When last we left our intrepid travelers and their stirring story of adventure and Fun Stuff©…they had finished up with Indianapolis and were headed about 150 miles or so west to Vincennes. Vincennes sits right on US-50 and was planned to be visited on our US-50 trip back in 2019 that was so rudely interrupted by what we now know as the ‘Cody kidney stone incident’…so like the places we visited in Indy the primary purpose of this trip…beyond just getting out of the house and doing *something*…was to catch up on the things we missed there.
We picked up a Subway sandwich for lunch later on and made our way to the metropolis of Shoals, IN to see something called Jug Rock. Having looked at some photos on the intertubes…we had no idea just why it got the name but nonetheless decided to go visit anyway. According to the wikipedia…it is the largest free standing table rock (or mushroom rock) formation east of the Mississippi and was formed somewhere between 286 and 325 million years ago which then eroded along fracture lines to its current shape. It didn’t sound like much to any of us…but we stopped by a lot of strange attractions on US-50 and this was on the list…so there we planned to be. Unfortunately…this was one of two failures we had during the trip through no fault of our own. The problem is that you can really only see the thing from the roadside during the winter when the trees don’t have any leaves on them and as any moron knows June is not the winter in Indiana…so the view from the extremely small you gotta sorta block this little road to park at all parking area was…non existent. Undeterred…Neil ventured the hundred yards or so down the trail to its location in hopes of a decent photo opportunity…but regrettably…not even with the super wide angle 14-30mm lens was he able to get any sort of view at all…so he headed back up to the car. Pro tip here…if you’re going to hike down the steep muddy trail…switch from your everyday Merrell shoes to something with a little more traction…his foot slipped off a root on the way up and he bunged up his knee a bit. Nothing serious, just left some skin behind on the root and had a decent scrape for the next week or so. Since he didn’t get a shot himself…here’s one he borrowed from the interwebs. It’s about 40 feet tall I guess…apparently there’s a companion rock named House rock opposite it but he saw nothing either opposite it or remotely resembling a house…there was a cliff nearby that Jug Rock used to (millions of years ago) be part of.
Undeterred again…he wiped the blood off of his knee and we pressed on. There was supposed to be a park nearby where we were going to eat lunch and kill some extra time until 1500 checkin time at the hotel…emphasis on the ‘supposed to be’. Couldn’t find it so we had our lunch on the road and proceeded on to some other small town we can’t remember the name of and stopped by there to kill said time…but it was brutally hot by then so we ended up going on to our hotel in Vincennes with the thought that if we couldn’t check in early we would just wait in the air conditioned lobby. They weren’t quite ready for today’s customers when we arrived but after 20 minutes or so they had some rooms available so we checked in and had a nice rest until dinner. We headed out to the Elks Lodge 1208 with the intention of having Happy Hour and eat dinner if they had anything for dinner…but they only had bar food so we had some popcorn instead. We had originally planned on heading across the street to a wine bar/restaurant if the Elks had no food but decided we were mostly full so we just went back to the hotel and mushed on pretzels, chocolate bars, and cookies…or as we call it…we grazed.
Thursday morning after breakfast we headed out for our Fun Stuff© in Vincennes and started our day at the Basilica of Saint Francis Xavier which was founded in 1732 while Vincennes was the capitol of the southern portion of what was then known as French Canada. French Canada included both the French speaking portion of what is today Canada as well as what became known later as the Louisiana Purchase…essentially it extended from the Montreal/Ontario area all the way south to New Orleans and westward toward the Pacific. It was divided into upper and lower sections each with their own capitol essentially due to distance and transportation difficulties in the 1700s that far west and Vincennes washout 80% French and the other 20% friendly natives in the area. Like most colonization efforts…the settlers wanted to convert the natives to Christianity…hence the church which because a cathedral which became a basilica later on. There were several churches on the site with the current building being started in 1826 based on plans of the cathedral in Bardstown KY.
Looking toward the altar from the entrance, note the ambo on the right side of the sanctuary with the stairs leading up to it…like many churches of this area the priest read the Gospel and preached from this elevated position.
Painting on the altar…essentially a copy of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
Baptismal font…again typical of the period. We met a very nice lady who had resided in and retired in Vincennes. She was part of the volunteer staff and we chatted with her for a bit about where we were from and why we were visiting Vincennes.
