Small town with a BIG heart…and a long blog post

First things first, I must start this blog entry with an apology. To the state of Indiana.
Indiana, I am sorry, please forgive me.

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As I am discovering with each mile we travel, assuming the whole of the USA is identical just because it is technically one landmass is ridiculous; this simple coincidence of geography certainly does not make all states alike.
Albeit through my eyes, these posts may be providing to you a small flavour of the differences between each state, changes in the environment, the history and in the general feeling as we cross each border. Journeying together through Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky and getting a glimpse of their nature, each state unique.

I have approached each new location with a sense of excitement and curiosity, wondering what differences I might see and what personality the land may take; because I do feel each landscape has its own strong presence.
So I feel that during my first couple of days in Indiana, I have been unjust in my view and opinion. I can’t quite explain why, but my first impressions of the state were a little lacklustre to say the least. I even went so far as to use the words “dull, boring and lack of personality” to describe how I felt driving through the first blocks of countryside in the south.
And for this I can only apologise profusely, because as it turns out, Indiana is now probably my favourite state so far; putting a real cat among the pigeons in my thoughts of a future lifestyle and destination.
So let’s find out how all of this came to be, shall we?

During our overnight stay in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Loops and I decided to do a little firming up of our travel plans, specifically placing a little more emphasis on heading to a particular destination in the near future, rather than simply pointing Belle in a ‘northwards’ direction. As it happens, while Loops and I were readying for our travels down in Florida, he made friends with a couple of fellow Bluebird owners, Ron and Dorinda. As luck would have it, they happen to live north of our current location in the state of Michigan, and we felt it would be a fabulous plan to head up and spend some time with them. All we had to do was cross through Indiana, due north!

The quickest way to achieve this according to Loops was to head straight up the I-65, to Indianapolis, and then onto the I-69 which would deliver us into the heart of Michigan. This is probably where my unfair apathy for Indiana began.
I hate the motorway.

In all honesty I have been spoiled by backroad traveling since we started, having probably spent only about 10% of our time driving on the ‘super slab’. I have come to loathe the boredom that comes with staring at six lanes of traffic, never-ending bumpy asphalt that always seems to be under some sort of repair and the monotonous scenery that tends to go with these roads. Additionally, I will admit I was feeling put out by the fact that I had looked at the map and wanted to head further east into the Hoosier National Forest and to visit the town of French Lick, a popular historic resort with lots of outdoor activities; and Loops pretty much put the kibosh on that with the ‘northwards and now’ plan. So, the I-65 it was then.

We crossed into Indiana over the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky; which forms the dividing line between the two states. I was totally unprepared for the jolt of amazement and joy I felt upon seeing the bridges at this crossing. Everywhere I looked there was one type of steel girder bridge after another, all mashed together in one small space, it was beautiful in an extremely industrialised fashion. It reminded me sharply that beauty doesn’t just necessarily come in the form of nature and wilderness.

Into Indiana we drove, my gloomy mood palpable as we made our way up the interstate, passing nothing but cars and corn fields, nothing I was interested in while being a complete grumpy pants. Belle carried us capably north into Scottsburg where Loops had booked us into a Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park campground at Raintree Lake for three days, to give me time to complete some more school work; but also to give us a brief breather from the continuous one day travel trips we had been taking for the past week. Contrary to what most people might think, it does actually get a little disorientating and wearing after a while when you park your house somewhere different every night!

This would be our first time trying out a Jellystone Park, they are a network of campgrounds mostly on the east coast and in the mid-west, aimed primarily at family camping. This means they tend to have a whole host of on-site activities that guests can take part in, rather than simply being a flat grassy spot where you can park your bus for the night. The park we visited had a very pleasant and helpful elderly pair as its hosts and was well maintained, but I was a little bummed out they made you pay extra to play putt putt golf (I’ve been hankering for a game for a couple of weeks, but as their course was just flat and a bit dreary, we didn’t bother paying the extra to have a go). I did get a kick out of the fact they had tractor rides with Yogi Bear and if I was a little younger I may have jumped aboard; because I watched the kids chug by in the trailer, singing and waving along with Yogi and boy, it looked like they were having a blast (far more exciting that writing an assignment on pharmacology)!

