Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway east from Chrisman, Illinois

Let’s wrap up my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana (and a little into eastern Illinois, too).

After following current US 36 west to the Indiana/Illinois border, I kept going into Illinois until I met US 150/State Route 1. I headed north along that road until I reached little Chrisman, a town of fewer than 1,500 people. Here I’d find the original alignment of US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. The original alignment takes on a particular shape you can see in the 1915 TIB Guide excerpt and in the map snippet below.

Windows Live Maps 2007

This wasn’t my first visit to Chrisman. My stepdaughter’s dad’s family all live here and are probably the most prominent family in the region. Many years ago I came out here a couple times to pick up my stepdaughter from her grandmother’s. But I had never seen the town. The PP-OO enters town on 2300 N, which in town is Monroe St. and borders the town square to the south.

The First National Bank anchors the square’s southwest corner. You can’t see it in the photo, but above the awning over the door the word “BANK” is embossed into the stone. It was so common for old banks to be on corners, with the door facing the corner just like this.

Chrisman, IL, square

Just west of the bank was a John Deere dealership. You know you’re in a farm town when you can buy a Deere downtown.

Chrisman, IL

I was surprised to see not a courthouse on the town square, but a nice park.

Chrisman, IL, square

On the northwest corner were a couple restaurants, one of which has an old painted advertisement in nice condition.

Chrisman, IL, square

I enjoyed my brief visit to downtown Chrisman, but I was here to drive the PP-OO. Standing in the square’s southeast corner, I looked east down Monroe St., which would become the PP-OO a few blocks east of here at US 150/SR 1.

Chrisman, IL

Heading out of town, 2300 N was asphalt. But where the road curved to the north, the surface changed to some sort of chip and seal, the kind that kicks pebbles into your car’s undercarriage and makes your car feel a little floaty.

PP-OO in eastern Illinois

I took this photograph a short distance away, at 1725 E. It was quiet out here. As I considered how remote this area is today, I wondered how PP-OO travelers found it. This road was probably dirt in 1915. If it rained and you got stuck in the mud, the walk to a farmhouse to ask for help sure would be unpleasant.

PP-OO in eastern Illinois

When I reached Indiana, the chip and seal turned back into asphalt, and my car felt more planted on the road again.

PP-OO Illinois/Indiana line

Here’s the road somewhere in Indiana, before the road curves toward US 36. I passed through the north end of Dana so quickly I wasn’t even sure it was a town.

PP-OO in eastern Illinois

And here’s where the PP-OO rejoins the US 36 route, west of Montezuma and SR 63.

PP-OO in Indiana

It’s challenging to find good information about the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway. I know that this was the road’s route in 1915. The road was realigned many times across the nation, including across Indiana. In 1915 it followed the National Road from Ohio to Indianapolis. If you go to my main National Road page here and scroll down to the Indiana section, you can see my reports of this segment of the PP-OO. From Indy, the PP-OO followed the route that became US 36, which I documented on this road trip writeup.

But I’ve seen a 1923 PP-OO map that shows the road realigned across Indiana from Muncie to Anderson to Crawfordsville to Covington, and from there to Danville in Illinois. On modern roads, that’s essentially State Road 32 west to US 136. I’ve not explored SR 32, but I have driven and documented the US 136 portion. That road was better known as the Dixie Highway. I’ve documented that trip beginning here.

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in Vermillion County, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

The TIB Guide showed a pretty jagged route for the PP-OO west of the Wabash River.

US 36, not surprisingly, followed a much smoother path. If the shape of the road on the TIB Guide map is accurate, it looks like a portion of the little sliver of road near the top of the map below was the old PP-OO route. It’s currently called E 600 S. I can’t tell how the PP-OO got up there after crossing the Wabash.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The PP-OO sliver runs into a segment that dead ends at both ends, which made my old-alignment radar go, “Ping!” So I drove over there for a look. Its east end looks like this.

Stubbed segment

I hoped I’d see concrete, but no luck. Here’s what the road looks like westbound. A drought in the area has trees unceremoniously shedding leaves in August; hence the brown leaves on the road. This road provides access to two homes, both of which are on the north side of the road. The trees and grass on the north side are trimmed back from the road, while on the south side they grow over.

Stubbed segment

The alignment ends just west of the road that allows access to it. As you can see, the State Road 63 overpass is visible. My guess is that the road was realigned when State Road 63 was moved there and made a four-lane divided highway – its previous alignment is the first road east of this segment. This road provides access to nothing here.

Stubbed segment

The PP-OO and US 36 follow the same route again starting about here, but it lasts only about ¾ mile. A railroad track begins to parallel the road just beyond SR 63, PP-OO stays with the tracks, but shortly US 36 curves to pass over the tracks and the old PP-OO.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Here’s what the split looks like.

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PP-OO in Indiana

This map shows the routes of US 36, the railroad tracks, and PP-OO. US 36 is the southernmost road on the map. The railroad curves off and heads west. PP-OO stays on its trajectory a little longer before heading straight west, and is the northernmost road on the map.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

From here I drove current US 36 into Illinois. I followed US 150/Illinois State Route 1 north to Chrisman and then drove the PP-OO back to the place in the map above where the PP-OO and current US 36 diverge. I’ll explain why I went to Chrisman in my next post.

I was so excited about this PP-OO business that as I finished driving US 36 I failed to get the obligatory photograph of the Indiana-Illinois state line. There was even some roadside historic site about Ernie Pyle that registered in the corner of my eye only as it was almost past. No matter; I was on a mission to drive a segment of a very old coast-to-coast highway!

Just take my word for it that this segment of US 36 is a straight, unremarkable two-lane highway.

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