Shakedown Drive – Day 1 & 2

If I’m going to be living out of my car for the next year I figured I should test out the configuration, so I’m off on a short test run. This is also helping in my semi/mostly-serious plan to visit all states in a 12-month period. Doing a loop through the Midwest out to St Louis and back.

So far I’ve figured out I need to pack less stuff. And possibly need to remove the back seat so I can organize things better. The intention for next year is to be in a tent most nights, but I want the option to sleep in the car as well for those nights when tenting isn’t an option. Right now with all my crap it’s a little cramped in the car and I threw some stuff around haphazardly to get the bed set up, so changes definitely need to happen.

Part if this test-run is also starting to figure out how I’m going to handle blogging and posting pictures on the trip using the cell phone, so here goes…

Day 1: Ohio and Indiana

Stopped at Hueston Woods State Park for some bird-watching. I’d hoped to see black vultures – they used to congregate all over the lodge – but there weren’t any that day. I did see a bald eagle nearby so that was cool. The lodge has a fantastic lobby with an amazing fireplace.

This roof should be covered with vultures.

from The Overlook Book of Hotel Design

After the park I headed to Indiana. My next stop was supposed to be Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge but after getting a flat I got to visit a tire store instead. At least I’ll be starting the cross-country trip with two new tires.

I’m trying to use free campsites as much as possible, so my first night was spent tenting off a gravel road in Hoosier National Forest. Easy to find spots when it’s light out – less so two hours after sunset. Tent setup by headlights went fine, but I sort of gave up on getting the rainfly attached correctly. Fell asleep to the sounds of owls and coyotes in the distance (plus the sound of sleet hitting the tent).

Day 2: Indiana and Kentucky

Packed up before sunrise – I think the temperature dropped to around 30°F. Was glad I had my 0° sleeping bag with me.

Spent the morning searching for sandhill cranes. They winter in the area in the thousands. It’s an awesome sight (and sound) – fields filled with cooing, gurgling 4-ft tall birds. I’m a little bit early but was hoping that some would have arrived.

I first tried Ewing Bottoms – an area of low-lying fields and country roads near the East Fork of the White River, west of Brownstown. In previous years when I’ve come through in February the cranes were everywhere. Today, in early December, there were none (though I did see kestrels, a harrier, a Cooper’s hawk, and an immature bald eagle amongst other things). A number of the roads were partially-flooded which made navigating in my non-high-clearance vehicle fun.

Next stop was Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge near Seymour, Indiana. In the winter the cranes like to spend their days in the nearby fields and their nights in the park. My GPS irritatingly first took me to a closed side road into the refuge, but on the plus side right across from the desd-end road I found my cranes! Across a few fields right next to a housing development there were around 800 of them.

Driving through the refuge itself revealed a number of other birds, including four different types of woodpeckers.

Final stop of the day was supposed to be Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, but with the sun setting at 4:30pm Central I only had time for a quick drive-through. I’m camping (this time in the car) nearby at a TVA boat ramp so may venture back into the park a bit in the morning. At least I’ll scan the water for interesting birds.

Temperatures down to 27° tonight!

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