Loops and I contented ourselves with biking around the site (the host lady warned us not to go out on the road, proclaiming the local drivers as lunatics behind the wheel), and playing catch with our baseball mitts. However, the lack of ability to wander further afield with the Blue Bandit was just another grumble about why Indiana was a bummer. And yes, I was just being really quite petty and grouchy over nothing, I realise now. A good thing there were better times ahead then!

In the interest of saving money (and just because Loops really likes touring RV stores – a new geeky hobby for him) we made our way to Camping World just south of Indianapolis, to check out their wares and spend two nights in the car park. In a rather wonderful gesture to RV owners, this particular Camping World lets you park on site and even plug into their 50 amp electricity service – for free!
We arrive to find the car park in a state of disarray, it seems that the store is having a full constructional makeover inside and as a result they have rather amusingly decided to move all of their goods out into the car park under massive canopy tents for the summer. Is it me, or is that just the most obvious strategy for having people steal things in the dead of night?

In addition to the outdoor peddling of their merchandise, there appear to be a rather surprising number motorhomes parked everywhere (who would have thought that at an RV store, right?) – making space pretty limited and results in us having to do three laps around the car park in order to find a spot for Belle (luckily before I got too dizzy).
Out we hop for a little bit of browsing through the stacks before the heat became just too unbearable and we retreated back inside the bus again. It was at this point that Loops declared we wouldn’t need to be cooking dinner tonight because he had made plans. Plans? That sounds interesting.
“To go where?” I enquire.
“It’s a secret.” He replies.

So I do a little internal bouncing while I write yet more assignments, very excited about the surprise for the evening. It’s around 6pm when Loops calls time on work and I find he’s set up our bikes outside. An expedition! How thrilling!
We set off peddling out onto the busy roadway surrounding the Camping World site. Despite Loops’ promise of pavements to cycle on so we don’t get smattered on the road, there are none to be seen, resulting in us bumping across the grass verges and weaving through car parks as we make our way to…well, I’ve yet to find out. After about 10 minutes riding, Loops’ crosses us across one final road and into a large strip mall car park. The place seems fairly deserted but as I glance at the shops in front of us, I can guess where we are headed – to the Mumbai Grill, an Indian restaurant!

Now, I have a love for curry, more specifically, any curry that is not hot and spicy but rather sweet to the taste buds. We’re talking korma, passanda, a little madu murgh. And while you can’t swing a cat in the UK without hitting an Indian takeaway or restaurant, there seems to be a slight dearth here in America; not a nation of curry lovers it seems. So for Loops’ to indulge me with this surprise, well, that’s rather sweet isn’t it?

It’s as we pull up to the front door that I can visibly see Loops is having second thoughts. He’s stopped and is glancing around at the lack of patrons. I can tell he’s a bit put off and is wondering if the restaurant is closed. To make sure, he peers in the window.
“There’s someone inside, but…I’m not so sure” he says.
Well, there’s no way now that Indian food has been offered up that I’ll be swayed from it. Loops has taken the time to arrange this and by god, I’m eating curry and will be thankful for it!

The moment we walk through the door, I’m not sure if I want to burst out laughing, or run for the hills. For a start, there is a picnic bench sitting directly to the right of the door, seemingly to serve as the welcome podium. There is an Indian bloke sat behind it fiddling with his mobile phone and it takes him at least a minute and a half, while we stand there in utter confusion, before he looks up at us expectantly.
“Uh, table for two?” Loops enquires uncertainly.
“Oh sure,” the man replies, and waves vaguely at the six tables in the room. “Just pick a table.”
Now I’m not sure about you, but if I want into a dining establishment labelled a restaurant, I’d expect someone to get up and walk me to a table and say hi and introduce themselves. At least here in the US, that seems to be the custom.

