On Day 4, I made it as far as Terre Haute, but declared the trip over about 7 miles short of the Illinois line due to rain.
Rain at least threatened all day. As the day continued, it stopped threatening and started raining. The rain really picked up as I worked my way through Brazil and was quite heavy when I reached Terre Haute. Not only were my brakes ineffective, but my handlebar grips were too slippery to hold.
But I declare victory anyway. I still rode 150 miles, give or take, in four days.
I deeply enjoyed riding the old concrete alignments of US 40 in Putnam County and seeing the old homes and barns all along the route. Despite the rain I had good energy and spirits.
In Terre Haute I rode to my old friend Michael’s. Margaret came along to get me and Michael, his wife Merrie, Margaret, and I went out for dinner and drinks at a favorite place from the years I lived in Terre Haute. Then we headed home.
I’ll have more to tell about this trip in posts to come, after I’ve had some time to process the photographs and process my thoughts and feelings.
Day 3 of my ride along Indiana’s National Road was long – 45 miles and 8.5 hours. I was spent by the 7 hour mark but had little choice but to keep pushing on.
I slept nine hours last night, yet when my alarm went off at 7 AM, all I wanted to do was keep sleeping. That turned out to be a harbinger of the day.
I headed west with a ride around Indy’s Monument Circle and then one block south to the National Road. I followed the trail through White River State Park over the one-time US 40 bridge now used to carry only pedestrians. Beyond it, getting through the west side of Indianapolis was little fun. There wasn’t much to see and the road was in bad shape, making for jarring riding.
It took me almost 3 hours to reach downtown Plainfield, where I stopped for lunch. There was a Dairy Queen there so I went in and got a grilled chicken sandwich and a hot fudge sundae. I figured I’d treat myself! That turned out to be a terrible lunch; within an hour I was having a giant sugar crash. Bleh.
I got to visit my favorite abandoned bridge. It’s just west of Plainfield. I visited for the first time in 2006 on my first ever trip exploring the old roads. This was so cool that it hooked me forever on this hobby.
After about four hours on the road, I need to stop frequently to rest. I’m quite saddle sore, and thre were just several times that I just had to get off the bike to give my bottom some relief. Additionally, my lunch didn’t hold me and I needed to stop to snack a couple times. But more importantly, as I headed into Putnam County and the terrain began to become hilly, I struggled up the hills. I’m not too proud to admit that I had to walk my bike up three or four of them. They weren’t super steep, I was just fried. At one rest stop I stood next to a cornfield that was busy whispering as cornfields do. I recorded several seconds of it; I hope you can hear the whispering.
Tomorrow is my last day. If I feel as tired tomorrow as I do today, I’m going to end the ride in downtown Terre Haute. That will change a 50-mile day into a 38-mile day! That’s still a long day for this middle-aged man who is in middling shape.
On October 18, 2008, I explored Indiana State Road 42 from end to end. It begins southwest of Indianapolis in Mooresville and ends in Terre Haute.
As I drove west from Eminence, the road became lined with trees as it approaches Mill Creek. This photo is eastbound.
In 1939, the state built a steel truss bridge over Mill Creek. A similar bridge up the road made the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, but this one has not. I hope somebody in Putnam County picks up the mantle!
I thought it was standard that these bridges be painted green, but word has apparently not reached Putnam County. (This bridge completed a renovation in 2015, at which time it was painted baby blue, the new standard color for Indiana highway truss bridges.)
The view of Mill Creek is lovely. I took this photo off the south side of the bridge. But wait – what’s that in the photo’s lower left?
See it there? That neat row of cut stones?
Please consider the following:
Just beyond the bridge is a road that pulls away and then turns to be right in line with current SR 42 after it completes the curve west of the bridge. This fairly screams “old alignment.” Notice how the suspected old alignment, if extended southeast, would cross Mill Creek directly, instead of at a bit of an angle as it does today. In the olden days bridgebuilders’ bags of tricks were fairly limited, leading them to build bridges straight across creeks and rivers. That row of stones has to be part of an older bridge’s foundation, and the stones around it probably bits of the demolished former abutment here.
Incredibly, here’s a small photograph of the previous bridge alongside the newer one, taken at about the time the newer one was built. It was a wooden covered bridge! This would have to be an eastbound photo from the west end of these two bridges.
In the excitement over all this, I forgot to drive the suspected old alignment. I did, however, think to take a shot of some of the fall color just west of the bridge.
State Road 42 skirted Cloverdale on its south edge and then the terrain became more challenging. The road stopped the 90-degree-curve nonsense and began to curve around the terrain. At Doe Creek, a narrow concrete bridge awaited.
My experience is that bridges only as wide as the road, with concrete railings like this, were built in the 1910s and 1920s. I could see a clear path down the bank, so I walked down to see what the old girl looked like in profile. Sadly, she was a bit ungainly.
