When my friend Dawn and I made our trip along the National Road in eastern Indiana in 2015, we came upon an audacious toy store in downtown Richmond. Family owned, Veach’s had been selling toys in Richmond for more than seven decades. We were astonished and delighted that the store had survived all of the changes in retail since the 1980s. Unfortunately, when I rode across Indiana this year, Veach’s was gone.
On US 40 (aka the National Road) in Richmond, Indiana, you’ll find a McDonald’s on the southwest corner of 18th Street. It features a classic Golden Arches sign from around 1970. Here’s a photo I made of it on my first visit in 2009. The restaurant was a classic red Mansard-roofed design, with a giant PlayPlace tacked on.
When I next visited, in 2015, I hoped the classic sign would still be there. I wasn’t disappointed. But the red roof had been reshingled in a dark color.
On my Ride Across Indiana, the sign was still there (yay!) but the restaurant looks to have been razed and rebuilt. McDonald’s architecture is so generic now.
I’ve documented Richmond before, on a 2009 trip by car down the National Road in eastern Indiana. Read about it here.
As you head west on the National Road, when you enter Indiana you immediately meet Richmond. Since the 1940s, the National Road and US 40 have been a four-lane highway here.
After you push through the suburban-style strip malls, you come to Glen Miller Park. Named for Colonel John Ford Miller rather than the famous big-band leader, it’s been a Richmond city park since 1885. Two elements of the 185-acre park face the National Road: the sprawling Richmond Rose Garden and Indiana’s Madonna of the Trail statue.
At Glen Miller Park, the National Road passes through a section of large older homes. Most of them are well cared for, but a few are not.
As US 40 heads toward downtown Richmond, it diverges from the original National Road route for several blocks. Westbound it follows Main Street to 16th Street, then 16th north to N. A Street, then west to N. 3rd Street, then south to S. A Street. Eastbound, it follows S. A Street to S. 11th Street, then 11th north to Main Street, then Main Street east. The National Road follows Main Street westbound all the way across the White River, where it then turns south on 1st Street, and then west on National Road West.
Downtown Richmond looks typical for a downtown of this size in Indiana. For many years, the National Road here was closed to traffic as the area was a pedestrian mall. Today, the road in the heart of downtown offers one narrow lane in each direction for vehicles.
On a National Road trip I made in 2015, I discovered Veach’s, a family-owned toy store in downtown Richmond. Sadly, it closed after 79 years in 2017. Here are photos before and after.
After coming through downtown, the National Road passes by the imposing Wayne County Courthouse.
The National Road then crosses the White River on a grand bridge completed in 1920. Before this bridge was built, a steel bridge crossed the road here. Before that, the road curved south here and crossed the river over a large wooden covered bridge. See a photograph here.
Just beyond the bridge, the National Road turns left onto 1st Street and then right onto National Road West. On its way out of town, the road passes by Earlham College. In the late 1980s I went to engineering school at Rose-Hulman, at the other end of Indiana’s portion of the National Road in Terre Haute. We were in the same sports conference as Earlham then, and played them often. They usually beat us in every sport.
Shortly past Earlham, the road exits Richmond proper and takes on a country feel.
Margaret brought me to Richmond last night to begin my journey. It was too late to do any riding so I had dinner and relaxed in my motel room. It’s a shabby motel, a little musty, but it’s clean.
The Schwinn stows nicely between the beds.
My motel is right on US 40 near the end of the Dayton Cutoff, which you can read more about here. It’s also near a road that I’ve long suspected is an old alignment of the National Road. It’s signed as Woodside Drive. It is a curved road that begins and ends at IS 40. This map snippet shows both roads. Woodside Drive starts immediately left of the Red Lobster, and the Dayton Cutoff comes in from bottom right at an angle and ends at US 40, which is the double yellow line.
All the way here I felt strong feelings that could have been either excitement or anxiety. Maybe they were both. What a thing I’m doing! For the next four days it’s just me out on this road I love so much, seeing it much closer than I ever have. But I’m definitely apprehensive about the risks — traffic, bad weather, bike breakdowns, bad people. I’ve prepared as best I can for these things, and now I just have to relax into the ride.
One of these days I ought to survey all of the classic motels on US 40 in Indiana. There are quite a few, primarily in Wayne, Marion, and Hendricks Counties with a few others popping up here and there. Many of them still serve guests, even if those guests stay for months or years at a time and call their room home.
Wayne County borders Ohio and so is the eastern gateway to Indiana along what was once the National Road. It still has these operating classic motels.
First is the Holiday Motel, which is within the Richmond city limits. Like all of the Wayne County hotels, it uses a plastic box sign. It once had a larger sign lit with neon tubing, according to an old postcard image I found on the Web (here).
The Holiday Motel’s U configuration makes efficient use of limited city space.
You come upon the City View Motel after you leave Richmond proper. It’s most of the way to Centerville, actually, and has a Centerville address.
In contrast to the urban Holiday Motel, the outskirts-of-town City View sprawls out across a wide lot.
Whenever I see a plastic box sign on a classic motel, I assume there was once a more interesting neon sign in the hotel’s past. A Web search turned up one postcard that showed the City View’s onetime neon sign (here).
The Richmond Motel is even farther away from Richmond than the City View. It’s on the eastern edge of Centerville.
It, too, once had a far more interesting sign. You can see it here.
It also sprawls wide, taking advantage of its more rural setting. I think it’s the most cheerful looking of the Wayne County motels with its red and gray color scheme.
There’s just one more Wayne County hotel, on the very western edge of Centerville. I made just this one photo of it. There’s no sign, which leads me to believe this motel serves as inexpensive apartments now. But at one time this was the Green Acres Motel; see an old postcard of it here.
Motels have been an occasional subject here — click here for photos and stories of all the motels I’ve written about on all kinds of old roads.
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.