The rest of my work at IDEM went well and the close-out briefing was, I think, well-received. Overall, files were well organized- we provided some feedback on weaknesses and will follow-up with reports and check-ins to make sure all is on track. Another successful site visit!
On Friday, I headed north to meet up with my brother for the weekend– he’s about to start his final semester at Valparaiso Law School! I met up with him in Plymouth, a little town where he worked this summer and will continue to do so this semester… For a judge at the town courthouse. I got to see his office, the courtroom, the judge’s office (avid baseball fan), and most importantly, the people he works with. It is an extreme understatement to say they LOVE him! Two women in particular bake for him and love him and want him to get hired full-time. They are wonderful ladies and Josh’s number one fans (besides me of course)!
After spending some time in Plymouth, we dropped my rental car off in South Bend and headed to Culver. Imagine driving along through rural Indiana; field after field of corn, with groups of cattle every so often… Then BAM! There it is- the college campus-esqueness of Culver Military Academy. It was like a hidden Presidential home- you’d only know it was there if you were specifically looking for it- almost like a scene out of LOST. it’s a gorgeous academy for HS students right on a huge lake. A lot of well- known folks have passed through, including George Steinbrenner, the founder of Ekerd, The second wealthiest man in Mexico, and various Olympians and politicos. Some digging into Wikipedia showed that it is one of the largest military academies in the US; about 735 students, over 18,500 acres, the largest indoor equestrian center, champion athletes, the cost of a college education, and Puck from GLEE went there! Amazing.
We spent the evening checking out Valpo, doing a driving tour of the school, and eating dinner at Tony’s where we ate Chicago style deep dish pizza with green peppers– delicious and soooo much cheese!!!
Saturday was a whirl-wind tour. We went to the local farmer’s market and bought a musk-melon, had coffee and an almond croissant at a local coffee shop (fantastic coffee), and then met up with Meghan 2. The three of us headed to hike the Indiana Dunes! We did a nice little 5-mile hike throughout the woods down to Lake Michigan- the craziest part was that it was all on sand; it was like hiking in the mountains with the steep inclines only no soil… Which made it hard but very fun! We did get caught in the rain but the hike was enjoyable and we had a great time. After we got back to the car and spent some time touring around the huge vacation homes (many of the houses were built for the 1939 world fair and are all different styles), we headed to El Salto, a most delicious Mexican restaurant for much deceived chips, salsa, and other munchies. We followed up the Mexican with some homemade ice cream (blueberry cheesecake, cherry cheesecake, and espresso Oreo fudge).
After cleaning up, Josh and I headed out for a nice little walk from his apartment to a near by, Ogden gardens. When we got there, there was a sign talking about the salt creek watershed- I realized it was funded through the 319 program and that I had received the project two days earlier (small world!). We walked around for a while, took a bunch of pictures, and stopped to catch a huge feed train passing by- and the conductor waved to us!
Next stop: Figure 8 Microbrewery- just down the street from Josh’s apartment, f8 as it’s more commonly called, is a tiny brewery with seating for about 12. Their beer menu changes pretty often and the only accompaniments offered are pretzel rods sitting in glasses like flowers on the tables and frozen pizza or frozen burgers. We each ordered a pint (a double bock and a watermelon wheat ale- awesome!) and enjoyed some down time. After relaxing, we drove over to the law school, which was unfortunately locked, but we did get to check out the chapel where graduation will be in December… And we walked around the bookstore and the undergrad hub. I scoped out some valpo paraphernalia :0).
Then, on to the final scenic destination- a local candy factory.
The candy factory is located on the side of the road- even with it’s large sign, it seems like a place that is often skipped over for appearing to be “just another candy store.” One step inside, however, will have you singing the theme song of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… To the right, a large stream of liquid chocolate seeming to pour out of the ceiling; to the right, shelves of old time candy like candy cigarettes, ring pops, nik-l-nips, and candy buttons. Finally, ahead of you, bins and bins of candy; jelly beans, gummy bears, chocolate covered marshmallows, cashews, turtles, pixie sticks, sesame sticks, licorice, dried fruit, jaw breakers… It was awesome! We made a few choice purchases, one of which- grand marnier chocolate covered pecans, was one of the greatest tasting combos ever.
We finished off the night back at Josh’s place with pasta, homemade pasta sauce made with tomatoes from his garden and sliced tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, and cracked pepper… That coupled with some Heineken rounded out the visit perfectly. It went by way too fast, but I’m glad I got to spend a full day in Indiana. It is a really cool place and makes me miss living in the country! Josh, being the awesome brother that he is, got up at 2AM and drove me to O’Hare airport for my morning flight.
Thank you, Josh for a great time! I can’t wait for you to come visit me in DC!