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.
All of the posts I’ve been sharing about the Michigan Road lately come from the trip Margaret and I made the day after Christmas. Margaret suggested that trip because she knew that I had become badly depressed after an incredibly hard year of loss and tragedy, and that road trips have always helped me find a little temporary joy.
There are two kinds of happiness, I think. One kind comes from short-lived pleasures, like eating a delicious meal, or sex, or watching a good movie. Or a road trip. Of course, shortly after the pleasure is over, so is the feeling of happiness that it brings.
The other kind comes from doing something valuable in the world. This kind of happiness has a better chance of lasting.
Kurt Garner and I started talking about the Michigan Road in May of 2008. We met through our blogs — both of us were writing about the road, and both of us were researching it online.
Kurt really is the mastermind. Getting the road named an Indiana historic byway was his idea, as was the way we went about doing it. He put together our organizational meeting of interested parties, up in Rochester, ten years ago on Jan. 31. I’m pretty sure it was also his idea to use the byway to drive heritage tourism into its counties, cities, and towns.
But we have been equal co-laborers, with plenty of help from many collaborators. Our work has included having wayfinding signs placed all along the route.
Seeing these signs on our trip was the best antidepressant I could have taken. Encountering them at every major crossroad and at every turn filled me with pleasure — and reminded me that I have indeed done something valuable in the world. Lots of people like following this byway. And we’ve honored this important piece of Indiana’s history. It is deeply satisfying to know we’ve done that.
Here are several of our signs doing their job.
Seeing our signs reminded me of the work it took to get them there. Several of us on our board collaborated to get it done. One board member arranged to have the signs designed and manufactured, and several other of us negotiated with various state and local authorities to have them installed.
I handled Indianapolis, meeting with the Department of Public Works. They were surprisingly happy to work with us. I also worked with a regional office of the Indiana Department of Transportation, where an official let me ride in his state-owned car through two counties so I could point out exactly where we wanted our signs to be placed.
I can’t believe that we have accomplished all of this. We’re just everyday Hoosiers who had some ideas and willingness to work toward them.
Most if not all of us is capable of doing something valuable in the world. It doesn’t have to be something as big as getting a road named a historic byway. It just has to be something that gives you some goals to go after and stretches you. Something that, if you look, you can see the results.
I think you can define “valuable in the world” pretty broadly. You just need to do something you find meaningful. Maybe you love your family well. Maybe you master a skill, such as cabinetmaking or photography. Maybe you give your nonworking time to your church or to a nonprofit. Maybe you rise in the ranks at work. Maybe you get fit or finish school while working full time. It’s up to you.
This kind of happiness lasts. It doesn’t mean you’ll never feel blue — but when you do, you can reflect on the good things you’ve done and be reminded that you have every reason to be happy. Maybe it’ll help you recover faster.
I forgot that as I headed into this road trip. I’m so glad the signs were there to remind me.
If you like old houses, you’ll love driving the Michigan Road through Fulton and Marshall Counties. The road is lined with lovely old houses in Rochester, Argos, and Plymouth. We stopped in Rochester and Plymouth on our recent trip. Here are some of the houses in Rochester. Click any of the photos to see them larger. (The flag was at half mast because of the death of President George H. W. Bush.)
Here are some of the lovely older homes in Plymouth.
That first photograph is of an especially notable house: that of Plymouth’s first mayor, Horace Corbin. Here’s an engraving of his house as it stood shortly after it was built.
It was exciting to come upon this abandoned bridge abutment when my old friend Brian and I explored old US 31 in northern Indiana in 2007. (That whole trip is documented here.)
Standing on the old abutment it’s easy to see where the old bridge used to meet the Tippecanoe River’s north bank. It’s just right of where the current bridge, built in 1982, meets it.
My dad remembers driving the old bridge. He said it was just one lane wide, and there was a stoplight at either end. Traffic on US 31 would often back up at either end waiting to cross here. The mother of an old friend, who grew up in Fulton County, remembers a time before they installed the stoplight — and the games of chicken oncoming drivers played with each other.
My research turns up only the photo above, circa 1910, as possibly a bridge at this location. Those stone abutments look right, and the rise of the left approach looks to me to match the abandoned approach and abutment. The river is awfully full, though, fuller than I’ve ever seen it. This photo could have been made during a flood.
But this two-span bowstring through truss bridge is not the bridge my friend’s mother remembers. She specifically remembers a single-span bridge with a square truss design.
If that bowstring truss was ever at this location, it had to have been replaced with the one everybody remembers, sometime after the 1910 photograph was made. The Great Flood of 1913 destroyed a lot of bridges; perhaps it did this one in.
By the early 1970s, US 31 was rebuilt as a four-lane expressway about a mile to the west, relieving the traffic burden on the old bridge here.
By the way, this bridge is on the Michigan Road. When US 31 was commissioned in Indiana, it used the Michigan Road from about 3½ miles south of here in Rochester, to about 42 miles north of here in downtown South Bend.
In 2010, an aspiring Eagle Scout stabilized this abutment, mortaring in the stones and laying in concrete pavers where the old road bed had gone missing. I made this photograph of it in late 2011 and wrote about it here.
Here’s the same scene the day after Christmas in 2018. The mortar’s color has neutralized with age, making the abutment look more natural.
Three historic markers stand on the old abutment. The third, which is the shorter stone, was placed sometime since 2011. I never think to photograph it because I forget it’s newer and that I’ve not already photographed it. I can’t remember what it commemorates. The larger stone commemorates a village of Potawatomi Indians that was once here, and how those Indians were removed to lands out west in a forced migration now known as the Trail of Death. You’ll find a wealth of information about the Trail of Death here. I have a Potawatomi ancestor, I am told, though I can’t confirm it.
You’ll find this “Route 66 Historic Route Begins” sign on Adams St. at Wabash Ave. in Chicago — one block away from where the route actually begins, at Michigan Ave.
A smaller, standard brown Historic Route sign marking Route 66’s actual beginning is bolted to a pole right at Adams and Michigan. I thought I had a photograph of it, but alas. This page has several. The official End Route 66 sign is one block away, on Jackson Blvd., as Adams is one way west and Jackson is one way east.
Despite our many weekend getaways to Chicago’s Loop, this was the first time we sought out Central Camera. We found it closed on Sunday. But because we were staying over through Monday, we went back.
We stepped in, and it felt like stepping into 1948. There were counters on both sides and an aisle down the middle. The left side was crammed with used gear. I dared not dwell. I passed through to the film counter. Oh my gosh, but I’ve not seen that much film for sale in one place since the 1980s.
The array of films in stock was impressive. I bought four rolls of Arista.EDU 200. Yes, they carried Arista.EDU from Freestyle Photo! The kind young woman behind the counter wrote my receipt by hand.
I did get one color shot of the exterior, so you can take in the sign’s great shade of green.