Road Trips

Indiana State Road 42 west from Mooresville

On October 18, 2008, I explored Indiana State Road 42 from end to end. It begins in Mooresville, just southwest of Indianapolis, and ends in Terre Haute. This isn’t a historic, or even an important, road. But SR 42 made for a fascinating road trip anyway, because it passes through some classic Indiana small towns and features two classic steel truss bridges.

I’m going to make this long ago road trip the site’s focus this week.

Go west, but only indirectly

There’s little reason to drive State Road 42 if you’re on your way to Terre Haute from the Indianapolis area. Both US 40 and I-70 do the job much faster. I-70 will get you there in an hour, where State Road 42 takes more than two.

State Road 42 is a narrow, minor highway. It was stitched together from a series of farm roads, and since the route has only seen minor improvements over the years, it makes many 90-degree turns around farm boundaries. But two steel truss bridges still stand on the road, as does a magnificent open-spandrel concrete arch bridge over a man-made lake. State Road 42 also takes you through some rolling Indiana farmland and several very small towns that still have some vigor in them.

If you’re not in a hurry, as I certainly wasn’t on an autumn Saturday, State Road 42 is a satisfying scenic drive that represents rural Indiana well.

I took this trip on what I figured would be my only chance to see some fall color in 2008. I might have had some better views in southern Indiana, but everybody goes to southern Indiana when the leaves pop, making for crowded roads. I was in the mood for some quiet time by myself, and after driving and carefully documenting the Michigan Road all summer I was ready for a pleasure drive. I’ve had sleepy little State Road 42 on my to-drive list for years, so this seemed like the perfect day.

State Road 42 begins at State Road 67 on Mooresville’s east side. Mooresville is essentially a southeastern suburb of Indianapolis.

©2008, Google Maps

Here’s where SR 42 begins, on the east side of Mooresville, at State Road 67.

State Road 42 begins

Until 1994, SR 42 began at (what was in 2008) the intersection of SR 267 inside Mooresville. Here’s a westbound photo of that intersection. (In 2021, SR 267 was relinquished to Mooresville and Hendricks County from here north to I-70.)

Original start of SR 42

Mooresville is a typical small Indiana town except that, at least on this Saturday, it was busy. Check out all these cars. The traffic didn’t let up while I was in town.

Westbound, Mooresville

SR 42 in Mooresville is lined with lovely older homes.

Old house, Mooresville
Another old house, Mooresville

On the western edge of town, the road took on its rural character.

Western outskirts of Mooresville

The Hoss Farm, just outside of Mooresville, looked pretty desolate. (The barn is gone now.)

Hoss Farm

The road curved just beyond the farm. Broad curves like these are rare along SR 42, except for a section in Putnam County. SR 42 was stitched together from a series of farm roads that naturally followed farm boundaries. A feature of roads built like this is that you make a lot of 90-degree curves, and even some hard rights and lefts, around farms. If SR 42 had become a more major road, the interests of speed and safety would have led the state to buy portions of the farmers’ land and smooth and straighten the road. But with US 40 not that far to the north, providing a fine link between Indianapolis and Terre Haute from before the advent of the state highway system, SR 42 stayed a minor road that never saw those kinds of improvements.

Curve

The West Union Friends Meeting has gathered on what is now SR 42 since 1832. They’ve been burying their dead there that long, as well.

West Union Cemetery
West Union Friends Meeting
West Union Friends Meeting

Next: The small towns of Monrovia and Eminence.

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