Road Trips

US 40 and the National Road at Six Points near Plainfield, Indiana

Windows Live Maps image, 2006

Just beyond the Indianapolis and Marion County border, but just east of Plainfield, is the Six Points area. A two-lane segment of an old US 40 alignment runs through here. It’s maybe 600 yards long.

Heading west just past the Marion/Hendricks county line, there’s a body shop on the south side of the road as the road gently curves. We took the next left and and immediately made the first right to get onto the old road. This picture shows the old segment on the left and the current road on the far right.

Old National Road east of Plainfield

On the right you can barely see the sign for The Diner, an old Mountain View diner that had more space built onto the back. It was in its declining years. When I visited again in 2009, I found it closed when I photographed it.

The Diner

It was later moved into the City of Plainfield itself, restored, and given its original name back: the Oasis Diner. Here’s my photo from 2014, not long after it reopened. It’s quite popular today.

Oasis Diner

But back to this segment of US 40 and the National Road. When we turned around, it was clear that the broken pavement behind us was old US 40 pavement. Notice how the body shop building is parallel with the old segment, and would have been right against US 40.

Old National Road east of Plainfield

As this westbound photo shows, the road was closed for construction, so we couldn’t drive it. As best as we could tell, this road had houses on both sides. Dawn and I wondered aloud if they moved the road around these houses so they could widen it to four lanes without displacing the residents. Later I learned that the road was moved to eliminate the dangerous railroad crossing from this US highway.

Old National Road east of Plainfield

This segment was bypassed in about 1940 when US 40 was widened to four lanes. The bypass eliminated a shallow-angle (and therefore dangerous) intersection with a rail line in here. You can see a trace of the line in the map above.

What we didn’t know on the day we made this trip was that the road was closed to build the Ronald Reagan Parkway. I made this trip again in 2009 and in driving this segment westbound was deeply disappointed to find this:

Bisected National Road

I get it, this old alignment got so few cars it didn’t make sense to make an intersection here, especially when current US 40 was 200 feet away to the north. But it is unfortunate that this historic road was made discontinuous. Here’s the eastbound view from the other side of the Parkway. Since I made this photo in 2009, this has been reconfigured so that you can turn left from southbound Ronald Reagan Parkway onto Old National Road, and right onto Ronald Reagan Parkway, from here.

Bisected National Road

In 2006 I failed to make photographs of the western end of this segment. I corrected my oversight in 2009.

Bisected National Road

Today, you can’t drive the eastern portion of this alignment anymore as it was removed. Curiously, a tiny stub remains right next to the Ronald Reagan Parkway.

Image © 2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2020 Google.

As you approach the removed alignment from the east, the only evidence the road was ever there is the row of utility poles that follows the old right-of-way. That’s a common tell of an old roadway. Here’s a view from Google Maps Street View showing how this scene looked in June, 2019.

Street View image © 2020 Google.

It always makes me sad when any part of a historic road is removed.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Camera Reviews

This was my first digital camera. It’s from 2006, which is ancient of days in digital-camera terms. It seems so limited today. But under the right conditions, it’s still a brilliant performer. Read my updated review here.

Kodak EasyShare Z730

Updated review: Kodak EasyShare Z730

Bridge over Cagle Mill Lake

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom

This beautiful open-spandrel concrete-arch bridge is out in the middle of nowhere, in Owen County, Indiana. It carries State Road 42 over Cagles Mill Lake (also known as Cataract Lake), which was created in 1953 as the state’s first flood-control reservoir. Mill Creek was dammed at Cagles Mill, creating the reservoir.

I visited this bridge and made this photograph in 2008 when I toured State Road 42 from end to end. I was still new to my road-trip hobby, and at the time I stopped for every bridge to see if I could clamber down the bank to find what kind of bridge it was, and photograph it.

It was sheer joy to discover what beauty lie beneath the deck, which is the only part motorists get to see as they pass over. In this case, my joy was doubled as a restoration had clearly recently been completed. Everything looked fresh and new.

According to, this bridge was built in 1951, two years before the dam was built to create the lake. State Road 42 was moved from a more northerly route to cross this new bridge. I’ve studied Google Maps and think I might see where the new route diverges from the old east of the bridge. But I can’t figure out anything else about the old route, which certainly went right through where the lake is now. If you’d like to try to figure it out yourself, click here to see the bridge’s location on Google Maps.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake


67 Olds Delmont 88

Delmont 88
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom

I’ve reached a time in life where I can recall memories from my adulthood with great clarity, as if they happened last week — but to my surprise, some of those memories are 30 years old.

