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mobilene

Old Us 31 In Northern Indiana

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In September, an old friend and I followed US 31's original alignment between the Michigan state line and Indianapolis. We traveled the three US 31 alignments through South Bend, the old two-lane from south of La Paz to south of Peru, the original routes through Kokomo and Westfield (but not Carmel, because it was under construction), and finished with a stroll along North Meridian St. in Indianapolis to look at the grand old homes.

 

You can take the tour with us at http://www.jimgrey.net/Roads/US31NorthernIndiana/index.htm.

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Great road trip, Jim. I guess it was inevitable that the old roads would be upgraded, straightened and improved.

One of the saddest things about the improvements were the by-passes. The idea of a by-pass was to speed travelers on their way by going around towns - the end result was the businesses moved out to the by-pass and the grand old dowtowns slowly died. And with all the businesses moving out to the by-pass, traffic congestion returned. It's actually quicker, in some places, to take the old road thru a town.

A drive down old 61 from Walls to Lula will show what a new road can do. Maud, Clayton, Evansville, Tunica, Hollywood, Robinsonville, Clacks, Penton, Lake Cormorant, Walls. With the exception of Tunica and Walls, most of these towns are merely names on a map. Hollywood and Robinsonville are now the hub of the Delta casinos, but the casino's use Tunica's name.

North of Memphis, on old 51 north of Covington, the pattern repeats - Curve, Gates, Halls have been by-passed for many years and only Halls appears to be a viable town.

Denny and I talked with Frank "Rat" Ratlif, owner of the Riverside Hotel, in Clarksdale when we stayed there the end of Dec. He stated with no reservations that downtown Clarksdale was slowly dying because of the by-pass. And the by-pass has been by-passed with 61 running further east of town. Get out and enjoy the old roads while you can.

Safe traveling.

 

Hudsonly,

Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

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We saw a little of that on our trip, Alex, where the former highway towns decayed or disappeared. Mexico, IN even put a big red arrow sign on the new highway pointing to town, but it didn't help; the one block of downtown is decaying and it looks like very little happens there now. And our maps and our old road guides mentioned a town called Green Oak, but there's nothing there anymore but cornfields.

 

Not only am I not old enough to remember when 31 went through Kokomo, but at least since my first trip through there in 1976 the bypass has been Kokomo for all intents and purposes as most anything worth doing there is along that strip. Now the state wants to build a limited-access bypass around the bypass! Meanwhile, nothing is going on in the old downtown.

 

jim

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We saw a little of that on our trip, Alex, where the former highway towns decayed or disappeared. Mexico, IN even put a big red arrow sign on the new highway pointing to town, but it didn't help; the one block of downtown is decaying and it looks like very little happens there now. And our maps and our old road guides mentioned a town called Green Oak, but there's nothing there anymore but cornfields.

 

Not only am I not old enough to remember when 31 went through Kokomo, but at least since my first trip through there in 1976 the bypass has been Kokomo for all intents and purposes as most anything worth doing there is along that strip. Now the state wants to build a limited-access bypass around the bypass! Meanwhile, nothing is going on in the old downtown.

 

jim

 

Hi Jim,

 

I just checked in to the forum after I made my cup of American Road coffee and saw your masterwork on 31. I haven't read it yet as my son (your age) is visiting and he gets first priority until he leaves tomorrow. I did read a bit and it looks great! I'll enjoy the rest ASAP.

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

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Very nicely done. With the work week and interruptions, it took me longer to read it than it took you to drive it.

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Thanks guys. Part of the fun is posting my trip and getting the feedback.

 

It takes me about 2 hours on average to do each page of a report. This report was 14 pages -- 28 hours, yikes. The big time sink is processing the photos. But anyway, point is I could have made this trip 2 1/2 times in the time it took me to write it up!

 

jim

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Thanks guys. Part of the fun is posting my trip and getting the feedback.