So we kind of bumble over to the table and sit down, not really sure what to expect next. The tables are a plain as can be, they are glass, with nothing on them. No tablecloth, napkins, silverware, no menu – nothing. There is no-one in the restaurant but us. And still the man remains at his picnic bench.
Hmm. At least it gives me time to look around, not that there is much to look at. There is absolutely no decoration in the room at all. Not even colour on the walls. Besides the few tables, chairs and picnic bench, there is a free standing drinks cooler and a small counter with a till. And that’s it. Oh, apart from the open archway leading into what appears to be a butchers shop. Yes, it appears our eating establishment is also the local halal butcher.

Loops really does look uncomfortable, but of course I am still in my reassuring mode, I want him to see I completely appreciate the fact he’s taken the time to attempt to make me happy. It doesn’t matter at all that he whispers over to me in a deadly serious tone that he thinks this is simply a front for some local organised crime and that we probably should leave.

It’s at this point our picnic man joins us, still looking at his phone, and hands us a menu, plates and silverware, and then attempts to leave.
“Hang on, can we get some drinks please?” Loops asks.
“Of course” the man tells us, and he waves to the drinks cooler, “Choose whatever you like.” And off he wanders.
We are now totally alone and I can’t help but giggle and feel completely ridiculous as I walk over to grab our drinks. This is like some episode of the Twilight Zone.
At least the food on the menu I recognise and go with as basic an order as I can, chicken korma. The man stares at me a little quizzically. “You know this has no spice, yes?” I tell him yes, and that I am happy with no spice.
While we are waiting for our food a family of three show up and order, followed by two large burly men. All are Indian. I hope the additional people will reassure Loops, but he looks no happier.

Our food arrives and now I am a bit bemused. For a start, my korma is the wrong colour. Or at least, korma as I know it. I am expecting a light coloured, cream maybe yellowish sauce. This is brown. Deep brown. My chicken is also different. It has bones in it. I basically have big boned chicken pieces in my korma. Ok, this has thrown me for six. Still, I press on and give it a whirl. Within my first 2 bites I’ve downed half of my drink, the heat in the curry is really too much for me and it doesn’t taste anything like the sweet and creamy sauce it should. I have no idea what I am eating. My determination overrules my taste buds however and I eat almost the whole meal, smiling.

Finally, when I feel we’ve made enough of an effort for the evening, we hop back on our bikes and I laugh happily about the whole scenario pretty much the whole way back to the bus. But we are not going to the bus it seems. Loops carries on riding past Camping World and a little way down the street, turning left into…a putt putt golf course! Sitting right next door to us is the Otte Gold and Family Fun Centre, how could I have missed that?
My excitement gets the better of me and I skip and hop along as we make our way around 18 holes of putt putt. I suck, of course, without a doubt. In some cases it takes me 5 or 6 tries to sink a ball on a par 2 course. But it’s so much fun and they even have a stereo system around the course which is playing the sort of music I sing along too, so sing and bop I do.

It’s as we are halfway around the course that I notice something even cooler that the golf – they have batting cages too!
Yes, for those of us who wish to live out their American dream, a batting cage is on the ‘to do’ list. It’s all too much to cram into one evening though, so the next night Loops and I come back to try our hand at hitting a few baseballs. I might not be Arnold Palmer when it comes to putt putt golf, but I can at least manage a decent baseball swing.
Though he grimaces when I sling on the hard plastic helmet on offer (germs and all, he says); Loops gives me a clear run through of where I should stand so as not to be knocked clean out by the hard baseballs being flung at speed towards my head. I prepare to be embarrassed by my lack of skill and apologise for this even before we begin, but am pleasantly surprised that after a few misses (and a couple ‘oh my god there are baseballs being flung at me by a machine’ side stepping moments), I actually manage to have a fair swing and knock a few balls far and wide.

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I start with at the slow softball cage, which I assume are the easiest as they are a little larger, before moving on to the baseballs. I was suitably enthralled with my own performance, but was more impressed when Loops stepped into the cage to swing. Yes, it’s obvious the boy has played ball before and I was quite content to watch him swing away and smile smugly at any ladies walking by.

