Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Scenic Route Home

On the way back from the Indy 500 I decided to take my time and snap some photos of the many unusual and classic country road sights, like this overturned Pontiac.

The police did not seem concerned with injuries or fatalities. They seemed bored directing traffic a few vehicles. As I passed the scene it appeared the driver had walked away for nobody was in the vehicle. It was a mess.

Whenever I travel to or from Lafayette or Indianapolis it is my preference to take the shortest route possible and that means driving the two-lane Indiana SR 421 to the point it where it hooks up to I-65.

SR 421 goes from Michigan City to West Lafayette and it is a classic country highway, looking similar to the old Route 66. For about 70 miles it parallels one of the old Monon Railroad spurs. It’s mostly straight and the land is flat until it nears the hills of Lafayette and the Wabash River valley. It’s a nice place to redline my little roadster as long as the surface is smooth and the low sightlines are visually clear of deer and cross traffic. It's an activity I like to call the "Italian Tuneup".

Along the way there are the classic grain elevator towns, the gas-station-and-a-bar-four-corner blink-of-an-eye towns along with the endless corn and bean fields in between. It’s not unusual to catch up to slow moving farm equipment, which is easy to pass with a bit of patience.

Traveling through small towns called Francesville, Chalmers, Medaryville, San Pierre, Wilders, Haskells, Alida and Wanatah, my favorite is the town of Monon from which the Monon Railroad took it’s name. All but a few are well kept, clean and neat and not a WalMart or mega-mall can be seen but an occasional McDonald’s is hard to avoid on the route.

Antique crossroad junkyards and shops arrive about every twenty miles along with rustic retail shops like this one. You must click to enlarge this image to see some genuine rustic handiwork.

I give credit to the owner, he’s a retail marketing genius.

There is a theme restaurant north of the town of Monon that always captured my attention. It’s called The Whistle Stop. it’s a newer establishment.

In years past it was usually raining and/or cloudy as I passed it by. One time I stopped just to walk around. This year it was overcast but with enough light for decent photos.

The landscape is a very interesting array of genuine antique railcars, crossing signals, track signals and signage along with small structures. The main feature is a rail crane, which acts as a landmark sign and can be seen at a long distance.

Since I usually pass by at 9 am when it’is closed means it’s not a breakfast diner. Too bad, I would love to eat a huge early meal there. There is an indoor railroad museum that would have been nice to check out as well.

Old railroad artifacts fascinate me. Probably because since I was a rug rat trains were my favorite toys. I still have my old American Flyer model railroad set that my grandfather bought for me in the late 50’s.

He also would baby-sit me at times and we would go to the Hammond railroad yards and watch the steam locomotives.

Steam was being phased out by diesel back then but watching the steam locomotives was like being in the presence of living, breathing, thick and heavy incredibly engineered iron fire breathing behemoths.

While researching Indiana railroads I found this video. It was taken just last year about thirty miles southeast of Valpo and I never knew this train existed. How often does it run? Steam locomotives still give me chills and goosebumps. Oh well, maybe next year. It would be a real thrill to watch one pass by once again.

Another year, another Indy, and another pleasant road trip out in the country.

1 comment:

Dan from Madison said...

Cool photos, love the liquor store.