Michigan Road, Decatur County, Indiana

The Michigan Road in Decatur County, Indiana
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2008

I’m wrapping up a year as President of the Historic Michigan Road Association. My buddy and co-founder Kurt and I alternate years in the job, and it’s his turn. (We are duly elected, but everyone seems to be perfectly happy with this arrangement.)

This was my most do-nothing year as President ever. I’m neither pleased nor proud. But I can’t beat myself up — we had too many challenges at home, and COVID-19 limited everything.

Kurt finished our Corridor Management Plan this year, a document that tells state and federal byway authorities how we plan to protect and enhance the historic qualities of our historic byway. Here’s hoping that in 2021, Kurt and I can move forward with initiatives in support of that plan. I have a couple tasks on my to-do list already.

From time to time I’m asked for a photo of the road. Given that it’s 270 miles long, a photo of the whole road would need to be taken from space. I can’t quite manage that. I always send this, a photo I made just south of Greensburg on a May afternoon in 2008, the year I surveyed the road from end to end. This image does a good job of embodying the very Indiana-ness of the road.

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single frame: The Michigan Road in Decatur County, Indiana

Wrapping up a year as President of the Historic Michigan Road Association.

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History

Interviewed on the radio about the Michigan Road

Yesterday I got to talk about the Michigan Road on radio station WKVI in Knox, Indiana. This town of about 3,500 residents is about 40 miles southwest of South Bend. Have a listen! (If you’re seeing this in your email or in your reader, click the title to see this on my site, where a video will appear below.)

The short of the story: when the Michigan Road was surveyed in the 1830s, the desire was to route it directly from Logansport to Michigan City. But the marshes of the Kankakee River blocked the way and it was impossible to build a road through them. So the road was routed through Rochester, Plymouth, and South Bend instead before heading to Michigan City.

The marshes were drained starting in the mid-late 1800s, and by 1920 the work was complete. While it opened up a huge amount of incredibly fertile farmland, it also destroyed the habitat for a number of wildlife species.

With the advent of the automobile, Indiana was again interested in building the direct road between Logansport and Michigan City. They built it in the 1930s as highway US 35, which runs right through Knox. Were it not for the marshlands, Knox could have been a Michigan Road town!

Small world department: WKVI morning host Charlie Adams was the sports anchor on WSBT-TV in my hometown starting in the late 1980s, and I used to watch him when I’d go home to visit my family. Near the end of the clip above Charlie talks about a motivational talk he gave at my high school with the South Bend Police Chief Information Officer, who arrived in the gym on his motorcycle.

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Hinkle Hamburgers

Hinkle’s Hamburgers
Canon PowerShot S80
2009

There’s a lot to like about Madison, a small Indiana city on the Ohio River and at the beginning of the historic Michigan Road. One of those things is Hinkle’s. They make a mean hamburger — grilled crispy on the edges, with pickle and grilled onions on a soft bun.

As you can see, this sign is a little weatherworn. Fortunately, it’s been restored since I made this photograph. But in the process it changed color. When you visit Madison, look for the dark green Hinkle’s sign! It’s right on Main Street.

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single frame: Hinkle’s Hamburgers

Hinkle’s Hamburgers, a Madison, Indiana institution.

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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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single frame: Tri-Way Drive-In

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

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Moon-Lite Motel

Moon-Lite Motel
Canon PowerShot S80
2009

You’ll find the Moon-Lite Motel in Versailles (ver-SALES), Indiana, on US 421. That’s also the Auto Trail alignment of the Michigan Road. I’ve seen other photos with the neon fully working — the MOTEL letters light up in pink.

You never know what you’re going to get when you choose to stay at an old motel like this. Thank heavens for Google and its reviews, which say that this is one of the good ones.

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Photography

single frame: Moon-Lite Motel

A neon motel sign in Versailles, IN.

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South Bend Motel

South Bend Motel
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

I grew up a mile or so away from this motel and its neon sign. I saw it a lot while I was growing up, and its neon was usually in disrepair. It made me happy to find it lit and fully working when I visited my hometown this day.

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Photography

single frame: South Bend Motel

The South Bend Motel sign, lit.

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