Friday, June 15, 2007

Southern Indiana Sojourn Part 2

So… my wife/boss and I decided we needed to take a couple of days holiday and drag the kids to an amusement park, or something. The choices were Kings Island, Ohio, or Holiday World, in southern Indiana (Santa Claus). Even though Kings Island is geographically closer, I chose Holiday World for the following reasons:

1- I’m sick to death of interstate driving, and to get to Cincinnati from here, it’s pretty much interstates. You can’t see anything, quaint small towns are bypassed, traffic is horrible, the air is smoggy and polluted, and those damn semi-trucks…!

2- The kids have been to Kings Island a couple of times already. They’ve never been to Holiday World, and I haven’t been there since I was a little boy.

Santa Claus Land, 1968

3- If I gotta spend obscene amounts of cash to entertain my youths, I’m gonna do it with good ol’ Hoosier businesses.

Seeing as I am a responsible father and man, I know I need to give the family truckster an oil/filter change and a good going over to make sure it is road worthy. I rotate and air up the tires and the spare. I change the oil and filter. I do all this myself in the driveway because only girls take their rigs to somebody else, like Goodyear/Gemini, to do simple maintenance items.

Anyhoo…after completing the oil change, I’m underneath the vehicle, checking for leaks and admiring my handiwork. I look over at the right front suspension, and I notice some kinda metal rod thingy hanging down. On closer inspection, I see it is a part of the suspension that has broken free from its mounting point on the strut. This unfortunate turn of events has me cursing softly to myself, because I know I cannot pretend I didn’t see the broken part and risk the well-being of my family by driving the truckster on curvy and hilly southern Indiana roads.

stabilizer bar link/metal rod thingy

I break out my Haynes manual, and it tells me the broken part is known worldwide as a stabilizer bar link…not a metal rod thingy. My next step is to go to the AutoZone website and see if they stock such an item. I am not confident AutoZone has the parts I need, because, with my luck, whatever part I need is usually a dealer only part, which the dealer doesn’t stock anyways and it’s on national backorder and it will be a week to ten days before the part is available and will be prohibitively expensive to boot!

Well, I’m here to say now that AutoZone did have the parts I needed, in stock, at their store just up the street! My luck had changed, apparently, probably due to clean living and prayer, or something. Maybe.

I bought two stabilizer bar links, because any real backyard/driveway pseudo mechanic knows it is not prudent to replace only one side of a vital suspension component.

I also bought a special AutoZone/Duralast #40 Torx bit my manual said was essential for removing and installing the stabilizer bar link. See, I am old school. I have an awesome set of tools, but nothing really fancy schmancy like Torx bits and stuff. Torx fasteners should be outlawed. They are an improper method of connecting various auto parts together. That’s what I think.

I get back home and remove the right front tire of the family truckster and discover, much to my chagrin, that, in addition to the Torx bit, I will also need a deep #18 metric socket in order to keep stuff from free wheeling as I try to remove the old stabilizer bar. The metric system is the spawn of Satan. Everybody knows this to be fact, except Chrysler Corporation and Canada. I have a small set of 3/8 drive metric sockets, but none are big enough for this application.

It is now time to go buy a set of ½ drive deep metric sockets! Yippee! I figure I can go to the Lowes just down the street and pick up a set of Kobalt deep metric sockets and get back home quickly. I have some standard Kobalt sockets. Kobalt is a good tool, in case you didn’t know. I try not to buy crap tools, because crap tools suck and make you curse more than you normally would.

Anyhoo…Lowes doesn’t have a set of deep metric sockets in stock. Some Canadians probably bought the last set just before I arrived. Damn Canadians! So, I go to the Sears hardware store a little further up the street. I know they’ll have what I need, and Craftsman tools are the bomb! I buy a set of Craftsman ½ drive metric deep sockets and head back home to the awaiting truckster, which is in the driveway, up on jack stands, looking all forlorn and stuff.

