull through in the older, first phase section.

Overall, the park is easy to navigate around in, no problem driving through the park when you come in to look for a good site. Lots of amenities, friendly helpful staff. You are 20 miles from the nearest Walmart and 5 miles from a nice Kroger store. 

A few nice restaurants around...We ate at the Brau House for Eldy's 74th birthday, a VERY German restaurant in Oldenburg, which is right next to Batesville. It's a town of German ancestry. Eldy had a pork tenderloin sandwich, probably THE most favorite thing he likes to eat, if he can find a good one. Indiana is known for that, but did you know there is a PORK TENDERLOIN TRAIL, just like there is a bourbon trail, or a wine trail or a whiskey distillery trail? YEP! Right here in Indiana. We are going to have to check that out. Nothing better than a humongous breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, in Eldo's opinion. Happy birthday, Eldy! (Sparky thinks he looks good for 74, don't you?)

Our last day in Batesville, we had SNOW! We had already delayed our leaving by one day as we had heard the weather was bad further north. So we stayed in Batesville one more day. Sparky loves, loves, loves snow. Not the kind that stays for a long time, or the icy streets and sleet kind, but just enough for a day to go out and enjoy it and walk in it. It just brings back wonderful childhood memories of walking to school on tree lined streets that made a big canopy overhead. So quiet and peaceful walking to school. So fun "skitching" rides on the back of cars when we were kids. That's where you wait for a car to go by, and then grab the bumper and slide on your feet, then letting go before the driver realizes you're at the back of the car!  The things we did when we were kids!

We are headed to Elkhart and Howe, IN tomorrow and for the next few weeks, so we will be headed to doctors, dentists, and family visits with Eldy's son and his gang. And--the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail. We'll see you later..... Bye for now.....

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Sparky is for the Birds!

In between letting you know where we are and what we are doing, Sparky decided to get her bird pole shepard's hook out after seeing a wide variety of birds at our Diamond Caverns campground. She went and bought a niger seed sock feeder, a big seed ball in the shape of a bell, and a metal cage feeder that holds round peanut butter or similar balls. You just drop the balls in the feeder. The jury is still out whether the birds like the commercial peanut butter ball ones (Sparky got all this at Walmart), but it was a start, and it didn't take long for the birds to decide they like the offerings, at least a few of them. We've got goldfinches visiting, and a tufted titmouse or two.

And of course, the squirrels did, too...ugh...There's no baffle on the Shepard's hook pole, so no wonder the squirrels can get the seed bell which was their favorite, very easily. They proceeded to hit the seed bell hard, so Sparky decided to take it down for a bit, and placed it in a zip loc, (freezer thickness) bag and put it in the storage bay. RVers know where this is going, right? 

After the forecast said a LOT of rain was coming, Sparky decided it was a good thing to have taken the seed ball bell down for a couple of days and forgot about it. The sun came back out on the third day, so Sparky opened up the bay to get the seed ball out and......

MICE had gotten into the bay and chewed a hole through the freezer thickness zip loc bag, then decimated the seed bell, scattering seed shells from one side of the bay to the other, making a big mess and leaving little micey droppings everywhere they went in the bay. Now this is a VERY bad thing for an RVer  Mice like to chew, and being rodents, they are known for getting into the wiring of RV's, trucks, etc. and chewing their way through wires causing beaucoup dollars in damage if you don't spot them fast enough or have some kind of deterrent in your bays.

We quickly got rid of the seed bell, and actually placed it back on the bird pole, vacuumed out the bay, and then deposited wrapper less bars of Irish Spring soap in the bay. Irish Spring soap is a popular rodent/varmint/critter deterrent--they supposedly hate the smell and RVers swear by it. Who knew?!  So we shall see if that did the trick. No idea where they came in, but there are quite a few places mice can find, RV's are not the tightest when it comes to construction.....

The next day, the seed ball bell disappeared off the pole. It's completely gone, hanging string and all. We are not sure how that happened, there's no evidence the ball was ever hanging there! 

Sparky is going to have to rethink her strategy for storing bird seed, that's for sure! Maybe a metal tin canister with an airtight lid. The last thing we need is more varmints/critters/insects coming along for the ride! We've already had a stink bug infestation, a lady bug infestation, and now, a visit from a mouse or two. We don't need no stinkin' mice!

See you on the road again in a couple of days....

Friday, April 8, 2022

Our Second and Final Week at Diamond Caverns RV Park

Shepard's Purse wildflowers at Mammoth Cave

Diamond Caverns RV Park.  Site A-11, back in
Weather: Highs--59, 56, 45, 50, 67, 72, 70, 69
                Lows--42, 39,33, 30, 55, 57, 61, 57, 43
The weather has been crazy....One night we had wind gusts up to 50 mph, but amazingly did not lose power. The coach was a rockin' and a rollin'! Temperatures are all over the place this April, and it's raining a LOT!

