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Celebrating America: Wandering and Bridge Hunting

July 4th, 2024 - Today we celebrated America’s 248th birthday! Wish the country wasn’t so on edge, but the political parties prey on fear and division rather than possibilities, and dreams. Taking a more uplifting approach I had made plans for another day of visiting covered bridges. Indiana has 90 covered bridges, fourth most in the U.S. By the end of the day, I would have only five unvisited bridges left!

My brother Stan was joining me on this "bridge hunting" trip and we have wandered together before. He is a good conversationalist and interested in what we drive through not just to. We discussed farming, future of the farmstead and farm operation, families, politics, childhood, music and so many other topics inside and outside the truck. That’s what makes wandering fun.

We left the drive at 8:35am, the odometer read 93,108. Traffic was light in Carmel and on the interstates as we headed SE on I-74 heading. Temperatures were mid-70ºs but the humidity was hovering near 90% and it felt it. In Shelbyville, we exited the interstate and moved over to Historic Michigan Road. By this time it was raining. We drove SE to and through Greensburg. Still on Michigan Road, we continued south on US421 to Napoleon. From here US421 goes to Osgood and Versailles, but we took Michigan Road which runs due south along the original route toward Madison.

Stopped for a picture of a surprisingly large Hopewell Baptist Church south of Napoleon. Continued south then SW to Otter Creek Covered Bridge outside of Holton. The road now skirts the pedestrian-only bridge. We were able to pull up to its entrance. We took a few pictures outside and inside the structure. On the north side, the former dirt path winds along the creek and it was hard to imagine traveling the old road through the bridge and back to the existing road. We took a selfie to remember our day bridge hunting. It was raining steadily and I took a picture through the bridge window of the rain pelting the stream below.

Continued into Holton and onto US 50 west. We drove through Nebraska and then turned south at Butlerville heading toward San Jacinto. We turned into the parking lot of Rush Branch Church, where our grandfather attended as a child. We thought the old Stine Farm home was on that road but we were wrong. We drove east and then were forced north along the barrier fence of Big Oaks Wildlife Refuge/Jefferson Proving Grounds. We circled around and passed the former homestead on the east-west road north of the church.

It was pouring now as we drove to and through San Jacinto. Paused briefly at the Graham Creek Baptist Church Cemetery where our relatives are buried. Too wet to do anything but a quick stop. Continued south to the Jefferson-Jennings County Line Road and turned west. Crossed SR7 and wound our way to the James Covered Bridge near Lovett. There were no markings on the bridge and the only signage said “Please Don’t Break Our Bridge.” There was place to park and brief respite from the rain so we got pictures here as well.

From the bridge, we drove WNW to the village of Lovett. Passing through town we went another seven miles and turned north again to avoid the Muscatatuck Wildlife Refuge. We were so surprised to come upon a large church perched on a hillside. We pulled in for pictures of St. Joseph Catholic Church and School with a North Vernon address. The intersection south of the church was marked Four Corners on the Gazetteer Atlas but it is not an official dot. Interestingly, the cemetery on the NE corner is named St. James Cemetery, while St. Joseph Church less than a 1/4 mile away also has a large cemetery. Curious. We traveled north to US 50 at Hayden.

At the east edge of Seymour, we turned onto US31, north to Azalia then west to SR11. Looking for a park with a covered shelter for lunch, we found nothing in Waynesville or Walesboro. Pulled into Woodside Industrial Park adjacent to I-65 and parked at the entrance to Claas Farm Equipment’s North American HQ. We ate our picnic lunch while sitting the truck’s tailgate. Not special, but memorable.

To Stan’s surprise we exited onto I-65, our third interstate of the day.  We were only on it for six miles to Columbus. Then continued west on SR46 to Nashville. The sun came out as we drove through town. A lot of people milling around and slow traffic. We drove north on SR135 toward Beanblossom. Just before the Beanblossom Scenic Overlook, we left the highway onto a narrow gravel road descending from the ridge top to Beanblossom Creek at the valley’s floor. The road got narrower and more treacherous and we prayed we would not meet someone because there did not appear to be enough room for two vehicles to pass. Arrived at “Bean Blossom Bridge 1880.”

We had finished three of our four targeted bridges. Drove into Beanblossom, rechecked our directions and headed west on SR45 through Helmsburg, then Trevlac (Calvert spelled backwards). Left the highway and traveled Northshore Drive around Lake Lemon, then onto Anderson Road. Wound through hills and valleys and open bottomlands with good looking soybean fields encircled by trees and partly cloudy skies. Made it to Old SR 37 then turned onto Sample Road, eventually crossed over SR37/I-69 at Wayport. Wound around until we were directed onto Old Maple Grove Road, a gravel road, to our final bridge of the day. As we came around a bend in Beanblossom Creek we spotted Cedar Ford Covered Bridge off in the distance. It is another Kennedy Bros.-built bridge. It was originally built in 1885, but was reconstructed in 2019 and still doesn’t show up on Google Maps.

We had finished the main task of visiting four covered bridges. We had time left in our day and Stan had never visited Cataract Falls NNW of here. Now on SR46, we were heading to Spencer when Stan mentioned Gosport so we took that rural route toward the Falls. We were on Stinesville Road, then Texas Ridge Road before crossing White River and winding into Gosport and winding was the operative word! People were patronizing the Gosport Value Market grocery downtown, which has to compete with the Dollar General out on the highway. Passed an IOOF Lodge, VFW Hall and other pretty buildings that are just trying to survive.

Arrived at Cataract Falls State Recreation Area and Stan paid the entrance fee. We parked adjacent to the Upper Falls. The sun was out and the air was just steamy. Recent storms had brought a lot of dead trees and detritus downstream and it was laying on the Falls. The summer greenery encircled the stream obstructing some of the views. Passed several Caucasian, Hispanic and Indian families and glad we were all visiting Indiana's special places. We drove to the Lower Falls and in the valley the air was still and stifling.

At the park’s entrance was a hand-painted sign “Homemade Ice Cream at the Old School House.” Sounded good so we made the short drive into Cataract, the town. This is the second time I have tried to visit the ice cream shop and the second time it’s been closed!  Now we were hunting ice cream.

I knew of an ice cream shop in Greencastle. North US231 was closed at US40, so we drove west to Putnamville then north through Limedale to enter Greencastle. The main streets around the courthouse are completely ripped up. We drove a complete loop of the downtown trying to gain access to Scoops Ice Cream. It looked closed, called, still no answer, then Stan checked the front door and it was open. Hooray!  We both purchased waffle cones. I chose Peanut Butter Pie and Brookie (brownies/cookies) Dough while Stan got Peach Pie and Raspberry Rumble. Great treat.

From here it was a zig-zag route on back roads and highways to get back home to Carmel. In Zionsville, people were walking to the downtown or park for festivities. It was after 7pm we we reached Carmel so we stopped at Blaze Pizza and Stan bought dinner of pizza and salad. Arrived at our house a little before 8pm.

We had been gone around 11.5 hours and the odometer read 93434 so we traveled 326 miles, visited four covered bridges and Cataract Falls. A good day wandering. This is my way of celebrating the land I love.

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