I get busy with the repair work. I snapped off and broke my brand new AutoZone/Duralast #40 Torx bit first thing. I then curse, probably loud enough that the neighbors noticed. Maybe. Duralast tools are not good. They are neither durable nor lasting. I would go so far as to say that Duralast tools suck! Yes. I can make that accurate statement.

All hope is not lost, however, because I know I have an awesome set of Kobalt allen wrenches which may suffice in this situation. I find a suitable allen wrench for my purposes, but then discover that I have clearance issues. I cannot get my new ½ drive #18 metric deep socket and the accompanying wrench on the backside of the link to remove the nut! Another trip to Sears hardware is in order. I’ll need a shallow ½ drive #18 metric socket, and, just to cover my ass, I’ll also get a #18 metric open/box ended wrench and a 3/8 drive #18 metric socket which will fit my air ratchet my dad gave to me after he died.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that a 15-minute driveway oil change has turned into an all day affair. This fact has not escaped my attention either. I am getting shitty and pissed off and tired and hungry and hot and sweaty and cranky too! I decide to use a combination of impact wrench, air ratchet, and the various hand tools at my disposal to finish this bitch of a job before I hurt myself or an innocent bystander. Or something…

As a side note, I’d like to mention that having the right tools can make a job a lot easier. Pretty much. I thought you’d like to know.

Anyhoo…I get both right and left stabilizer bar links replaced at a cost of $45 for auto parts, and about $100 for tools! I am feeling proud of myself and happy, because I know if I would have had the bandits at Goodyear/Gemini do this job, it would have cost me hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars…and I wouldn’t have any cool new tools in my inventory either! How’d that taste, Goodyear/Gemini?

So, the trip to Santa Claus, Indiana is a go!

Since I am a professional driver, I know how important it is to plan a route. I decide I will avoid interstates at all costs. I hate interstates. I will take Indiana State Road 37 south all the way to the Scenic Ohio River Byway, otherwise known as Indiana State Road 66. I will follow SR66 to SR70 to SR245 to Santa Claus, Indiana and Holiday World. Yes. This would prove to be a prudent and beautiful and curvy and hilly route through southern Indiana!

Follow the Yellow Brick Road!

The air was fresh and sweet and not hazy with pollution. My oldest boy asked what the funny smell was. I told him it was fresh country air, or newly mown hay, or hog shit, depending on the odor at the time. I would rather smell pig feces than diesel exhaust. I would be interested to know your opinions on this subject.

We saw wild turkeys. We saw deer. We saw many road kills. We saw a tree that had been cut to about 12 feet from the ground. On top of this tree sat a lawn chair. In the lawn chair sat a straw filled dummy. You will not see these kinds of things from a nasty interstate.

We saw limestone quarries, and I explained how our ancestors were “cutters” and made their living working with limestone.

When we got to the Ohio River, we stopped in a little berg called Derby to pee in their outhouse and stuff. Derby was a nice little place with a riverside park and cute cabins one could rent if one wanted to. It was quiet too, with no annoying roar of continuous vehicular traffic to bother you and make you mad.

The river was cool and looked clean and we saw a barge going downstream. Back in olden times, Derby used to be a big time steamboat stop along the river, with drunken sailors and women of questionable morals hooking up for unsavory activities like gambling and fighting and murder and kissing and stuff.

It was near this area that a miscreant vagabond rebel force, led by Tommy Hines, invaded Indiana during the Civil War. He was looking to rape and pillage and burn everything in sight, but we Hoosiers would have none of it.

Captain Thomas H. Hines with 62 Confederate cavalrymen entered Perry County between Rome and Derby, June 17, 1862. Ambushed near Leavenworth, June 19, most of his command were captured or killed.

Serves them right, the big rebel dopes! Tommy must not have been a very good sneak, or something.

Our next stop on our journey would be the town of Cannelton. Cannelton is famous for its locks on the river.

Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

The locks were cool, and there was a huge barge going through them at the time we passed. I could not get a picture, however, because there was no place to pull off the road, and the locks are US Government Property with barbed wire and ominous signs threatening certain death to all trespassers and photographers with Kodak Instamatics. I blame GW Bush and the terrorists!

