Road Trips

The Wabash River bridge at New Harmony

New Harmony is a small village in Indiana’s southwesternmost county, right on the Wabash River. It’s surprisingly remote. You won’t pass through it on your way to anywhere else — especially since the bridge to Illinois was closed.

Closed: New Harmony bridge

Opened in 1930, the Harmony Way Bridge was built by a private concern and later managed, by no less than a 1941 act of Congress, by the White County (Illinois) Bridge Commission, to which three commissioners were appointed. Inexplicably, in 1998 Congress repealed part of that act that provided a mechanism for appointing commissioners. When the last commissioner resigned or died, there would be nobody to manage the bridge.

Closed: New Harmony bridge

I got to drive over this bridge once each way, in 2006, when I took my sons on a Spring Break tour of interesting and historic Indiana sites. We meant to spend a day in New Harmony, which has a fascinating history, but it rained hard when we got there with no end in sight. We drove around New Harmony in a few minutes. I decided we’d see if anything interesting was on the Illinois side of the Wabash. Naught but farm fields, for miles.

Closed: New Harmony bridge

It cost two dollars to find that out — this was a toll bridge, a dollar each way. The funds paid for regular operations with a little left over. But bridge maintenance costs serious money, and over time serious structural problems formed that the bridge commission couldn’t afford to fix. Indiana and Illinois officials closed the bridge permanently in May of 2012.

Closed: New Harmony bridge

The bridge carried about 900 vehicles a day, mostly farm vehicles and vehicles related to the farm service industry, plus some Illinois residents who worked in nearby Evansville, Indiana. Today to reach New Harmony from Illinois you have to drive up to Interstate 64 and then 14 miles down to this little town, or down to a bridge just west of the town of Mt. Vernon and then 22 miles back up.

Indiana SR 66 eastbound

The Welcome to Indiana sign by the closed bridge sure seems superfluous.

Some efforts have been made to reopen the bridge, but so far none have succeeded. While we visited New Harmony we saw posters for a proposal to reopen it for pedestrian use and as an outdoor event center. But the Federal law governing the bridge blocks action. The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 6793 (text here) repealing the 1941 act, creating the New Harmony Bridge Bi-State Commission, and transferring control of the bridge to the new commission. Here’s hoping the Senate takes it up and passes it as well.

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I’ve been writing about New Harmony all week — but for those of you here just for the doors, it’s a historic town in the southwestern tip of Indiana. Its founders tried, and failed, to build a utopian society here. Today it’s both a typical small Indiana town and something of an artist’s colony. It makes for a lovely long weekend, as my wife and I found out recently. And now, herewith the doors of New Harmony.

Around New Harmony
Around New Harmony
Around New Harmony
Working Men's Institute
Around New Harmony
Episcopal church
Episcopal church
Opera House
The Roofless Church
Photography

Thursday doors: New Harmony, Indiana

Some of the doors from New Harmony, for the Thursday Doors feature.

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Around New Harmony

Margaret and I try very hard to get away four times a year for a three-day weekend, just the two of us. The concentrated us time really does our marriage good.

Chicago had become our default destination when we decided to mix things up a little. Our last trip, to Bardstown, Kentucky, showed us that small-town outings could be just as fun and much more relaxing.

I’ve always wanted to visit New Harmony, population about 700, in the southwesternmost county in Indiana. I tried once before, on an epic 2007 Spring Break tour with my sons of historic and scenic Indiana places. But it poured down rain the whole time. We drove around the town but never got out of the car.

New Harmony has a fascinating history. Twice in the early 1800s, groups tried to build utopian societies here, one religious and one not. Some of their buildings still stand. We didn’t dig into that during our stay — we wanted to experience New Harmony as it is now and just have a nice time. If you’re interested, this article tells the story in compact form.

A nice time we did have in New Harmony. We rented an 1840s cottage but due to something there being out of order found ourselves upgraded to an enormous four-bedroom house built in about 1860. I’ll share photos of this lovely home in an upcoming post. Renting a house let us bring food with us to make our breakfast and lunch, which let us save a little money, eat more healthfully, and relax through our mornings.

We brought our bikes with us and rode all over this little town, and then halfway through the trip decided it was no trouble really to walk anywhere we wanted to go. We serendipitously enjoyed live music two nights and met many interesting people, some from New Harmony and others visitors just like us.

