Gracie in the rear view

Happy face in the rear view
Kodak EasyShare Z730

This photo is a very happy memory. At the height of my road-trip days I usually brought my dog, Gracie, along. She loved to go! I saw this happy look on her face in my rear-view mirror all the time when we’d take to the road.

When we made this trip, in October of 2008, we’d lost Gracie’s constant companion, Sugar, just a couple months before. Gracie was deeply bonded to Sugar and really came apart after Sugar died.

Taking to the road always raised both Gracie’s and my spirits. We went on a lot of road trips in those days. This was the year I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end over several spring and summer Saturdays. I had wrapped up that trip at the end of August, shortly after Sugar died.

Gracie and I were well overdue for a road trip when we made our next, and last, trip of the year on that October Saturday. We explored Indiana State Road 42, which begins just southwest of Indianapolis in Mooresville, and leads to Terre Haute. It parallels I-70 and US 40, but as a narrow two-lane highway with lots of 90-degree turns, it’s a far less convenient route. But Gracie and I had a wonderful day together, out exploring. We were both in our happy place.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.


single frame: Happy face in the rear view

A happy dog, road tripping with me.

Preservation, Road Trips

Revisiting the bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

I climbed down the bank to see what kind of bridge this was. I was richly rewarded — it’s a true beauty.

Bridge over Cagle Mill Lake

That was in 2008 when I toured Indiana’s State Road 42, which stretches from near Indianapolis at Mooresville to Terre Haute. Along the way the road reaches Cagles Mill Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project. This bridge was built in 1951 to span the lake, and SR 42 was realigned to cross the bridge. Upon my visit, it had been freshly renovated. It looked like new!

In the years since I stopped clambering down banks to see the undersides of bridges. Perhaps after seeing enough bridges I stopped being surprised and delighted by them. I’m sure that as I’ve gotten older I have become more risk averse — climbing down a steep bank can be hazardous! But after I visited the new SR 46 bridge near Bowling Green, I knew I wanted to see the Cagles Mill Lake bridge again, up close and personal. It wasn’t too far away.

It was like old times when I clambered down the bank to photograph this bridge. I had my Nikon F2AS along with a 35-105mm zoom lens attached. This unwieldy kit did not make it any easier to get into position.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

I made one shot at 35mm and another at or near maximum zoom. Neither of these photos turned out as well as I hoped. When I visited last time, the bank was clear except for large rocks placed to retard erosion. This time, the rocks were still there, but so was a considerable amount of brush that made it hard to get a good angle on the bridge. A lot of brush can grow in 12 years! I’m also not pleased with the exposure in either of these photos. But at least I got them.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

The best photo of the visit is this one of the deck. I love how the road disappears into the trees.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

Steel truss bridge on State Road 42
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom

This week: ten posts where I look back at lovely scenes from long-ago road trips.

We begin with my 2008 trip along Indiana’s State Road 42, which extends from just southwest of Indianapolis at Mooresville west to the edge of Terre Haute. It’s a narrow highway with several hard turns, making it kind of annoying to drive end to end. But nobody does that, as I-70 and US 40 parallel it nearby and they’re both straight four-lane highways. SR 42 primarily provides local access among the small towns that lie along it.

Two steel truss bridges remain on this highway, one over Eel Creek in Clay County and this one, built in 1940 over Mill Creek in Putnam County. Both, I hear, have been rehabilitated and are now painted light blue. I love to hear that any old truss bridge still serving on a highway has been rehabilitated. I also rather like the patina the bridge had earned in this photo. Still, now I want to make another SR 42 trip to see them.

That’s my little red Toyota Matrix parked at the roadside, the one I wrecked on a road trip the next year. My various road-trip cars (this Matrix, the blue Matrix that replaced it after it was totaled, and my Ford Focus) appear in my road-trip photos all the time.

Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Steel truss bridge on State Road 42


Music, Stories Told


I first told this story when this blog was young, eight years ago. I haven’t been back to Headstone’s in almost that many years. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I still have the tie-dye shirt I mention in this story.

Headstone Friends

When I was in college, I should have just had my work-study paycheck direct-deposited into Headstone Friends’ bank account. I spent most of it there anyway on used records and CDs.

Headstone’s is a music store in head-shop trappings. Step inside, and suddenly it’s 1969. Or at least it is after your eyes adjust to the dim light. But you smell the sweet incense the second you enter. Heck, you can hear the loud music way out in the parking lot.

The counter is on the left, offering jewelry and silly buttons and, at least at one time, scales and rolling papers. On the right are ceramic dragons and fabric Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix wall hangings and a rack of incense sticks. Then racks of CDs line the wall all the way to the back where a few bins of records remain. In the corner, next to the drinking fountain that has never worked, is a room aglow with black-light posters.

Things do change at Headstone’s. When I first set foot in the place thirty years ago it was half the size it is now, full of waist-high record bins. They expanded into the building’s back section a few years later, and slowly tall homemade CD racks crowded out most of the record bins. And every so many years, when the building’s mural and sign are faded and worn almost beyond recognition, they repaint. On the day I visited it looked pretty fresh.

