US 50’s first path between Washington and Vincennes in southwestern Indiana is cleverly disguised today as a series of country roads. They’re so cleverly disguised that when you drive them today, you think, “This used to be a major US highway?”
Yep. And when it was the highway, it was a gravel road. Check out this excerpt from a 1927 Indiana State Highway Commission road map. (I got it from Indiana University Libraries, which has an online cache of official Indiana highway maps covering many years from 1917 to 1932.)
I had to make a couple guesses when I traced this path on a modern map, but the overall shape is right.
And so when I had completed Old US 50 west to Vincennes, I turned back and followed Old Old US 50 east to Washington. It began on Old Wheatland Road in Vincennes. Very quickly I found myself out in the country.
A mile or two of State Road 550 was built over Old Wheatland Road just west of Wheatland, past which Old Old US 50 continues on its way through the country, soon crossing the White River. I hoped to find a grand old bridge back here, and I wasn’t disappointed.
This three-span Pratt through truss bridge was built in 1909 and rehabilitated, including replacing its original wooden deck with a steel deck, in 2006. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was very peaceful here. I spent a lot of time on this bridge and never encountered another car. Several houses stand (on stilts) next to this bridge and I felt a little jealous of the families who live in them, as they get to enjoy both that peace and this bridge every day. Really, this whole drive was peaceful and quiet. It was a warm, still day, so I had been driving with all my windows down. Country scents of crops and livestock wafted in and out of my car, and drivers of the few trucks I encountered all waved as we passed. I kept enjoying these things as I pushed on from here to Washington, where my summertime exploration of US 50 came to an end.
Last summer I explored US 40 across Indiana. Check out where that trip ended.