Exploring Indiana's Highways

(and sometimes surrounding states' highways too)

The Jim Grey Page

These pages document and illustrate my road trips, most recent first.

2012 Trips

The Dixie Highway in southern Indiana (10/13/2012): Continuing my Dixie Highway adventure, I picked it up near Martinsville along some old alignments I had explored before. South of Bloomington I reached new-to-me territory, following old alignments all the way to Paoli. Time didn't permit me to follow it the rest of the way to Kentucky. Road traveled: State Road 37

The Dixie Highway in western Indiana (5/12/12): I decided that this year I would try to clinch Indiana's Dixie Highway. I've driven it from Indianapolis to South Bend, from Indianapolis to Bloomington, and from the Ohio line to Indianapolis on earlier trips. For my first 2012 road trip, I covered the western mainline, which is essentially US 136 from the Illinois state line to Indianapolis. Road traveled: US 136

2011 Trips

US 40 shieldThe National Road in Ohio (5/28-30/11): I finally clinched the National Road by driving it across Ohio. It is at its best in the eastern part of the state, from teh Ohio River to Zanesville, as it winds through Ohio's most rugged terrain. Lots of old alignments remain, some of them of brick and concrete. Beetween Zanesville and Springfield, the road is interesting for the buildings that stand on it. West of Springfield, it is said that funds ran out for building the road. Today, there's not much to recommend this part of the road except for the two places where flood-control projects resulted in reroutings. Road traveled: US 40

2010 Trips

US 50 in Indiana (6/5/2010, 7/3/2010, and 8/28/10): I decided to tour US 50 this summer thanks to a fellow named Elias Conwell, who built a house in Napoleon on the Michigan Road in the 1820s. He was a prominent businessman in Aurora, through which US 50 passes. This road was originally cobbled together out of a patchwork of country roads, but was straightened, widened, and moved many times in the years that followed. That meant plenty of glorious old alignments. I followed as many of them as I could find. Road traveled: US 50

2009 Trips

US 40 shieldThe National Road in Western Indiana, Revisited (8/8/09): I've learned a lot about old roads since my first road trip three years ago. I had driven the National Road from Baltimore to the Ohio line earlier in the year and still had the National Road itch. So I returned to the path of that first trip US 40 and the National Road in western Indiana. I saw more on the road this time simply because my eyes are that much more open now. Road traveled: US 40

US 50 in Illinois (5/25/09): Someone I follow on Flickr posted a bunch of photos of several abandoned steel-truss bridges along old US 50 in Illinois. They led me to look up US 50's original routes through Illinois, and before long my appetite was whetted for a long day trip to see the old road. So I loaded up my dog, picked up a friend on the way, and spent a good day on the highway. Road traveled: US 50

2008 Trips

State Road 42 (10/18/08): I wanted an autumn drive on a lonely road where I wouldn't be bothered. State Road 42, which runs from just southwest of Indianapolis to Terre Haute, was just right. It features two steel truss bridges, one drop-dead-gorgeous concrete arch bridge, a handful of really tiny towns, and a ton of 90-degree curves that drive pesky traffic to nearby I-70. Road traveled: SR42

The Michigan Road: The state of Indiana built a handful of roads in the 1820s and 1830s, mostly to allow access to the state's new capital at Indianapolis. The Michigan Road did even more than that it let people migrate northern Indiana lands newly relinquished by the Indians who had lived there. Where other early state roads can't be driven end to end today, anybody can get on the Michigan Road in Madison a half-mile north of the Ohio River and after several hours arrive at the end, within sight of Lake Michigan at Michigan City. And oh, the Indiana history that unfolds along the route. Plenty of living and dying has gone on around this road in its about 180 years, and plenty of evidence of this long past remains.

During the sunny and warm months of 2008, bit by bit I'll drive the Michigan Road end to end. I'll update this site as I go, so if you keep checking back you will occasionally find the next segment of the road described and illustrated. I've share some historical information about the road and the places along it, as well as some old photographs of those places so you can see how this cross-section of Indiana has grown up.

Roads traveled: SR 29, Old SR 107, US 421, Old SR 329, SR 25, Old US 31, US 20, US 35, plus several highways that multiplex in and out.