 

It takes me about 2 hours on average to do each page of a report. This report was 14 pages -- 28 hours, yikes. The big time sink is processing the photos. But anyway, point is I could have made this trip 2 1/2 times in the time it took me to write it up!

 

jim

 

Jim,

 

My son is back home and I have started to read your 31 trip. I think I will comment as I go along.

 

It is nice to have a road so interwoven with your life experiences. I thought maybe your introduction was the first chapter of your upcoming book...Roads and My Life in Indiana!

 

Looking at the “strip” you aptly described as a “blight” reminded me of so many other roads I know populated by struggling or marginal small businesses. Do you ever wonder what their lives are like? The “otel” for example is run by someone, and unless they are doing something illegal, they are barely getting by, with no real prospects that business will improve.

 

Sheila and I are browsing RV’s so the other day we followed an ad that turned out to be on US blight.. The RV dealer had dozens of rusting hulks crowding the high ground on his pot holed lot. If you stepped carelessly, you were apt to drop into one of the many pothole lakelets up to your ankle. As we left he followed us out to the car describing the RV he was getting in stock tomorrow...just right for us. Kind of sad.

 

So what stories would be told in blight land, if the road could speak? And what of Rosland, where democracy and human nature clash?

 

The signs are terrific! The weekly rates at Otel must have changed.....and think of the poor folks who pay it. But there is one glorious sign of prosperity....the Northwest’s very own Starbucks....marching proudly into every community, the 21 century’s McDonalds with an attitude.

 

I’ll read more ASAP. Great stuff!

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

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Dave,

 

I wonder if the businesses along the strip south of the MI line are stable, or whether they've changed hands a lot, because I don't think much has changed along that strip in 20 years. It's different when you go down into Roseland, however, which has gone somewhat upscale. If you want to live in South Bend, north is where you want to be these days, and so you get the "better" businesses.

 

While I don't know the stories of the proprietors along the strip, I do know that the situation in Roseland is well covered by the local media, and a Google search on "Roseland Snyder" will bring up everything you never wanted to know.

 

I will bet that the Otel is primarily a weekly place today.

 

Thanks for commenting.

 

jim

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Jim,

 

I see by your South Bend #1 write up that you have been bitten by the roadside architecture bug (some nice examples!). I’m not surprised. Alignments first, then bridges, and before you know it, the “built environment” along the old road has you hooked.

 

Next comes local histories. In South Bend you have your own to enjoy! You jumped over the interurbans and streecars. But they will return, because you will note the development of communities and little sub-urban centers (now engulfed by the city) that were created in the streetcar/ interurban era but survived into the auto era.

 

Your comments about the Associates reminds me of the “Urban Renewal” movement of the 1960’s where federal money was used by local politicians to demolish whole towns. My home town lost everything downtown within a 4 by five block area except the post office and a “modern” (and very ugly) bank. For a decade or more it looked like pictures you see of Hiroshima.

 

It is still dark here although the eastern sky is lightening over the lake, ole Bo, the old Malamute Wonder Dog has had his morning peanut butter treat and is asleep a few feet away, the fire in the fireplace has taken the chill off the room, and I’m drinking my cup of American Road coffee in my easy chair, and enjoying your trip! Does it get any better than this?

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

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I started focusing more on roadside architecture and attractions after I started coming here, because so many here are into it, and I know it's wise to play to the audience ;). But then I realized I can often learn a lot about a road by what buildings are on it, especially if the buildings are old. Moreover, the older alignments tend to have the older buildings. Except in your hometown, apparently. What a mess that must have been.

 

Paying attention to the architecture did prompt me to join the Indiana Historic Preservation Society, however. Last time I took the Michigan Road north of here, a large house had clearly been moved to a new location on the road in, I think, Michigantown. One of my Society newsletters talked about it, so I knew something about it.

