Sunday, August 30, 2015

What I did on my summer vacation: Indiana Road Trip!

It's hard to believe that summer is already coming to a close and the kids are back in school! I'm not sure if any of their teachers will assign them a "What I did this summer" essay, but you never know. To commiserate with their going back to school, I am going to share with you our summer trip. Enjoy.

Not to brag or anything, but our big family trip this summer was a road trip to Indiana. Yep. I know you are all super jealous. I have to admit, though, I love taking road trips with the kids. They are awesome travelers, and no one really gets car sick anymore (we hedge our bets with Dramamine for E). Plus, I love road food. Seriously. Planning the snacks, mapping out (literally) food places to stop at along the way, those are the things that I like when it comes to road-tripping. I am all about the journey. Unfortunately, my husband is more about the "let's just get there as quickly as possible" kind of road-tripper. We manage to peacefully coexist, as long as we plan the route ahead of time. :-)

So, "Why Indiana?" you might be asking yourself. And that is a great question, since Indiana, unless you have friends/family there, seems like an unlikely destination state.  Here's how it went down:
my son has a good friend, with whom he plays soccer. This friend's dad used to play soccer for Indiana University and still has connections to the IU soccer staff. So, he asked us if our son would like to go to the IU soccer camp this summer, and he (our son) said "Heck yeah!" That is not exactly what he said, but he was excited. The camp was 5 days, so one of us could take him, but it's a long enough drive that it wouldn't be worth it to go out and back then out and back again to pick him up, so as long as one person was driving him out and staying, we figured all of us could go. And that, my friends, is how we ended up going to Indiana for our summer trip.

This is M, on the day we dropped him off at camp.

Now, my husband also went to Indiana University, but at a different time than our friend, but he was excited to take a look at the campus and see how things have changed. A lot, apparently, because my main task when we actually got to Bloomington was to make sure we didn't get into a wreck, since Jonathan kept looking this way and that, saying, "Wow! I can't believe how much everything has changed!" and "See that [bar/restaurant/store]? When I was in school, it was half that size [or in a different location, or in the basement]." It was fun to see him get excited about being back, though.

Of course, we spent some time hanging around the IU campus and shopping in the book store. Hence, this photo:

 The kid has never met a hat he didn't like. I think it should be used on their next catalog cover, personally. :-)

Also, as a middle-aged woman trying to buy a t-shirt in a college book store, let me just tell you how depressing it was. Most designs were cut for young, thin girls who don't have boobs or hips, or a waist. I ended up in the "unisex" section hoping to find something that worked. I never did find anything but a sweatshirt. You can hardly go wrong with that, I guess.

A lot of my friends teased me that my Facebook posts all centered around food, but I was really just posting our meals, of which we eat three each day, but apparently it was a lot. :-)

 Anyway, we dropped our oldest son off on campus, got his room organized, then took off, because he was going to start a training session almost right away. It was a pretty serious camp.

The night before, we went to a place called Nick's, which is as divey a place as you can get, and I've been to dives. Again, we went more for nostalgia than actual decent food, but their fries were really good. :-)

Because my husband went to IU, there was a lot of nostalgia eating (see above photo). Our next stop on the nostalgia tour was Mother Bear's, a pizza place. Apparently, they moved their location, but the pizza was as good as Jonathan remembered. For some reason, I didn't get a picture of the pizza (we probably ate it too fast), but I did get a pic of my youngest goofing off (imagine that).

Our next full day was spent hiking over in Brown County, adjacent to Bloomington.  It is a beautiful area, and I could just imagine how gorgeous it is in the fall, with all the leaves changing colors. We did an easy hike though Brown County State Park, which was about a 45 minute drive from Bloomington. They have a number of different trails, but we took one of the easier ones, since it was quite hot out.

I wanted to keep going to the end of the trail, but when part of the trail crossed over the road that led back to our car, the boys decided they had had enough. Babies.

 After our hike, though, we were all pretty hungry and hot, so we drove a little further over to Columbus, IN, a pretty little town with a lot of cute shops and restaurants along its main street. We had lunch at Zaharakos, an authentic soda fountain that's been in operation since 1909. They make their own ice cream right there in the basement, as well as their own syrups for fresh-made sodas. This place was really cool!

There are the counter servers, making our sodas that we had with lunch. The main event, though, is the ice cream. I had a chocolate malt, Elliot just got ice cream in a waffle cone (that they made fresh while we were watching, NBD), and Jonathan had a sundae. All of the ice creams were outstanding, although I had a taste of the butter pecan, which was amazing!! We also really liked the dreamsicle and the cookies and cream.

We liked it so much, we stopped there a second time on our way home so that M would have a chance to experience it.

 The next day we spent walking around Bloomington, which has a really lovely town square. We discovered WonderLab, a really neat science museum for kids. They had a bubble room (yes, dedicated to all types of bubble creation), including this big contraption that made huge bubbles!

They also had a bed of nails and cool climbing structure that E loved.

While we were walking around downtown, we also discovered Square Donuts, just a block away from the hotel.  Holy cow! Were they good! Even though there was breakfast included in our hotel price, it was totally worth going to Square Donuts for breakfast one of those days!

Also near our hotel in the downtown area of Bloomington was Bub's Burgers. Our first time there we had ice cream, but we eventually ate there.They have this thing called the Big Ugly, a burger challenge. We did not get that. Instead, we got the sweet potato waffle fries (with marshmallow creme, natch), which were really good!

I also got the portobello mushroom burger. So good! I was so excited to eat it, I forgot to take a picture until it was half gone! So, this really doesn't do it justice. The mushroom cap was so flavorful and juicy, though. I highly recommend it if you go to Bub's.

Sweet Grass Restaurant  was another place we tried out. We were really happy with the salads. At this point, our bodies were rebelling against all things fried, grilled and fatty, so we stuck with salads. Really delish!

We also spent a full day in Indianapolis, about an hour from Bloomington. Personally, I thought at trip to the Indianapolis Speedway would be waste (I am not a race car gal), but I found it really interesting. We didn't spring for the full tour, opting to just walk around the museum part, but it was still fun.

Next, we spent some time at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Can we say Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Hot Wheels? Mommy totally wins an award for this one!

There was also this really cool exhibit sponsored by National Geographic about ancient cultures and archaeology. They had actual artifacts from 1200 B.C. Egypt (and older) on display! Really amazing for a kids' museum, if you ask me. Here's E pretending to dive into submerged ruins to discover pirate's booty.

Back in Bloomington, we spent another day wandering around the town. We discovered that near the Chocolate Moose, food trucks set up shop every Friday. Although it was pretty hot outside, we still enjoyed the arepas from Juancho's Munchies, and the BBQ from Great White Smoke. Of course, E got ice cream (at this point, we have given up all parental guidelines for what constitutes "healthy" and "meals").

I have to admit, I didn't have huge hopes for our road trip, but was pleasantly surprised by Bloomington, Indiana. Nice people, really good food, and fun things to do. If you find yourself going through there (or making a special trip) you will find yourself well fed and definitely not bored!  Hope you had a fun summer, too!

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