Road Trips

North on the Dixie Highway from Bloomington

A couple weeks ago I drove to Bloomington to see my son, who lives there. When I headed home, I followed the Dixie Highway, old State Road 37, as far as it would take me. Since SR 37 had been upgraded to become I-69, which removed all of the turnoffs to the old alignments, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I was pleased that the old road took me almost to Martinsville. Here’s its route, which now includes some new-terrain road.

Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway to where it ended on my September, 2020, trip. Map data ©2020 Google.

For about 14 miles, Old 37 and the Dixie follow a winding path nowhere near the new Interstate. But for the next four miles or so, until it ends, the old road parallels I-69 and acts as its frontage road.

Within those first 14 miles, the old road is just as it always was: lightly traveled and lush. I’ve written about this segment before, here and here.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

I had this road entirely to myself this Friday afternoon. On past trips I’ve encountered bicyclists out here; not this time.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This long segment used to exit onto State Road 37, but Interstates are limited access by their nature. Here’s how it exited onto SR 37 northbound when I first visited it in 2007.

Old SR 37

Today, the old road curves the other way into a brand new frontage road.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

Shortly the frontage road meets the next old alignment of Old SR 37 and the Dixie Highway. When I last wrote about it, here, I said that an old bridge had been left in place after a new bridge was built alongside it. I got to see the old bridge. It was saved because its qualities put it on the state’s Select list of bridges, which prevents it from being demolished without the state jumping through a whole bunch of hoops. It looks to me like some repairs have been done to it to stabilize it. But it is open now only to pedestrians.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This southbound photograph from the new bridge shows that the old road has been significantly upgraded. Notice how wide it is, compared to the old road on the right.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

The new road ends about 2½ miles later, where the older, narrower pavement resumes. Shortly the road dead ends at this old bridge.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I was happy to find this bridge still here, as I’d heard a rumor that it had been removed. But I’m still saddened that it’s closed to traffic after failing an inspection in 2015. Here it is the last time I got to drive on it, which was in 2012. Read more about this bridge here.

Pony trusses

The old highway north of the bridge has been removed, however. What a strange sight.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I’ve heard that this bridge will be repurposed as a pedestrian bridge. I’ve studied the I-69 plan map for this area and it looks like there’s no plan to continue the frontage road from here.

Here’s one final look at this old bridge from the north.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

Until I-69 is built around Martinsville, it’s easy enough to return to SR 37: back up from here to the first side road, follow it east until it Ts, turn left, then follow that road until it reaches SR 37.

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Old brick road

Fading into the distance
Apple iPhone 5

State Road 39 parallels this brick road on the west side of Martinsville, Indiana. For reasons I’ve never been able to uncover, when this segment of SR 39 was rebuilt (including a new bridge across the White River), the old brick road was left behind.

500 feet of this brick road is still in use to provide access to the Morgan County Jail. You can see a tiny bit of the last entrance to the jail’s parking lot in the middle right of the photo. The bricks beyond are left for nature to reclaim.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Fading into the distance

Old State Road 39 in Martinsville, Indiana.

Road Trips

Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway in Martinsville, 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

My old maps show that State Road 37 used to go through Martinsville. My maps lack enough detail to show the exact route, so I made some guesses.

But I do know where the original alignment breaks off from the old on its way south into Martinsville. The map shows it. Notice on the satellite image that a ridge appears to flow back from Morgan St. all the way to current SR 37 at Teeters Road, which has all the earmarks of an old alignment. Morgan St. goes straight into downtown Martinsville.

Here’s the turnoff from State Road 37 onto Morgan Road, where it then curves to follow the original State Road 37 path.

To Old SR 37

Where Morgan St. finished curving, I looked to the north and was faced with a church’s parking lot. I drove in and found this short segment of road that looked an awful lot like what I had been seeing as Old SR 37 everywhere else up to now. The utility poles running along the road were another clue.

Abandoned Old SR 37

Morgan St. is wide for a segment of Old SR 37. Surprisingly, it lacked striping. This shot is northbound from just south of the church.

Old SR 37
Windows Live Local map, 2007

Morgan St. does not naturally flow back into State Road 37; actually, it ends at State Road 39 on Martinsville’s western edge. But the Martinsville street map showed that if I turned left at Main Street and then veered right at Morton Avenue, I would merge right into current State Road 37 on Martinsville’s southwest side. The map even had this route highlighted, suggesting that it is a major route. I decided it was the likely route for SR 37 and so I drove it.

This photo shows where Morgan St. intersects Main St. at the town square. I drove in from the photograph’s left on Morgan St, turned left at the intersection, and drove out of the photo on the right down Main St.

