Monroe Street Diner in Toledo, OH.

Roadtrip Day 3: Toledo and Sunset at Indiana Dunes NP

Sunday, September 17, 2023
Toledo Diner Lunch
Zorn Brew Works in Michigan City
Indiana Dunes National Park at Dusk

This Sunday had a slow start. I spent most of the morning creating the Day 1 post while seated on an outdoor patio of a nice little coffee shop in Ohio City, Cleveland. A neurotic composer named Isaac who was dressed all in white was seated next to me writing a symphony in a nice, big notation book by tying together phrases and ideas he’d been saving up. I could see an orange tabby cat in a window across the way that barely moved the entire time I was sitting there. The pear scone was a bit dry, but still good. It was a good morning.

I finished writing just in time to check out from my AirBnb before noon, then got back into my car.

We are truly just animals at our core, beholden to animalistic urges, and so despite having just finished a slow breakfast, I was immediately hungry for lunch. But we are also elevated beings of intellect, able to overcome our urges through reason. And so I decided to split the difference and aim for a Whole Foods in Toledo, OH since their prepared foods are good and safe and I needed to get a few groceries for the next few days anyway. But just before I set out, my gut screamed at me—I could Whole Foods anywhere, but that’s not the point of this trip. So I searched instead for “diners” in Toledo and picked one of the higher-rated ones at random. Now I could get on the road.

Photo of the Davis-Besse Nuclear plant BURT.
The BURT1 of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station that I passed on Rt 2. Frankly I think we need a lot more nuclear power in this country.

As an added bonus of making a stop in Toledo, I got to take some non-highway roads—OH-2 in this case, which skirts the Southwestern portion of Lake Erie. I hope to take more smaller roads and state roads on the trip, since most highways sorta blend together except at large scales.

Photo of a diner meal in Toledo.
I went all in and got bacon-sausage-egg-cheese-stuffed french toast.

I pulled into the Monroe Street Diner parking lot at about 2pm, and lo and behold right across the street was a Krogers grocery store as well as a Best Buy—I needed a heavier-duty battery pack for camping days. I made sure to take to heart the clear lesson to always follow my intuition no matter what.

The only negative of my delicious stuffed french toast meal was the syrup. I am truly grateful to have grown up so privileged as to always have a steady supply of actual, real, often locally-made Maple Syrup. I nevertheless slathered my french toast with the available lower-case “maple” syrup at the table, which of course was pure corn syrup. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ When in Rome.

…But I did regret it later, when the heart palpitations and mild nausea hit a bit later down the road. We seriously need to cut out all corn subsidies in this country for the good of our national health (which itself is a national security issue). But the stuffed french toast was still completely worth it :D.

With the late start to the day and unplanned errands in Toledo, Waze was telling me that I’d be getting to my reserved campsite for the night close to dusk, which had me a little anxious. Nevertheless, I didn’t head straight to the campground from Toledo since I had previously found a local brewery in Michigan City, just East-northeast of Indiana Dunes National Park. I could always practice setting up my tent in the dark, but I’d likely never pass through Michigan City again, so….

I had no idea what to expect when I pulled off the highway heading toward Zorn Brew Works, as initially the town had all the markings of one of those dying industrial Midwest towns in pop culture. But as with most things, the truth is more complex and messy and human. The main strip into town was actually quite pleasant—walkable and with clear and friendly decoration and signage listing all the local things to see and do. There was a botanical garden nearby, some shopping districts, a marina, a casino. As I neared the neighborhood the brewery was in (close to the marina and casino), there were suddenly boarded up shops and decrepit homes. But it turns out the brewery was in a little bubble of “Historic Neighborhood” niceness. Apparently Zorn itself had been a part of the restoration of the neighborhood—another win for beer.

I only stayed long enough to wolf down a fantastic pulled pork sandwich and taste a few brews (pretty good!) then I finally rolled the last few miles down the road to Dunewoods Campground. Since it’s actually on National Park property, there was a very friendly Ranger on duty where I was able to check in despite it being nearly 7pm on a Sunday. He answered all my questions and generally matched all my stereotypical (positive) assumptions about Park Rangers. One thing he told me was that it was probably better to just quickly drive between points in the park, as it’s quite spread out and not easily walkable.

It was solidly dusky at the point I was all checked in, so I took the Ranger’s advice and instead of going to my campsite first, I drove the 2ish miles up to the beach to catch a bit of late sunset. Worth it! The images above barely do it justice. The small parking lot was full of other sunset-viewers, but apparently I was the only one to actually get out of my car and walk around.

The water was wind-whipped with whitecaps, the susurration of the surf was soothing, and the sky was painted in pastels. I had been tired from the long, meandering day of driving, but was immediately re-energized and jogged down the beach a short way to get away from people and their annoying headlights for a bit.

Finally, it was time to make my bed for the night. And night it was—it was solidly dark by this time. The campsites at Dunewoods were clearly marked and with nice, flat, delineated camping pads made of sand, which helped, and I was doubly glad that I had practiced setting up my tent a few weeks ago at my father’s place. I got it done mostly by feel, with a little bit of ambient light from the bathrooms a hundred meters away, and with the help of an incredibly useful solar/rechargeable collapsible lantern from REI (highly recommended!).

My day ended early after a bit of administrative work in my tent, and nothing felt more comfortable than being in my sleeping bag that night.

Day 3 Distance: ~320 mi (515 km)
Total Trip Distance: ~802 mi (1,291 km)

Next Up: Actually exploring Indiana Dunes National Park, a stopover at Pullman National Historic Park, visiting the Rock Men of Rockford, IL, and an evening in Madison, WI


  1. BURT = “Big Ugly Round Thing”—my favorite acronym for cooling towers. ↩︎