Road Trips

North on the Dixie Highway from Bloomington

A couple weeks ago I drove to Bloomington to see my son, who lives there. When I headed home, I followed the Dixie Highway, old State Road 37, as far as it would take me. Since SR 37 had been upgraded to become I-69, which removed all of the turnoffs to the old alignments, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I was pleased that the old road took me almost to Martinsville. Here’s its route, which now includes some new-terrain road.

Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway to where it ended on my September, 2020, trip. Map data ©2020 Google.

For about 14 miles, Old 37 and the Dixie follow a winding path nowhere near the new Interstate. But for the next four miles or so, until it ends, the old road parallels I-69 and acts as its frontage road.

Within those first 14 miles, the old road is just as it always was: lightly traveled and lush. I’ve written about this segment before, here and here.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

I had this road entirely to myself this Friday afternoon. On past trips I’ve encountered bicyclists out here; not this time.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This long segment used to exit onto State Road 37, but Interstates are limited access by their nature. Here’s how it exited onto SR 37 northbound when I first visited it in 2007.

Old SR 37

Today, the old road curves the other way into a brand new frontage road.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

Shortly the frontage road meets the next old alignment of Old SR 37 and the Dixie Highway. When I last wrote about it, here, I said that an old bridge had been left in place after a new bridge was built alongside it. I got to see the old bridge. It was saved because its qualities put it on the state’s Select list of bridges, which prevents it from being demolished without the state jumping through a whole bunch of hoops. It looks to me like some repairs have been done to it to stabilize it. But it is open now only to pedestrians.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This southbound photograph from the new bridge shows that the old road has been significantly upgraded. Notice how wide it is, compared to the old road on the right.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

The new road ends about 2½ miles later, where the older, narrower pavement resumes. Shortly the road dead ends at this old bridge.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I was happy to find this bridge still here, as I’d heard a rumor that it had been removed. But I’m still saddened that it’s closed to traffic after failing an inspection in 2015. Here it is the last time I got to drive on it, which was in 2012. Read more about this bridge here.

Pony trusses

The old highway north of the bridge has been removed, however. What a strange sight.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I’ve heard that this bridge will be repurposed as a pedestrian bridge. I’ve studied the I-69 plan map for this area and it looks like there’s no plan to continue the frontage road from here.

Here’s one final look at this old bridge from the north.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

Until I-69 is built around Martinsville, it’s easy enough to return to SR 37: back up from here to the first side road, follow it east until it Ts, turn left, then follow that road until it reaches SR 37.

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Preservation, Road Trips

Revisiting the bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

I climbed down the bank to see what kind of bridge this was. I was richly rewarded — it’s a true beauty.

Bridge over Cagle Mill Lake

That was in 2008 when I toured Indiana’s State Road 42, which stretches from near Indianapolis at Mooresville to Terre Haute. Along the way the road reaches Cagles Mill Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project. This bridge was built in 1951 to span the lake, and SR 42 was realigned to cross the bridge. Upon my visit, it had been freshly renovated. It looked like new!

In the years since I stopped clambering down banks to see the undersides of bridges. Perhaps after seeing enough bridges I stopped being surprised and delighted by them. I’m sure that as I’ve gotten older I have become more risk averse — climbing down a steep bank can be hazardous! But after I visited the new SR 46 bridge near Bowling Green, I knew I wanted to see the Cagles Mill Lake bridge again, up close and personal. It wasn’t too far away.

It was like old times when I clambered down the bank to photograph this bridge. I had my Nikon F2AS along with a 35-105mm zoom lens attached. This unwieldy kit did not make it any easier to get into position.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

I made one shot at 35mm and another at or near maximum zoom. Neither of these photos turned out as well as I hoped. When I visited last time, the bank was clear except for large rocks placed to retard erosion. This time, the rocks were still there, but so was a considerable amount of brush that made it hard to get a good angle on the bridge. A lot of brush can grow in 12 years! I’m also not pleased with the exposure in either of these photos. But at least I got them.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

The best photo of the visit is this one of the deck. I love how the road disappears into the trees.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

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Road Trips

Goodbye to the bridge that kindled my love of bridges

I fell in love with bridges because of this bridge.

Public domain image by Wikipedia user Nyttend

In 1987 I was a junior in college and I had a girlfriend at Indiana University. My buddy Doug also had a girlfriend at IU — and he had a car. He generously let me ride along every time he drove to Bloomington.

Terre Haute and Bloomington are connected by State Road 46. It rolls and winds gently through the countryside. It’s truly a lovely drive; make it if you’re ever out that way.

I never paid any attention to bridges until Doug and I started making this trip. Just west of tiny Bowling Green, State Road 46 crosses the Eel River. Starting in 1933, it did so over this two-span Parker through truss bridge.

Passing through this bridge became a quiet highlight of the trip. I probably never mentioned it to Doug. I came to enjoy the shadows the sun cast through the overhead trusses as we passed.

