Aussie touring U.S. visits Indiana Dunes
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 8, 2013 4:52PM
Linda Bentley of Sydney, Australia, checks out the beach at Indiana Dunes State Park during her visit to Porter County on Tuesday. Bentley is visiting all 50 states for a book. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 10, 2013 6:34AM
CHESTERTON — After snapping a few quick pictures of the pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park, Linda Bentley stepped onto the beach Tuesday.
The water was smooth and blue, the sky cloudless, and a handful of people populated the beach.
“My word — this is gorgeous,” she said, her Australian accent ringing clear, as it has in the other 39 states she’s visited on her journey through the United States.
Bentley arrived in Indiana on Oct. 2 and leaves Wednesday. She is detailing her yearlong trip to all 50 states on her website, www.thepackedbag.com, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Trip Advisor, though she admitted she’s gotten behind on some of her social media tasks.
She hopes to have a book about her trip, which concludes on Christmas Eve, out by next summer.
During her week in Indiana, she visited Bloomington, Columbus, Indianapolis, French Lick, Fort Wayne and Nappanee before landing in Chesterton at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center.
Her whirlwind tour of Porter County, in addition to the state park, was to include Taltree Arboretum and Gardens, Valpo Velvet, Broken Wagon Bison Farm and Central Park Plaza, where she hoped to get a shot with the Orville Redenbacher statue, to add to her portfolio of selfies with local statues.
But it was the beach that held her attention in the midafternoon.
“That is not Chicago,” she said, looking at the city’s skyline across the lake and noting she will be there Sunday, after a trip to Springfield, Ill. “That is just craziness.”
She asked Ken Kosky, promotions director with Indiana Dunes Tourism, about the smokestacks from the mills, and turned her gaze back to Chicago’s skyscrapers.
“And you’ve got smog from Chicago. That’s a gift, too,” she said.
Bentley said her trip has been “a wonderful journey,” and she has come up with unofficial slogans for each state she’s visited. For Kentucky, it’s “Northern South;” Iowa earned “Midwest Neutral.”
She hasn’t yet decided on Indiana’s slogan, but she was impressed by what she saw, including the architecture in Columbus and the European spa town feeling of French Lick, which Bentley prefers to call West Baden Springs.
“It’s a surprising state. It’s not a boring Midwest state at all,” she said.
Luckily, the federal shutdown hasn’t had any impact on Bentley’s trip, other than the occasional sign that something was closed. She declined to share her outsider’s viewpoint on the government morass.
“I never discuss politics. I’m completely ignorant,” she said.