At Cannelton, there is also a cool bridge that spans the Ohio River and connects Indiana to Kentucky. The bridge is called The Bob Cummings/Lincoln Trail Bridge. It is cool too!

Bob Cummings was a famous guy who did all sorts of groovy, civic minded stuff for the fine citizens of Cannelton and was instrumental in seeing that the bridge was built prudently and in the right location. We drove on the bridge into Kentucky because the kids think it’s soo bitchin’ to go into another state. Then, we crossed back into Indiana and ate our lunch on the banks of the Ohio River.

Our next and final destination for the day was Santa Claus and Holiday World. Holiday World is a nice and clean park. I recommend it highly. The kiddies loved it and had a ball. They rode the rides and spent a lot of time in the massive water park.

The water park is cool, if you’re into those kinds of things. I’m not, so I was the gear guard while everybody else swam and frolicked in the human stew which is a water park.

Water parks are a place where some people who really shouldn’t be almost totally naked think it’s OK to walk around almost totally naked. I saw corpulent individuals with massive rolls of blubber. I saw various tattoos in almost unmentionable locations. I saw a ridiculous and un-chaperoned youth with multiple pieces of metal pop riveted into his flesh and a bar code tattoo on the back of his neck.

I rode three different roller coasters at Holiday World. If one is to ride a thrill ride, one should ride the roller coasters. Anything else is child’s play. I rode The Raven, The Legend, and The Voyage. All three are neck-snapping roller coasters which violently throw your around and cause pain.

The Voyage is Holiday World’s newest and most gut-wrenching roller coaster. It has claimed at least one life in its short existence. That fact makes it even more cooler and attractive! It rivals Kings Island’s The Beast. That’s what I think. I will need to see a chiropractor soon, I bet. Old people go to chiropractors after riding roller coasters. Sorta. The kiddos rode The Voyage a half dozen times. They are sick, bordering on idiotic.

I saw one couple that was too humongous to fit securely in the roller coaster. They acted as if it was the height of comedy that they were too bulbous to fit in the car. In reality, it was an eye rolling moment for me and the other normally sized park patrons who were waiting for them to buckle their lard asses in! Step away from the all-you-can-eat buffet! That was my thought at the time.

We damn near closed Holiday World. We departed just before it closed.

We were hot and tired and hungry. I wanted Pizza Hut pizza. Nothing else would do. I figured we’d take SR 245 north to SR 62 west to US231 north towards Huntingburg and find us a Pizza Hut where we could have us a pizza pig-out.

Well, SR62 west was closed when we got there, so we had to take it east to SR162 and take it to I-64 west back to US231 north. You following so far? I suggest a map or Google if not.

I wasn’t happy that I had to take a few miles of interstate, but it was my only option at this point as the kids and boss were passing out due to fatigue and hunger pains. We get back to US231 north into Huntingburg, and discovered that the sidewalks and streets had been pretty much rolled up at this point of the night.

We soldiered on north towards Jasper. Jasper is a quaint little town I am familiar with due to my employment as a hospital supply delivery person. I figured we’d find a Pizza Hut and, later, a suitable hotel for the evening. I figured correctly, and we made a mess of two large pizzas…with no anchovies. Anchovies are an improper and imprudent topping for a pizza, and there can be no argument of this fact. The manager and staff at the Jasper Pizza Hut were friendly and helpful and gracious and I gave them a huge tip for being cool. That’s how I roll.

With our bellies fat and happy, we booked two rooms at the Jasper Sleep Inn, where we got one room for the girls, and one room for the boys. The rooms were tidy and clean and the atmosphere quiet. We showered and hit the rack and got a terrific night’s sleep after a busy day.

The next morning I sounded reveille at 8am and we enjoyed a buffet sow-fest style breakfast at Shoney’s right next door to our hotel. Except for the lipstick I discovered on my coffee cup, the Shoney’s dining experience was good…the food was decent and filling. I rarely wear lipstick in the morning, so I knew the dirty coffee cup was an unpardonable error on Shoney’s part. My tip reflected this fact. Pretty much. That’s how I roll.