I came to enjoy other truss bridges in my travels. Soon I was curious about other kinds of bridges. My inner bridgefan had been awakened.

A regular inspection in 2011 found some failed gusset plates, critical to the bridge’s safety. They were repaired in a one-month closure. Then in 2012 more structural problems were found, leading to a three-month closure for repairs. But the Indiana Department of Transportation could see that this bridge would soon need either a thorough restoration — or replacement.

I’ll cut to the chase: INDOT chose replacement. People who lived near the bridge wanted it restored. They rightly pointed out that this bridge was on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to its association with settlement and economic development in the county. Their arguments only delayed the inevitable. In 2019, this old bridge was removed, and this bridge was built.

Replacement SR 46 bridge near Bowling Green

It’s been years since I had been out this way. Since moving to Indianapolis in the mid 1990s, I had little call to drive the road between Bloomington and Terre Haute! But in August I met one of my sons at a state park near his home for a long hike. Because of COVID-19, we hadn’t seen each other in at least six months. We were long overdue. That state park is on State Road 46.

After our hike, my son needed to be on his way. I had a couple hours to kill, so I plotted a long drive and went on my way. My first destination was this bridge. I knew not seeing the old truss bridge would be challenging. Fortunately, SR 46 is just as charming a drive today as ever. Enjoying the drive took some of the sting out when I came upon the new bridge.

I’ve lamented modern bridges before: they stir no hearts. Their utilitarian design probably makes them less expensive to build and maintain. As a taxpayer, I appreciate that. Also, when this one has outlived its useful life, nobody will protest its demolition and replacement.

I’ll say this much in praise of the new bridge: it’s plenty wide. The old bridge’s deck was just 23.6 feet wide. Encountering an oncoming semi in there always felt like an uncomfortably close encounter! Actually, those semis are a big part of what make old truss bridges like these obsolete. Trucks just weren’t as big and heavy when these bridges were built. Today’s semis simply wore these bridges out faster. The new bridge offers no eye candy, but it is stout enough to take on any vehicle the modern era can throw at it.

Because of the bridge’s historic status, all is not lost. It was dismantled and will be relocated to a park near Nashville, Indiana, where it will serve as 2 single-span pedestrian bridges. When I hear that this project is complete, I’ll make a trip to see — and experience this old bridge once again.

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Road Trips

Photos my son made on our 2013 Route 66 trip

After I shot my Kodak EasyShare Z730 recently I found a couple folders on the SD card that I didn’t recognize. They turned out to contain a whole bunch of photographs my older son made. I forgot that I had given him the camera! When he grew up and moved out he gave the camera back to me. What young adult has any use for an old digital camera?

I was thrilled to find all of his photos from our 2013 trip down Route 66 on that SD card. It was wonderful to relive that memory and see it through my son’s eyes. I am amused to find a number of photographs clearly made from a few feet to the left or right of me while I was making a similar photo.

Let’s begin in Wilmington, Illinois, with the Gemini Giant at the Launching Pad restaurant. I wrote about the giants of Route 66 here.

We stopped at the old jail in Gardner, Illinois. It was wide open; we just walked in. Somewhere around here I have a photo of my boys behind these bars.

We lingered for a long time at this restored Standard station in Odell, Illinois. I wrote about it here. Our trip had only begun and every new sight was exciting. That would wear off after a couple more states!

I’m an old-road infrastructure geek, and I just loved this stretch of restored brick pavement near Auburn, Illinois. Except for a recent “single frame” post, I’m surprised I haven’t written more about it. I’ll have to fix that.

We stopped to photograph this sign near Villa Ridge, Missouri. The hotel didn’t appear to be operating, but the sign looked fresh.

We stayed the night at this motel in Cuba, Missouri. It is several clusters of stone buildings each with several rooms, all of which have been very nicely restored.

This was easily the best place we stayed on the whole trip. I shared a photo of the little stone building we stayed in here. This is a different building on the property.

John’s Modern Cabins was surprisingly hard to find, as it is on an abandoned and nearly cut off section of the road near Doolittle, Missouri. But find it we did, and my son made a photo that bested any of the ones I made here.

There isn’t much to Spencer, Missouri; you’re looking at a great deal of it here. This onetime service station was partially restored just to be a Route 66 attraction.

I was pleased to find this image of me in Spencer. There are precious few photos of me from the times I shared with my sons. I made the lion’s share of the photographs, and I didn’t have a smartphone yet to make selfies. That’s my trusty Canon S95 in my right hand.

We paused just to make a photo of this iconic scene in Carthage, Missouri. If I remember right, it was spitting rain. It was the only bad weather we encountered on the trip.