The following day we set out north-east, once again on the motorway, but today I am feeling less glum after our two pleasant days. Loops and I have been slightly at odds as to where to stay for the next couple of days – I having found what I thought was an interesting woodland site called Crane Lake at a Naval Surface Warfare Division base (how cool does that sound?!); but Loops felt the internet amenities there weren’t great (especially for my school work) and thought that he found a better spot at an Elks Club in a small town called Auburn, Indiana. We slung it back and forth a bit, but finally decided to give the town a go, especially as it had cycle friendly roads and a couple museums we could visit.

And it is here that my state apology goes into full swing, for I have fallen a little bit in love with the town of Auburn and its residents.

As we rumble into town down 7th Street, the first thing I am surprised by is that there is a definitive town centre still here, unlike so many smaller towns we have driven through. It’s not packed full of shops necessarily, but I can spot a barber, a bank, a couple small clothing stores and cafes. Very impressively and impossible to miss, right there at the heart of the town is the beautiful DeKalb County Superior Court, a grand looking three storey building with columns and town clock. It is set off by the perfectly manicured grass, trees and colourful flowers. In fact, the next thing I notice is that the whole town has a beautiful array of flower decorations. Everywhere I look, a kaleidoscope of blossoms are in bloom.

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7th Street – Auburn, IN
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DeKalb County Court
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Flowers! – how do the get one single flower head to produce two different colours?

 

We turn right on South Union Street which brings us to the Auburn Elks Club. Loops pulls us in and has a chat with one of the local members who helps get us hooked up with power. When he discovers we have a slight issue with the plug, a couple of the members immediately search for a solution to help fix the problem. How lovely of them, I thought.
It’s while everyone is busying themselves that a big pick-up truck pulls into the car park and out jumps a chap with a large welcoming grin and a handshake. This is George, and he’s a Bluebird owner who lives nearby. He heard that we were coming into town and he’s just stopped in to welcome us to Auburn and invite us over to his house for dinner on Sunday. Yes, this man does not know us from Adam and he has specially popped over when we arrived to say hi and insist we come for food at his place over the holiday weekend (4th July). Wow. Just wow. This would never happen at home.

Of course we accept and it seems the warm reception for us continues, as we are then invited to join the Elks in the club for dinner that evening! So we spend the afternoon getting ourselves settled before taking the plunge and going to meet some of the folks who live here.
Now, I feel maybe I should say a word of two about the Elks, because before coming to America, I’d never heard of them. In a nutshell, they are basically a national organisation who have local social groups who like to do charitable work. They put on events and such to help to raise money for causes mostly focusing on youth, veteran or local community issues. Up until now the Elks car parks we have stayed in have usually been when the club itself has been closed. The twice I have been in an Elks club I have found them to have a membership that tends to be at the older end of the age spectrum, for members to be focused around sitting at a bar and it’s hit and miss as to whether they allow smoking inside or not (the last club we were at I couldn’t stay for more than five minutes because the smell of the smoke made me feel ill). So it is with a little trepidation that I step into the Auburn club.

Well, what an amazing surprise the residents of this town are. We were welcomed jovially inside by Guy, a wonderfully talkative gentleman who proved to be a fantastic host for the evening, and I can certify that the members of the club are anything but elderly!
Guy seated us with his cohort of friends, about 7 or 8 other people, all busily chatting with each other and invited us to order some food. The recommendation from most of the group was to try the burgers, so I ordered a mushroom and Swiss and waited with baited breath. Best. Burger. Ever.

