Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Chrome teeth

Chrome teeth
Olympus XA, Arista Premium 400
2013

Captured: Still life with fan

6

Still life with fan

The last stop with my friend Dawn on our annual road trip this year was to Stockdale Mill, a restored and functional water-powered flour mill just west of tiny Roann in northern Indiana. Because of Roann’s annual festival in progress, mill tours were operating under extended hours. Our tour guide said that the mill was built in 1857 and ground grain until the early 1960s. New worker-safety rules did the mill in. There’s something inherently dangerous about large quantities of flour in a building made of wood. Flour dust is highly explosive.

I had my Nikon F2AS slung over one shoulder and a Yashica Lynx 14e I’m testing slung over the other. But as I write this, neither roll of film has been processed. I’m glad that my Canon PowerShot S95 was along, too, so I could share images with you more quickly. Not that there’s much to show, as I struggled to make useful images in and around the mill. Maybe some of my film shots will turn out better, but I’m not optimistic. As we passed through what had been the mill office, I spied this old fan. I’m fascinated with old fans, so I took a bunch of shots of it. This one captured the scene well enough.

Black Chrysler

Black Chrysler
Olympus XA, Arista Premium 400
2013

At the tractor pull

13

Dawn and I drove to tiny Roann in northern Indiana to see its covered bridge and nearby historic grist mill, and found to our surprise that it was the weekend of the town’s annual Covered Bridge Festival. All of the trappings were present: carnival rides, food booths, and a parade featuring fire trucks from a five-county radius. Big doings in small-town Indiana!

The best part was the antique-tractor pull. I’m absolutely not a guy you’ll find at the fairgrounds on Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! with a lite beer in hand watching multi-engined, fire-breathing, smoke-belching megatractors. But it was undeniably charming to watch this motorsport in its elemental form: everyday people from rural Indiana who brought their antique tractors to compete at a small-town pull track.

I followed one woman driving her 1950s Farmall from start to finish. Here she is, queued up and waiting her turn.

At the tractor pull

She drove onto the track and backed up to the weight. I’m sure there’s an official name for the contraption she pulled, but I’m not hip to the lingo.

At the tractor pull

Then she was poised and ready to start pulling.

At the tractor pull

As she made her way down the track, I zoomed out to take in as much as my camera could see. The fellow reclining in the back was the official scorekeeper. I guess the object was to see how far each tractor could drag this weight down the track.

At the tractor pull

More tractors were queued up behind her. Here are the next three to go. It must be comfortable to lean forward and rest a forearm on the steering wheel.

At the tractor pull

This Allis-Chalmers got its turn soon enough.

At the tractor pull

As did this beautiful Cockshutt 40. Its style reminds me of the Streamline Moderne design movement from the 1930s, but these tractors were first built in 1949.

At the tractor pull

I have no idea who won. I barely understood how this whole competition worked! But it was great to see this old iron put to the stress test.


When I was a boy, my dad worked at the Oliver tractor factory. Read about it.

Recommended reading

5

Here are the blog posts I liked most this week.

My Michigan Road cohort Kurt Garner wrote a great post about how if all you want to do is criticize the people who are trying to get things done, shut up. That’s my blunt interpretation of his words, anyway. Read It’s not the critic who counts

James Altucher built a popular and valuable Web business that he sold for $10 million. He gives lots of good advice about how to do that — and about how to quickly lose the money you made. What’s surprising is his conclusion about how that happened. Read Step By Step Guide to Make $10 Million And Then Totally Blow It

Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s blog used to be funny and frequently updated. But because of bad medical care, she is now on a terrible journey through recovery from benzodiazepine withdrawal. She updates her blog every few months to tell how she’s doing. It’s a horrifying read. Start here and click forward through her blog. Or jusr read her most recent entry:  Read Limping Back to Life

Writing for TechCrunch, Matthew Panzarino calls the iPhone camera as significant as the Kodak Brownie and the Pentax K1000. Then he extols the new camera features in iOS 8 that give some manual control over aperture, shutter speed, white balance, and more. Read A Manual iPhone Camera, Finally

Restored and repurposed: The Houck Iron Bridge

5

Putnam County, Indiana, is so rich in old bridges that when my friend Dawn and I set out to tour them four years ago, we couldn’t fit them all into a single day. Most of Putnam County’s old bridges were well used and needed a little maintenance. A few of them had fallen into such disrepair that they were closed to traffic. One of those was the Houck Iron Bridge.

The Houck Iron Bridge

This bridge may look like it was in the middle of nowhere. There’s a lot of middle-of-nowhere in Putnam County, which is mostly rural. But this bridge stood just three miles north of downtown Greencastle, the county’s largest town and home to DePauw University.

The Houck Iron Bridge

Built in 1913, the Houck Iron Bridge stood here for 99 years and carried traffic for most of them. But in 2012, it was dismantled. A new concrete slab bridge was built slightly downstream.

The Houck Iron Bridge

The pieces were trucked north to Delphi in Carroll County, where volunteers worked for two years to restore and reassemble this bridge over the Wabash and Erie Canal on Delphi’s extensive trail system. It opened in July, and so Dawn and I spent some of our annual road trip this year driving up there to visit it.

The Houck Iron Bridge

I can’t imagine all the straightening and sandblasting the job must have required. But the volunteers in Delphi are tenacious. They’ve built a very nice park along the canal, which is a few blocks north of downtown. You can rent a paddle boat and take a lazy trip along the canal, or rent a bicycle and ride the trail system, or bring a picnic and eat among a number of log cabins built nearby, or tour the museum and interpretive center.

The Houck Iron Bridge

But we were there to see the bridge, which was the sole focus of my photography.

The Houck Iron Bridge

Now that this bridge has found a new home, it has been renamed the Gray Bridge. Two other restored old truss spans have been placed along the trails surrounding Delphi, too: the Red Bridge and the Blue Bridge. You get one guess per bridge what color they are painted.

The Houck Iron Bridge

Walking across the new deck, I was surprised by how many boards were a little loose and how some of the boards weren’t flush. The decks on bridges I’ve seen restored for vehicular use are tight as a drum. Perhaps a pedestrian bridge has lesser requirements.

The Houck Iron Bridge

But otherwise the volunteers did a great job giving this bridge new life. Everything that used to be bent or twisted is now straight.

Normally I prefer historic structures to be restored in place. But I think in this case that this great old bridge will get much more use and enjoyment in its new home. Kudos to the volunteers in Delphi for making it happen.


I love truss bridges. They’re art in steel.

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