The four women who operated 4 Women on the Route had closed things down when we visited their shop near Galena, Kansas. They reconfigured things and this place is now called Cars on the Route, after the Pixar movie Cars. Apparently, a tow truck with eyes in the windshield was the inspiration for the Tow Mater character in the film.

Near Miami, Oklahoma, we stopped to photograph this nine-foot-wide strip of pavement known as the Sidewalk Highway or the Ribbon Road. This pavement dates to 1918; it wouldn’t become Route 66 until 1926. In the early days of highways, there were some experiments with one-lane roads like this. As you can see, the pavement has been augmented with gravel on either side to make it wide enough for two oncoming cars.

In Catoosa, Oklahoma, we stopped to see the Blue Whale. This is a swimming hole, and you can jump into the water out of the whale’s tail.

We were starting to run out of steam as we reached the middle of Oklahoma. We were headed toward Oklahoma City where I looked to grab lunch when Pops swung into view. It was great fun, we had a lovely lunch, and we got a boost that pushed us through the rest of our planned trip.

It was a good thing, because Oklahoma had some wonderful old-road infrastructure to share with us yet. This concrete was poured in the early 1930s. It’s part of a long section of concrete that begins its westbound journey at El Reno and runs most of the rest of the way to Texas.

I am thrilled to have this photograph of the William H. Murray Bridge, which my son made from the front seat as I drove. This bridge carries US 281 today and was quite busy when we visited, so it’s not like I was going to step out onto it for a photo. It was challenging enough to get the photos I did make from its south end.

Route 66 was the last major Spring Break trip we made together. After the divorce, my sons spent every other Spring Break with me and we always traveled. The first trip was the Indiana History Tour to a whole bunch of historic and scenic sites around our state. Two years later we traveled to Washington, D.C. for a few days, and drove the National Road home (until we totaled our car in Ohio). Two years after that, we rented a cabin in the central Tennessee woods, where we hiked a lot and rested a lot. Then two years later came Route 66. We made it almost to Texas before we ran out of time and had to double back. Two years later my older son was a senior in high school and because he was busy and involved he asked for an abbreviated Spring Break trip. We spent a couple days in Kentucky to see Mammoth Cave. Then two years later my younger son was a senior in high school and he, too, wanted a short trip. We spent a few days in Cincinnati together.

When my boys look back, they talk most fondly about the Washington, D.C., trip. I liked the Route 66 trip best by far, but the boys’ chief memory of it is spending far too much time in the car.

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Peacock Road

Peacock Road
Canon PowerShot S95

When I find an old brick road, I seldom find much information about it on the Internet. But a lot is known about Peacock Road.

These bricks are part of the National Road in eastern Ohio. You’ll find them about 2.7 miles west of Old Washington, just off modern US 40.

During World War I, factories across the Midwest were in full production for the war. The railways were already jammed with their goods, and it became necessary to transport goods by truck. But most roads were dirt in those days; some were gravel and a few had been paved in hard surfaces. Making matters worse, road maintenance had often been deferred during the war. It was hard to find long-distance routes where the roads were in consistently good condition.

In Ohio, the National Road was a clear choice for overland trucking but for two unpaved sections in poor condition. One of those sections lay between Old Washington and Cambridge. In 1918, the state worked prisoners night and day for six weeks to create a hard-surfaced road here. They poured a concrete pad and then laid bricks onto it. This road is just 17 feet wide — consider that a standard single lane on an Interstate highway is 12 feet wide!

Ohio kept improving its roads in the years that followed. The state rebuilt this road in 1936, by which time it had become US 40. The new road bypassed what is now known as Peacock Road. It’s a ¾-mile segment of the 1918 brick road, left intact to serve a couple properties on it.

As you enter from the east, the first 1,000 feet or so of Peacock Road is gravel. I assume the gravel covers a deteriorated portion of the brick road. I made this westbound photo from where the bricks begin.

See Peacock Road on Google Maps here. This brings to an end my single frame series on brick roads.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Peacock Road

Peacock Road is a WW I era brick segment of the National Road in eastern Ohio.

Brick segment of old US 40/NR

Brick National Road in Ohio
Canon PowerShot S95

The National Road in eastern Ohio offers an abundance of old pavement, both brick and concrete. You can still drive on a lot of the old brick, but very little of the concrete.

This short segment of brick is in Cambridge, on its far west side. See it on a map here. The National Road and US 40 used to leave Cambridge proper on Dewey Ave., which becomes McPherson Ave. and Manila Rd. on its way out of town. When it reaches a railroad track, it curves to parallel it for maybe 300 feet. It’s clear that at one time the road crossed the track where it now curves, but it would have been a dangerous crossing due to a shallow angle.

Manila Rd. ends at Phillips Rd. Turn right and cross modern US 40. On the other side lies this brick segment, which lasts for maybe 200 or 250 feet before asphalt takes over again.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Brick National Road in Ohio

A segment of old US 40 in Cambridge, Ohio, that is paved in brick.