Road Trips

The original beginning of US 36, except it’s not

I was in error when I began my US 36/Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway trip that May morning in 2007. I put US 36’s eastern end in the wrong place.

It’s true that US 36 originally began its westward journey along Rockville Road in Indianapolis. That road begins at a fork from Washington Street (US 40, the National Road) on Indianapolis’s Westside.

The trouble is, the road currently signed as Rockville Road there didn’t exist in 1926, when the US highway system was created and US 36 was commissioned. It was built later, in about 1933, in a Works Progress Administration project. It eliminated a dangerous railroad crossing.

The original Rockville Road began about a quarter mile farther west on Washington Street. It still exists, though you can’t turn onto it from Washington Street anymore, and it’s called Rockville Avenue now. On this map snippet, the green circle shows where Rockville Avenue begins, and the magenta circle shows where current Rockville Road begins.

Imagery ©2020 Indiana Map Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

But I didn’t know that when I made this trip. I photographed where current Rockville Road forks from Washington Street as if it were the real thing. It still sort of counts: when this road was finally built, US 36 was rerouted onto it. Here’s the fork, with Washington Street going under the railroad bridge on the left.

US 36, Indianapolis

Here’s a closer look at what US 36 travelers faced as they began their westward journey.

US 36, Indianapolis

I walked along Rockville Road a little to make this eastbound shot of where the road meets Washington Street. This neighborhood looked pretty sketchy, so I didn’t intend to linger. But a nice, proper older gentleman out trimming his hedge remarked to me about the weather and wondered whether it would rain today.

US 36, Indianapolis

As I drove west along Rockville Road, the tiny houses with their tiny front yards were pretty tidy for this depressed part of town.

Quickly I reached Rockville Avenue. Rockville Road curved to the right and resumed its original alignment.

From there, Rockville Road widened a bit. Homes were set farther back from the road, and businesses started to appear. At Lynhurst Drive, the road widened to four lanes lined with businesses and stores.

The road had curbs, which isn’t too unusual in the city, but is pretty unusual for a highway. In August, 1978, when I was still a kid, three teenage girls died when a van struck the rear of their Ford Pinto while it was stopped along US 33 in Elkhart County so the driver could retrieve a lost gas cap. The resulting fireball burned the/ girls to death. The infamous placement of the car’s gas tank did make it vulnerable to fire in a rear-end collision. But a little-touted fact of that case was that the driver could not pull fully off the road because US 33 had curbs. I remember in the years following, curbs were slowly and quietly replaced with shoulders on highways near my South Bend home. I don’t know if these events are related, but it sure seems like more than coincidence to me. US 36 was rerouted along I-465 in 1974, and so perhaps that’s why these curbs remain on this old highway.

Shortly, I-465 appeared. The curbs disappeared just east of the interchange. Just west of the interchange, the first reassurance marker appeared.

US 36, Indianapolis

Across the street, facing the eastbound lanes, a button-copy sign directs drivers to follow I-465 South to reach US 36 East again. No US highways run through Indianapolis anymore; they all follow I-465 around the city in what is called the “mega multiplex.” But only I-74 is co-signed with I-465 along its route. You have to watch the exit signs to follow your US highway.

US 36, Indianapolis

Beyond I-465 along US 36 I saw some nice older homes of brick and stone set far back from the road, surely built when this part of Marion County was way out in the country. The road widened to five lanes, including a permanent center turn lane, and stayed that way into Hendricks County.

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana

In the 1910s and 1920s, before the creation of the US highway system, an unofficial network of roads called Auto Trails crisscrossed the nation. The Lincoln Highway is perhaps the best known of them. Other well-known trails include the Dixie Highway, the Yellowstone Trail, the National Old Trails Road, the Jefferson Highway, and the Old Spanish Trail. These were major trails that spanned coasts or connected the far north to the deep south. Many smaller trails, some entirely within certain states, also existed.

