Road Trips

The most exciting abandoned road I’ve ever found

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

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.

Old SR 37

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.

Old SR 37

As I drove into the unusually tidy trailer park, a mound of dirt blocked my way. A branch stretched low across the road.

A mound of dirt

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.

Abandoned Old SR 37

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.

Bridge out - Abandoned Old SR 37

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.

Abandoned SR 37

The abandoned couch was a sad, sad affair. It looked deliberately placed, perfectly perpendicular to the road’s edge.

Abandoned SR 37

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:

Abandoned SR 37

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.

Abandoned SR 37

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.

State Road 37 from abandoned 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.

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Road Trips

Segments of the original State Road 37 alignment in northern Johnson County, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

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.

Old 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.

Old SR 37
Windows Live Local map, 2007

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.

Old SR 37

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.

Old SR 37
Windows Live Local map, 2007

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.

To Old SR 37

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.

NB Old 37

Turning around from this spot, here’s this old alignment as it heads south.

Old SR 37

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.

Old SR 37

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.

Old SR 37

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.

Old SR 37

Next: the old alignment through Waverly, and the single most exciting abandoned road I’ve ever found.

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Road Trips

Leftover bridge on stub of Old State Road 37 near the Indianapolis city limits

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

Today, SR 37 flows around Indianapolis on I-465 to an exit on the Southwestside a mile or two west of old 37. But after just four miles the new road assumes SR 37’s original alignment. Old SR 37, as Bluff Road, passes through several neighborhoods and crosses Stop 11 Road, a fairly major Southside road. But just south of there, Bluff Road curves, becomes Wicker Road, and intersects with SR 37. A short dead-end segment of Bluff Road continues, as this map shows.

This southbound photo shows where Bluff Road curves. Notice the old edge of the road, which appears as a filled crack and runs south from the lower right side of the photo, past the white line, and across the double-yellow line.

Near the Johnson County Line

This old segment ends where current SR 37 curves into the old alignment’s path. The oncoming cars in the distance once would have come right through where I was standing.

State Road 37

This segment of Bluff Road lacked wide shoulders, except where the bridge crossed. Most bridges I encountered on this trip were little wider than the road, while this one had wide shoulders. Did the road here once have shoulders as wide as the bridge’s, or was the bridge wide in anticipation of expansion? I imagine this segment is typical of the old highway, except perhaps for striping it probably had then.

State Road 37

Most bridges on old SR 37 had closed concrete barriers; this one had arched openings two by two. I’ve not seen another like it in Indiana. According to bridgehunter.com, this bridge was built in 1954. I wonder what kind of bridge was here before.

Bridge railing detail

Just behind the column at the far left of the photo was a worn survey marker. I couldn’t make out all the words but it said “State Highway Commission of Indiana Survey” and mentioned “above sea level.”

Survey marker

Next: a tiny scrap of the original alignment just to the south of here, in northern Johnson County.

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Road Trips

Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway in Indianapolis

I began my 2007 trip along old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway in Downtown Indianapolis.

Although State Road 37 today goes from south of Fort Wayne all the way to the Ohio River, it originally began in Indianapolis and went south. And while today the road follows I-465 around the east side of town, and then heads south on the Southwestside just west of US 31, it originally began its southbound journey on Meridian Street at Washington Street in Downtown Indianapolis. After about 2 miles it veered right onto Bluff Road.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

I didn’t know that when I made this trip. The oldest map I owned showed SR 37 following West Street, which is about a half mile west of Washington Street. So that’s where I began, where West intersects with Washington. (On the map, it’s labeled as Missouri Street in error.)

As usual, Downtown Indianapolis was busy with events, and there wasn’t a place to park so I could take a photo of my starting point. So I took it through my windshield as I drove. I had just crossed Washington Street. The Indiana Government Center parking garage is on the left. The arch beyond the hotel sign and the speed-limit sign is for Victory Field, where Indianapolis’s minor-league baseball team plays.

State Road 37

Shortly down the road, West Street curved to the left, went under I-70, and then curved back. Betting that it hadn’t always been like that, I went back to check for old West Street. Both streets below are signed as West Street. The original alignment, on the right, is buried under I-70.

State Road 37

Here’s where old West Street picks up on the other side of I-70, which is visible in the background beyond the trees.

West St. at I-70

South of here, West Street curves back into its original alignment, as this photo shows.

Orphaned West St.

South of Downtown at about Southern Avenue, West Street meets and becomes Bluff Road, angling slightly southwesterly. This road is named for its destination: the bluffs of the White River, at a little town called Waverly, about 15 miles away. Even though it’s not State Road 37 anymore, from here it’s still a major road with wide shoulders and highway-style striping.

I was getting thirsty and started looking for a gas station where I could buy a soda. The first gas station I came upon make me think I had stepped back into the 1970s! I wondered at first if it was abandoned, but the pumps had modern gas prices on them ($3.19 per gallon for regular unleaded). Maybe the station was closed because it was Sunday, another old-time practice.

Bob's Century

Just check out those 1970s pumps! (As of 2020, the pumps and Bob are gone, and this building is an auto-repair shop.)

Bob's Century

Next: a bridge on a stub of old SR 37 in Indianapolis where the old road meets the new.

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Tri-Way sign

Tri-Way Drive-In
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2008

Not long ago I shared some photos of the Skyline Drive-In, on the Michigan Road in Shelbyville, Indiana. It’s not the only drive-in on the road, however. The Tri-Way is about 150 miles north on the road, in Plymouth. It’s been operating since 1953. It’s a four-screen outdoor theater — another screen was added since I made this photograph!

I haven’t been by here in a long time, but as I remember it, they leave the sign lit most of the time in season.

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Photography

single frame: Tri-Way Drive-In

The sign for the Tri-Way Drive-In in Plymouth, Indiana.

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Terre Haute

Abe Malooley’s Saratoga
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

The Saratoga was already a local institution when I lived in Terre Haute in the 1980s and 1990s. It is still going strong today. I like to stop for a meal whenever I’m in town. I’m usually greeted by Shelly, a longtime waitress and someone I knew when I lived in Terre Haute.

I sort of miss Terre Haute. I liked living there. Unfortunately, there was only one company in town that needed people who did what I do, and when that company folded I had little choice but to move on.

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Photography

single frame: Abe Malooley’s Saratoga

The lit neon sign of the Saratoga restaurant in Terre Haute.

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