Wednesday, July 6, 2011

#34. The Point at Hanover College

Four of the 50 items listed in the Indianapolis Monthly article are lookout points. From these locations, one can view the supposedly greatest vistas to be found in Indiana. After the wonderful experience I had at the Crown Hill Cemetery, I was hopeful that the rest of the panoramas would be just as, if not more, beautiful. With these high expectations, I set out for Hanover College and its wide views of the Ohio River.

After a two hour drive from Indianapolis, I entered the ridiculously curvy and somewhat frightening driveway to the campus.  After exiting the treacherous road, however, I found Hanover to be charming. The small campus was pretty much dead due to summer break, but even with the lack of students it still seemed like the classic American college. Founded in 1827, Hanover is filled with Georgian architecture and picture perfect landscaping. Considering the postcard-worthy campus, I expected stunning views of the Ohio River.

But once I came upon the first lookout point, I was disappointed. It was a muggy July day and haze filled the air. The river appeared brown and muddy and a trailer park on the riverbanks took away from the beauty. My friend and I burst into laughter at the thought of driving 100 miles for such an anticlimactic view.

Noteworthy view?
Nevertheless, we were determined to make the most of the trip and continued to wander around Hanover. We stumbled upon a nature path and decided to explore. The short walk turned into a seemingly endless hike. Although we entered the trail in fresh and energetic spirits, we emerged sweaty and exhausted. We spotted a tour group of prospective students taking pictures at another lookout point and decided to check out the view.

This scene was much improved, and I assume this is the lookout point  the article described. A broad view of the river was set at a more asthetically pleasing angle; the water looked normal, the air was clearer, and the sun glimmered on the river.

Much better
Once we took in the attractive landscape, we decided to join the tour group. Everyone was confused at our mid-tour addition, but no one questioned us. We had the tour guide take our picture (with a stranger's camera), made conversation with group members, and discussed the merits of made up sororities, fraternities, and dorm halls. This ended our trip to Hanover College on a memorable note and made me (mostly) forget about the miserable hike and the unsatisfactory initial view.

It was still relatively early in the afternoon when we left Hanover, so I drove into Madison, the neighboring town. We stopped to eat at the Red Pepper Cafe, a former mechanic shop turned restaurant/catering business. I lunched on fabulous sun dried tomato cavatappi pasta salad while reading a few embarrassing celebrity tabloids.

Nicholas Cage's son Weston
One of many wonderful tabloid discoveries
Fortified by lunch, my friend and I walked down Main Street into the town's Historic District. I fell in love. Every house was stately and well kept. The impressive Lanier Mansion epitomized Madison's grand historical appeal and boasted beautifully manicured gardens. Cute shops and friendly townspeople added to the appeal. The town square had a fountain and benches perfect for reading and people watching. Luck was on our side as our visit coincided with the Regatta, Madison's most anticipated event of the year.
One of the numerous historical Madison homes
Arguably the coolest backyard ever
Back of the Lanier Mansion
Broadway Fountain in downtown Madison
My prior exposure to regattas was limited to those of the crew variety, but I soon learned that regattas encompass many types of boat races. Madison's regatta is a hydroplane boat race, and the entire July 4th weekend is centered around it. The Regatta celebration was just beginning when I arrived and a parade was held that evening to celebrate. The seemingly endless Main Street was lined with lawn chairs and people. The picturesque Main Street and American flags made me feel like I had stumbled into a photograph summarizing the apple pie spirit of the good ol' U.S. of A. 

The small town charm continued even as we were leaving Madison. Although I did not ask for assistance, a man helped me back out of a parking lot and gave me directions to the highway. He wished us a safe drive home and a happy Fourth of July. It's nice to know that even in such a gritty world there are still kind people and idyllic small towns to be found. Indiana, you are starting to grow on me.

Hanging Rock, just outside of Madison on Highway 7

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