Monday, January 19, 2015


Indiana is my second-least favorite state to drive through. It's one of the smallest states in the union, but it must be #1 in tolls per capita.

Cein and I arrived in Indiana under the cover of darkness. He was moving from California to Vermont in the summer of 2000 and invited me along for the ride. After spending the day at the Wisconsin Dells, we arrived in Indiana in time to set up camp at Indiana Dunes State Park. We lit a campfire that night and were given a sarcastic "Good Camper" award by the ranger for not using leaves to start the fire. We used notebook paper and paper towels. And maybe a few leaves.

The next morning we hit the beach on the shore of Lake Michigan. This was my first visit to any of the great lakes. Monumental!

I rushed towards the shore. The boardwalk from the parking lot to the sand was long and flanked by tall sand dunes. At last, I reached the water. The lake was huge and looked more like an ocean. A calmer, warmer, cleaner ocean. The water was clear and blue, and it even sported a few waves.

The first view of the shoreline at the Indiana Dunes
I marveled as I scanned left, and then right. As my swiveling head caught the view due east, I got a full view of Indiana's big, smelly behind. A power plant was perched right on the shore, ruining the view and emitting quite the odor over the whole lake. Great lake? Not so much.

The eastern view from the Dunes
After a quick swim, it was back into the Audi, time to commence our journey east. As soon as we got on the highway, there was a forty cent toll. Ten miles later it was another forty cent toll. And another toll. And another. This went on for the duration of our drive through the state. We must've paid $16 in tolls, one forty cent deposit at a time. Meanwhile, the entire western half of the country costs nothing to drive through and it's much more interesting.

The only thing worse than the silly toll system in Indiana is the stench. The smell of factory is everywhere. I imagined Michael Jackson growing up in nearby Gary, a town that frequently emits this odor. No wonder he went nuts. I visited Gary once. My friend Matt and I caught a minor league baseball game featuring the hometown Gary Rail Cats during my staycation between jobs in 2012. I usually enjoy the heck out of these games. This one came at a novel time in my life, and Matt caught a foul ball (gave it to a kid, of course), but the truth was we could never get far enough away from that sour, pungent smell to really enjoy ourselves.

The stench, and the tolls, go for miles.

As I crossed the state line, I was glad to put Indiana in the rearview mirror. I was sure it would be the worst state we'd drive through. Little did I know what lurked on the other side of the border...

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