As I think back beyond 30 years, memories seem to have aged on a logarithmic scale — the farther back I go, the disproportionately more ancient the memory seems. My college days now firmly feel like they happened a long time ago. My public-school days feel more remote and disconnected the farther back I recall them. What little I recall from before those days seems to have happened in another era, in a different place, the jumbled images faded and color-shifted like cheap photo prints left in the sun.

Yet so much happens in even a relatively short time span that it’s easy to forget key details. In this ten-year-old photo I’m at my first Mecum classic-car auction, having won tickets in a radio contest. I was in nirvana, happily experiencing cars I’d only ever before seen in photographs. I had recently bought my first digital camera, a surprisingly capable Kodak. I shot a couple hundred photos there with it, depleted the battery, and wished I had a spare. I switched to shooting with my phone, a Palm Pre, until its battery had depleted as well. And look at my hair! I wore it to my shoulders in those days.

This photo reminds me of most of these details. Would they be lost to me now otherwise? Do I remember the last 30 years as clearly as I think I do?

More importantly to me now: at what point will my 20s start to feel like they happened a very long time ago? My 30s? My 40s? I know a blogger in his 80s who says he mostly can’t remember his kids’ childhoods anymore. Is that my fate, too?

How does memory work, anyway?

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Personal, Photography

single frame: Delmont 88


Road Trips

Welcome to New Carlisle

New Carlisle is a cheerful Indiana small town about 15 miles west of South Bend on a triply historic road: US 20, the longest US highway; the Lincoln Highway, our nation’s first coast-to-coast road; and the Michigan Road, which has linked the Ohio River to Lake Michigan since the 1830s. The town has been there since 1835, not long after the road was built.

As you enter New Carlisle from the east, you take a tight S curve under a railroad bridge and along a retaining wall that greets you cheerfully.

Welcome to New Carlisle

Until 1926 the road ran straight, crossing the tracks at a dangerous angle that was the scene of many accidents. Four rail lines passed through: two owned by the New York Central Railroad; one by the Chicago, South Bend, and Northern Indiana Railway; and one by the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. The South Shore tracks were a few feet lower than the New York Central tracks, making for an uneven crossing and increasing motorists’ challenge.

New Carlisle, Indiana. Imagery © 2019 DigitalGlobe, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2019 Google.

Negotiations with the railroads to build a viaduct and reroute the road for safer passage dragged on for several years but kicked into high gear when New Carlisle passed an ordinance limiting trains to eight miles per hour. That got the railroads’ attention. Terms were worked out, the bridge was built, and the road was curved.

After you negotiate that curve, New Carlisle unfolds before you, tidy and cheerful. Little has changed, at least cosmetically, in this town since before World War II. Check out this mural of the town as it was in about 1941, painted on the side of one of downtown’s buildings.

New Carlisle mural

Downtown New Carlisle has changed little since those days! You’ll have to take my word for it to some extent, as I made these photographs in 2008. Margaret and I drove through on our late-December Michigan Road trip, but heavy rain made it a poor day for photography. But we could see it: New Carlisle still looks very much like this.

Live or Memorex?

I’m always curious why some small Indiana towns remain well-maintained and others don’t. Money obviously makes the difference. But where does New Carlisle’s come from? There’s no real industry here, to speak of. It’s too far away from Chicago to be a commuter town. I suppose many residents commute to South Bend to work; is that enough?

Downtown New Carlisle

Regardless, everywhere you look in New Carlisle’ downtown, the buildings are in good condition. Something must be going right here — unlike so many Indiana towns of similar size, New Carlisle is growing. Its population remained flat at about 1,400 for several decades, but between 2000 and 2010 it swelled to over 1,800.

Houston Pro Hardware
Still a bank

As you keep heading west you soon leave the downtown area and pass many lovely older homes.

Old house, New Carlisle
Old house, New Carlisle
Old house, New Carlisle

This church is right on Michigan Street. The sign says, “God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.”

Community Church

Memorial Park is on Michigan Street, too. It’s a lovely spot to rest on a lovely street in a lovely town.


To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Road Trips

Lit neon at the South Bend Motel

South Bend Motel

On our recent Michigan Road trip, we whizzed right by the South Bend Motel. It was cold, we were tired, and some of the neon was out on this great old sign anyway. Not much new to photograph. So these photos are from earlier road trips. Above, 2009; below, 2007.

South Bend Motel

Fortunately, little has changed (except the non-functioning neon). This little motel has been plugging away here for as long as I can remember. I grew up less than a mile away.

This motel is on the Michigan Road (and Dixie Highway and Old US 31) on South Bend’s south side. It’s always stood alone in this heavily residential neighborhood. Here’s a daylight shot of its sign.

South Bend Motel sign

Online reviews of this place range from “cheap but decent” to “dirty rooms and rude staff.” So if you ever decide to stay, set your expectations accordingly.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!