 

It's cold and grey here, my dogs are asleep on their beds in the garage 12 miles away, and I continue to encounter silly roadblocks while testing this infernal loan-origination application. The answer to the question you posed, as applied to my situation, is left as an exercise for the reader. Three guesses and the first two don't count.

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Mobilene,

 

I'm half way to Indy, but it looks like I'm going to have to find a motor court for the night. We'll finish the rest of the trip tomorrow.

 

A couple things from today's readings ...

 

The old Palace Theater in South Bend is indeed gorgeous. (I actually said "Wow" out loud when I first saw the pictures.)

 

Also, Green Oak, south of Rochester, according to a map I have here, was at the intersection with CR 400 S, which I think is the more southern of the two possibilities you marked on your map.

 

Looking forward to the rest of the trek ...

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The Morris is really something, isn't it?

 

Thanks for solving the mystery of Green Oak. I can't imagine it was ever much to begin with.

 

jim

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Mobilene,

 

I’m really enjoying the trip. I just did South Bend #2. It was fun seeing your old “haunts,” and of course they generated memories of my own...which can wait for another day.

 

The bars across the old mom and pop grocery are a sad statement. I really liked the old barber shop and pole.

 

I did have one question. The photo that accompanies the Woodside avenue comment shows the three lane road. I haven’t seen a three lane road for probably 50 or more years, unless the center lane is strictly for left turns. I don’t see any markings on the center lane in the photo that would restrict travel, so could I pass a slower car, using the center lane?

 

In my youth we had what came to be called “suicide lanes” in the west on some roads.....a middle passing lane. I don’t know whose idea it was, what states had them, or how long they lasted.

 

The suicide part came in the old days when two frustrated drivers going opposite directions in fast but heavy traffic simultaneously decided to enter the “passing (suicide) lane.”

 

They survive in a modified form in short stretches, usually on long grades where there are two lanes uphill and one down, and the downhill driver can enter the middle lane to pass when there is no uphill traffic in it.

 

It just dawned on me....that is a one way road in your photo! Dah! :unsure: Well the suicide story stands, but the prompt was false. <_<

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Closest I've seen to a suicide lane in Indiana is along Fall Creek Pkwy in Indianapolis, where there's lane control; the middle lane is NB in the morning and SB in the aftrnoon. I find it anxiety-provoking when I drive it, but I imagine you get used to it if you do it every day.

 

In southern Indiana some two-lane highways expand to three when going up a steep hill. Traffic is to move right, but those who want to pass do so in the left lane. It can be tricky sometimes to do it before the right lane disappears and that traffic merges into what had been the passing lane.

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Mobilene,

 

I’m really enjoying the trip. I just did South Bend #2. It was fun seeing your old “haunts,” and of course they generated memories of my own...which can wait for another day.

 

The bars across the old mom and pop grocery are a sad statement. I really liked the old barber shop and pole.

 

I did have one question. The photo that accompanies the Woodside avenue comment shows the three lane road. I haven’t seen a three lane road for probably 50 or more years, unless the center lane is strictly for left turns. I don’t see any markings on the center lane in the photo that would restrict travel, so could I pass a slower car, using the center lane?

 

In my youth we had what came to be called “suicide lanes” in the west on some roads.....a middle passing lane. I don’t know whose idea it was, what states had them, or how long they lasted.

 

The suicide part came in the old days when two frustrated drivers going opposite directions in fast but heavy traffic simultaneously decided to enter the “passing (suicide) lane.”

 

They survive in a modified form in short stretches, usually on long grades where there are two lanes uphill and one down, and the downhill driver can enter the middle lane to pass when there is no uphill traffic in it.

 

It just dawned on me....that is a one way road in your photo! Dah! :unsure: Well the suicide story stands, but the prompt was false. <_<

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

 

"Suicide" lanes were quite common in the 40's and 50's - and probably earlier. And found in many states. Remembering that two lanes roads were rather narrow, even adding a 3rd lane didn't help matters all that much - it was narrow to.