2007 Trips

The National Road in Indiana and Illinois, Revisited (11/11/07): I returned to the National Road to explore an Indiana alignment I missed before, see what happened to bridges and culverts along the abandoned brick National Road in Illinois, see Illinois's one remaining stone arch bridge along the Road, and get a closer look at the Road in Effingham. Roads traveled: US 40

Old US 31 in Northern Indiana (9/15/07): I grew up four blocks from US 31 in South Bend and have made hundreds of trips to and from Indianapolis on this four-lane divided monstrosity. I just don't enjoy this road. But much of the original two-lane, non-monstrosity alignment of US 31 still exists. When an old friend from South Bend told me that he remembers following some of the original alignment as a child before the current highway was built, he and I decided to explore the original road. I brought along two old road guides from the 1910s and 1920s, and they had us sniffing out alignments of US 31's predecessor routes, too, from the Michigan state line to the fine homes along Meridian St. in Indianapolis. Roads traveled: US 31

The National Road in Illinois (7/7/07): An old friend told me that when he used to drive to work from Terre Haute to Marshall, IL, every day, he drove by a lot of brick road. Figuring it must be an old alignment of US 40 and possibly of the National Road, I made plans to explore. It turns out that about 30 miles of brick and cement road parallels current US 40, often no more than 20 feet away. It was laid in the early 1920s over the National Road and became US 40's first route through Illinois. Many small towns founded along the road are still there today, their old downtowns mostly intact and maintained. After the brick and cement road disappeared, we continued to Vandalia, where the National Road ended, to see Illinois's only Madonna of the Trail. Roads traveled: US 40

US 36 from Indianapolis to Rockville (5/28/07): I was dissatisfied with my last road trip down US 36 in western Indiana because I didn't find everything I was looking for. So when I found myself surprised with nothing to do on Memorial Day, I did some quick research, grabbed my camera, and hopped into my car for another trip along this original 1926 US highway that has ties to an old Auto Trail. I took every road that I thought might have been part of an old alignment, and along the way found two covered bridges, a couple miles of dirt and gravel, and a lake that stands where US 36 used to go. Roads traveled: US 36

State Road 37 from Indianapolis to Bloomington (5/13/07): After visiting a friend in Bloomington in April and seeing possibilities of old alignments everywhere along this road, I began itching to make my first 2007 road trip. Much of SR 37's original route still exists and is drivable. I was excited to find a long abandoned segment of old SR 37, plus a pleasant long stretch of the old road the last 15 miles before Bloomington. Roads traveled: SR 37

2006 Trips

West Central Indiana Day Trip (10/28/06): A free weekend just after the peak of fall colors drew me to two twisty old favorites, State Road 47 and US 41, and gave me an opportunity to explore some old alignments of US 36. I also detoured to Bridgeton to see an old friend reborn. Roads traveled: SR 47, US 41, US 36

Southern Indiana Excursion (9/3-4/06): Glaciers flattened Indiana south to about Brown County. So northern Indiana's roads are straight and flat because there were no obstacles to build roads around. Bring coffee when you drive I-65, US 31, and I-69 north of Indianapolis lest the vast straightness and flatness lull you to sleep. But southern Indiana's terrain rolls in many areas, and many of its forests are preserved with state and federal funds. So not only did highway crews build rolling and twisty roads around existing terrain, sometimes cutting into rock to create a level road bed, they paved roads through some lovely places. Navigating these roads' curves and hills is a lot of fun, and the views in Brown, Crawford, and Harrison counties can be breathtaking. Roads traveled: SR 135, SR 45, US 231, US 150, SR 37, SR 62, I-164, SR 66, SR 64, SR 145, SR 56, SR 39, SR 250

US 40 shieldUS 40 from Indianapolis to Illinois (7/15/06):  Over most of its route in Indiana, US 40 is the old National Road, the nation's first federally funded highway. The road has been realigned in several places over the years, usually to replace an old bridge. Many segments of old alignments still exist. I grabbed a friend and we explored all of them that we could find between downtown Indianapolis and the Illinois state line. One was abandoned, and one is now a service road for a state prison, but the rest are still maintained. We drove them and took pictures. Roads traveled: US 40

Last update 1 January 2012

Photos subject to the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license unless otherwise specified.
Text copyright 2006-2013 by Jim Grey. (Replace # with @ if you click that link to send me e-mail.)

Maps are screen shots from Bing Maps and Google Maps. All copyrights acknowledged.
Shields courtesy Barry Camp.