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I am astonished that at my age I’ve remarried and am about to leave my longtime home to share a life with family I never knew I would have.

When I was younger, even through my late 30s, those who had lived a half century seemed so settled to me. Their lives, I was sure, had fallen into predictable grooves. I like predictability, and those I knew who had it wore it well. I looked forward to it in my own life.

On this day half my life ago

But who knew all of the adventures of the half-century mark? Of helping children step into their adult futures. Of having fully adult relationships with our parents. Of hitting our stride in our careers. And, given that so many divorce now, remarriage and new family.

Except that these things feel like adventures only when they’re going well. Some children stumble and fall, or even fail to launch. Our parents are aging — when is it time to stop driving? To find a retirement home? And on the job sometimes you watch someone younger than some of your children, with all the life experience that implies, move up fast and pass you by, and make mistakes you learned long ago not to make.

This stuff is incredibly hard! The blessing of this age is the resilience to handle these difficulties. If I had encountered them at half this age I would have needed a rubber room.

I turn 50 today. Joys and disappointments abound. Honestly, this year there have been more disappointments than joys. My wife and I have experienced some real difficulty with children, parents, and jobs. Point is, this age teaches that this is what life is. That youthful dreams of winning at life, of being a Master of the Universe, were never within reach. That all there is every day is enjoying the good while working through the bad. That God put people into our lives to love, and our best satisfaction in life comes from loving them with all our might.

I’m gathering my whole family at my home this afternoon. We’ll grill various bits of animal flesh, nosh on fresh veggies and sweets, drink gin and tonic, and just enjoy each other. My goodness, but do we like each other. I predict I’ll reach the end of this day satisfied.

I made this photograph when I was 42, and thought even as I made it that I ought to use it on this blog when I turned 50! It seemed so far off in the future that I wondered if I’d still be blogging then. Answer to my then-self: lol yup.

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Life

Half century

Who knew life at 50 could have so much going on? And some of it isn’t exactly pleasant. But one advantage of this age is the resilience to handle it.

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Old US 50 in Illinois

Abandoned US 50 in Illinois
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2009

A long section of US 50 stands abandoned to the current US 50 alignment in central Illinois. The state planned at one time to build a four-lane US 50 here, but the plans were scuttled after the new lanes were built. So they just routed the whole road along the new lanes and left the old ones behind.

Photography, Road trips

Photo: Abandoned US 50 in Illinois

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History, Road trips

Goodbye wooden bridge

This bridge no longer exists.

Wooden bridge

Longtime readers might remember that I explored all of the old alignments of US 50 across Indiana in 2010. This wooden bridge, built in about 1920, was on an original alignment of that highway in Jennings County, just west of North Vernon, until it was demolished this month. These photos are from my 2010 trip; read about my encounter with this bridge here.

Wooden bridge

This bridge carried what is now Base Road over CSX railroad tracks. I gather that the old bridge was actually owned by the railroad, and when it needed repairs CSX was slow to get to them, leaving it closed for long periods and making nearby residents go far out of their way to reach their homes. Commissioners in Jennings County weren’t sad to see it go. A new concrete bridge was built about a quarter mile to the east.

This demolition is part of a larger project to build a US 50 bypass around North Vernon. This bridge was near the bypass’s western end.

This bridge was a good example of the kinds of bridges railroad companies built at that time – and one of just a handful left in Indiana.

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See photos of North Vernon, including
a now-endangered US 50 shield, here.

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Preservation, Road trips

Revisiting the covered bridge at Medora

Medora Covered BridgeI hadn’t hit the road since my family’s Route 66 trip in April, leading to considerable pent-up wanderlust. We finished a tough project at work recently, one that wrung me out, so I took a day off to wring out my stress on some twisty road somewhere. I was in the mood for visiting some places I’d been before, to visit some old friends.

One of those friends was the Medora covered bridge, which is on the original alignment of US 50 in Jackson County. Here’s what she looked like the last time I visited, in 2010, while she was undergoing a restoration.

Medora Covered Bridge

That’s why I wanted to see her again: she’d been finished for quite some time.

Medora Covered Bridge

I was happy to find that the restoration hadn’t removed the graffiti on the trusses. Leon’s declaration of love for Lorene lives to see another day.

Medora Covered Bridge

With three spans, at 431 feet, 10 inches, this is the longest covered bridge in the United States. It is great to see it returned to glorious condition.

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One of my favorite places on Earth is the
covered bridge at Bridgeton. See it here.

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Road trips

Revisiting Bedford

I’ve been driving Indiana’s old roads for so many years now that road trips regularly take me through places I’ve been before, where one old road meets another. Two years ago I explored US 50 across Indiana – and what an old-alignment-rich trip it was. When US 50 reaches Bedford, it runs briefly with the old Dixie Highway, the subject of my exploration this year. The two old roads merge for a short while before diverging again, and they leave behind quite a puzzling trail of inconclusive old-alignment evidence. I wrote about it in detail then (read about it here), but cutting to the chase, the red line on this map shows where I think these roads used to go.

Imagery ©2012 DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data ©2012 Google.

That the old-road evidence along the red path is so faded suggests that the road was realigned here probably more than 100 years ago. The imagery available on Google Maps shows a faint two-track path through the field south of modern US 50. Two utility poles stand along it, which is a very good clue. But the best clue is two piers standing in the White River that used to hold up a bridge. You can see the piers from a boat ramp immediately south of modern US 50/State Road 37.

Piers

When I was here two years ago, I got an even closer shot of one of the piers.

Old bridge pier

Given how narrow these piers are, I’ll bet that the bridge they carried was narrow, too. Could it have been a wooden covered bridge? That’d be my guess. But I’ve researched it as far as Google will take me, and that well is dry.

I’ve found evidence of bridges gone by on
the National Road and the Michigan Road, too.

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Road trips

Secrets of Indiana’s US 50 – revealed!

Longtime readers know that I spent my spare Saturdays last summer exploring US 50 across Indiana. Reports from the road filled this blog for weeks. But I didn’t share everything with you.

I didn’t show you all the vintage signs attached to a building near Lawrenceburg.

Sign Collage

I didn’t tell you about the brief abandoned alignment I found west of Dillsboro.

Abandoned US 50

I didn’t mention the welcoming committee that met me in Aurora.

Aurora, Indiana

I overlooked that US 50 crosses both alignments of the historic Michigan Road.

US 50 at the Michigan Road

I could have showed way more about the towns I visited, such as this shot from Vincennes.

Vincennes Main Street

I sort of forgot to bring up the tank on the courthouse lawn in Brownstown.

Tankity tank tank

And I kept to myself the big rock formation on old US 50 south of Shoals.

Rock formation on Spout Springs Road

I can keep these and many other overlooked gems along Indiana’s US 50 secret no longer! I have written them all up, with my usual obsessive-compulsive thoroughness, on my roads pages at jimgrey.net.

Click here to read US 50 in Indiana

I’ve also covered US 40 and the National Road in western Indiana in detail. Check it out.

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