Stories Told

Dreading snow

When I was nine years old, my parents bought my brother and I snow shovels, put a bow on each of them, and leaned them against the fireplace next to the tree Christmas morning. I mark that moment as the day I began to hate snow.

My hometown of South Bend is one of the snowiest cities in the nation. It ranks eleventh, actually, netting 66 inches in an average winter. (Syracuse, NY, the snowiest city, gets almost twice that!) Given that winters were colder and snowier during my 1970s and 1980s kidhood, I’m certain that South Bend got more than that then. I shoveled it all.

First snow fell in early November, last snow fell sometime in April, and we usually didn’t see the ground in between. More than once, snow piled up in strip-mall parking lots was still melting the first of June!

The rule was that we had to have the driveway and sidewalks (on our corner lot) cleared before Dad got home. Heaven forbid that Dad have to pull into the garage over snow, leaving tire tracks that would freeze and be nigh onto impossible to remove!

It was common for my brother and I to shovel the drive and walks two or three times in a day, often while snow was still falling. When you had more than a foot in the forecast, you didn’t want to wait until it was all done falling. Even healthy, energetic kids like my brother and me would wear ourselves out trying to remove a giant snow dumping all at once.

The city snow plow left huge deposits across the end of our driveway and on our tree lawns, sometimes six or eight feet high. Once Mom painted a sign reading FREE SNOW and stuck it in the pile in the tree lawn. A photographer for the city paper happened to see it and made a snap. It ran on the front page the next day.

Central Indiana winters are mild compared to what I grew up with, and they’ve done nothing but get milder with each passing year. I had to shovel snow for the first time this winter just the other day. I shouldn’t complain. But I still do.

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Road Trips

The National Road and US 40 at the Indiana/Illinois line

I’ve written extensively about the National Road, especially in Indiana and Illinois. See everything I’ve written here. As I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois here. Here’s the first of them, about the many changes at the Indiana/Illinois state line. I’ve updated and expanded it. This is based on recent research and a bunch of visits: one in 2006, two in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2014.

The National Road and US 40 have changed dramatically at the Indiana-Illinois state line thanks to repeated improvements in this corridor. I’m going to try to explain the changes and show the various alignments. It gets confusing, so strap in.

The Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index (IHAPI) at the Indiana Geological Survey shows these roads’ progression. Click any of these maps to make them larger. This first image is from 1946, showing the original two-lane US 40 running from upper right in Indiana to lower left in Illinois. The thick white line at about the ¼ mark from the left is the state line.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

In about 1949, in Indiana the road was moved slightly north and improved to four divided lanes. On the Illinois side, sometime during the 1950s the original road was abandoned and a new two-lane alignment built immediately to the north. This 1958 aerial images shows it all. In the bottom left corner of this image, you can see a trace of the original National Road alignment just below the new US 40.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

I-70 was built here in the mid-late 1960s. About a mile and half of it on either side of the state line was built directly onto the US 40/National Road alignment. This 1966 aerial image shows I-70 under construction. When I-70 was finished, US 40 was routed onto it for about three miles. Also under construction here is a two-lane road that connects US 40 in Indiana to what would shortly become old US 40 in Illinois.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

Finally, this is what the scene looks like today. Click this map to make it larger. I’ve widened the view a bit to show the interplay between US 40 and I-70, placing the state line near the middle. In 2011, US 40 was rerouted onto I-70 to bypass Terre Haute, placing the 1949 alignment of US 40 here under county maintenance. Notice especially Illiana Drive, which branches off W. National Dr. in Indiana and flows into the old alignment of US 40 in Illinois.

Bing Maps, 2021

From a road trip I made in 2009, here’s what the original National Road/US 40 alignment looks like in Indiana. This is a westbound photo. This bridge over Clear Creek was built in 1919.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

Shortly past that bridge is the last opportunity to turn off the original alignment before it ends. This is the last 200 feet of the original National Road in Indiana. The 1949 alignment of US 40 is about 200 feet to the north (right) of here, and I-70 is about 200 feet to the south (left). The turnoff is immediately to the right of where I stood to make this photo, and it connects right to Illiana Drive. If you squint, you can see it on the map above.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

If you make that turn and cross the 1949 alignment of US 40, Illiana Drive curves hard to the left and heads toward Illinois. While this road was never the National Road or US 40, the Indiana National Road Historic Byway was routed along it by necessity. You can see a National Road guide sign just beyond the speed limit sign in this 2006 photo.

Toward Illinois on old US 40

Shortly you come upon the Illinois state line. On my 2006 visit, I drove into Illinois a little bit and found US 40 shields on this section of road, even though US 40 was officially routed onto I-70. On this visit in 2007, the US 40 shields were gone. I’ve heard, but can’t confirm, that Illinois maintains this road and counts it as part of US 40. Beyond this curve, Illiana Drive flows into the 1950s alignment of US 40.

Into Illinois

This was the day of the annual Ride Across Indiana (RAIN), a bicycle tour across Indiana that follows US 40 all the way. This was the starting line, just inside Illinois. That’s my friend Dawn standing near my car; she’s been a frequent road-trip companion for many years.

RAIN

Shortly after you curve onto the 1950s alignment of US 40, you can see the original alignment standing abandoned alongside. In this aerial image, two roads are marked E US Highway 40. The lower segment is the original National Road alignment.