We spent a good few hours finding out about peoples work and lives in the town, talking about our travels, the UK and their suggestions for our visit to the Auburn. I met an equine dentist, a physical therapist, a tire manager and a chap who owns a bar in the town – and who invited us to stop by for lunch and a drink. I also met a lovely British lady called Rosie, originally from Leicester but had moved out to the US for her husband’s work, loved it so much and never left.
All of these people living their different lives in this little town, but as I talked with them and listened, I realised there was with one common thread that linked them all tightly – they all love Auburn. They all love their small town, some so much, that they grew up here, moved away in some cases for 15-20 years and have come back, because this is where they most wanted to live.
As the hours ticked by and the food vanished, the emphasis in the club moved to small poker games taking place at a mix of tables, accompanied by raucous laughter; and a card competition to raise funds for a local charity. Then came the drinking.

Now anyone who knows me well knows I don’t drink. Like at all. Not a glass of wine at the end of an evening, a beer on a hot day nor a sip of a cocktail. Nowt. So when Rosie came over to me, very excited that we should take part in the shotski, I obviously politely declined. For those who are unaware of what a shotski is, it basically does what it says on the tin – it is a ski with shot glasses mounted on it, for three or four people to simultaneously drink.
Guy had spent some of the evening already telling us about the shotski, having never seen one before, because he actually hand makes and custom designs them for his friends as a hobby. In fact, the shotski at the Auburn Elks was made by him.
So after a little more encouragement, and an assurance if I really wanted they’d fill the glass with water, I decided to give the shotski a go. As it turned out, two different shots were made up for me to try – a Slutty Redhead and a Buttery Crown – so I took a sip of each to test and decided to fully give it a go. With a little bit of a crowd and some cheering I did my first ever shots – two of them!

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Time to decide – water or whiskey!
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Button, Rosie and Loops trying the shotski!
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Yes, that’s the face I make when I drink alcohol. Much to everyone’s delight! 

 
It was only afterwards that I enquired what it was I actually drank and was told that the Slutty Redhead is made of Jägermeister, peach-flavored schnapps, and cranberry juice and the Buttery Crown is Crown Royal and Butterscotch Schnapps. For those of you, like me, not into your liquor, Crown Royal is whiskey. I drank whiskey! Me!

It was not long after the shots that we decided to call it a night, but what a fabulous and unexpected evening. Even more amazingly generous, at the end of the night we came to find that Guy had paid for our meal and the ladies of the club had paid for our shots – such big hearted people who have been so kind to two complete strangers. Thank you Auburn Elks, and a special thank you to Guy, Rosie, Deb and Karen!

The following day we decided to take in the full atmosphere of the town with a cycling tour. I was woken in the morning by voices, voices that I couldn’t pinpoint the origin of and it wasn’t until I stepped outside that I realised the sounds were coming from down the street, over a tannoy system. Loops and I mounted up and cycled down the leafy street to see what was going on, and stumbled into what turned out to be a local three day barrel racing competition.
Gals and guys on horses, bursting into the sandy arena one at a time to twist and turn their steeds around the barrels and then dashing out again as fast as they can. We stay and watch for about ten minutes, and I notice that the competitors ride western saddle, not English, and no-one wears any type of head protection in case they are thrown. What I do like is that everyone here seems very normal and down to earth, and by that I mean that when I think of horse owners I usually associate them with middle and upper class folks, because at home that’s what many seem to be given the costs of owning and caring for an animal. Everyone here just looks like Joe Average, and I like that very much.

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Milling around waiting to race

 

Climbing aboard the bandit with my hand drawn map at the ready, we set off up and down the quiet back streets of Auburn to see what we can see. I spend most of our ride nosing at people’s houses as always, once again drawn to the unique design of each house. Rather than the carbon copies you would be sure to see in a housing estate, you can easily tell that each house in this town has been built at a different time and by a different hand. As we cycle from the south and up North Main Street, the houses become larger and more decorative with immaculate gardens, fences and curving porches. I realise that I am particularly fond of the more gothic style of buildings where you will find that one corner of the house has a rotund corner and tower. Loops thinks they look creepy and haunted but I think they are rather beautiful, and I even make the effort to tell one lady so, as we cycle past her house while she sits on her porch.

