March 8, 2011 – Lincoln State Park, Lincoln City, IN

242 miles for the day; 2,378 overall

We’re tucked into a nice lakeside campsite at Lincoln State Park in southern Indiana. Once again and for the third night in a row, we’re the absolutely only campers in the campground. Midweek in early March is definitely not high season. We’re just grateful to find campgrounds which are open; having electrical hookups, but no water and primative toilets . We’re cocooned inside the boat cabin, with a chilly rain falling outside. This weather system has been steadily drifting northeast, up through Missouri and southern Illinois. We outran it for a time today, but it’s now caught up with us. I’m planning on barbequing this evening. Unless this rain eases up, that plan is sure to change.

The drive today went well. We got a nice early start and left Babler State Park at 7:30 am, just in time to catch the morning rush hour traffic pouring into St. Louis. We took I-40 and then I-64, which cut right through the heart of the city. Traffic actually moved fairly well, and we made it through without any serious delays,detours or false turns. The drive across southern Illinois was uneventful. We were somewhat surprised to see a goodly number of oil wells scattered out in farmers’ fields. They’re smaller in size than ones we’ve seen out west. I didn’t know this region produced oil. Spring flooding was also in evidence. Rivers like the Wabash are out of their banks and inundating forests and fields in their proximity.

Today we experienced our first little touches of adversity. It started with “Mabel”, who had done such a fine job of piloting us from Babler State Park onto I-40, and then through St. Louis. I was beginning to really appreciate her skills, and so confidently followed her advise as we exited I-64 a few miles away from our day’s destination, Lincoln State Park. She quickly got us lost, insisting that we turn into some suburbanite’s driveway. I had to revert to compass and dead reckoning navigation and eventually found our way to the campground. All was then well, I figured. Just pick out a campsite, unhitch, grab some lunch and then drive up to the Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial Park.

I backed into a nice lakeside campsite, best one in the campground. I leveled up the boat, but unhitching got a little complicated. On our Sea of Cortez trip I’d stripped out the stock trailer wheel jack, and since then had been using one of those clamp-on pivot models. The ground contour at this campsite wouldn’t allow the pivot jack to rotate into position. I was prepared for just such a situation, having brought a hydraulic jack from home, along with a goodly assortment of wood blocks. I noticed a problem right away. The jack had tipped over, and it’s hydraulic fluid had partially leaked out. When I tried using the jack, it refused to take the full weight of the boat. Oh well, revert to plan B, namely, the second backup jack I had along; an old housemoving screw jack, which uses a pair of gear wheels to turn the screw. It can lift tons of weight, but it operates very slowly. I managed to lift the trailer tongue off the hitch ball, and was then able to pivot the wheel jack into position. I lowered the trailer onto the wheel jack and removed the screw jack. All set. Almost. While inside the boat, helping Sandy with lunch preparations, we felt the boat lurch and go clunk. I knew immediately what had happened. I’d failed to fully snap the wheel jack into position and it had slipped, allowing the trailer tongue to drop to the ground. Actually, the spare tire was holding it just a few inches off the ground. Fortunately no damage was done, but I had a lot of work ahead of me, getting the trailer jacked back up. I grabbed my folding camp shovel and dug down into the gravel campsite pad, so I could slip the screw jack under the trailer frame. Then, I slowly jacked her up, lowered down onto stacked boards, and then repeated the operation until I’d lifted the trailer up to the proper level. I was glad that I’d brought the extra jacks, boards, and shovel, and even more glad that this campsite pad wasn’t paved. That would have really complicated things.

With the boat trailer back up where she belonged, we drove over to the visitor center. This is a National Park Service site, memorializing the location of the wilderness farm where Abraham Lincoln grew up, from age 7 to 21. The visitor center features a well done film which tells the story, as well as an informative museum. The highlight for me was a wooden cabinet which was made by Thomas Lincoln, Abe’s father. We then took a walk out to Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s grave site. Abraham’s mother died when he was 9 years old, from milk fever poisoning, which is contracted by drinking milk or eating meat from cows which have fed on a toxic plant called White Snake Root. A little further along the trail, we arrived at the actual site of the Lincoln family cabin. Nothing remains of the original cabin, but it’s location has been identified, and a bronze casting of a portion of the fireplace and some foundation logs marks the spot. Nearby, a replica cabin and working farm outbuildings have been constructed, where demonstrations of pioneer life are presented in the summer.

It’s still raining outside, so we cooked inside tonight. I took the Wallas stove in for service prior to this trip, and that precaution has proven worthwhile. The service technician discovered the ignition coil was very nearly burned out, and several other components were in need of replacement. So far, it’s been starting up and running perfectly. It rained so hard, an after dinner walk was out, so we watched a movie on the laptop computer. Occasionally, the drumming on the deck overhead overpowered the sound system, but we caught most of it and provided a nice diversion.

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