Headstone Friends

Headstone’s is seriously old school. They have one location, on Poplar at 12th Street in Terre Haute. They’re not on the Web. They don’t take credit cards. The owners, aging hippies who were younger than I am now when I first visited, work the counter. They keep inventory records on index cards in cardboard boxes. When you find a CD you want, you go to the counter and have someone come unlock the cabinet for you. Then they total your purchases on paper receipts and calculate the tax by hand.

The staff is very low key, but while I lived in Terre Haute I visited so often that they came to recognize me. One fellow named Harold became friendly and came to recognize my buying habits. One day a college friend came by my dorm room and said that I should see Harold next time I was in. He had set aside a promotional poster from a Paul McCartney album for me. The album wasn’t Paul’s best, but the the cover photo, of Paul and his wife taken with the kind of camera used for 1940s Hollywood glamor shots, was outstanding, and larger than life on the poster. “We get this junk all the time and never use it,” he said. “You buy all kinds of Beatles and McCartney so I figured you’d like to have it.” Sure enough! I had it framed. Despite generous offers from collectors, it still hangs in my house.


Harold was there that day. I hadn’t seen him in at least ten years, but he looked just the same – long brown-and-gray hair curling halfway down his back, reading glasses at the end of his nose, and a round, tan fisherman’s hat covering his head. There was a glimmer of recognition on his face when he saw me, but it had been so long I wasn’t sure he’d remember me even if I did give him my name, so I kept to myself. I didn’t find any CDs I couldn’t live without, but just for fun I did buy a tie-dyed T-shirt. It filled my car with Headstone’s scent all the way home. I hated to wash it.

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

Clearly I still have unslaked road thirst, as yet another bridge shot moved me to post. I think I like truss bridges best of all, because so much of the beautiful engineering is visible right above your head as you drive them. This bridge stands on State Road 42 in Putnam County, Indiana. Putnam County seems to have more than its share of great old bridges.

I was in no hurry and it was a warm day for mid-October, so I spent about a half hour on this bridge, photographing it from many angles. I like this photograph best of all, as the lines guide the eye to where the road curves. Doesn’t it make you wonder what lies ahead?

State Road 42 has one other steel truss bridge and two concrete arch bridges – one of which is breathtaking. See them all on my roads pages.


Captured: Steel truss bridge over Mill Creek

Road Trips

Small-town signs of life on Indiana State Road 42

Monrovia and Eminence are two very small towns separated by 13 miles of Indiana State Road 42. They’re actually only 9½ miles apart as the crow flies, but rural Indiana roads provide everything but a direct route, especially between two towns that have but one four-way stop apiece. Yet a fair amount of Hoosier life happens in and near little towns like these.

I drove through Monrovia one early-autumn Saturday morning. A modern school stands on the town’s eastern edge, surprising because so many rural Indiana school systems consolidated in the second half of the last century. Old, abandoned school buildings seem more typical of Indiana’s small towns. I was surprised to find a football game in progress; I stopped to watch for a few minutes.

Saturday morning football

The commercial buildings in Monrovia were all built in the early 20th century. This one was once a bank (notice the depository drawer on the building’s sunny side), and a somewhat unusual one in that its door doesn’t face the corner.

Monrovia, IN

It is probably statutory that every small Indiana town have an Odd Fellows hall. If you click this photo and see it larger in Flickr, you’ll see the telltale “I.O.O.F.” (International Order of Odd Fellows) plaque on the facade’s top center. Hard telling what this building is used for now; it’s sad to see the second-floor windows boarded up.

Monrovia, IN

While the Odd Fellows hall needed a little TLC, the rest of Monrovia’s commercial buildings looked pretty solid, and every one of them was in use.

Monrovia, IN

There isn’t much more to Monrovia – a few homes, a convenience store, and the road out of town.

Now leaving Monrovia

A school is the first thing you see when you enter Eminence, too, a little down the way on Indiana State Road 42. This old high school building is still in service, and appears to be well cared for. A more modern building sprawls behind it. There was no football game in Eminence; perhaps their team was in Monrovia this day.

Eminence High School

There’s less to Eminence than Monrovia, although Eminence boasts one of the little white churches so common on the rural landscape. It is said that you can’t throw a rock in a small Indiana town without hitting one of these.

Church in Eminence

Of course, Eminence has its obligatory Odd Fellows hall. This one has been made into a bank and is probably the only Odd Fellows hall in Indiana with a drive-through.

Odd Fellows Building, Eminence

The only other building at Eminence’s most prominent intersection once housed Gash & Co., but today stands in decay.

Gash & Co.

I liked the rustic look of the chipping and peeling whitewash around this building’s entrance. This is also the photo in which I make my cameo appearance.

Gash & Co. entrance

Nobody was on the street in either Monrovia or Eminence on this morning, although I did encounter a few people when I stopped for a soda at a convenience store next to the church. But really, the best proof of life in these small towns is the graffitti sprayed on Gash & Company’s wall. Where there’s rivalry, there’s life!

Eminence says: Monrovia Sucks!

Read everything I’ve written about Indiana State Road 42 here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!