Looking back from the altar to the rear of the building with the pretty nice looking pipe organ.
Following our church tour (self guided mostly) we headed off to our second visit of the day to the George Rogers Clark Memorial site.
Clark was one of the heroes of the Revolutionary War…he served not with the main army under General Washington but rather stayed in the west and was responsible for bringing the Indians on to the colonists side rather than the British side, captured several British forts although he never tried to take Fort Detroit from them but essentially he stalemated the British forces in the west and kept them from being withdrawn to assist with the efforts against Washington. The shot above shows the visitor center with the memorial in the background to the right.
Walking out the back of the visitor center we spotted this Revolutionary war era cannon with it’s associated pile of shot…and for those of you not familiar with these things the plate under the cannon balls is known as a brass monkey…it has holes cut in it for the bottom layer of shot and the other layers sit on top of that. It’s made of brass because brass does not corrode and the shot would not stick to it due to corrosion…and the shot was stacked to prevent it from rolling around on the ship which was where the design concept originated. However…since brass is a different metal than the iron shot…it has different heat expansion/contraction characteristics and in extremely cold weather the geometry changed enough so that the shot would not stay stacked on it…hence the origin of the saying cold enough to freeze the balls off of a brass monkey…at least according to some articles on the interwebs but apparently there is some disagreement on the origin of that saying. Snopes.com says that the actual origin of the saying is unclear but rates the above as false since they don’t believe such a stack would remain in place anyway on a warship underway in the ocean and they could find no evidence that they were stacked in such a fashion. Wikipedia likewise has several possible explanations for the saying.
Francis Vigo was a Vincennes resident who assisted Clark in his early efforts to pacify and ally with the Indians…this statue is on the far side of the memorial as seen in the first photo just adjacent to the Wabash River beyond it.
The back of the memorial from the visitor center…it wasn’t clear that this wasn’t the front until later on in our visit.
Pano of the Wabash River from the far side of the memorial looking away from the visitor center and memorial.
This is actually the front of the memorial…it’s facing to the right in the first shot above…you can see just the back of the visitor center on the far left of this shot.
Heading up the stairs…Neil hummed the theme from Rocky and Connie said “Wrong steps”…we went inside to this view.
About a 9 foot tall sculpture of Clark on top of a granite pedestal with artwork around the inside of the cylindrical memorial depicting various scenes and battles from his efforts during the way. The art was done on linen and then somehow attached to the wall. We actually thought this was a pretty cool memorial.
This is Grouseland…which was the home of William Henry Harrison before he became President. It’s next to both the memorial and the basilica…but then Vincennes is a pretty small town so pretty much everything is nearby or next to everything else. We could have paid for the tour…but didn’t have much interest so we didn’t.
Next stop was the Vincennes Historical Site maintained by the state department of history…we had scheduled a tour of both Fort Knox as well as a tour of the recreated early capitol town. Things weren’t quick clear on their website but the young fellow who gave us the tour of the buildings clued us in.
There were actually 3 different Fort Knox fortifications back in the day…and none of them exist anymore. The original Fort Knox was on or near the site of the current Clark Memorial on the bank of the Wabash with the town growing up around it…and it was named something else by the original builders (the French) before being renamed Fort Knox by the Americans. The townsfolk had a number of issues with drunken soldiers and partying and such…so a bit later in history when Indian attacks were less likely they forced the fort to move away from town to keep the riff-raff away essentially…so it was moved about 3 miles or so upriver but still named Fort Knox. That’s the one we thought were getting a tour of…and while the nice young fellow said he would go up with us if we wanted his tour essentially involved reading the signs at what is now called Fort Knox II. Then a bit later Indian attacks started up again and the fort was again moved back to near the town although not to the original site…and it was still named Fort Knox. There are no remaining trace of either the first or third incarnation and very little of the second.
The upshot of our confusion was that instead of doing the building tour at 1030 as originally scheduled…we did that part right away, left for a self tour of the second iteration just north of town, then headed back for lunch rather than going for the scheduled 1400 fort tour. He explained that the Vincennes site didn’t really do scheduled tours but more of on demand tours but that the state folk insisted that they use the state website including the overly complex reservation system.
Nonetheless…pressing on with the historic buildings tour…none were originally at this location…several are original buildings that were moved from over on Main Street and the others are reconstructions using recycled materials from period buildings.