Now I had to determine a suitable and scenic route north back towards Indianapolis. We were not in any type of hurry, so I figured we’d take US231 north to US50/150 east to SR450 east to Williams and then over to SR37 north back to Indy.

This turned out to be a good route. SR450 is the cat’s meow, meandering through the backwoods and the Hoosier National Forrest! Tree tunnels abound here, as do twisty turny and hilly roads which rival the bestest roller coasters if you drive them like I do!

I attack these roads like a well-trained Formula One driver, like Ruperts BarelyFollow, or something. I make the kids go WHEEE! and WHOOO! when I drive fast on twisty and hilly bits. In fact, the kids will often say, "Le Mans it, Dad!," whenever they see a twirly piece of road ahead. (When my kids say the word Le Mans, they say it in proper American...LEH-MONS'...not the imprudent Frenchy-French way, which is LAY'-MAW... )

Driving with me can be a thrill ride, sometimes. Maybe. It’s a good thing I replaced those stabilizer bar links too, I bet, because I gave them a good sound thrashing!

Near the hamlet of Williams there is a historic covered bridge. It was originally built in 1884, spanning the East Fork of the White River. It is cool too!

Today, various imbeciles, who do not appreciate the value of this historic structure, scar it with graffiti. I would like to strangle these idiots who feel the need to express themselves with spray paint. I would then throw their lifeless carcasses into the East Fork of the White River. That’s what I’d do.

This is a deadly and venomous viper we saw on the covered bridge. It made me do my Snake Dance too! Do you ever do a type of Snake Dance whenever you unexpectedly stumble upon one of these creatures? I know I always do. Snakes frighten me.

My uncle, who is an Indiana University graduate, and, therefore, conversant in these types of things, says this reptile is the dreaded rattle-headed-copper-moccasin. It has fangs 60 feet long and is able to spit lethal poison in your eye from across the road! It has been known to swallow entire schools too! It would behoove all of you to back slowly and quietly away from the above snake should you ever encounter it in the Hoosier wilds.

Also at Williams is the venerable dam.

When I was a lad, we used to go visit the dam and I would marvel at its awesomeness. It was the biggest and most intimidating man made object I had ever seen. It was scary to me at the time, but also thrilling to see and hear the water roaring over the dam.

I remember we kids used to sing a little song when traveling to Williams Dam. It went a little something like this:

We’re getting close to…Williams Dam…it will…make your innards….tickle!

Get it? Dammit? I bet it was the excitement of sorta cursing in front of the adults and getting away with it that made this little ditty so much fun to sing.

Another crude but unrelated song we used to sing at about this same time in my youth went as follows:

Miles and miles of greasy grimy gopher guts

Perforated monkey meat

Even little birdies’ feets

All topped off with green puke and iodine

But I forgot my spoon

Black bear.

Don’t ask me what any of this means. Back in the day, when we went on road trips, we didn’t have GameBoys and IPODs and DVD players in the car to entertain us. We talked to each other and looked out the windows at stuff. The old days were more better. That’s what I think.

Anyhoo…after exploring Williams Dam, we departed for nearby Bedford. Bedford is where my mom and dad grew up. I showed the kids where my dad and mom lived, went to school and church, and even where their great grandparents are buried.

Soon, my youths were getting tired and restless and wanted nothing more to do with reliving dad’s olden times. They wanted to get back home to their satellite TV and intardnets and air conditioning and SpongeBob and Runescape, so we headed north on SR37.

It wasn’t long before we ran into road clogging and air defiling construction and traffic tie-ups.

Welcome to Indy!

I’m really beginning to hate the city, and this little holiday helped to confirm these thoughts.

I would move to the boonies of southern Indiana in a heartbeat if I could afford it and find suitable employment there.

But, I guess that’ll never happen. That’s the trouble with the sticks…ain’t no jobs there to speak of. Great place to retire, though. Probably.

Hopefully, the kids learned a little something on this brief road trip, and will always remember it.

Remembering stuff is always a good thing.

Pretty much.