Ride Across Indiana

Ride Across Indiana: 150 miles and done

On Day 4, I made it as far as Terre Haute, but declared the trip over about 7 miles short of the Illinois line due to rain.

On an old alignment of US 40 near Reelsville.

Rain at least threatened all day. As the day continued, it stopped threatening and started raining. The rain really picked up as I worked my way through Brazil and was quite heavy when I reached Terre Haute. Not only were my brakes ineffective, but my handlebar grips were too slippery to hold.

But I declare victory anyway. I still rode 150 miles, give or take, in four days.

The McKinley House near Harmony.

I deeply enjoyed riding the old concrete alignments of US 40 in Putnam County and seeing the old homes and barns all along the route. Despite the rain I had good energy and spirits.

Sonka’s, a Terre Haute institution.

In Terre Haute I rode to my old friend Michael’s. Margaret came along to get me and Michael, his wife Merrie, Margaret, and I went out for dinner and drinks at a favorite place from the years I lived in Terre Haute. Then we headed home.

I’ll have more to tell about this trip in posts to come, after I’ve had some time to process the photographs and process my thoughts and feelings.

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Road Trips

Indiana State Road 42 in Terre Haute

On October 18, 2008, I explored Indiana State Road 42 from end to end. It begins southwest of Indianapolis in Mooresville and ends in Terre Haute. This is the last article in this series.

I lived in Terre Haute for nine years in the 1980s and 1990s. When I needed to go to Indianapolis I liked to to drive SR 42 to the I-70 exit in Brazil because SR 42 was more fun over that distance. Except, that is, at the Vigo-Clay county line, where the road made two 90-degree turns around a church. I was surprised to find that the road had been curved gently on the Clay County side and the double-90 removed. This change is new enough that Google Maps hasn’t updated the route yet!

©2008, Google Maps

The church is in the photo at right; the road used to run on its right side.

Former double-90

The people who own this house, I’m sure, let out whoops and hollers when they learned that the state was removing the double 90 – because the first turn going west happened right here. While I lived in Terre Haute, this house got clobbered a couple times by people screaming down SR 42 at night and failing to negotiate the turn.

House where the left turn used to be

Shortly inside Vigo County, SR 42 curves northwest. I have old maps that suggest that this curve did not always exist, and that Sugar Grove Dr. used to run straight and connect with what is now SR 42. Sugar Grove Drive ends west of here where the Indiana Air National Guard base (and the stunningly overnamed Terre Haute International Airport) begins, and picks up on the other side as Hulman Ave., which goes through Terre Haute. But notice little Otter Road just below the center of the map image. Do you see the abandoned strip of road near it?

©2008, Google Maps

Here’s what it looks like, eastbound.

Abandoned Bloomington Road

My old map suggests that what is now Sugar Grove Rd. used to fork here headed east. The left fork is what is now SR 42, and the right fork, which is now Otter Rd., was the road to Bloomington. This road is interrupted by I-70, but you can detour over it on another road and pick the road back up again on the other side. It still goes to Bloomington. It joins with State Road 46 inside Clay County to finish the journey.

Speaking of State Road 46, State Road 42 ends there today, just past the optimistically named Terre Haute International Airport. Here it is on the map. Notice how US 40 converges. I went to college about where US 40 enters the image.

©2008 Google Maps

And here it is in living color.

West end of SR 42

SR 46 is Terre Haute’s eastern boundary. Beyond the stoplight, the road becomes Poplar St. and cruises laterally through Terre Haute. At one time, SR 42 went along for the ride as far as US 41, and so did I this day. Not far into town stands the Sycamore Farm, which has been there since about 1860. Fifty years ago, Sycamore Farm was still way out in the boonies. Eastbound photo.

Sycamore Farm

Terre Haute is a decaying town, its best days so far behind it that nobody who remembers them is left. But somebody along the way made sure its park system was well funded. Say what you will about Terre Haute, but it has wonderful parks. Old SR 42 is the southern border of Terre Haute’s crown jewel, Deming Park. This is an eastbound shot.

Deming Park

In 1971, Vigo County tore down its five old high schools and built three sprawling, boring, characterless modern buildings to replace them. It’s a shame, because this is the kind of school building Terre Haute used to build. This is the view from 25th St.; the school’s south edge is on old SR 42.

Woodrow Wilson Jr. High

This map shows old SR 46’s trip from about here to its end at 3rd Street, which is US 41. It also shows the Wabash River for perspective.

©2008, Google Maps

At 12th and Poplar stands Headstone Friends, which sells CDs and records, posters, incense, and hand-dyed tie-dye shirts. They also sell scales and rolling papers, or at least they did when I was in college in the late 1980s; I failed to check when I visited this day. This is one of my favorite places on the planet. Headstone’s has been in business since 1970, and in this location since the ’70s sometime. They’ve been burning incense in there for so long that the whole joint has a distinctive sweet smell that always makes my nose run. I bought a tie-dyed T-shirt here on this trip and all the way home my car smelled like Headstone’s, which I suppose is better than it smelling like my dog, who was along for the ride. If you’re ever in Terre Haute, put Headstone’s on your itinerary. They’re open noon to 8, Monday through Saturday.

Headstone Friends

Here’s a westbound shot from in front of Headstone’s, toward downtown. Terre Haute is not a city of tall buildings.

Westbound

At 9th St. stands the former E. Bleemel Flour and Feed building. Most of the time I lived here, this was an auto repair garage, and a dump of one at that. But in the early 90s somebody restored it. It was, for several years, an antiques store, but now it’s a restaurant. I think that’s a better use of the building.

Bleemel Flour and Feed

The section of old SR 42 between 9th and 9½ St. – Terre Haute is known for its half-streets – is rich with old buildings, like this one, which housed the former Terre Haute Brewing Company. It really needs some love.

Terre Haute Brewing Company

This was once a livery stable. It’s a steakhouse today.

Old building

This CVS drug store is neither old nor historic, but it was surprising to see its facade torched.

A crackling good CVS

I wasn’t sure when I made this trip whether SR 42 originally ended at 7th Street (old US 41) or 3rd Street (US 41). I guessed 7th Street and was wrong. On the right, just out of the photo, is the Vigo County Public Library, the very one that Steve Martin mentioned in his movie Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.

Former western end of SR 42

This trip proves that you don’t have to drive the truly historic roads (like the National Road or the Michigan Road) to find plenty of good, interesting things to see and do. Just get out there and go!

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