Left is the visitor center which is a reconstruction, the red building is the original capitol (it was a tailor shop before it was the capitol building) and the white print shop is another reconstruction albeit it with the original press inside. The capitol/tailor shop was moved twice…once from it’s original location on Main Street because the city wanted to make the street wider and the second time because the park across the street from this final location where it was originally moved became part of Vincennes University.
This is the Senate chamber in the capitol…it’s upstairs in the second story because the Senate is the ‘upper house’. The President of the Senate sat on the dais with the clerk in front of him (and the clerk was the most educated/literate man in the room). The clerk wrote out legislation on paper and then handed the pages to young lads to run back and forth up and down the stairs to the House chamber below…this is where the term pageboys came from.
The original printing press used to produce the newspaper. According to our tour guide it still is operable although he wasn’t allowed to operate it.
From there we headed up to what is now known as Fort Knox II…but other than some signage there wasn’t really anything there…and we were getting hot again so we did that tour pretty quickly and then headed back to town for lunch at the Pub ’n Grub…they advertised BBQ as their specialty. We had a couple of brews to start and then Neil told the bartender “you had me at brisket sandwich” and ordered that. Connie had a smoked pulled chicken sandwich. Both were excellent along with their highly recommended onion rings (according to Yelp and Yelp was quite correct in their evaluation) and it was going on 1430 by the time we were done with lunch so back to the hotel it was for…you guessed it…nap, shower, and get ready for dinner.
We were still pretty full from lunch so just headed out to the Texas Roadhouse for dinner which turned out to be cocktails, wine, and a couple of Caesar salads for dinner…along with the excellent fresh baked bread and honey butter they serve.
Friday we had breakfast and then headed for Lexington KY by way of Blue Springs Caverns IN…about 300 miles in total. Blue Springs Cavern is…naturally…a cave but this one has an underground river and the tour is on a little boat propelled by what looked like an electric trolling motor. We got there just after they opened at 1000 and paid for the 1000 tour which actually started at about 1020. From the office you head down about 40 feet underground to the boat landing then after boarding we headed upstream about 3/4 of a mile I guess before turning around and returning to the landing. Connie…as you know…loves boats rides so despite the fact that ordinarily she doesn’t like caves she picked this one anyway…and we had a nice time albeit a little chilly one as it is always about 52 degrees down in the cave.
This is our tour guide Ashton…college kid working for the summer.
The water ranges from inches to about 20 feet deep…and the width of the cavern from about 6 inches wider than the boat to maybe 20 feet. Ceiling height ranged from about 4 feet above the water to perhaps 30. The very manmade looking edges on this block are actually natural.
A view of the rectangular blocks from the other side on our return trip…this one was taken with flash by Connie so is probably a better overall indication of the color of the rock…all the others are done sans flash by Neil using the lights mounted on the boat.
Some debris from the recent spring flood…apparently the water level in the cave came up about 30 feet for several weeks meaning it was all underwater. Ashton claimed the current in the cave was running 70 mph during the flood…that seems pretty excessive to me and there’s no way they could get down there to measure it anyway. The boats were apparently stripped of equipment and left in place during the flood according to Ashton…which again seemed pretty far fetched. Neil thought it was much more likely they were just hauled out by hand or an ATV…they didn’t look like more than 200 pounds total for the aluminum boat.
You can see the layered sedimentary rock in this shot.
After leaving the boarding area on the way out…Neil got this shot of the river as it continues downstream but isn’t sufficiently deep or flat enough for a boat…this section of the cavern is about 40 or 50 feet high and about the same wide.
Following the tour…we continued along to Lexington…stopped to grab a couple of chicken sandwiches from McD’s for lunch and we got to our hotel there just about checkin time. After yet another nap, shower period we headed about 2 blocks down the road to the Sedona Taproom for dinner…Old Fashioned for Neil and a Lemon Martini for Connie followed by a glass of wine each and a couple of flatbreads for dinner. All was excellent although the flatbreads were more like flatbread shaped pizzas than what one normally thinks of as a flatbread…nice crispy crust as one expects but rather than a light topping selection regular pizza sauce, toppings, and cheese. Still tasted good though…afterwards we headed back to the hotel for cookies, TV, and bed in anticipation of Saturday and Sunday on the Bourbon Trail in Lexington…but that’s still another blog post to come.