In between the rains, Sparky has been hiking the trails inside Mammoth Cave National Park, and biking the Bike 'n' Hike Trail from the campground to the visitor's center and back, for a distance of about 14.6 miles, several times a week.
Swamp along the bike trail

If you want to hike the trails inside the national park, most of them are very short and lead in and out to other trails. By combining them, you can get a nice longer hike in. The longest trail in the park, the Green River Bluffs Trail, is a little over a mile (1.3) until you pick up another trail to add to your hike. The Hike and Bike Trail shown below, doesn't look too bad, does it? Until you get up close and personal with it. More about that in a bit.....

Mammoth Cave Hike and Bike Trail

1. Dixon Cave Trail--0.5 mi....Cool steps lead away from a cave entrance that is not open to the public.
2. Echo River Spring Trail--0.6 mi...easy loop trail, wheelchair accessible, where an underground river is seen exiting a cave. You can also see the ferry system on this trail.
3. Heritage Trail--0.5 mi., easy accessible trail, information boards along the way...
4. River Styx Spring Trail- 0.4 mi., moderate trail with LOTS of steps and some elevation change. You can access several of the other trails from this one.
5. Two Springs Trail--0.6 mi., easy to moderate trail
6. Sinkhole Trail--1.0 moderate trail, view Mammoth Dome Sink and see White's Cave, (not open to the public).
7. Cedar Sink Trail--1.0 mi., moderate trail with very large sinkhole. Several sets of stairs, good workout!
8. Sloan's Crossing Pond Walk--0.4 mil, accessible boardwalk around a small pond. This pond is off the Mammoth Cave Parkway before you get to the visitor's center. A small pond, not much wildlife, but you never know what's there unless you go see!
9. Turnhole Bend Nature Trail--0.5 mi, moderate trail with stairs, views of small sinkholes and the Green River.  Located at the Brownsville Road turn off of Mammoth Cave Parkway, before arriving at the visitor's center.
10. Mammoth Cave Railroad Hike and Bike Trail--9 miles one way if you go all the way from Park City to the visitor's center inside the national park. It's 7.3 miles one way from Thousand Trails Diamond Caverns RV park. It's a STRENUOUS, rocky trail, very hilly, and according to Sparky's Apple watch, it's over 400 feet in elevation change.

a better section of the trail
There are steep hills immediately on the trail where you get on right outside the Diamond Caverns offices across the street from the RV park. Sparky had to get off her bike more than once to make it up the hills. Then the trail levels off for a bit, but then winds up and down in smaller hillier sections. There's a REALLY steep section as you get closer to the two, newly renovated wooden bridge sections. Sparky can ride down it with the brakes on all the way, but has to walk her bike back up to the top, on the way back home. The renovated bridge sections are so nice! You can still smell the new wood as they just had finished them before we got to the park. They have gentle friction speed bump strips, at least that's what Sparky thinks they are, to slow your speed down as you descend coming back from Mammoth Cave. On the old bridge, it was brakes on all the way back down!

The trail is about 50% larger sized gravel. They are actually more like rocks. It is a bone jarring, teeth rattling ride for about half the way. You better have great tires if you take this trail! Some of the trail is very soft sand near some wooden boardwalks so your tires then sink and slide. It's hard to enjoy the forest scenery when you have to be dodging big rocks with your bike tires.  Sparky has ridden this trail MANY times in our visits here, maybe at least ten times, and has never seen any deer until her last bike ride. Two deer came moseying along and crossed the trail right in front of her, a few yards ahead. Other than that, it's a sparse forest right now, being that it's  early spring.

More cave tours have opened up this time. The green buses are running services to other cave site locations. Here are brief descriptions for some of them but check out the national park website for more details. There are quite a few tours that have opened back up since Covid restrictions have been relaxed. You still have to wear masks on the buses, however.  Here are the current Green Bus Tours with adult prices: (Be sure to use your senior pass for half price savings if you are old enough!) 
1. Domes and Dripstones--2 hour tour, 500 stairs, 3/4 mile.  $21.00
2. Frozen Niagra Tour-- 1.25 hours, 12 stairs + optional 98. $18.00
3. Violet City Lantern Tour--3 hrs., 3 mi., 160 stairs, hills, no handrails. $25.00
4. AND--Grand Avenue Tour--4 hrs., 4 mi., 1,313 stairs--physically demanding, yep!  $35.00 Sparky is going to hit some cave tours on the next visit.

The Mammoth Cave Hotel is undergoing significant renovations, so it is CLOSED and so is the cafe/restaurant grill there. The bridge over to the hotel is blocked off and the entire area around the hotel fenced off. The hotel is getting a brand new roof and new insulated windows. There is a mobile little cafe building that has been placed out front of the visitor's center with plenty of meal choices and ice cream. (Ice cream? Did she say ice cream????) Eldo really perked up on that.

