Road Trips

An autumn drive down Indiana State Road 47

I’m bringing another long-ago road trip over from my old HTML site. It was a lovely autumn drive on a series of Indiana and US highways. I was still shooting film on my road trips, using my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80. I was also still just making photographs of the road itself. Fortunately, this time there’s plenty of lovely autumn color to be seen.

The trees were startlingly colorful in the autumn of 2006, with arresting yellows, plentiful and vibrant oranges, and hot reds in their first appearance in years. I wanted to take a road trip when fall’s colors peaked, but that came and went in one day, it seemed, and I was stuck at work that day. There was still plenty of color left the following Saturday, October 28, though, so off I went.

I chose State Road 47, US 41, and US 36 as my route. SR 47 and I go back almost 20 years, when I was experimenting with ways to drive between college in Terre Haute and home in South Bend. My route until then was I-70 to I-465 to US 31, which alternated between boring and congested. I tried a bunch of back-highway routes until I found my favorite, which involved a long stretch of SR 47. I enjoyed several beautiful autumn drives along this road as it wound through Parke County by Turkey Run State Park, and then through some unexpected curves in the farmland of Montgomery and Boone Counties. US 41 and US 36 cut through some similarly lovely terrain, would bring me back to my Indianapolis home, and fit nicely into one day, so they were in. US 41 is fairly twisty through Parke County, and I had learned from a friend that US 36 is peppered with old alignments.

State Road 47 currently stretches from US 41 to Sheridan at SR 38. It originally ran northeasterly from US 41 to Crawfordsville. The state decided it was more northerly than easterly, and so gave it an odd number. While later extensions make SR 47 clearly more an east-west road, it keeps its odd number and its “North” and “South” signage.

At one time, SR 47 extended east from Sheridan to US 31 north of Westfield. Until recently, a bent sign partially hiding behind some overgrown trees tried to proclaim the distance to Sheridan, but the numbers had badly faded in the sun. Looking forlorn but very official, it seemed certainly to be a relic from the days the road was still a state highway. I wanted to take a photo of it on this trip, but I learned a valuable lesson: don’t delay in taking photos. That old sign had been replaced with a gleaming new sign unobstructed by vegetation. Oh well.

I started at the old eastern end of SR 47. Here it is, cleverly disguised as mild-mannered 236th St. in Hamilton County, looking westbound.

Former SR 47

On Monday, back at work, someone stopped me in the break room and asked if that was me taking a picture from the median of US 31. I hid my surprise that anybody I knew actually saw me. I said yes. He was very puzzled, but I left it at that.

Old SR 47 is very narrow and flat along its five miles of farmland. It also has no shoulders. It had rained buckets the day before, making ponds out of most farm fields. That didn’t make for very picturesque scenes, and so it was hard to find a decent place to take a good photo. This photo shows one of the dry spots westbound along the route.

Former SR 47

Sheridan arrived in no time. Here’s the beginning of SR 47, westbound, in Sheridan

SR 47 at Sheridan

This eastbound photo from across the street shows SR 47’s eastern end. Every small Indiana town is required by statute to have at least one Dairy Queen, by the way.

SR 47 at Sheridan

After SR 47 passes through Sheridan’s southern edge, its lanes widen. As it passes out of Hamilton and into Boone County, the road occasionally rises and falls gently, but remains straight until it intersects with US 421, the old Michigan Road.

SR 47 at Michigan Road

After that, gentle curves begin to appear, slight bends in the road. This photo isn’t as sharp as could be. When I walk out into the middle of a highway to take a photo, I keep my ears wide open for the sound of a car coming from behind me. This day was extremely windy, and the wind drowned out the sounds of oncoming cars. Not wanting to be squashed, I took this photo (and many others this day) in a hurry.

SR 47

The next burg along the way is Thorntown, which is at the center of what was the 64,000 acre Thorntown Indian Reserve, where the Eel River Tribe of the Miamis lived. This reserve didn’t last long, just from 1818 to 1828. Thorntown gets its name from the Miami name for the place, Kawiakiungi, which means “place of thorns.”

Place of Thorns

Here’s what you see as you swing across the bridge and enter Thorntown from the east. SR 47 is just out of the picture on the left. At any moment, you expect it to start snowing, and Jimmy Stewart to come running through town shouting, “Merry Christmas you old broken-down Building and Loan!” I told a story about how, while we were still dating, my first wife got me out of a speeding ticket in Thorntown here.

Thorntown

Two miles outside Thorntown the road twists a bit through a wooded area. The road rises and falls a bit through this area as well. A sign near where I took this photo says that a town called Colfax lay five miles to the north. This photo points westbound.

SR 47

As Boone County faded into the farms of Montgomery County, the fresh pavement ended. Driving is pleasant as the road rolls. Curved and straight sections alternate. (I am amused, looking back now, to see I had not yet learned to photograph a road while standing on the centerline. First, it leads to a more balanced composition. Second, I’m somewhat less likely to be hit by a car.)

SR 47

As the road runs under I-74 and draws near to Crawfordsville, farmland is replaced with family homes. This curve showed some of the best fall colors of the trip so far.

SR 47

In Crawfordsville, SR 47 multiplexes first with SR 32 and then with US 136. As SR 47 turns south on the edge of downtown, US136 goes its own way, but US 231 multiplexes in. Outside of downtown, SR 47 turns back west, leaving US 231 to its southerly path, and finally SR 32 takes a northwesterly fork, and SR 47 is all alone again. Because of some construction on SR 47, I was detoured down US 231 to SR 234, which intersects with SR 47 8 miles west of Crawfordsville. US 231 was unremarkable, but SR 234 was interesting — narrow and gently rolling through the farmland, with a drainage trench immediately off the road’s edge making stopping for photos impossible. At one point, the road gently curved so a bridge could span something perpendicularly.

