March 8, 2012

Livin' Large

I jumped on Indiana Highway 19 just a mile or two shy of the Michigan border. I rode its macadam southward. The sky was sunny, the outside temperatures were cool and inside my black metal and plastic cocoon it was comfortable. It was a good day for driving.

The highway struck south toward the heart of the state like a crooked arrow.  A few rises and dips marked the way. Like most state highways and roads in farm country, the pavement was narrow and patched and took random right angles to connect villages and towns and  to avoid farms and creeks and ponds, following the paths of old wagon roads.

I drove through Elkhart, the late morning traffic was light. Onward through Waukarusa, where a funny story happened once to me during a job interview.  I passed some Amish in their wagons and buggies near Nappanee. An Amish lady on a bike reminded me of Elmira Gultch. I laughed and hummed a doot da doot da doo doo as she disappeared in my mirror.

Talk radio kept me company as I cruised through the small towns dotting the flat farmland of North Central Indiana. I spent mile after mile alone on the road, no cars to be seen in any direction for five, ten minutes at a time. I came eventually to Peru, former winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Coming out of Swayzee I picked up highway 13 and angled to the southeast  I drove on through Elwood, and later past the Boy Scout camp where I spent a few summers. . Onward toward home, my ass cheeks tiring.

Soon I came to another highway, 32 by number. I skirted Anderson on old 9. Stopping for fuel in Pendleton, both for the car and my belly. back in the car I drove southward on 9 towards home.

On the trip I reveled in the feel of the small towns and cities that marked my path. The farms and fields familiar and strange at the same time. The architecture of the homes of Etna Green and Mentone were just like what we would see in Mulberry or Morristown or Lapel. The homes shared the  unique look of the houses and homes you find throughout the upper midwest, the majority with covered porches.   If you have driven the backroads and highways through the Old Northwest Territory, you know what I am talking about.

The rivers -- small by some standards -- flow beneath the bridges.  The river names a musical reminder of the state's Indian heritage -- Wabash, Mississiniwa, Tippecanoe. Some I cross more than once on my journey southward.

I could have taken the four lane road or the interstate. I could have shaved an hour from my journey.  Instead, I wandered the heart of the Hoosier state. Alone with my thoughts, enjoying life on a sunny afternoon. I don't make a lot of money, but spending a day in this manner is wealth untold.

Some days it is good to be me.


CnC said...

I can relate to this, it's a good day when my route takes me through landscapes like that, it's even better when my route takes my service van through a covered bridge.

Joe said...

This is just one more example of my failure as a writer. I wish I could convey the thrill (or maybe delight is a better word) of cruising through the countryside. I am glad you get it CnC. I thought I was the only one...

Freddie Lynn said...

". . . spending a day in this manner is wealth untold."

Even just having the freedom to do so is wealth untold.

Great post.

Freddie said...

OH -- And then there are the parts I grew up in.


Moving on.

Galt-in-Da-Box said...

Time well spent. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Scott said...

I travel for a living, too. Every state at least 3 times, most of them over 100 times. Coast to coast in Canada numerous times. Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, UK, Western Europe, Scandinavia, etc. But the trip you just took is one of my favorites. People don't understand how satisfying it is to drive down the road with corn on one side and soybeans on the other. Red barns and silos dotting the landscape. Indiana has a pretty nice collection of county courthouses, too. Nice post.

Mockingbird said...

That is wonderful!
On Saturdays, I drive the back roads of north Florida/South Georgiajust for fun. Miles of pines, pecan groves,blackberries, blueberries and peaches by the mile. Stopping for gas and a country lunch, I finally hear the cracker accent of my youth.
Some call it flyover country, but it's real America country.

Jean said...

Good for you, Joe!
Beautiful parts of every state that are missed when only driving the interstate roads. Gawd, how I hate I-4 and I-95. Gimme two-lane roads through small town America any day.

Ed Bonderenka said...

You conveyed it very well.

mts1 said...

Instead of the spider web of interstates or private flight, the State Legislators should be banned from them and have to drive the state highways from home to session to get some of that special reality that you described. The superhighway is as much a disconnect as air travel.

Rita said...

A quick right on Old National Road would have taken you where Little Orphan Annie once played, but you probably already know that.

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