Back to the trail. The trilliums are starting to poke thru the soil. These are called little sweet Betsy trilliums.

Sparky likes looking for the unusual within the ordinary. Like this bird's eye view through an old tree stump tower.
Or this pretty pattern of lichens and bark together....
The flowering pear trees are in full bloom....
And this area has LOTS and LOTS of redbuds...They are blooming, too!
Just to recap the Diamond Caverns RV park stay...the park is small, the sites are gravel and clay soil, they do have a small laundry, a "quiet room" for watching TV or reading away from your site, a mini golf course and a nice playground for kids...Neighbors are  close but not as close as some parks. It's more of a rural, country park atmosphere.
The park is not close to shopping, the nearest town for a Walmart and chain restaurants is Glasgow, KY, 15 miles away. We're saving money by not eating out much at all! But Cracker Barrel is in Cave City, which is the next exit up, so we have enjoyed a breakfast or two there. And--Glasgow has a Joann Fabrics! Sparky was absolutely delighted to find that out! (So we are not saving at much in fuel costs as we are restaurant costs, laughs Eldo.) 

With that, we get ready to leave Park City, KY, home of the beautiful Mammoth Cave National Park. In a few days, we will be heading towards Indiana, to the Batesville Thousand Trails park. After that, it's on to Howe, IN where we will be back and forth between Howe and Elkhart, IN to see Eldy's son's family, taking care of routine doctor, dentist, and maybe cataract surgeries for the both of us. We shall see.....(pardon the pun!). Thanks for following along with us...Bye for now!

Saturday, April 2, 2022

A Long Journey to Kentucky

Diamond Caverns, Park City, KY....Site: A-11, back in. AT&T terrible, T-Mobile Mi-fi good. 

Rvers like to know how other RVers travel from destination to destination. So here we go....from Lake Conroe, TX to Mammoth Cave, KY, our distance covered this week was about 1,037 miles. We did it in three days to avoid getting caught in severe weather storms this down south. Here's how we went:  From Lake Conroe to FM830, then Texas 75,  to FM3083, then 336 Loop, to Texas 105, then 69 south,  then I-10 East. We spent the night at Cajun Palms, (site 37) in Louisiana. We drove through Baton Rouge, crossed the bridge over the mighty Mississippi, picked up I-12 East, then I-65 north. Our second night we stayed at Gunter Hill, COE park (site 68 back in) near Montgomery, AL. Back on I-65 the next morning. Traffic was totally shut down on I-65 due to bridge work so we were rerouted to 31 for awhile until we could pick up I-65 again in Decatur, AL. Then on to Park City, home of Mammoth Cave National Park.

We traveled over the amazing Atchafalaya River Basin Bridge, with which is over 18 miles long, and the third longest bridge in the US. Pretty amazing architectural feat building this bridge over swampland, with the river basin in-between the bridge sections, isn't it? Wonder if the bridge ever floods?

Cajun Palms
We liked this particular route because there are more decently rated parks traveling this route. We really like Cajun Palms RV resort. It's our second time passing through at this park but we could easily stay for more time. Not cheap, about 66.00 a night, but what a nice park! Wide spacious sites, beautiful pool area which wasn't opening for a few days yet. 

Our second night was at Gunter Hill, a Corps of Engineer Park, near Montgomery, AL, a park we have stayed at many times. The sites are HUGE...Sparky found a new trail she had not seen before that was in a different section of the park. 

As it is late March and the weather has been very abnormally chilly here in Alabama, the spring flowers are not up yet. But Sparky did find beautiful, wild Atamasco lilies blooming.

This is the park where a rogue limb took out BOTH our awnings out last year. So when we heard there was a big storm brewing and going to hit the area with high winds, we decided to leave the next day and put in a big driving day of over 400 miles to get further away from the bad winds and possibilities of tornadoes. But we managed to get a dinner at Jim 'n' Nick's...a really great BBQ place with the most amazing sweet little dinner biscuits in Prattsville, AL, a nearby town, before we left the next morning. Sparky bought some extra biscuits to freeze, they are THAT good!

And we made it to Thousand Trails Diamond Caverns RV and Golf Resort. It's really not as swanky as it sounds. The RV park is quite small, showing its age, and there are quite a few annuals/seasonals in many of the sites, so it's not easy to get a site without planning way ahead of time. Sites are not very level, but we found one that an annual person had just left their site which was decent, and moved back home. So we snagged it! Sparky is excited about hiking inside Mammoth Cave National Park, and biking the very strenuous rocky gravel bike/hike trail, which is 7 miles one way from the RV campground to the park office. We have done cave tours in the past, so we will skip those this time. Hope the weather improves. It's going to be quite chilly this week with lots of clouds. See you soon on a few of those biking/hiking excursions!

Bye for now.....