Because I enjoyed wandering Indiana via two-lane roads through small-town America a few weeks ago, I decided to do it again Friday. I’d say it was interesting and fun for the first half, then somewhat exhausting for the second half. The reason it felt like a chore in the second half is simple: I turned a 2-1/2 hour drive into a four-hour battle of wits with the open road. Nevertheless, I found it enjoyable to trek through Indiana towns with names like Elwood, Lapel, Leisure (yes, Leisure!). Towns like Hardscrabble and Swayzee, which bills itself as “the only Swayzee in the world!” Seriously, that was on a billboard on my way into town. How can you not appreciate that sort of pride from a town of fewer than 1,000 residents?
Even getting out of Indianapolis let me on a journey through a neighboring town—it was Fortville, I think—that reminded me of my hometown, Bay City, Michigan. It was like I found a portal to Midland Street in the middle of Indiana. While passing through Elwood, I marveled at its cleanliness and warm, inviting nature. I marveled at its local chamber of commerce, in a rather plain and dated looking storefront. I was taken by the fact that all the streets were named after letters of the alphabet. I also appreciated the furniture salesman in Elwood who waved at me while I was sitting at a stop light in his town. Indeed, Elwood was a bit of a gem for me.
Admittedly, I didn’t spend a great deal of time exploring these small towns and burgs. That’s something I need to remedy. I’d like to take a weekend driving trip where I can have breakfast at a local diner in one of these places. I’d like to take in some of the local flavor, whatever that may be.
The latter half of the excursion was challenging because of detours and fatigue. But even with these delays, the best drive from Indy to South Bend pales in comparison to a few hours ambling about the state on its back roads.