Quite a thrill to pass a heavy truck with another coming the other direction and it really got interesting on a straight stretch when two cars, traveling in opposite directions, decided to pull at the same time to pass.

I know that most had double lines (ie, two solid to mark no passing zones, generally in each straight stretch. On the other side might be a solid beside a double meaning safe to pass. Oh sure. One direction would be allowed in one stretch; the other direction allowed in the next and so on. But, the temptation was there - "hmmmm, I been stuck behind this slow moron for 4 miles - I can pass him and nobody will know!!" Famous last words because coming in the opposite direction is someone with the same idea.

Considering the average speed on the old two lanes (Note I said AVERAGE) was probably in the 45-50 mph range head on collisions were quite spectacular (two cars, traveling in opposite directions, each doing 50 = closing speed 100 mph). Today things have improved. Average speeds are in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 (Not much of an improvement considering the internet highways) so closing speeds are now in the 120 to 140 mph hour range. You veer off the interstate, cross the median and hit a car head on, it gonna hurt - Big time.

 

Hudsonly,

Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

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When I revisited the brick sections of old US 40 in Illinois in November, I spoke with a man who lived on the road. The guy was probably 75 or 80 and remembered when the brick road was US 40. He said that it had more rises and curves than the current road, and it was of course a lot narrower. He said that if you got stuck behind a truck that had trouble maintaining speed on the rises, you could get mighty impatient in a hurry and try to pass when you couldn't really see what was coming. He said that he remembered many awful accidents, and that to him the new US 40 was a blessing because it was a safer road. jim

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Alex,

 

Thanks for confirming and filling out the suicide lane story! I didn’t really “notice” when they disappeared. I suppose it came as the highways were widened to 4 lanes.

 

Another place where they were extra dangerous was over hills or around blind curves. Today, even the most reckless driver will usually think twice about passing in those situations, but when the odds were that the middle lane probably wasn’t occupied, fools rushed in....with the obvious result.....fewer fools!

 

You also reminded me that two lane roads are much better today than 50 years ago. I look at my old movies and slides and I am surprised at the lack of shoulders and fog lines. And usroadman was able recently to take photos of old 40 with no cars in the scene. He would never have done that 50 years ago! In many cases it was terribly slow and congested.

 

I’m happy for the freeways so I can travel the two laners in relative peace!

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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"I’m happy for the freeways so I can travel the two laners in relative peace!"

 

Goes right along with TV commercials - ain't they the greatest these days. Why comes a commercial on that favorite show you watching you can go get dinner ready, take a shower, run downtown and pickup something your forgot, chat with your friends on the 'net - and never miss a single thing on your show!!!!!!!!!! LOL ROF LMAO

 

Hudsonly,

Alex Burr

MEmphis, TN

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A few weeks ago we were laying out a road course for a future road rally when we found a couple of very interesting items in Plymouth, Indiana, just a few blocks off of old U.S. 31/Michigan Street.

 

Traveling south on U.S. 31/Michigan into the center of town, turn left onto Garro Street. Travel 3 blocks to the T and to your left in front of the local Junior High School is a very rare giant European Beech tree. I spoke to several people at the school and the historical society but no one had any idea on the age of this beautiful tree.

 

Travel another block south on U.S. 31/Michigan Street and turn left onto East LaPorte Street. Travel 3 blocks to the deadend and you'll see a foot bridge that crosses the Yellow River and leads to a neighborhood on the other side. The bridge was built in 1898 by the Rochester Bridge Co. and is still used daily!

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You also reminded me that two lane roads are much better today than 50 years ago. I look at my old movies and slides and I am surprised at the lack of shoulders and fog lines.