Shortly I came upon Cagles Mill Lake, also known as Cataract Lake, one of many lakes the US Army Corps of Engineers built to control flooding. Here, SR 42 makes a brief dip into Owen County.
The bridge over the lake did not disappoint.
As I approached the bridge, there was a traffic signal flashing yellow, and cones everywhere. Clearly, this bridge had just been renovated, and the finishing touches were still being put on. It was built in 1951, when the lake was created.
I’m not sure how such a minor road warrants such a major bridge, but this one is a real gem.
I passed through the remainder of the lush lake area and into Clay County. I zipped through the little town of Poland without even slowing down because I knew another steel truss bridge awaited on the other side – but it turns out I missed an old church on the National Register of Historic Places in so doing. I guess my consolation is that the steel truss bridge over the Eel River is on the Register, too.
Have I mentioned how much I enjoy steel truss bridges? (This bridge, too, has received a coat of baby blue paint since I photographed it.)
A sure sign of autumn is how low the sun is at midafternoon.
Someone posted this image to the National Road group on Facebook and it immediately excited me, because I recognized the scene instantly. This is the 1925 bridge that carries US 40 over Deer Creek just east of Putnamville, Indiana.
This photo is from Frank M. Hohenberger Photograph Collection. Hohenberger lived most of his life in Nashville, Indiana, and made a lot of photographs of his town and the beautiful county that surrounded it. But he also traveled with his camera, including this stop near this newly built bridge in Putnam County. He made this photo in 1928.
Indiana University has placed Hohenberger’s photographs online; see the original of this photo here.
I’ve visited this bridge myself, many times. The scene looks considerably different today. US 40 was rebuilt nearby on a new four-lane alignment between 1939 and 1941. The bridge and concrete road remain, serving a few properties here. Here are some photos I made on a 2009 visit. This first photo is eastbound, as is Hohenberger’s photo.
I leaned way over the side of this bridge to see its arches. I don’t remember for certain, but this might be the north side of the bridge.
Westbound from the west end of the bridge, here’s the curve in the road you see in the Hohenberger image above. This is the original 1925 concrete.
Since Hohenberger made his photo here, trees have grown to dominate the scene.
This 1925 alignment replaced an earlier alignment and bridge. I’ll bet that in Hohenberger’s time you could see the old roadbed clearly. It lay just to the south of this alignment and bridge. Today you can make out the old roadbed when the leaves are off the trees. Here’s a photo I made of it in 2011. I wrote more about this old alignment here.
The bridge that used to cross Deer Creek on this alignment still exists and is in use. It was floated upstream and placed on nearby County Road 25. It was built in 1891. I made this photo of it in 2010. I wrote a little more about this bridge here.
The terrain rolls a little bit in this part of Indiana, and US 36 hugs it pretty good. This eastbound photo shows it from the beginning of the Bainbridge segment.
I passed a number of older houses set close to the road, and then I came to downtown Bainbridge, all two blocks of it. Its old buildings are left from when this town was probably quite vital. I suspect that the big building at right, at the corner of Main and Washington Streets, was once a hotel. An old-style bank with its door facing the corner was behind me.
As quickly as I entered Bainbridge, I left it. Here’s how Main St. flows into US 36 westbound.
Let’s return now to my 2007 trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.
Shortly after from Hendricks County into Putnam County is tiny Groveland, with a gas station, a couple houses, and a few decrepit buildings. Immediately west of Groveland, US 36 curves to the north a bit, and a narrow road splits from it following the straight path.
It leads to a long old alignment that crosses Big Walnut Creek, as this map snippet shows.
This is a winding rural road, and it’s a lovely drive.
The terrain through here has some challenging spots, and this alignment’s winding path is typical of the days when roads were built around challenging terrain, rather than through it. My old maps show that this road was US 36 through at least 1932 — and that it was a gravel road all that time!
Soon this alignment became heavily wooded.
I came upon a covered bridge over Big Walnut Creek. J. J. Daniels built a lot of covered bridges in Putnam and Parke Counties. This is a Burr arch truss bridge – if you squint a little at the photo below, you can see the arch bracing the trusses along the bridge’s inside wall.
Here’s the bridge’s west end, which I share just because I really like how this photo turned out.
Just past the bridge I came across a big, old, smoke-belching RV blocking the road along here. Some fellows were standing on it, cutting branches out of a tree in their front yard. I only sat there for a minute before they moved the RV back far enough for me to drive around, but the smell of that smoke stayed in my nose the rest of this segment. Its end looks like this.
In the driveway of the house across the road was a grand old automobile. Do you see it? It looks to be from the late 1930s. I couldn’t tell what kind it was; if you know, leave a comment!