Road Trips

Scenes from US 50 in southwestern Indiana

I returned to US 50 not long ago to finish exploring it across Indiana. I found some great views from Shoals west to the Illinois state line.

Although my last trip ended in Shoals, I started this trip a bit to the west in Loogootee (pronounced lo GOAD ee). Not only is there no direct route to Shoals from my Indianapolis home, but I had learned of an old alignment through Shoals and exploring it would cause me to miss the section of current US 50 between Shoals and Loogootee. I had a great time zooming through that twisty stretch during a 2006 road trip and wanted to drive it again. Here’s a photo I took from there in 2006.

Southern Indiana road trip

I photographed the road from about the same place this time, too. I’m surprised to find the road looks less twisty in my new photo. I took the earlier photo with a Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80, a film camera I owned then. It had a 38mm lens. Could my Canon PowerShot S80’s 28mm lens have straightened these curves a little? Or is it that I got this shot from just a little farther east than last time, which ate up a bit of the curve?

Scenes from US 50

For Hoosiers who grew up where the glaciers flattened everything, pretty much the northern half to two-thirds of the state, straight roads cut through level farmland. But roadbuilders of old had to go over or around southern Indana’s hills. It had to be much harder work than their northern Indiana counterparts experienced, but it sure led to fun drives like this stretch of US 50. It also led to some great views, such as this one at a little pulloff called Overlook Park.

Scenes from US 50

I had more trouble finding Jug Rock, a natural rock formation in Shoals not far from the bridge over the east fork of the White River. It’s all sandstone and is the largest “table rock” formation east of the Mississippi. It stands feet from the road, but downhill a bit and in a thick woods so it’s hard to see. It’s also not well marked. I missed the itty bitty sign and tiny pulloff three times and almost gave up looking for it!

Jug Rock

US 50 was busy this Saturday. As I waited for traffic to pass so I could get back into my car, I snapped this shot that shows the road’s character here.

Scenes from US 50

But as I mentioned earlier, this isn’t US 50’s original path. I’ll share the old alignment, which involves a county road and a state highway, next time.

Another great Indiana rock formation is in Madison along State Road 7. Check out Hanging Rock Hill.

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12 thoughts on “Scenes from US 50 in southwestern Indiana

  1. Lone Primate says:

    I’ve done a lot of agonizing over shadows in before and after settings (sometimes they’re the only indication of which way you’re looking in a photo from before you were born–you remember The Photographer’s Ephemeris, I’m sure, Jim :) ). I’d say your assumption you took the second shot further down the road is correct and more likely than a real change in the road itself. Both shots were taken in the summer; that’s pretty clear. The shadow angles for that time of year are going to be, very roughly, similar. It looks to me like the 2006 shot was taken later in the morning than your more recent shot: the shadows are shorter, but they’re falling at a similar enough angle. The real key for me is the big sunny gap in the foreground in the 2006 shot. It’s likely that gap in the trees still exists four years later, so my guess is you were either standing in that sunny gap, or just beyond it in the next band of shadows, when you took the 2010 photo. That’s probably why the road appears straighter in the foreground in that shot while everything in the background looks pretty much the same.

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    • I like your explanation.

      I checked the EXIF on the 2010 shot and it said I took the photo at 10:55 am. That hardly seems possible, as I recall still being on US 231 driving to this area at that time. Perhaps I forgot to adjust my S80 for DST. 11:55 seems more likely, but I feel pretty sure I didn’t even arrive down there until after lunch. Well, whatever. The 2006 photo, having been taken on good old-fashioned film, has no EXIF data to confirm the time!

      While I did get out of my car and stand in the middle of US 50 for the 2006 shot, the 2010 shot was taken at 60 mph.

      I had never heard of The Photographer’s Ephemeris and had to look it up! Very cool.

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  2. Lone Primate says:

    The rock is fascinating. I wonder what caused it. That must be a long way from the shore of Lake Erie; on the other hand, the Great Lakes (or what became them) were a lot more extensive on the last retreat of the glaciers. I suppose it’s more likely the work of the White River in some long-abandoned course. I guess our forgotten roads aren’t the only things that leave behind wistful ruins of what was. :)

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    • The Wikipedia article for Jug Rock (click the link in the post above to see it) says that it separated from a cliff along a fracture line. I’m no geologist so I only vaguely understand that.

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  3. The Jug Rock was considered a local attraction and was fairly well publicized back in the day. Don’t know if it’s still the case, but when I was growing up the Shoals High School sports teams were called the Jug Rocks. I attended Williams High School myself, but my three youngest siblings attended at Shoals.

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    • I was surprised when I visited that there was no good place to put my car to go visit it. I pulled over as much as I could, and even had my car’s tail blocking someone’s driveway.

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  4. Two of my boyhood friends were killed on that stretch of US 50 when their car ran off the road at high speed and under an overhanging rock outcropping. It peeled the roof back and exploded their heads all over the back of the car. (Sorry to be gruesome!)

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