Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Small National Road towns in eastern Indiana

One reason I wanted to bicycle across Indiana on US 40 is because on previous US 40 road trips, there wasn’t always somewhere to put my car when I wanted to photograph something. On my bicycle, I could stop anywhere. Also, taking it at bicycle speed over four days would give me plenty of time to linger.

In reality, I was so focused on the riding that I rode right by some things I wanted to stop and see, unaware that I was passing them. Still, I managed to see many things I wanted.

In eastern Indiana, between Cambridge City and Knightstown lie the three small towns of Dublin, Lewisville, and Dunreith. All three are quite small, but all of them offer something to see.

Dublin is a short distance west of Cambridge City, just beyond the Huddleston Farmhouse. You’ll find this pair of 1800s brick buildings on the town’s eastern edge.

Dublin, IN

I wonder the recent history of this building. My read on it is that it really was J. Burney’s Carriage Shop back in the day, but people have repainted the sign in recent years to keep the memory alive.

Dublin, IN

Closer to the heart of Dublin stands this building, which currently houses an antique store. You can shop for antiques all up and down US 40 in this part of Indiana, although most of the shops are in Cambridge City and Centerville.

Dublin, IN

Lewisville is about 8 miles down the road, and you have to pass through Straughn to get there. But I didn’t stop in Straughn because it’s a bunch of houses and a post office. Lewisville has a small downtown, anchored by this row of buildings.

Lewisville

This is by far the best cared-for building at Lewisville’s main intersection. It appears to be in use as essentially the Lewisville town hall.

Lewisville

Across the street was this little store, which advertises “Harold’s hamburgers.” I wish now I’d gone in to try one.

Lewisville

This is the westbound view down US 40 from in front of the general store.

Lewisville

Dunreith is about 4½ miles down the road from Lewisville. There isn’t much to it.

Dunreith, IN

Dunreith has seen happier times, for sure.

Dunreith, IN

A couple blocks off the National Road stands the Flamingo Motel, an old-time motor court that still operates. This is the only hotel near the road between Richmond and greater Indianpolis, so I stayed here on my bicycle tour.

Flamingo Motel

The room was clean and the attached restaurant offered good diner fare. The restaurant had closed early the afternoon I arrived, which was going to be a problem for me as there are no other restaurants nearby. The owner of the hotel and restaurant took pity on me and made me a cheeseburger and fries.

Flamingo Motel

Here’s my bike in front of my room. My photos inside the room didn’t turn out great so I’ll just tell you that it was small inside and dominated by the bed. The floor was tiled and the small bathroom was spartan. But it was big enough for me and the bike, and the bed was comfortable.

Flamingo Motel

Dunreith is where a four-mile original alignment of the National Road begins. It leads directly to Knightstown.

National Road west of Dunreith

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29 thoughts on “Small National Road towns in eastern Indiana

  1. Jim, loving the more in-depth account of your trip across Indiana. The architecture is so different from the UK, my travel feet get more restless each day! I wanted to also thank you for reccomending my Fuji GE review, it’s very kind of you and much appreciated. Good health! Andy

  2. I love this stretch of 40 and spent a fair amount of time stopping or turning around and going back for pictures on a road trip a few years ago.

    IOne of those small towns has an antique store that bears the name Betts – a nice treat for me since my last name isn’t super common.

    That road trip was the best, most freeing experience because I went with no hotel reservations or real plans. I just stopped where I pleased and drove till I got tired. The people I met along the National Read were all friendly and helpful. Great time.

    It doesn’t surprise me that the hotel owner made you lunch! Also, I liked that carriage house too!
    https://makethejourneyfun.wordpress.com/2019/03/22/carriage-shop/

      • Well, remember, I was in a car and did have the freedom to stray off to interstate exists that weren’t far off my path. I stayed in Plainfield one night on the way out and I think again on the way back. Since I got a taste for that sort of trip I really enjoy it!

  3. Michael says:

    The building housing the current general store in Lewisville looks pretty unusual. I wonder what it had been originally. It’s been several things recently, and today’s incarnation is the best. There appears to be a national road history sign in the park next to it. Did you look at it?

    I also find it odd the Flamingo isn’t on 40. Do they have a good sign on 40 so people wouldn’t miss it?

  4. matt says:

    The lack of parking/pull-off space is often frustrating to me too… In Colorado, we often have great views I have to drive by because the shoulder’s non-existent and visibility would all but guarantee a crash. I sympathise — at least you get a chance to ride it at ‘bike speed’.

  5. DougD says:

    Great shots Jim, I’m always amazed at how much abandoned stuff there is in Indiana. I live in a high cost area and nothing is abandoned, my brother lives in a small town where some buildings are neglected, but not outright abandoned. I’d have to drive 4+ hours north to get any of that.

    Sure makes for charming photos though. Thanks!

    • Andy Umbo says:

      When I drive through rural America, I always see abandoned brick buildings (like these) that I think: “I could pick up something cheap and maybe build an opportunity”, especially with the opportunity of selling over the net and just shipping; but then I always think there’s something I’m not seeing. Lack of quality utilities, internet, cost of mail or UPS service, etc. etc. To Doug’s point, there isn’t anything even of that quality “abandoned” anywhere near where I live. Even the land it’s on is worth more money than I have.

      Brandi B’s comment a couple of entries ago about the “you’re not from here” syndrome, is also a big player. I’ve heard of more than one situation of an “out-stater” falling in love with a rural town/area in Wisconsin, and coming in and dumping seven figures into a few building purchases and renovations, only to not be able to get any traction with local government, etc., which results in difficulties trying to get people to relocate there to use what’s been done. Sometimes the decline of an area has a lot to do with how the people that are left in that area think about things. Sometimes they’re the reason for the decline.

