Johnson County Courthouse Kodak EasyShare Z730 2008
This is another long-ago image I liked enough to add to my Flickr album of my favorite photos. As of today, 620 images are in that album. I’m slowly printing them all on 8×10 paper to keep in an archival storage box.
The main reason I’m doing this is for my children after I’m gone. I’ve taken tens of thousands of photographs and I can’t imagine them wanting to sort through them all on my computer’s hard drive, or in the boxes where I keep my negatives.
But they all know how central my photography has been in my life, and I feel sure they will like having a small, hand-selected, printed subset of my work. They might take a few of their favorites to remember me by and discard the rest. That’d be fine by me.
Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.
A few hundred yards after reaching the dead end of the previous segment of Old State Road 37, I picked up another segment at 700N.
Tracing north from where 700N intersects Old SR 37, past where the road goes through a trailer park, a ridge exists where the road used to go. Notice how it would have curved to flow into the 800N segment.
Looking at that ridge on the map as I researched this trip, I hoped for a juicy abandoned section of this road. I was not disappointed.
Here’s where 700N curves to become Old SR 37 southbound. Notice the path that continues northbound.
The trailer park was just north of here on Old SR 37, but to access it you have to follow the curve and then drive through the parking lot (where my little red car is parked) to get back on Old SR 37. The trailer park is less than a quarter mile up the road.
As I drove into the unusually tidy trailer park, a mound of dirt blocked my way. A branch stretched low across the road.
I started to get excited — how long would this abandoned stretch be? At first, it looked like the road ended a couple hundred feet ahead.
But as I walked near, I saw that this was where a bridge had once been, and that the road continued on the other side. Fortunately, the creek bank and the creek itself were shallow, and people had placed all sorts of objects in and over the creek to aid roadfans like me in their adventures, so I picked my way across.
As I came up the bank, I saw the concrete road pad with three layers of asphalt on it, a couch dragged out into the middle of the road, and then the road stretching out for a long way before me. Woohoo! I climbed up the bank.
The abandoned couch was a sad, sad affair. It looked deliberately placed, perfectly perpendicular to the road’s edge.
The northbound sight from there was glorious overgrown abandoned road as far as the eye could see. What I thought was a ridge on the map was really old road obscured by trees. I am always astonished that without human intervention, roads eventually look like this:
I couldn’t tell exactly how far I walked along this segment from where I left my car — I guessed about a half mile — making it the longest abandoned road segment I’ve ever seen. Notice how large the trees are beyond where the old road was cut off. This stretch hasn’t been a road in many, many years, at least since 1970, since my 1970 map shows the road along its current alignment.
The closer I got to the end, the more I could hear cars. At the end, I turned east and saw cars speeding by through the brush and trees. I was probably 30 feet from current SR 37.
That walk absolutely exhilarated me! It wasn’t until I was halfway back that it occurred to me that people from the trailer park probably used this secluded spot for illicit activities, and that it might not actually be safe to be in there.
Next: more of this old alignment, and the time the police came and chased me away.
Let’s return to my 2007 trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.
Just before the Marion-Johnson county line, the road swings west, away from State Road 37’s original alignment, and the old road reappears.
I turned in on County Line Road and headed north up the short segment of Bluff Road. It’s the last little bit of the original alignment in Indianapolis.
The road narrows, the pavement ends, and somebody’s gravel driveway begins. I imagine that their driveway once emptied directly onto the old two-lane SR 37.
Looking southbound toward County Line Road from this spot, it’s clear that the grass has overgrown the edges on this short segment.
South of County Line Road, the road is marginally wider as the grass has been kept at bay. Also, the road was striped double yellow down the middle like a highway.
Johnson County clearly considers this a road worthy of maintenance. Marion County (Indianapolis) does only the minimum for its part of this segment.
The end of this alignment came 1.6 miles later. Bluff Road curved and met current SR 37, but a little tail remained.
A new housing subdivision was being built here, and old SR 37 was used for its entrance. Before that, the old road simply ended here. Almost dead center in this photograph, you can see a car on current SR 37.
The next little segment of the old alignment lay a couple miles to the south of County Line Road. On the east side of SR 37, the crossroad is labeled 800N, but on the west side, it’s labeled Old St Rd 37.
Old alignments are almost always rounded off like this to meet the new road more squarely, for safety. But in this case, they did it only to the north end of it.
This photo shows the access road to the segment of old SR 37. It wasn’t clear on the map whether the road emptied out onto State Road 37 or not. The Dead End sign here cleared up that mystery.
Where the road curved south and the old highway took over, I turned around looking for any sign of the old highway as it would have stretched northbound. I stood in the middle of the old road, pointing northbound, to take this photo. Except for the utility poles running on the right in alignment with where the old road had been, you can’t tell a highway ever ran through here.
Turning around from this spot, here’s this old alignment as it heads south.
This alignment ends a half mile later, the pavement ending cleanly at somebody’s driveway. As you drive on current SR 37, you can see the little guardrail just beyond the trash can. If you didn’t know what lay beyond it, you might not give it a second thought.
Turning around from here and looking northbound at the tree-lined old highway, the lovely scene made me long for the day this highway was still in use. Maybe it’s just my fantasy, but I imagine the trip to Bloomington being more pleasant not just because of the narrow road, but because drivers might be more likely to slow down, open the windows, and take in the beauty on either side.
From here to Martinsville, all of the old SR 37 alignment had this two-foot extension on each side. You can see the weeds growing in the crack. I wonder whether this was a tiny shoulder of sorts, or whether this was an attempt to widen the old concrete road. I’m betting the latter.
Next: the old alignment through Waverly, and the single most exciting abandoned road I’ve ever found.