Bing Maps 2021

This eastbound view shows the road as it emerges from the woods. 2014 photo.

Abandoned brick road

If you walk into those woods, the old roadbed is largely still there. The bricks are just an inch or so into the soil, and you can easily reach them by clearing soil away with your foot. 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

As you emerge from the woods you see that the road had a noticeable grade. That’s my car at the top. 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

On one of my 2007 visits, turning my car around there I accidentally backed it off the access road and got it stuck. A woman who lived nearby came out to help, as did a passing motorist. My friend Dawn was with me too. We ended up lifting the front end of the car and pushing it back into the ditch, right onto the brick National Road. It must have been 50 years since anyone had driven on those bricks! I backed my car up to get a good running start and then made a break for it up the hill. The bottom of my car scraped the lip at the top of the hill as it went over, but no fluids or parts trailed behind me so I hoped all was well.

Abandoned National Road

The woman asked why we were out on that hot morning. When we pointed excitedly and said, “We’re driving the National Road all the way to Vandalia!” she said, “Oh, that.” I suppose if the National Road runs through your front yard, you take it for granted. She did mention that the neighbor from whom she and her husband bought their property had helped build the brick road, watched US 40 go in ten yards to the north, and lived long enough to watch I-70 start to be built on what used to be some of his land. The neighbor told her that when US 40 was built, all the bridges and culverts along the National Road were torn out. That meant no long drives on the brick.

Incredibly, some years ago I found a set of photographs showing this road being built, in about 1925! Here’s one; you can see more in this article. Notice that this road is a shallow U-shaped concrete pad with a layer of sand laid in, and then the bricks laid on.

Building the Illinois National Road

This diagram from a 1923 report of the Illinois Department of Highways shows this construction. I wonder why Illinois bothered with the bricks; why not just pour a concrete slab and be done with it? But these were experimental days in highway construction, and highway engineers were figuring out what worked best. It didn’t take long for road-builders to give up on brick. I’d say that after about 1925, nobody was building brick highways anymore.

Looking west from Dunlap Road, you get a better sense of the brick road (despite the equipment stored on it). 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

This road is in poor condition here. I brought my friend Michael along to see it on the second 2007 visit and we walked this segment until it ended, near where I-70 intersects. Here he is standing on it, in a place where most of the bricks have been removed to reveal the concrete pad below.

Abandoned National Road

On the 2007 trip with Michael, we found an intact bridge on the old road. It would probably be more accurately characterized as a box culvert. I’m pretty sure this culvert spans Hawks Creek. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% sure thanks to my poor note-taking. But given where these photos fall in order the day I made them, if I’m off, it’s not by far. This eastbound photo shows the road, bricks removed, ending abruptly.

Abandoned National Road

The place where the road used to be continues, rather obviously.

Abandoned National Road

Here’s the culvert. It’s an odd affair: the culvert is topped with earth, which is topped with a concrete slab.

Abandoned National Road culvert

This is a sizeable culvert. Here you can see my friend Michael having a closer look at it.

Abandoned National Road culvert

At the I-70 intersection, US 40 exits I-70 and follows the 1950s alignment. But large sections of this brick road continue to appear all the way to Marshall, about 5½ miles away, and then from the other side of Marshall about another 5½ miles, almost to Martinsville.

Related reading:

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COVID-19

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s small and distant

The winter COVID-19 spike appears to be ending in Indiana. With vaccines currently being administered, could that be a light we see at the end of this tunnel?

Source: https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/2393.htm, February 15, 2021

Maybe it is, but that light is small and distant. The tunnel remains long.

The CDC recommends that vaccinated people continue to stay home as much as possible, and mask up and remain physically distanced otherwise, until enough people are vaccinated that we have herd immunity.

That made no sense to me at first. If you’re vaccinated, aren’t you immune? Can’t you go back to a normal life? But then I learned that we don’t have enough experience with the vaccines yet to know whether they keep you from catching the virus. We know for sure only that the vaccine makes you unlikely to become sick with it. After you’re vaccinated, you might still be able to carry and spread the virus! That’s why the CDC is telling us to continue to stay home as much as we can, and mask up and remain physically distanced when we can’t, until enough people are vaccinated that we have herd immunity.

I experienced this as a punch to the gut. I was dreaming about living life more freely after my vaccination. Specifically, I was looking forward to taking my wife out for dinner, and going to visit my kids in their homes!

I must continue to wait, as it will take considerable time to administer the vaccine to everyone. In Indiana, we’ve already taken care of people like healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents, police officers and firefighters, and the like. The state is now administering the vaccine by age, starting with the oldest first. People 80 and older went first, then people 70 to 79. They’re currently vaccinating people 65 to 69; people 60 to 64 are next. If this five-year grouping pattern holds, I’ll be in the second group to follow. Given the rate of vaccination, that could be a couple months yet, maybe more. I’ve heard optimistic estimates that all of Indiana could be vaccinated by midsummer, but I don’t share that optimism. Unless we’re able to dramatically ramp up the available doses and the infrastructure to deliver them, I think it will be late this year before the job is done. Perhaps then we can ease these restrictions and live a more normal life.

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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.

Garrett

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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