Day 1: 16 June

Mileage: 97590
Departing: Pittsburgh, PA
Time of Departure: 2:00 PM EDT

Never underestimate the amount of stuff that can be thrown — er, packed — into an '87 Chevy Celebrity wagon. Or the amount of time that it takes to do so. You can learn a lot about yourself by picking up and moving; all our possessions were suddenly cast in sharp relief, and the urge to pare down what remained after selling some belongings and giving others to friends and the Salvation Army was still powerful.

We finally left Pittsburgh about four hours after we'd originally planned. Lis and Henele helped us with the packing, and Lis helped us by buying us ice cream and taking four photos of us at the car. Too many? You be the judge.

The drive itself was uneventful, though due to our late start we didn't get as far as we'd planned. We drove through the remaining western bit of Pennsylvania, through Ohio (a state that looks small in the atlas but isn't!), and into Indiana. At dusk we rolled into Indiana Dunes State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan. This is when things began to get interesting.

Surprisingly, the campground we found was utterly deserted. We parked by some picnic tables, ate dinner out of our cooler, and pitched our tent on a soft, sandy dune across the road, next to another picnic table. The sky was clear, and the moon and stars were hanging phenomenally bright over the trees on the dune. It was gorgeous — the perfect place to sleep. Exhausted, we climbed into the tent and were asleep by 10 PM.

We should have known it was too good to be true. Three hours later, we were woken out of a dead sleep by an announcement delivered over a megaphone: "Will the owner of the vehicle with Michigan plates blah blah blah move your car now, or it will be towed!" Lisa panicked, and Joe stumbled groggily out of the tent to greet the visitor. Apparently, this park ranger told us, we had chosen to camp in what was a picnic area only. Of course there had been no signs to tell us this, nor any visit from this friendly ranger earlier in the evening to warn us that we'd need to vacate the premises. Nevertheless, we were told to move our tent and car to the camping area immediately (to which he kindly provided us directions).

The actual camping area was a sea of RVs. No wonder we had thought the campground was deserted — the party was obviously here! These weren't just ordinary trailers; these were full-fledged vacationing machines, complete with blinking Chinese lanterns, electrical generators, noisy kids, and just as rowdy adults. Lamenting the loss of our secluded spot on the dune, we somehow settled down once more, managing to get a full night's sleep.

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Miles Covered: 435 Miles
Cover | [ Day 1 ] | Day 2 | Day 3 | The Badlands | Day 4 | Day 5