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When Loops declares he has seen enough houses for the day (there are never enough houses in my opinion) we turn once again south and our thoughts turn to lunch. We find ourselves back on 7th Street which happens to be where Crickets on 7th Street Bar and Grill is based, the pub we were invited to by its owner, Jack, last night. As we pull up our bikes across the street, we hear a shout and look over and see Jack waving at us from the door.
Crickets is a bar with a history, it’s been in business a long time in the town and passed through a number of owners hands. Back in the day it was the social place to be it seems; old time residents would come in and play cards, drink and hang out with their friends, a regular community hub.
Over lunch Jack shows us the framed photos he has of when Crickets was at its heyday and explains the changes that have taken place over time. For a start, it once was about twice the size it is now. However one of the previous proprietors sold off part of the building, threw up a wall and so now it’s more in the style of a friendly local hole in the wall to eat and drink. There are a couple of older pieces of furniture behind the bar to hold drinks, a few tables scattered around and one of the walls has been uncovered to reveal the old brick work behind it.
Jack has only recently bought the bar, but talks of his plan to open up the back of the building so there will be a nice seating area and garden outside. He’s a quiet but genial man and again talks of his love of the local town and community and really give me the feeling that given a bit of time, Crickets would have the same kind of ambience that you’d find in the Cheers bar, a local place where everyone knows your name.

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Jack behind his bar!

 

Jack and his girlfriend, who works at the bar, gives us some tips for going to look at some of the local art work that is scattered around the town, a community project which was installed earlier this year. They particularly recommend the ‘glittery tree’ on the site of the old school, and give us directions to get there. It is as we go to pay for lunch and leave that Jack’s girlfriend waves us away, he’s already paid for our lunch and drinks she tells us. I want to simultaneously cry and hug Jack all at once. I love these people. I love this town. After less than 24 hours of being in Auburn, I want to move here and have these people be my neighbours and friends.

Feeling full of good cheer and love I happily cycle south down the streets, keeping my eye peeled for art work, and spotting the tree after a couple minutes searching. It makes me feel carefree to look at it, swaying gently in the breeze, throwing the light this way and that. I also note it sits just near the local library, which happens to be located in what looks to be an old church, or at least that is the impression the building style and windows give it. Sadly being the holiday weekend it is closed; otherwise I would have very much like to have spent some time browsing inside.

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The Glittering Tree
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Auburn’s local library

 

We decide to ride all the way to the end of town and cycle around the local park, Carr Field, situated next to the community swimming pool. The park is moderately sized but perfectly formed – with a walking/cycle path around the outskirts of it, mature thick trees dotted around and a stream running through the centre of it, with small foot bridges to cross. It’s quiet and peaceful and through one of the hedges half way around, you can see the Woodlawn Cemetery next door. We pass two ladies sitting on one of the benches, one looks to be quilting as she talks to her friend; a jogger and two other ladies on bicycles. It’s nice to see people out and about in the town on foot and bikes after being so used to most places being only car accessible.
At the edge of the park we decide to take up another one of the suggestions we were given last night, to visit The Brown House, one of Auburn’s best known establishments, for ice cream. The Brown House looks basically like a small brown temporary wooden shed but has a long history, having been around for decades in town. It seems to have started pretty much as a single shack selling quick cooked food and drinks, a mini McD’s if you would, and over the years has maintained enough popularity that it is still in business today – and has doubled in size, making it look like two sheds bolted together. It is unique to say the least.

Loops and I plonked ourselves at a small table outside and licked at our ice creams while deciding what else to pack into our day.
Fast approaching 3pm, after a bit of umming and ahhing we decided to spend a couple hours at the town auto museum. And for those into cars, this is where it gets interesting.

Auburn is a famous town. It is. Even if, like me, you’ve never heard of it until now. For it is here that the Auburn Automobile Company was founded in 1900, producing their first luxury touring car just three years later. The company later went on to be taken over by Cord and then Duesenberg, both famed for their racing car production, making cars that were popular in Hollywood. If you know anything about racing cars, you’ve probably heard of Duesenberg and the two German brothers, Fred and Augie Duesenberg, who designed and made the vehicles that became famous in the racing world. Even if you haven’t heard of them per se, you might have heard the term ‘It’s a doozy’, which was thought to be coined in the 1920’s to reflect the awe that people had for their cars (It’s a Duesy).