As Turkey Run nears on SR 47, the road becomes more curvy and hilly, and the scenery becomes more lovely. This eastbound photo, a few miles east of Turkey Run, shows the long shadows of the late-morning autumn sun. (If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you might remember that this photo was in my blog’s masthead for years.)

SR 47

Here’s a westbound shot from the same spot. This is a nice little hill.

SR 47

Soon SR 47 reaches Turkey Run State Park. I visited it often, even camped here, while I lived in nearby Terre Haute in the early 1990s. In the years after this trip, my sons and came here to hike or canoe about once a year until they were grown. I blogged about it a couple times, such as here and here.

Turkey Run sign

Just west of the entrance to Turkey Run, you drive past the treetops as a bridge spans a valley. A couple miles later, SR 47 ends at US 41.

SR 47

Next: I followed US 41 south most of the way to Terre Haute. US 41 is so twisty it’s hard to believe it’s an Indiana highway.

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Road Trips, Stories Told

Wet feet at Turkey Run

My boys and I made our more-or-less annual trek to Turkey Run State Park the other day. We couldn’t have had better weather – sunny and 80.

Even though I’ve made countless trips to Turkey Run State Park over the past 20 years, and have therefore received countless trail maps at the entrance, this was the first time I noticed the spot labeled “Old Highway Bridge” on the map. So of course we went looking for it. Trail 6 takes you right under it. I’ve never had this kind of view of a bridge before!

Turkey Run trip

Trail 6 is in and along the creek after which the park gets its name. I was in my own little world snapping shots of this bridge when shplorp! I learned that a Saucony Grid Jazz 2006 running shoe can soak up a considerable amount of water.

Trail 11 carries you over the bridge, which was built in 1914. That’s two years before this land became a state park. I am very curious to know what road this bridge carried, but the Internet is silent on the matter.

Update 3 Sept 2010: I have learned that this bridge carried an early alignment of State Road 47. Bridgehunter.com has some details.

Turkey Run trip

My sons indulged my bridgehunting for a short time but soon wanted to move along. We came to Sunset Point and took in the view of Sugar Creek.

Turkey Run trip

We also became acquainted, in a way, with one Carl Crune of Purdue’s Class of 1915.

Turkey Run trip

My sons wanted to follow Trail 10, so we crossed the suspension bridge and were on our way.

Turkey Run trip

Trail 10 is just a walk in the woods, but it empties out into the rocks and running water of Trail 3. Check out this view.

Turkey Run trip

The jutting formation on the left is called Wedge Rock.

Turkey Run trip

Both of my shoes were soaked by the time we got out of here!

Turkey Run trip

It was a pretty busy weekday at the park. Wet feet all around!

Turkey Run trip
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Road Trips, Stories Told

Welcome to Thorntown

My last road trip in 2006 included driving Indiana State Road 47 from end to end. It is lovely as it winds through the wild terrain around Turkey Run State Park at its western end just north of Rockville at US 41. As the road heads east, those steep hills become the rolling terrain of quiet farmland. The road curves frequently, perhaps around old farm boundaries or around terrain challenges; it remains fun to drive through two counties. The fun ends at Thorntown as the road straightens out for the rest of its route to Sheridan, an hour north of Indianapolis.

Thorntown, a well-kept small town lined with tidy homes, churches, and shops, is at the center of what was the 64,000 acre Thorntown Indian Reserve, where the Eel River Tribe of the Miami Indians lived. This reserve didn’t last long, just from 1818 to 1828. Thorntown gets its name from the Miami name for the place, Kawiakiungi, which means “place of thorns.” Here’s what you see as you swing across the bridge and enter Thorntown from the east. At any moment, you expect it to start snowing, and Jimmy Stewart to come running through town shouting, “Merry Christmas you old broken-down Building and Loan!”

Welcome to Darlington

As much as I have always liked State Road 47, I used to dislike Thorntown because its 30 MPH speed limit needlessly interrupted my swift progress. When my ex-wife and I were dating many years ago, she and I passed through Thorntown on our way to a camping trip. She was driving her car behind me as we needed both of our tiny cars to haul all the gear. As usual, I didn’t see the speed-limit signs at the edge of town as I drove in from the west. The police were ready for me. The officer pulled out of somebody’s driveway and hit the lights and siren. I pulled over and the officer, a big Sheriff Buford type with the buzz cut and the mirrored aviator sunglasses, began to give me a chewin’ out. His face pinched, he was wondering with considerable volume if I had skill enough to read speed-limit signs when my now-ex, who by the way was lovely and slender with blue-grey eyes and a big mess of blonde hair, pulled around in front of me and stopped. Sheriff Buford seemed annoyed and waddled purposefully toward her car. He was gone for quite some time, but when he came back, he was chuckling and smiling. He said to just take it slow through town and wished me a good weekend! Since this happened before everybody had cell phones, I had to wait about two hours until we stopped again and could ask just what the heck happened! She said, “When he came up, I rolled down the window, batted my eyelashes at him, and said, ‘If you give him a ticket, you have to give me one too, because I was following him!’ He laughed and laughed and I guessed when you drove off that he let us off the hook.”

This did not do anything to improve my opinion about Thorntown.

I’ve matured considerably since then. I’ve also become much better at noticing the speed-limit signs at the outskirts of small towns, so I’m much less likely to attract police attention. So now I not only bear no ill will against Thorntown, but I find its entrance from the east to be quite lovely. You swing around this little curve and over a small bridge, and then suddenly the town unfolds before you, as if it had been folded snugly into the pages of a pop-up book. Just be sure to be going 30 MPH by the time you cross that bridge.

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