 

I would be sunk at night without the edge lines. I rely on them. My first couple years driving I was all white-knuckled at night because I couldn't tell whether I was about to go off the road. Then someone said, "Always look at the white edge line as you drive at night; it tells you what's happening with the road," and it was as though I had been blind but then I could see. I'm not sure why I'm like this -- clearly, people drove without the edge lines for years; I've seen photos along state highways from 30-40 years ago that had only a center line. But without edge lines, I'd be restricted to lighted city driving at night.

 

 

<...>turn left onto East LaPorte Street. Travel 3 blocks to the deadend and you'll see a foot bridge that crosses the Yellow River and leads to a neighborhood on the other side. The bridge was built in 1898 by the Rochester Bridge Co. and is still used daily!

 

If I had known about that, I certainly would have gone to see it! I just looked it up on Google Maps, which of course shows LaPorte St. going through over that foot bridge :rolleyes:.

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Rallyman,

 

Great discoveries!! Id like to see that footbridge. Any photos?

 

Jim,

 

As to fog lines, imagine the confusion before center lines. Look at photos from the 20's and you will see cars riding down the middle!

 

keep the Show on the Road!

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Here's the link to the photos:

 

http://www.scenicroadrallies.com/photos.asp?category=75

 

Pictures # 38 & # 54 are of the footbridge in Plymouth, Indiana.

 

Picture # 34 is of the European Beech tree.

 

Pictures # 37 & # 39 are of a footbridge in Winamac, Indiana. That bridge crosses the Tippecanoe River and was built in 1923.

 

The remaining photos are interesting sites along the road course.

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Here's the link to the photos:

 

http://www.scenicroadrallies.com/photos.asp?category=75

 

Pictures # 38 & # 54 are of the footbridge in Plymouth, Indiana.

 

Picture # 34 is of the European Beech tree.

 

Pictures # 37 & # 39 are of a footbridge in Winamac, Indiana. That bridge crosses the Tippecanoe River and was built in 1923.

 

The remaining photos are interesting sites along the road course.

 

 

Now that you've let everyone about your rallies, I just want to let you and everyone else know how cool they are! Jennifer & I ran the "Hills & Howls" rally in 2005: http://www.scenicroadrallies.com/photos.asp?category=19 That's our silver Corolla there on the end in the photos at the staging area. Cold and rainy that day, but we still had a blast. We're still checking out our schedule this year to see when we can fit one or two in. For the rest of you all, if you're in the midwest I HIGHLY encourage you to visit Sal's http://scenicroadrallies.com site and try one. They are fun, educational, challenging (still haven't found a 1972 dime yet!) and this gent knows his backroads! :goodjob:

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Here's the link to the photos:

 

http://www.scenicroadrallies.com/photos.asp?category=75

 

Pictures # 38 & # 54 are of the footbridge in Plymouth, Indiana.

 

Picture # 34 is of the European Beech tree.

 

Pictures # 37 & # 39 are of a footbridge in Winamac, Indiana. That bridge crosses the Tippecanoe River and was built in 1923.

 

The remaining photos are interesting sites along the road course.

Rallyman

 

Now that is one fine set of photos!!! I like all of them, but the little grocery store is a classic! Of course the round barn is great, as are the tree and bridges...but that little store is so authentic "mom and pop," right out of 60 years ago, it shoud be enshrined. I didn't note a specific location. Do you have an address?

 

Thanks for sharing!! I envy those on the rally.

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

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Thanks for the plug Pat! Like you, I have a passion for the back roads and feel that people need to see what's out there before it's gone forever.

 

Dave, as far as the grocery store goes, that is Tyners Grocery in Tyner, Indiana, which is about 5 miles northwest of Plymouth, Indiana. Tyner is only about 2 blocks long and that is the only business in town, so you can't miss it. From what I'm told the original Marshall County Infirmary was located on a farm near Tyner before a modern facility was built in 1891 on the Lincoln Hwy. about 4 miles east of Plymouth. That building still stands and is now the Shady Rest Nursing Home. From what I can tell the driveway in front of the Shady Rest is actually the old road.

Edited by RALLYMAN

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