Sometimes I get a real bad case of what my dad calls “wanderlust”. I just have to get out of town and experience something new, see something I’ve never seen before and unplug from the daily drudge. It’s essential to my mental well-being. This past weekend J and I had to opportunity to take a short 4 day, 3 night mini-vacation, just the two of us. We had no destination in mind, which can be the most exciting kind of trip. Of course, that depends entirely upon what you find exciting. We find that sort of thing to be exciting, so that’s what we did.
Now, mind you, this was a budget trip because, as you know by now, we do everything on a budget. Keeping this in mind, the first night found us in Columbus, Indiana. We had decided to head west and were out in the middle of nowhere Indiana. I looked on the map, because I love maps, even though we have a perfectly fine GPS, and saw that we were near Columbus. I had read a while ago about a house, the Miller house, designed by Eero Saarinen and thought it would be an interesting place to visit. As it turns out, you have to make reservations well in advance, so we didn’t get to see the house, but I did get to see this church in Columbus designed by Saarinen.
Columbus, Indiana has an internationally renowned collection of modern architecture that is absolutely amazing. Since we couldn’t take the Miller house tour, we bought a $3.00 driving/walking tour map and set off. If you go to Columbus, Indiana, be sure to visit their visitor’s bureau, where you can also see an amazing sculpture by Dale Chihuly, as well.
We also visited the award-winning Mill Race Park. It’s a gorgeous park and we spent a few hours exploring all of its nooks and crannies. There was a covered bridge:
This cool tunnel:
We climbed this tower, which is really, really high (and my leg muscles were screaming the next day):
Even the bathrooms are architecturally modern and interesting to look at:
At this point, we were only out $3.00 (the map) for entertainment, so we decided to grab lunch at the Powerhouse Brewing Company Columbus Bar, where J had a fine craft beer, I had a fine craft root beer and the best $5.00 lunch special ever. We then went back to our Super 8 hotel room and watched Food Network for a few hours. That may not sound like a lot fun to you, but we don’t have any sort of cable/satellite TV. We rent movies from the library and Netflix, so TV can be a special treat. It’s like soda, though, too much of it will make you sick. However, since it was included in the price of our room, we utilized it and had a great time. All that Food Network made us hungry again, so we went to dinner at a fabulous restaurant called Smith’s Row.
See that balcony? We had a private table out there and it was very romantic. I just have to take a moment and wax poetic about our meal. It ranks as one of my top five most favorite meals ever. I mean ever. J and I are major foodies. We love food. We love to eat it, cook it, read about it, talk about it and we love to eat fine food when we’re on vacation. It’s a major part of our vacation budget, but then it’s our passion. We don’t spend a lot of money going to amusement parks or pricey tourist traps unless we’re doing kid-oriented trips and then our priorities shift. But this was adults only, so this was our decadence and what a decadence it was. We ordered the mustard and herb-encrusted rack of lamb and a filet with a cognac sauce that made me want to cry. Our waiter helped us select a superb bottle of wine and I even had creme brulee which is my favorite, favorite, favorite dessert. The ambience was perfect and I’ll never forget that meal.
The next day we headed on to a town called Bedford where we took a boat tour at the Bluespring Caverns. It was a lot of fun as neither one of us had ever done a boat tour on an underground river before. We love cave tours and this one didn’t disappoint. We even got to see the blind cave fish and crawdads in their natural habitat. Really fascinating.
We got a room at the Plaza Motel in Bedford, IN for the night and it was one of the cleanest rooms I’ve ever rented. It also had original 1950’s tile work in the bathroom that I should have taken a picture of and, sadly, didn’t. They had some sort of dish TV, as well, but no Food Network. Instead was something called the “Cooking Channel”, I think, which is sort of like Food Network’s plainer wall-flower cousin. At any rate, we had a nice stay and enjoyed hanging-out on the front porch in the nice chairs they provide.
That night we had dinner at Rusty’s West End Steakhouse and Lounge, which was an exceptional value. The food was good, as was the service, and our total bill came to $34.18, including two entrees, wine and dessert. Our waitress put the bill down and we added it up twice because we thought she forgot something. If we lived near Bedford, we’d eat there a lot. No, it wasn’t Smith’s Row, but it was definitely the best value for the money we found on this trip, by far.
The next morning we knew we had to head for home but before we did, we decided to scope out Bloomington, IN, home of Indiana University. Being a college town, Bloomington has a huge variety of foreign cuisines from which to choose. We went to the downtown area and walked around for over an hour, just trying to pick a place for lunch. We finally decided on Anyetsang’s Little Tibet Restaurant. Neither one of us had ever had Tibetan food so we decided to give it a whirl and we were not disappointed. We chose the Mo Mo, which is described as “A staple of the Tibetan diet, homemade steamed dumplings filled with ground beef, green onions and yellow onions flavored with Tibetan seasoning.” They are delicious and I will probably crave them at some point, only to be left wanting since I’ve never seen another Tibetan restaurant. I’m sure they exist, just not where we live.
We finished our day with a quick trip to Scotty’s Brewhouse where J had a couple of their craft beers and I had another root beer (along with a piece of homemade carrot cake). After that, we headed for home and our trip was sadly over. It was nice to be home again, though, and I was ready to face the week in a much more zen-like state.
In order to keep within a budget, we chose hotels/motels that were pretty basic, which reflected in the price. We also chose a lot of free, or low-cost, activities that didn’t stretch our budget, in order to splurge on some good food and wine. In addition, we only used around a tank and a half of gas in our fuel-efficient car, so that kept our travel costs down, as well. We don’t buy souvenirs but keep the travel brochures from along the way instead, as a way to remember where we’ve been and what we’ve seen. We also packed a cooler full of drinks and sandwich makings to supplement our meals. We did buy a few bottles of wine and a couple of obscure CD’s from a cool store we found in Bloomington, so we didn’t come home completely empty-handed. All told, we spent $512.02, which is not too bad for a 4 day, 3 night trip.
What about you? Have you gone on any fun trips this summer? How do you budget for a trip?