Entertainment, Life & Leisure

Totality trip totally worth it

by Amanda Posey

Our two-car convoy chased the sun driving down I-70 west as we crossed into Indiana on the Sunday eve before the recent eclipse.

The drive was about as easy as can be: I-79 north to I-70 west. But as unfazed by the route as we were, on the opposite end of the spectrum was our anxiety about finding a spot to set up to watch the eclipse and dealing with the potentially large crowds making their way into the path of totality.

And from what Ive heard, that s about what the situation looked like on April 8 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where thousands packed into the stands to watch the dimming sky as the moons shadow brought the land into darkness.

My husband and I, along with my in-laws in the other car, arrived anxious, yet hopeful, as we pulled into the hotel in Richmond, Ind., about an hour and 15 minutes east of Indianapolis. But we quickly realized there was nothing to worry about as we were met with genuinely friendly and welcoming people during our entire trip.

In fact, upon check-in, we were gifted with brown bags labeled Happy Eclipse Day! (smiley face).Inside, we found two sets of eclipse glasses, a bottle of water, cookies, a bag of cheese puffs, a Twix bar and a helpful pamphlet outlining all the good places to watch the eclipse with other good information visitors might need to know. This kind gesture did not go unnoticed. Nice job, Wayne County Convention and Tourism Bureau.

The morning of the eclipse dawned and, after check-out, we decided to set up camp right there in a corner of the hotel parking lot because it was so simple. We had plenty of room to spread out, set up a small tent and tables, unload the coolers and put up the tripod and camera for eclipse photos.

Not that Indiana could really do anything about it, but we lucked out with a beautiful, warm and sunny day, with very few clouds which were high-altitude, transparent, cirrus ones at that. There were a few other folks who had stayed at the hotel the night before who decided to make camp nearby, and we built an eclipse camaraderie with them as we enjoyed the show.

When totality arrived and it was safe to slip off our eclipse glasses for just under 4 minutes, we turned our naked eyes up to the sky and an audible gasp could be heard echoing through our little parking lot. Not knowing what to expect, as Id never seen a total eclipse before, I stared openmouthed at the otherwordly sight the word apocalyptic comes to mind before me.

Inspired by the marvelous time our little group had in Richmond, Ind., I wanted to see what else the town had to offer, and I was not disappointed. With just a few internet searches, I had a list of places to go. So, after the eclipse ended, we packed up the cars and headed down the road to take in some of what Richmond and Wayne County has to offer.

Wayne County

Located in east-central Indiana, Wayne County is home to about 66,000 people, with its county seat of Richmond fairly close to the Ohio border.

Founded in 1811, Wayne County is known for being a common stop for pioneers traveling the National Road, which we know as U.S. 40.

The county is well-known for its role in the Underground Railroad movement, with more than 2,000 enslaved people making their way to freedom. At the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site and Interpretive Center, you can learn more about the freedom seekers in a place that offered them refuge and was known as The Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.

Visit the historic site at 201 North U.S. 27, Fountain City, Ind. Wayne County was also a popular recording spot for jazz musicians, with Hoagy Carmichael, Louis Armstrong, Thomas Dorsey and more frequenting the area.

The HillsRoses founder E.G. Hill is a native of Wayne County, growing hybrid roses in all kinds of colors.

Today, the county offers rolling farmland, with many orchards and farms open for visitors. Dozens of antique shops call it home, and there are many parks and trails ripe for picnicking, hiking, biking, running, fishing and more.

Here are a few of the sites worth checking out:

  • Thistlewaite Falls, 65 Waterfall Road, Richmond: This waterfall was formed in 1854 when Timothy Thistlewaite and his brother-in-law, Joseph Ratliff, dammed the river to change its course over a rocky ledge to provide more power using a water wheel for his saw mill. The spot is now a park and a great place for picnicking, swimming, hiking and more.
  • Wayne County Historical Museum, 1150 N. A St., Richmond: This eight-building museum which features artifacts from early pioneer life through the Industrial Revolution and up to modern times displays period clothing, furniture, a Conestoga wagon, blacksmith shop and print shop, among others.
  • Wilbur Wright Birthplace, 1525 N. 750 East, Hagerstown: Visit the home of one of the pioneers of aviation, Wilbur Wright, which features a full-scale replica of the 1903 Wilbur Flyer and more about the family history.
  • The Reid Center, 1004 N. A St., Richmond: Once a Presbyterian church, the Reid Center, with its amazing Gothic architecture, has become a cultural performance venue. The center features 62 stained glass windows, 14 bronze bells, a 1906 pipe organ and more.
  • Hayes Arboretum, 801 Elks Country Club Road, Richmond: This 466-acre property offers a nice outdoor escape with plenty of hiking and running trails. The site also includes Adena and Hopewell American Indian mounds.
  • Glen Miller Park, 2200 East Main St., Richmond: Practice your golf swing, enjoy the skate park, play a round of disc golf and much more at this well-known park in Richmond. It also includes a playground, trails and tennis courts.
  • Richmond Art Museum, 350 Hub Etchison Parkway, McGuire Memorial Hall, Richmond: This museum, which was founded in 1898, features American artists, including painters and sculptors, many of which are Indiana natives.
  • Starr Historic District: This is a particular plot of land that was originally farmland purchased by Charles and Elizabeth Starr and was subdivided in the 1850s. It is listed on the National Register.
  • Model T Museum, 309 N. 8th St., Richmond: Ford fans will enjoy this museum featuring Model T vehicles from 1908-27.
  • Joseph Moore Museum of Natural History, 801 National Road W., Richmond: View an Egyptian mummy, discover fossils, learn about prehistoric mammals, visit the planetarium and much more in this natural history museum.
  • Middlefork Reservoir, 1750 Sylvan Nook Drive, Richmond: This 405-acre park offers fishing, boating, picnic areas and hiking. You might even spot an eagle.
  • Four Leaf Honey Farm, 3251 State Road 227N, Richmond: Learn more about beekeeping and help promote honeybees and other native pollinators with a visit to this farm where you can purchase all sorts of beekeeping supplies.
  • Welcome center, 5701 National Road East, Richmond: For more information about Wayne County, visit the welcome center. You can also learn more about the interactive trails offered in the region, including the Black History Trail and Chocolate Trail.

Learn more about Richmond and Wayne County at visitrichmond. org.