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Still Plenty to See From the Truck Seat!

Beth and I were convinced that there is no better time to wander Indiana than autumn. In the springtime the trees and flowers start to bloom but the air is damp. The summer can be hot, but the color palette is monotone-green. Winter is stark with a muted color scheme with white (snow), black, gray, and brown. Then there is autumn, when the air is crisp and dry and the colors are brilliant against clear blue skies. Many a sunset captures all the colors as the glowing ball sets on the horizon and casting its rays into the clouds that fade into muted hues. Yes, this is the wonderful time to wander.



I have a cousin, Anna, who is battling a neurological disease that has plagued my family for generations. She has endured living with it longer than anyone in our family’s lineage. Her mobility is limited, but she still will ‘go’ when given the chance. I promised to take her wandering and chose places we could see from the truck seat or in a few short steps. We chose the week before Thanksgiving


Drove to Broad Ripple to get Anna. Arrived at 9am. It was easy for her to get in and out of the truck so I drove. Took winding Kessler Blvd. east, then 56th Street to I-465. Throughout the day, we had lots of wide-ranging conversations. At one point, she stated, “You ask the most interesting questions.” All I could think was ‘thank you mom.’ My mother could spend thirty minutes with a new acquaintance and learn more about you than many of your life-long friends


We took I-65 south passing warehouse after warehouse, then the Edinburgh Outlet Mall, the Columbus Arch, and exited onto SR11 north of Seymour. Eventually turned west onto US50. I shared the story of ‘auto trails,’ the highway routes that preceded federally numbered highways in the mid-1920s. Current US50 was originally called the Roosevelt Midland Auto Trail and was a coast-to-coast route. We continued through Brownstown then south on SR135. It was a quick trip off the highway into Vallonia. The skies were autumn blue with scattered clouds.


We stopped to read the historic marker on the edge of town. Next, we drove around and stopped at Fort Vallonia, a rebuilt early pioneer/military fort. It also includes a large mural, museum, the frontispiece from Driftwood High School, and one of the county’s Indiana 2016 Bicentennial Bisons. Also, captured the old Jackson Hotel building across the street.



A few miles farther south we turned onto SR235 to Medora. The historic Medora Bridge still crosses the White River East Fork and sits adjacent to the state highway bridge built to replace it. The sun was not in a good place for pictures of the bridge’s exterior, but I already have good pictures from previous visits. I pulled up to the entry so that Anna could get out and stretch. We walked on the bridge, and read an interpretive panel about its construction. “The Medora Covered Bridge is the longest historic covered bridge in the United States. The roof length of 461 feet (141 m) and the siding at the floor length of 459 feet (140 m) are also the longest historic covered bridge measurements in the U.S.” It is interesting that it has no windows at all.




I always reminisce about the time Beth and I sat on our picnic cooler on the bridge during a rain storm. This was after passing through a rural traffic jam, (seriously) getting through Fort Vallonia Days. This was in the early ‘80s.


We continued into Medora and drove around. Took pictures of a church, school, and side B of the Medora Shale Brick Plant historic marker. Already had side A but was missing ‘the rest of the story.’ We crossed the historic B&O railroad and then southwest to a couple of miles to the Brick Plant. I was last here eight years ago and the plant was dormant and completely abandoned. Weeds and small trees were consuming the site. Today, a local group is trying to restore the plant as a historic site. What a great commitment to the plant and town’s history. We took many pictures trying to capture the site’s expansiveness and closeups of the beehive kilns and adjacent smokestacks.



On our drive back into town, we noticed the old electric lines on cross-hatched utility poles running along the RR. The poles used glass insulators in blue and clear and were distinguishable in the morning sun. We both thought about these from our childhood and I stopped for a picture. We drove north on SR235 returning to US50. Across the road in a yard was a shrine to the Holy Family. Not sure the reason other than reverence.


Drove west along the major highway with little traffic and a pretty drive. Arrived in Bedford, drove around downtown looking at its architecture of which I already have several pictures. Stopped for one of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, a beautiful limestone structure.