It is because of this famous history that right on the edge of town sits the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2005. And it is here in the blessedly cool and quiet museum that Loops and I spend the next two hours, wandering from room to room, with me wishing I could go back in time with modern day money to buy one of these phenomenally beautiful cars for the 1910 price of $600. We visited all three floors (with me having a particular interest in wanting to know how on earth they got these cars up to the 2nd and 3rd floors) until finally closing time was called and we had to depart.

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Despite all we had packed into our day, I still didn’t want it to come to an end, so with a little bit of cajoling Loops agreed to do yet some more cycling; this time heading north and out of the town to try and make our way towards the next town over, Waterloo. The reason for this trip was that I had been told that there was a designated walking and bicycle path that had been built between the two towns, five miles in length, and I wanted to see if it was true. And indeed it is.
Flat as a pancake, like the majority of Indiana we had seen, there is a wonderfully maintained path running next to the road, but not on it, leaving Auburn and wandering off into the distance. We took about a fifteen minute ride along, passing the local veterinary surgery and massive new high school and a sports complex, before we called time and turned around. Not before checking out the price of a house we saw for sale along the pathway…did I say how much I liked this town already?

The next day passed quickly and quietly while I worked through some more school work and we had a rest from our full day adventures, but come 5pm we jumped back on the bikes and headed to the very outskirts of town to meet up with fellow Bluebird owners George and Debbie, who had invited us for dinner the day we pulled in.
Now I have to say I always feel apprehensive about situations where I meet new people, I am absolutely hideous with small talk and unless the conversation is about something I am firmly knowledgeable about, I tend to just sit in silence and listen rather than talk. So the idea of going to have dinner at the house of an absolute perfect stranger is rather a shock to my system and something I dread.

However, George and Debbie are friendly and hospitable it’s rather hard to be scared of them. They have prepared us a feast of food consisting of bbq pork ribs, sweet potato, corn on the cob and watermelon. It’s delicious. We sit around with them and their miniature dachshund, Shorty Dog, and talk about our buses and travels, swapping stories about things that have gone a bit awry, before George offers to take us over to visit their bus.
I have discovered recently that much like my interest in houses, I love looking at other people’s Bluebirds and comparing the similarities and differences. And because I’m biased, yes, I love Belle the most out of all of them.

George and Debbie keep their bus in a barn local to them, a small piece of land where George has actually built the ultimate man cave. It’s about the size of a several large farm buildings in one and contains three separate areas – a barn for his bus, a garage and workshop area for his cars and boys toys and a final room that is used as a socialising den, but is as big as an open plan office. We spend half an hour or so looking over their bus, discussing the differences in our designs and chatting over the work they have done to the interior of theirs. We decide it would be nice for them to visit Belle too, so after a quick stop back at their house for a slice of cheesecake, we peddle back to town at the speed of lightening before they come over to join us about ten minutes later for a reciprocal tour and then our farewells.

And so draws to a close our time in Auburn.

Two days but already I feel like this town has a special place in my heart. It feels like just the sort of place that I held in my head as the small American town I was searching for; the mix between the physical areas you feel comfortable in and the community of open and welcoming people who you would want as your neighbours and friends. And I found it right here in Indiana, the state I cared so little for when we arrived, who would have thought?

Auburn, Indiana. Thank you.
Thank you to all of its residents, you are amazing.

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3 thoughts on “Small town with a BIG heart…and a long blog post

  1. Bunny

    Wow, Auburn seems like a magical place! Almost too good to be true as though when you swing back ’round, you won’t be able to find it again, and Jack and George and Debbie will all have been part of a perfect dream. Except that I googled it and it’s real so, phew! Seriously though, it sounds like trail magic the way you guys were welcomed and treated to meals and (woah!) drinks. Very cool.

    Like

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