Slowing Down After DCI: Giant City State Park

Now that the DCI Championships are over, we can travel at a more relaxed pace. After visiting with more relatives, we started to head west towards home, making up our itinerary day by day. We haven’t been to Illinois in our van yet, how about Giant City State Park?

If you’ve been following our posts this summer, you have seen us mention Drum Corps International (DCI ) and Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps quite a bit. For those of you not familiar with DCI, maybe an explanation is in order. DCI describes itself as marching music’s major league. We think of it as a blend of marching band and broadway musical. Most of the marching members are college age who pay thousands of dollars to spend their whole summer traveling the country to compete at a very high level in the performing arts. Most of the hours in the day are spent rehearsing and the rest of the hours are spent eating and sleeping on buses and gym floors. You have to see a competition in person to really appreciate the level of perfection and the high energy that these corps put into their performances. However, what we like the most about drum corps is what it does for their members. It teaches them how much hard work and discipline goes into high quality and success. They learn to be responsible for the operation, from loading and unloading the equipment trucks and buses to cleaning the bathrooms of the places they stay. Because every performer on the field counts, members help and support one another. They learn to collaborate with other members from all over the world, with diverse views and values from different walks of life, forming bonds and friendships that last a lifetime. Members leave the organization with respect for others, more self-confidence, and leadership skills. It is also heartwarming to see former members giving back to the organization, financially, or as volunteers to cook and drive shuttles, or as part of the technical staff for the next generation of corps members. As you can see, we have a lot of good things to say about drum corps. It is a little bitter sweet to watch our daughter age-out of the activity. However, we will probably stay involved with the organization for years to come. That’s enough talk about drum corps, let’s get back to talking about our travels!

First we stopped in Shelbyville, Indiana again. We had to stop because we didn’t get ice cream from Cabell’s the first time! From there we continued to Centerville, Ohio to visit more relatives. Along the way, on the backroads, we stopped in Liberty, Indiana and ate our picnic lunch in the gazebo in front of the courthouse. The next day we headed south to Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee.

Right Buddy’s brother spends a week every summer with some of his college buddies camping and water skiing. Right Buddy (RB) and her brother are a few years apart, but both RB and Left Buddy (LB) know some of his college friends. We have never joined them before, but thought it was about time. We stayed for three nights in Obey River Campground, sharing RB’s brother’s campsite. He has a mini van that he has rigged up with an air conditioner in the window and a bed in the back. Yes, he’s an engineer, too.

We’ve heard lots of stories about the camping week and all of the water skiing and tubing by the college buddies and their families. However, age has paid its toll. Past injuries keep some from skiing. Everyone’s kids have grown up and don’t come any more. So, there wasn’t a lot of skiing going on while we were there. The conditions had to be just right. It’s too hot, let’s just soak in the lake. It’s too windy, the water is too choppy, let’s wait. Most of our time was spent cooking, eating and talking, which was just fine with us. RB has a knee injury from a few years back and doesn’t want to risk further injury. At our age, it takes a long time to heal! LB never really liked skiing, in water or snow, although he has done both in the past. It was fun seeing and catching up with people we haven’t seen in decades.

Obey River Campground is located on the shores of Dale Hollow Lake. There are flush toilets, hot showers, a swimming beach and a boat ramp. Electric and non-electric campsites are available. It is also a short walk over to the Sunset Marina, which has a store, restaurant and boat rentals. Since we were not waterskiing, we thought about renting a canoe or kayak, but we were too busy talking and eating. Maybe we’ll do that next time.

Heading back up to Ohio, we visited more relatives in Newark. From there we meandered along the Ohio River on backroads before dipping down to Louisville, Kentucky to visit yet more relatives. Now that we were running out of relatives to visit in the area, we decided to start heading west. What looks like an interesting place to stop that’s within a short day’s drive from here? Giant City State Park in Illinois was our answer.

Giant City State Park is near Makanda, Illinois, near Little Grassy Lake. The park gets its name from the tall sandstone bluffs that resembled tall buildings along a city street. We had no problem getting a campsite in the campground since most schools were back in session and it was a weekday. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. For twenty dollars we received electric hookups along with flush toilets, hot showers and a dump station.

Similar to the state parks in Indiana, this Illinois state park has a nice lodge and cabins to rent for those who do not wish to camp The lodge has an outdoor swimming pool. Most of the park is wooded, with quite a few hiking and equestrian trails. There are also places to fish.

LB was not feeling well, so we only stayed one night. RB wanted to get some exercise before spending another day driving, so she hiked the short, one mile nature trail in the morning while LB tried to stay cool relaxing in the shade. It was hot and muggy, even though it was morning, but it was still a nice hike. This was the trail that has the tall sandstone bluffs. It was a short trail, but had some interesting surroundings.

At the trailhead, RB managed to get a picture of an American five-lined skink. She had seen these quite a few times, but they were too quick for her to get a shot. Only juveniles have the blue tails; the adults have red heads. They can detach all or part of their tail and scurry to safety while their detached tails continue to twitch. That would be pretty creepy to see!

As usual, RB assembled a couple of photo albums for you to enjoy: Dale Hollow Lake TN 2019 and Giant City State Park IL 2019.