For as long as I’ve had a driver’s license, one of my favorite ways to clear my head is to get out and take a drive. Perhaps it was ingrained in me at a young age by my parents. Our vacations were always by car. My dad also liked to find the road less traveled when driving from point A to point B. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that taking a long drive is something I enjoy; especially when you consider I’ve driven to Florida, Kansas City, Denver (twice) and Las Vegas…and back. I guess it’s just part of my DNA. And I also get bored with the same routes.
That boredom led me to take a couple different paths to and from South Bend this weekend. The roundtrip drive to South Bend from Indianapolis is a pretty monotonous one: get on US-31. Stay on US-31. Try not to get frustrated by the 30 traffic lights in Kokomo.
So, Friday after work, I hit the road for South Bend but I chose the road less traveled. I took IN-141 north, which connected to 29 north—a stretch of two-lane highway through tiny burgs and towns I bet even lifelong Hoosiers have never seen. It refreshing…and somewhat depressing.
I went through places like Michigantown, Burlington and Wheeling (which is a stone’s throw from Young America). The acres and acres of farmland stretch as far as the eye can see. While you won’t see the Golden Arches anywhere in these communities, you will see boarded-up businesses, dilapidated houses and remnants of what used to be quaint, self-sufficient little towns.
I crossed the Eel River in Logansport; a menacing, unforgiving body of water that moves swiftly through town. I doubt you’ll see jet skis zipping along this portion of the Eel. Its brown, choppy waters flank ominous-looking industrial mills in the town’s center that look like something out of an Upton Sinclair novel.
On the way back to Indy, I ambled through Mishawaka (just east of South Bend) on 331. En route to Bremen and, eventually, Bourbon, my journey was met by horse-drawn buggies carrying locals from an Amish community as well as the requisite farmland and one-light towns that appear to still remain closed on Sundays.
While I resisted the temptation to look upon these small towns and villages like a condescending, big-city jackass, I couldn’t help but appreciate seeing something besides Super 8 Motels, Shell gas stations and McDonald’s drive-thrus. I hope my future travels down these forgotten roads leads me to a local diner or greasy spoon where a guy can get a Coke and a pork tenderloin. No, not because this is some sort of petting zoo for me, but because it’s fun to meet folks from different walks of life and marvel at our differences and our similarities.
The road less traveled is one I’ll be traveling more often.