      Still, when I look at these pictures, I see those buildings, and I think: “…hmmm, that smells like opportunity to me…”.

      • In Indiana, if you’re not in Indianapolis or its suburbs, you’re in a dying place. It’s just a fact of life. I have romantic notions about choosing some dinky place and making something out of an old building, but it would have to be a labor of love.

      • I hear you. As someone who lives in a pretty expensive West Coast city (though when I moved here twenty years ago, it was not so), these types of places are tempting. Historic and well-built buildings for cheap! It’s easy to fantasize about buying an old building and moving in. But then you may be isolated, which for some is a dream but for others a nightmare. You can always try to get a group of like-minded friends to come in with you to make your “dream artistic community”. But then you might come up against the resistance of the locals.

        But it can work out okay. Port Townsend, Washington was largely built in the last couple decades of the nineteenth century. They thought they would become a big railhead town, but they were just too far removed for that to happen. (They eventually got a rail connection, but it happened too late for it to make a difference, as Seattle and Tacoma became the main Puget Sound ports.) By the 1970s it was a small down-on-its luck town, holding on because of a paper mill. But the city was full of beautiful Victorian-era brick buildings, and younger people discovered them, especially since they could be had for a song. Since then Port Townsend has become a thriving little artistic kinda town. And now property is too expensive for me to even consider living there!

        • That’s how it works: some pioneers take the initial risks, and either it works out or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, the pioneers lose their shirts, or at best just stay remote in a cheap place to live. If it does, prices soar.

        • Andy Umbo says:

          PDX, weirdly enough, over the last two years, I’ve heard about 10 “Gen-Zeds” from all over the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison corridor planning to move to Astoria Oregon, all because the movie Goonies was filmed there. Lost on me, I’ve never even seen it. It’s so ubiquitous among a certain age here, it’s like the first Midwest diaspora to Colorado in the late 60’s / early 70’s (the second being in the 2010’s). Hope they can find work!

        • As a full-on Gen Xer who saw “Goonies” when it was released, it’s interesting to hear that younger gens find the movie appealing enough to want to move to Astoria. But I get the non-Goonies lure of the town. I’ve thought about moving there a few times, as it’s (almost) on the ocean and is small yet has most of the amenities I would need to survive. And it’s pretty. But it would have been smarter to move there 15 years ago when real estate was cheaper. And I don’t know if I could deal with Coast Winter…

  6. Roger Meade says:

    I think most of rural mid America has plenty of these old brick buildings that were passed by, even before the digital age really. It was good roads, autos and cheap gas that did for them. The same thing happened to railroad branch lines and passenger trains.

    One difference I see in your Indiana photos compared to rural Michigan, at least mid-Michigan and north, is what I will call the post colonial architectural style. By this I mean the plain front two story brick with center door and symmetrical window placement, with chimneys on the two the end wall centerlines. I think mid Michigan jumped right to Victorian from log cabins. I am not really familiar with the counties along the Indiana and Ohio borders, so they may also have built those earlier building styles as they were probably settled first.

    I have seen subtle differences in rural areas of states I have traveled to over the years, from eastern New York to Kansas. Each area seems to have a slightly different style or flavor that is hard to put your finger on. Riding a bike has got to be the best way to enjoy those differences. Thanks for the look at rural central Indiana.

    • I have a little experience with southwest Michigan and it is more like Indiana than you describe northern Michigan to be. But it still has a style of its own, to your point.

      • Dan Cluley says:

        The short and simplified answer is that a badly timed survey & possibly some sketchy politics led people to believe that most of Michigan was too swampy to be worth settling, so most of Michigan’s history runs 20-30 years behind Ohio and Indiana.

  7. “In reality, I was so focused on the riding that I rode right by some things I wanted to stop and see, unaware that I was passing them. Still, I managed to see many things I wanted.”

    This is something one only figures out after they do a bike tour or two. It doesn’t help that a lot of people fixate too much on distance, i.e. “How many miles can I do in a day?” My approach with bike touring, especially as I get older, is less about the “x miles a day” and more about trying to absorb the surroundings. I mean, if it was all about miles, I’d drive or take the train.

    I’m not perfect. There are some days where it’s all about “only 20 more miles to the campground”, especially if the weather is bad or the scenery boring. But fixation with end-goals stress me out, I feel like I don’t have time to stop and enjoy myself when I need to be somewhere by a certain time, and that’s no fun.

    • I gave myself all day to do 35-45 miles, but I did have fixed destinations because I had lodging waiting. Still, the riding was much more involved than I thought. It doesn’t help that I was mighty tired all trip – I think my thyroid meds need adjusted.

  8. Darts and Letters says:

    It’s pretty incredible how many more opportunities opened up to you from a photography perspective, being on your bike, like this (i liked that observation you made). What fun! All that different kind of freedom than if you were in an automobile! And to be able to see or notice the smaller things. I’ve been wanting to ride my bike around town more, to shake up my photo walks a little. By the way, that was really thoughtful of the motel to make you that meal. You’re clearly a gentleman possessed of good manners, they wouldn’t do that for just anyone, so lucky you

    • It was a different kind of freedom from being in my car. I sort of wish for a motorcycle now for my road trips!

      The motel/restaurant owner was a salt-of-the-earth type. But I’m sure you’re right, my good manners were at play as well.

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