Day 2: Oct. 23, 2005
Land of Wooden Bridges



I continued south on US-231. In Parkersburg, about a dozen miles south of Crawfordsville, I stopped to read the Chief Cornstalk marker and only spotted the adjacent spring after stopping. You can hear water running at a pretty good rate but the covering screen is bolted on so it is unreachable. My guess is that modern day agricultural chemicals have made the spring, like many others, unsafe. Shortly before turning west on US-36, a large trailer park caught my eye. It started over half a mile before the intersection and extended all the way to it. It seems to be the inventory for the Detro trailer company and they appear to be ready to deliver just about every model and variation direct from stock. The picture is kind of silly but I was impressed with the several acres of trailers.

I caught just a glimpse of the "Old 36 Road" sign when I passed it so turned around with thoughts of following it. On closer examination, I decided to skip the graveled path for today and wait to try it in a vehicle with a little more road clearance. I did drive a paved stretch of old 36 later in the day but it was unremarkable and the drive generated no photos.

This is the court house for "Parke the Covered Bridge County" in the town of Rockville. It was here that I started to understand just what a covered bridge festival is. I really did make an effort to get here during the festival and I was rewarded with much gained knowledge. Because of that newly acquired knowledge, I'll put even more effort into making sure future visits are NOT during the festival. Apparently bridge festivals are only marginally concerned with bridges and are mostly focused on antiques, crafts, and food. The court house lawn is filled and so are some of the streets surrounding it. Most open spaces were available for parking with rates ranging from $2 to $5 depending on something. There is a winery in the town but it would not open until noon - I was there about 10:00 - and I found a rather presentable ghost sign behind the building just east of the court house.

I had picked up a map showing several color coded tours at the motel last night and, after consulting the ladies at the museum in the old jail, set off on the Red Route. There are thirty-nine covered bridges in the county and no one route included them all. The first bridge on the Red Route is Crooks Bridge over Little Racoon Creek. I had already driven over it before I noticed the cables stretching from bridge to buried I-beam although I doubt that it would have made much difference. The Neet Bridge is one of several that are not drivable. A little color is visible in those trees beyond the field but it's just enough to make you realize how much better it will likely be in another week or two.

Until April of this year, one of the county's longest and oldest bridges sat on those stone piers above the dam. A man has been charged with the act of arson that destroyed the 137 year old bridge but that is little consolation to local residents. After all, when your town is one of the three focus points of the annual festival and it is named BRIDGEton, that big empty spot is not easily ignored. Efforts are well underway to raise the estimated $1.2 million that building a new bridge will cost. It doesn't even seem right to call it a replacement since old friends can never really be replaced.

But "The Oldest Continuously Operating Mill West of the Alleghenies" is still going and people are still flocking to this town almost completely filled by the festival. It was while I walked the streets of Bridgeton that I started to realize just how large the market is for elephant ears. Add in hand-dipped ice cream, barbecue sandwiches, T-shirts, wind chimes, bird houses, and the occasional genuine antique and you can begin to understand what this festival means to Parke County. Bridgeton isn't big enough to block traffic from some streets and festival booths occupy most space not otherwise occupied. Both driving and walking have a touch of adventure. The only picture I managed is of the more sparse areas heading out of town. It really is amazing that more folks aren't run over as they dash from a bargain on one side of the street to an even better one on the other.

All of the first three pictures are of the Roseville Bridge. With double arches, it stretches 263 feet over Big Racoon Creek. The Long Horn Tavern is within sight of the bridge and I backtracked just a bit to check it out.

The Mecca Bridge is right next to the Mecca One Room Schoolhouse and the Billy Creek Bridge is one of three at Billie Creek Village. At this point, I was ready to take off and skipped the village and its admission charge.

I picked up IN-59 and headed toward Mansfield. Mansfield, along with Rockville and Bridgeton, is often identified as a festival hub. There are yard sales and road side stands throughout the county and when I snapped the picture of the parked cars I didn't realize they marked the outer reaches of Mansfield. Fifty-Nine actually passes beside Mansfield but even that takes time. I saw several fields full of parked cars and can only assume that their owners were busy in the town itself. Stocking up on elephant ears and wind chimes I imagine.

At Brazil I picked up US-40 and followed it back to US-231. Decision time was near. One possibility was taking US-40 back to Ohio. That would not be expressway fast and would be over semi-familiar territory. I ruled it out and turned south on US-231. Two very reasonable possibilities remained. I could enter I-70 in a few miles, return via Indianapolis and be home in less than three hours or I could keep going south to US-50 and drive a short stretch of new-to-me road. I have vacation available and there are no emergencies at work that absolutely require my presence. But I was polite. I passed by the interstate without so much as an obscene gesture.

No real excitement on either US-231 or US-50 but a pleasant drive so far. As you can see, it, too, could have benefited from a little more color in the trees. But it was pretty enough and some of Fifty is sufficiently un-straight to be interesting. Between Shoals and the splitting off of IN-60 the speed limit got no higher than 50. The brick tourist cabins are only a couple of miles east of that split. There were three cabins that I took to be double units plus a small utility building and the office which was big enough to contain living quarters. No signs of any kind that I could see.

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