It is interesting that Bedford Limestone is the building block of many famous U.S. landmark buildings and yet, its Lawrence County Courthouse is not breathtaking at all. Drove through town and came across the old high school gymnasium which is next to a lower level school. The sign says “The Quarry - Home of the Cutters - Since 1925.” The Stonecutters was the high school’s official nickname until the 1974 consolidation that created the Bedford North Lawrence Stars. Throughout Indiana schools with community names and descriptive nicknames were replaced by nothing special.



We ate lunch at Smokin’ Jim’s BBQ on SR37. It was fully accessible, service was excellent and the food too. We each got a baked potato with BBQ. Anna got pulled pork while I got brisket. We each got a piece of homemade pie for dessert - she got pumpkin with whipped cream, I got peanut butter. Great place to stop.


Traveled south-southwest on SR450 and stopped at the spillway of the Williams Dam. Even recorded the sound of the water rushing over the dam. This is the same White River East Fork that we crossed in Medora and it would be our daylong companion. Continued on SR450 to Shoals, a 17-mile route that takes at least 27 minutes! Unfortunately, we picked up a couple of motorcyclists at Williams Dam that trailed us along the entire route. I even pulled over at a church in Trinity Springs to let them pass, but they had paused before we did.



Continued to Shoals, pulled through the Overlook Rest Park on US 50 and then into town. We caught a quick glimpse of Jug Rock as we passed, but there was no good way to get Anna there. We crossed White River and turned south along its route and turned again on a dead end road looking for the Bluffs at Beaver Bend. Owned by The Nature Conservancy, the bluffs are enormous cliffs and it is difficult to capture the expansiveness on my camera.



TNC’s website says, One of the crown jewels of our state's nature preserves, the Bluffs of Beaver Bend in Martin County offers colorful sandstone cliffs that tower over the White River. Ferns and a variety of lower plants carpet the cliffs and hillsides with a kaleidoscope of colors and textures. Look for the sections of cliffs that have broken away from the bedrock and exposed unique geologic formations. Bluffs of Beaver Bend has been known by several names including White River Bluffs, Sprout Springs, and Gormerly's Bluff. The area, now named for the large bend of the White River and Beaver Creek, has a rich history. This was my first time visiting and I have been told by my colleagues that I needed to get here. Amazing.




Continued south to SR550 and stopped its intersection with CR55 to read the historic marker that tells of the rise and fall of the town of Hindostan. First settled in 1818, Hindostan became county seat of Martin County, boasting a population of approximately 1, 200. A "Great Sickness" struck in 1828 bringing death to the inhabitants. The town was never occupied again.



Continuing on CR55, we headed to Hindostan Falls. Knowing the water level would be down,I was still stunned at how much of the large whetstone slab was exposed with no signs of water except in the river channel. Took several pictures of the horseshoe falls, the stones, and a country church on our trip back to SR550.










Proceeded to Loogootee and drove along town streets to get to US231. Passed the catholic church, a magnificent home for sale, the town’s Lion Fountain, Butcher Gymnasium and then north. Continued past the picturesque white steepled St. Joseph’s Church in Bramble, then the gated entry to the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center with a line of vehicles leaving after a day’s work. Passed under I-69 and into Bloomfield then north onto SR157.


We were heading for Tulip Trestle. Turned onto Tulip Road and passed three churches along this rural road. Five miles off the highway with not a single sign along or from the highway, we came upon Tulip Trestle and its observation deck. Built by the community, it provides a pull off, interpretive panels about the trestle and other sites nearby. It was late afternoon and the sunlight was spotted in this deep valley.


The Tulip Viaduct or Tulip Trestle, is a 2,295-foot (700 m) long railroad bridge (officially designated Bridge X76-6) that spans Richland Creek 196-feet below the tracks. Built in 1905 and 1906 the line is still an active route of the Indiana Rail Road. It was finished in December 1906 and, at that time, was the longest rail trestle in the United States and the third longest bridge of its kind in the world. It has 18 towers for support. We took numerous pictures from many angles.



We were finished. We continued north to Spencer then north to I-70 at Cloverdale. Had an adventure as we exited into the Indianapolis Airport rather than around it. Arrived at Anna’s at 6:30pm. Helped her get settled in and then drove home after another pleasurable day experiencing Life Off The Highway.


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