Old SR 37 in Martinsville
Windows Live Local map, 2007

Where Morton St. merged into State Road 37 wasn’t too remarkable. Because there was a fair amount of traffic, I decided to play it safe. I pulled onto the shoulder and snapped a photo of this merge through my windshield.

Merging with SR 37

Next: A three-span pony truss bridge on an old alignment in southern Morgan County.

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Film Photography

First results: developing black-and-white film at home

I’m an experiential learner. I can read about a topic all I want, but until I actually do something with the information it doesn’t stick in my brain.

I had promised myself I’d develop my first roll of film at home before autumn. And then lots of life happened and I kept not getting to it.

My son and I had plans to meet in Martinsville the other day for coffee and conversation. The weather was good so I loaded a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono into my Yashica-12 and brought it along. After coffee we walked the town square and I exposed all 12 frames.

When I got home I had a couple hours to spare. I decided to just plunge in and develop the roll. I mixed up all of my chemicals, most notably diluting Rodinal to 1+25. Then I consulted the Massive Dev Chart, where I made my first mistake: I used Fomapan 100’s developing time, assuming it’s the same stock as Kosmo Foto Mono. The Massive Dev Chart called for four minutes of development, so that’s what I did. Had I looked closer, I would have found a separate entry for Kosmo Foto Mono and a 3½-minute development time.

My second mistake was in not regulating temperature. Ambient temperature was 72 degrees; the development times were geared for 68 degrees. I didn’t realize I’d made this mistake until it was too late, so I just rolled with it to see how it would turn out. What turned out was dense, overdeveloped negatives.

City of Mineral Water

Something else went wrong that I can’t explain: the last four images on the roll, the ones that were closest to the developing reel’s core, were heavily and uniformly fogged. You could see faint images through the fogging, which suggests to me it was a fault in my developing and not a fault in the camera.

Court House Annex

The negatives were so dense that my CanoScan 9000F Mark II scanner couldn’t discern most of the images. It successfully scanned only these three.

City Hall

I brought them into Photoshop, where I reduced exposure by half a stop. Otherwise, these are just how they came off the scanner.

I lamented my challenges briefly when I posted these on Flickr. I got some advice there that Rodinal doesn’t do well with development times less than four minutes anyway, so I might try a 1+50 dilution next time for the longer development time it gives, which would give me latitude to adjust developing time for the ambient temperature. Or I can stand develop in Rodinal, as temperature isn’t so important.

I admire people who can read or hear about how to do a thing, internalize it well, and then do it well the first time. I’ve never been that person. I always have to bumble and stumble my way through until I figure it out. So here’s my first bumble. Next time I’ll stumble, I’m sure. After that I’ll start to get the hang of it.

Here’s hoping I can try again soon. I really like it that I can shoot a roll of film in an afternoon, and have scans ready to share with you by the next morning.

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Preservation, Road Trips

On the square in Martinsville, a Dixie Highway city in Indiana

On our October road trip I intended to follow the old alignments of State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway from Indianapolis all the way to Bloomington. Modern SR 37, a four-lane expressway, is being upgraded to Interstate standards to be I-69, and that will certainly cut off easy access to many of the old alignments. I underestimated how much progress has been made — shortly south of Martinsville, construction already blocked off all access to the old road.

At least we got to see a little of Martinsville first, specifically its square. The courthouse at its center was completed in 1859, with additions built in 1956 and 1975-1976. It’s unfortunate that trees blocked the view on all sides, as it is a stunning building well preserved.


The rest of Martinsville’s square was a mixed bag of buildings ranging from dilapidated to gorgeous, with several vacancies punctuated by occasional businesses, including this one which had just opened.


This building originally housed the First National Bank of Martinsville. Remember when every town of any size had its own banks? Today, thanks to bank consolidation, few of those remain. I wonder how many mergers happened before this became a BMO Harris Bank branch.


I enjoyed this building’s strong presence. It was built in 1893 for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and looks like it’s either been well maintained over the years or has been recently restored. Its first floor is largely occupied today by a coffee shop that specializes in homemade cheesecake.


This building looks recently restored as well. I appreciate how the facade, especially the store entrances, retain a period-typical look.


I was especially taken with the sign painted on this window. While the metal beams behind that glass mean that this door no longer operates, and that the Martinsville Bowling Center is a thing of Martinsville’s past, it’s great that the sign was retained.


Other buildings on Martinsville’s square are in various stages of restoration. Here’s hoping the next time I come through on a road trip, I get to see a completely revitalized square.


Martinsville was so excited about the Dixie Highway, by the way, that the town immediately paved it in locally made bricks. The Dixie’s route is covered in asphalt today, but another local road remains paved in those bricks. I told the brick Dixie story and showed the remaining brick road here.

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