News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 16, 2009

Amey Takes Aim: Spring break … burgers, bad weather and trading paint in Missouri

You would figure — or at least you would if you were the Amey family vacation planners — that a later-than-usual spring break would lessen the necessity of heading south for the annual family outing. So we didn’t.

And much like the summer of 2007, when Jenny and I had assumed the exchange rate would save us a few bucks on our excursion to Toronto, we got burned again — a couple of lousy days, even a few snowflakes. You know what happens when you assume.

But we travelers are nothing if not resilient. We persevered and had fun anyway, even though our destination — the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri — is best known for fishing and hunting (favorite name for a retail outlet last week: Pistols Plus Guns), neither of which is high on our list of priorities.

We also had quite a bit to eat, as always. Although Ryan still had his share of cheeseburgers, he also branched out a few times for stuff like lasagna and Thai-style chicken. Darcy also had more than her share of cheeseburgers, although she likes ribs even better. Here are some highlights (or lowlights).

• Trip down — Remembered at the halfway point that I’d forgotten my reading material for the trip, so the books by John Wright and Seth Davis remain unopened on my nightstand at home. No problems like that for Jenny; she has a kindle, and perhaps every book ever written except those two at her fingertips.

Took us a while to find a place to eat along the way, and when we did we gained a newfound appreciation for Indiana’s no-smoking regulations. The kids wanted to wash their clothes (because of the smoke smell) as soon as we reached our condo, which we did relatively uneventfully. No we’re-lost tirades for Dad, in other words, to the amazement of all.

• Saturday — Went driving around getting our bearings, and finally found our off-site swimming pool — populated by several dozen happily inebriated college kids awaiting their spring formal later in the day. No do-not-feed-the-bear signs at this spring vacation, although we did have a groundhog in our yard.

• Sunday — Too cold to go anywhere until suppertime. Had some good fish (except for the cheeseburger folks) and visited Wal-Mart for the third time in three days (where else do you go on vacation?) to buy some games to play at the condo. Discovered that if you don’t really shuffle the cards for Uno, the game can last forever.

• Monday — Still cold but at least not snowing (a good thing, since we have to travel up and down at least a 60-degree grade to get back and forth to the street). Ryan and I got to watch baseball season openers most of the day, we ordered some St. Louis-style pizza (thin, crispy crust) for lunch, and finally got out for Mexican food (maybe best of the trip) at night.

Darcy and JoJo have their own room and their own kitchen. So Darcy is hoarding food, JoJo is hogging their television and my laptop is getting a lot more use than it did when the girls were younger.

• Tuesday — Still cool, but nice enough to get out and shop (Jenny and Darcy) or look for weird stuff to do (JoJo, Ryan and me). We went to the Haunted Hotel, which was scary enough that I was the only one who actually made it through. No bargains at the outlet mall, the girls said, and not a lot of kid-friendly stuff open during the middle of the week, but we were able to play some minature golf (absolutely the only game I won all week, holding off Jenny by two strokes).

Then went for Thai food to a place called Wok-N-Roll, which I heartily recommend as long as there aren’t more than 12 of you. Three tables, four chairs each, and Nok (the owner) cooks after you order. Jenny, often spicephobic, loved the Nam Sod; Darcy (crab rangoon) and JoJo (jasmine rice) found some of their favorites; and I had some panang that made my face red and the top of my head sweat, a sure sign of quality.

• Wednesday — Best weather of the week, so the kids and I went on a yacht cruise around part of the lake (JoJo even got to steer the boat). Learned the lake was man-made during the Great Depression and has 1,300 miles of shoreline (which probably explains how it seems to be on both sides of every road). Then we went go-karting.

Darcy and JoJo, being height-challenged, had to ride in the mini-karts on a single lane, and we made the mistake of letting Darcy’s car go first. The karts were painted like NASCAR cars, but unfortunately there wasn’t a No. 3 for JoJo. The single-lane track didn’t deter her from trying to bump-draft Darcy, causing JoJo to bang the wall at full speed and sending one of the workers diving over the railing to get out of the way. Then Darcy — a good driver, but a little more cautious — started looking over her shoulder for The Intimidator behind her and hit the wall herself.

Ryan was the only one who was going to go on the bigger karts — and the only other customer on the premises — so the two guys working jumped in other cars to race with him (the name of this track is being omitted to save them from the liability insurance people). All three of them were flying around, spinning each other out and trading paint, so a great time was had by all.

• Thursday — Our last full day was supposed to be our Cardinals day, until we found out how far we were from St. Louis. But the weather wasn’t too good — again — so we weren’t too disappointed to have to stay where we were.

Wound up going bowling as our last sporting activity, and don’t let Ryan, Darcy and JoJo tell you that they all beat me.

They did, just don’t let them tell you that.

• • •

• Other stuff I learned last week — The Western Indiana Conference might be about to have its first WNBA player. Brown County’s Mara Freshour, soon to graduate from Florida State, was a third-round pick by the Seattle Storm.

One of the Post-Dispatch high school athletes of the week while we were in Missouri was water polo player Matt Stipanovich of DeSmet. Height is a benefit in that sport, leading me to believe he might be related to another Stipanovich from DeSmet a generation ago.

And the Woodrow Wilson team I covered a few weeks ago was not the only unbeaten group of eighth-grade girls basketball players in the Wabash Valley. Teams from Sullivan and North Vermillion also earned that distinction — and would have liked a crack at the Warriors somehow.

Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. for comments or news items at (812) 231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.