The only things we wished were different about our trip related to restaurants. Only one restaurant is open in town on Sunday night, and it’s the town’s nicest and most expensive place; we really wanted a light bite in a cozy nook. We also wished menus more easily accommodated our various dietary issues, as we’re used to in the big city.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Main Street, New Harmony

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1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Chevy crest
Canon PowerShot S95
2019

My little Canon S95 is still a great camera, nine years after it was manufactured. It may be showing its age, though. Native colors aren’t as vivid and everything is a little hazy now. So I shoot in Positive color mode, which is supposed to mimic color slide film. And then in Photoshop I use the Auto Tone correction and boost contrast a little. But that’s not an onerous amount of processing. And look at the result!

This Chevy crest is from a 1957 Bel Air, one of the most over-photographed automobiles of all time. Yet even on a cliche subject, when you move in close you can find something interesting.

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Old Cars

single frame: Chevy crest

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Old Cars

Cars and coffee

There are a couple cars-and-coffee events near my home that run once a month during the warm-weather months. I like ’em all but I seem to make the one at Gateway Classic Cars most often. The pickings were a little slim, I assume because it was race weekend. That’s what we call Memorial Day weekend around here, because of the Indianapolis 500.

One fellow brought his 1966 Plymouth Satellite coupe. It originally had a 318 cubic-inch V8, but he swapped it out for a 440. He also painted it in a 1967 color and replaced several interior panels for an all-black interior. It’s got a few blemishes and imperfections, but that’s just how I like them. It makes for a car an owner isn’t afraid to drive. And what’s the point in owning a classic like this if you don’t drive it?

1966 Plymouth Satellite
1966 Plymouth Satellite
1966 Plymouth Satellite

I’ve never been a big fan of GM’s 1973-77 Collonnade cars. They were supposedly mid-sizers but they were enormous on the outside and cramped on the inside. Yet it was good to see this 1976 El Camino. That two-tone pattern with the chrome sweeps was available from the factory, but I’ll bet this particular color combination wasn’t.

1976 Chevrolet El Camino
1976 Chevrolet El Camino
1976 Chevrolet El Camino

I’m sure that for Gateway Classic Cars the whole purpose of Cars and Coffee is to get people inside their showroom to see the classics they have for sale. I have an enormous soft spot in my heart (or is it my head?) for the VW Karmann-Ghia. I tried to buy one once; read that story here.

Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia
Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia

You don’t see too many 1966 Chevrolet Biscaynes at shows and sales. The Biscayne was Chevy’s least-expensive full-sized car. Most buyers optioned them lightly if at all; the bulk of sales went to fleets. Riding in one of these you were facing rubber floor mats and, often, no radio. They were most often powered by an inline six-cylinder engine, which was no speed demon. This one, however, packs a big-block 427 cubic inch V8.

1965 Chevrolet Biscayne
1965 Chevrolet Biscayne

The 1970s were a time of increasing luxury in automobiles. Cars from many manufacturers had a “Brougham” trim level that represented the finest on offer. This 1972 Mercury Marquis is a “20 footer” — it looks great from 20 feet away, but when you get up close you see it’s true so-so condition.

1972 Mercury Marquis Brougham
1972 Mercury Marquis Brougham
1972 Mercury Marquis Brougham

My favorite car this day was a 1969 Ford Falcon Future Sports Coupe. Ford’s Mustang ran on Falcon underpinnings, so much so that lots of Falcons were sacrificed to keep Mustangs running. Also, based on my childhood memories most Falcons were the low trim levels, bought to be basic transportation. That’s why it’s so great to see this top-of-the-line Futura Sports Coupe. I’ll bet that driving it feels almost exactly like driving a Mustang of the era.

1969 Ford Falcon Futura Sports Coupe
1969 Ford Falcon Futura Sports Coupe
1969 Ford Falcon Futura Sports Coupe

I made some film photos at this Cars and Coffee too. I’ll share them when they’re back from the processor.

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Breathnach's

Breathnach’s Bar
Canon PowerShot S95
2016

I am a homebody. I like to be home. It’s my favorite place to be.

If you’ve followed my many road trips on this blog you might be surprised to read that. I do love to follow the old roads, see where they lead, photograph what’s on them. But then I want to go right home.

Lately I’ve wanted to be anywhere but home. I’m sick of my self, of my anxieties and my worries and my frustrations. I want to shed them. It’s why I’ve found myself pricing airline tickets to go back to Ireland. That was a place where I forgot myself for a while. It was wonderful.

Breathnach’s is a little pub in Oughterard, in County Galway. It’s where we took our first supper in Ireland, Sept. 3, 2016. I forget what we ate, except that it involved plenty of Guinness and a lovely conversation with the bar’s owner.

Margaret caught me dreaming. She gave me immediate permission to buy tickets if I found them under a certain price. She loves to travel and would rather be anywhere but home.

Photography

single frame: Breathnach’s Bar

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