Auto trails were mostly cobbled together out of existing roads, except out West, where roads sometimes had to be built for these trails. Each trail was managed by an Association, such as the Lincoln Highway Association, which determined it route and promoted it. Each Auto Trail had its mission, such as the Lincoln Highway’s to provide a well-marked transcontinental route. But how any city or town made it onto an auto trail was often a matter of politics and favors. Cities and towns very much wanted to be on these auto trails for the traffic, and therefore commerce, they would bring.

One lesser known — I’d argue little known — transcontinental auto trail was the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway (PP-OO). It was formed in 1914 to connect New York City to San Francisco through Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California.

For reasons lost to time, the road frequently avoided major cities, which hurt its commercial viability and may be why it’s not better known today. Also, I know of no other Auto Trail that changed its route as often as the PP-OO. For a time, it even had two western ends: San Francisco and Los Angeles!

Courtesy the Federal Highway Administration

In Indiana, it appears that at first the PP-OO followed the National Road to Indianapolis and then the Rockville State Road to Rockville in western Indiana, and thence to Illinois. This road would become US 36 in 1926.

But in the years that followed, this Auto Trail was heavily realigned. In the end, the PP-OO entered Indiana at Union City and then followed roughly what is now State Road 32 through Winchester, Muncie, and Anderson. Then it connected to what is now US 136 and ran through Crawfordsville and Covington on its way to Danville, Illinois. This new leg in western Indiana was also the Dixie Highway. I explored this section of US 136 in 2012; see those posts here.

Anyone trying to follow the PP-OO at any time really needed an up-to-date trail map!

In 2007 I grew curious about US 36 in western Indiana. It was one of the original US highways in 1926, and in those days its eastern end was in Indianapolis. Tracing US 36 on the map I found a number of possible old alignments, and I wanted to explore them all. This is also when I learned about the PP-OO and its original western-Indiana alignment along the US 36 corridor. I explored US 36 and the PP-OO on two separate trips, May 28 and August 17, 2007. I wrote about it then on my old Roads site, which I’m deprecating. In the weeks to come, I’ll share those stories and photographs here.

Old US 36

Further reading about the PP-OO:

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Film Photography

A hike along McCormick’s Creek

McCormick’s Creek State Park is Indiana’s oldest state park, opened in 1916 as part of our state centennial celebration. It’s near Spencer in Owen County, about 60 miles southwest of Indianapolis. I met my younger son there a few weeks ago. He lives nearby, and thanks to the pandemic it had been months and months since we saw each other.

McCormick's Creek

We hiked some of the park’s trails, and ended up on one that hugs the creek itself. As you can see, it’s quite rocky. One of the trails requires crossing the creek. I did that on a long-ago visit and ended up soaking my shoes. Not wanting a squishy hike, we stayed to one side of the creek.

McCormick's Creek

The highlight of the trail is the little waterfall.

Waterfall at McCormick's Creek

Hiking along the creek can be quite rugged. I wore flat-bottomed sneakers that were not up to the task of climbing rock. Why did I not think to put on my waterproof hiking shoes? Fortunately, most of the trail is just a nice walk through the woods.

Path in McCormick's Creek SP
Bridge in McCormick's Creek SP

The highlight of the day for me, aside from getting to see my son, was coming upon these horses. The park offers guided trail rides.

Horses at McCormick's Creek

Finally, I made a portrait of my son. I didn’t think the shadow across his body would come out with such strong contrast — it wasn’t so strong when I composed.


I made all of these with my Nikon F2AS and the big honking 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens on Fujicolor 200. Fulltone Photo did the developing and scanning.

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Film Photography, Preservation

Re-restored: 1892 Holliday Road bridge

I thought for sure this bridge was a goner after a too-large tractor left it a twisted wreck. But this 1892 Pratt through truss bridge on Holliday Road in Boone County, Indiana, was rebuilt and it looks as good as ever. It had previously been restored in 2007-2009, making this its second restoration in about a decade.

Holliday Road Bridge

Holliday Road is closed to vehicular traffic right now for construction of some sort of development nearby. I reached it on my bicycle using the Turkey Foot Trail, which ends at Holliday Road within sight of the bridge. Here now, a bunch of photos of the bridge in all its bright red glory.

Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge

Holliday Road itself is a narrow gravel road that got very little use before it was closed. It was, however, wide enough that two oncoming cars didn’t have to play chicken. Today it’s quite overgrown, especially near the bridge.

Holliday Road disappearing
Holliday Road

I made these photos with an Olympus OM-4T SLR and a 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S lens on Fujicolor 200.

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The Kodak EasyShare Z730 is the official camera of the sunny day

Covered bridge

I’ve been riding my bike a lot this summer. From where I live, in just a few minutes I can be on country roads among Indiana cornfields. Even though I’m a dedicated city boy, I really love the peaceful, quiet rides through rural southeastern Boone County.

I also love my old Kodak EasyShare Z730 on a sunny day. It delivers great, punchy color. I hadn’t shot it in some time, so I charged its battery and stuck it in the little bag that hangs off my bike’s seat springs. I made these images on a bunch of rides in late July and early August.

Orchard house
Hunt Club Road
Equipment by the silo

I did bring all of these into Photoshop to tweak them to my liking. Most of them just got a hit of the automatic correction button in the RAW editor and then some manual tweaking of the settings from there.


If I have one complaint about the Z730 it’s that it will randomly make an image too blue or too green. A little Photoshoppery can usually fix that.

Old farmhouse
Country road

One evening when we got another of the beautiful sunsets we enjoy here on the edge of Zionsville, I got the Z730 from the bike to see how it rendered the colors in this available light. The Z730’s maximum ISO is 800, but it’s mighty, mighty noisy there. I shot at ISO 400, which for this photo gave me f/3.4 at 1/45 sec. In the image straight out of the camera, the dark areas were more exposed and quite noisy. I fixed that in Photoshop by increasing the black level to blank them out. I also deepened the dusky colors a bit.

Sunset over the Toyota dealer

I’m pleased that my Z730 still works, although it shows some signs of age. Its fiddly power/mode switch feels harder to work than in years gone by. Also, the little clip that holds down the battery broke. The battery door still works, and when it’s closed the battery makes good contact. But open that door, and the battery pops out and the camera resets to original settings. That includes date and time, which means unless you set them the camera thinks it’s January 1, 2005, and puts that into image EXIFs.

This Z730 would probably be in worse shape, but it got just a few years of workhorse use before I retired it in favor of the Canon PowerShot S80 and then the PowerShot S95 that I still shoot today.

I shoot this camera only every couple three years. It’s hardly enough to justify owning it, as I want to own just cameras I use regularly. But every time I do use it, I’m glad I did. There’s just something about the color the Kodak digital cameras delivered that cameras from other makers couldn’t match.

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Confirmed: I’m staying the heck home

This graph bothers me.

It is the number of total reported cases of COVID-19 in Indiana since the beginning. That graph is not leveling out. It says that, on the whole, the virus is still spreading at a consistent rate.

If you’re curious, you can see this graph as part of a fascinating dashboard at the Indiana State Department of Health’s Web site here. It’s updated daily. This dashboard says that, by a hair, the most cases have been reported among people ages 50-59 – my age group. But more than half of the deaths are among people over 80.

I’ve said for a while now that I think Indiana is opening too soon. I recently read this article by a university immunologist. She restates in layman’s terms the studies and research done to date on the virus and its spread. The gist: your risk increases dramatically the longer you spend in a room where you are exposed to the virus. Meals in restaurants, church services, birthday parties — these are the places you’re most likely to get the virus. You tend to be in one room for these things and stay for a while. If you are near someone with the virus, you marinate in it. You are at comparatively low risk at the supermarket, believe it or not, because you keep moving. Your contact with any one infected person is short.

At my church, we’re considering reopening the first Sunday in June. That’s the first Sunday the county allows religious services to resume. As an elder, is my duty to tell the other elders that this is a terrible idea and we should wait. I hope they listen. If they don’t, they will open without me.

Other pandemic reports from sumacandmilkweed, fishfisharcade, Yuri Rasin, Gerald Greenwood, brandib.