Day 3: July 20, 2015
To Illinois Dixie

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The Dixie Highway name was initially applied to a proposed route from Chicago to Miami. If I'd had a clean slate when I decided to drive it, I might have started in Chicago. But my early DH drives were pretty random and, when the remaining segments were down to a manageable set, the bit between Indianapolis and Chicago was, somewhat curiously, among them. When I realized that, it seemed quite natural that the first should be last. I covered other segments one-by-one until only Indianapolis to Chicago remained. Today I picked-up my drive of the Dixie Highway West Mainline from where I'd left it in 2013.

Part of today's path is a little different from what it would have been if I had continued on two years ago. In fact, it's different from what it would have been if I'd driven it yesterday. Pat Bremer is the reason. Speedway, an Indianapolis suburb through which the DH passes, is his home and he studies this sort of thing. Near the beginning of last night's meet & greet & eat & eat, Pat suggested a post dinner cruise but by the time his very full plate was clean, his interest had waned considerably. We left it as "maybe" though I really thought Pat would be spending the rest of the evening on the sofa while digesting dinner. He surprised me with a quick recovery and a text message invitation. Pat pointed out and explained the old alignments as he drove from Speedway into Indianapolis. These pictures are from this morning's westbound drive.

The first picture is looking northwest on a dead end section of Waterway Boulevard. It's a dead end because, behind me, the bridge that once carried Waterway and the Dixie Highway over Fall Creek is long gone. The crossing is now made on Indiana Avenue and a replacement bridge. The second picture is of the other end of the dead end section where it connects with the rest of Waterway Boulevard. Without Pat's insight, I would have simply followed Indiana Avenue to 16th Street and 16th Street to Crawfordsville Road. In addition to pointing out the Waterway section, Pat explained the Crawfordsville Road did not exist in this area when the Dixie Highway did. The Dixie would have continued west on 16th to what is now Cunningham Road. The third picture is of 16th Street just west of where Crawfordsville Road splits off to the northwest. This intersection was recently converted to a large roundabout. The photo shows where 16th reappears beyond the roundabout. It's about a block from Dawsons where we had lunch yesterday. The last two pictures are just different views of where 16th street more or less blends into Cunningham. Pat also pointed out scraps of the old road that have been swallowed by a strip mall or orphaned by expressways which I've not documented.

Beyond I-465, the DH becomes US-136 and things settle down. Big time NHRA drag races are held at Lucas Oil Raceway and there is also a 2/3 mile oval that is used for a various races including ARCA events. There is also a 2.5 mile road course although recent changes have restricted its use. Once upon a time, this was known as Indianapolis Raceway Park and hosted many SCCA events of which I attended a few.

There are a couple scraps of the old road just east of Pittsboro. One, called Fountain Curve Road, is a dead end as indicated by the basketball hoop and the chunk of asphalt and gravel across the road. In the Subaru that would be a slightly inconvenient speed bump. In the Miata it was a formidable barricade.

The second, Brookridge Drive, can be driven through. The third and fourth pictures are of Brookridge.

My route was actually plotted directly onto the road in the first picture because both DeLorme and Garmin said I could. It's Old State Road 34 just west of Lizton and has obviously been closed for quite some time. In fact, on the first pass, I saw nothing and thought the GPS was lost. Only on a second pass did I see the road and barricades beyond the railroad. As I approached the crossroad about half a mile away, I was debating whether or not to attempt the steep crossing when the "HIGH WATER" sign made the decision for me. On the other side, after turning onto Old State Road 34 a couple miles farther on, I could see that there was a foot or so of water across the road. The third picture is sort of the other side of the first one and the last two picture are looking west along the old road.

I'll skip the details of my getting to the bypassed brick section near New Ross, Indiana, but will note that I did not drive directly there. The first two photos are from the west side of Big Racoon Creek which is pretty interesting spot in its own right. When I did reach the east end of New Ross Road and crossed over the railroad tracks, the farm house scene was waiting. Those are horses in the field. I think it looked like this in 1920. To the left, rails and bricks head westward together. The road is eventually blocked by a gate disguised as a guard rail. The last picture is of the road beyond.

Jim Grey, another member of last night's dinner party, provides some excellent insight into this alignment here. It's part of his report on driving the Dixie Highway from the Illinois line to Indianapolis which can be navigated via links at the bottom of the pages. Actually, Jim has driven and documented almost all of the DH in Indiana and other trip reports can be found by poking around a bit.

In New Ross proper, I was able to watch men tearing the cupola off a church and check out an original head light.

This sturdy brick gas station and office are in the town of Mace.

Although none of these structures are actually on the Dixie Highway, the town they are in, Crawfordsville, is and they are important attractions there. The Lew Wallace Museum was closed for electrical renovation but even when it's not being renovated, they always close it when they know I'm coming. Although I have some vague impressions of seeing inside it, my journal says it has been closed every time I've been there. I have been inside the Rotary Jail Museum and might do it again someday. The 1876 courthouse is just impressive looking.

I've crossed this Coal Creek bridge whenever I've come to it but I think that's always been from the west. Both ends have been bumped but the dent on this end seems a little smaller than the other one. Pavement dating assistance is here.

Between Veedersburg and Covington, the Dixie Highway leaves US-136 to follow a road signed Dixie Bee Road. The Dixie Bee Line was a named auto trail connecting Chicago and Nashville. Apparently it and the Dixie Highway shared a path through these parts. With some 250 named auto trails in the 1920s, there just weren't enough paths to go around.

Danville, Illinois, is where the Dixie Highway West Mainline finally turns north. Between Indianapolis and Danville the route is almost directly east-west. I've photographed this sculpture before but this time I'm including an explanation and a key. I also found evidence that Danville once produced paving brick. This is just a drive-by shot of the Fischer Theater. It does look kind of interesting. I did a full stop and sample at the Custard Cup. Technically not real custard (no eggs), it's darned good. Founded by the Potters in 1949 and owned by the Jarlings since 1969.

I had coordinates for the DAR marker in Hoopeston, Illinois, and Garmin directed me inside the park. Had I known what I was doing, I could have reached the marker through the opening in the fence and avoided the somewhat hectic crossing of the multi-lane busy street. But I would probably have also avoided seeing the Historic Dixie Highway sign. The sign facing southbound travelers was the first I'd seen. The last picture shows the first such sign I saw on the northbound lanes. There may have been others but it was the first I'd noticed. It is just a short distance north of the park.

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