My mother suffered a stroke several days ago so my time for writing has been severely curtailed as of late. As she recovers that time has been spent driving back and forth on a familiar sixty-ish mile stretch of road(s) that I have become quite bored with.
I have always been cursed/blessed with a bit of a wandering mind and it is never more wandery than when I am alone in a car. Sometimes music or a podcast is a nice distraction but other times I relish the quiet and the thoughts that flow from it.
I-65 between Indianapolis and Lafayette, Indiana is a nasty highway. As the main route between Indianapolis and Chicago it is heavily traveled by both trucks and cars and seems to be the location of a never ending series of bad accidents so I try not to let my attention lapse. But there are also some things to ponder on this busy stretch.
Like the exit where drivers are faced with two signs: Brownsburg to the left, Whitestown to the right. I know for a fact that there are white people in Brownsburg. I wonder if there are any brown people in Whitestown? I would ask but I am yellow.
The billboards can be interesting. I wonder which transportation company was the first to cleverly describe itself as a company “that is going places”? I am sure it was many decades ago. I wonder if an advertising agency actually charged someone for that slogan on a billboard in 2018?
And then there is the billboard covered by a huge picture of a box of donuts. Which is actually spelled doughnuts, if the grammarians are to be listened to. It is cruel to have a billboard displaying a ginormous box of donuts (which look absolutely delicious) when the bakery is nearly a mile from the exit ramp and probably closed even if I were to make the trek. And it is not as though I need them.
I get off onto US 52 at the very first opportunity where the driving is much more calm. The sights along a rural secondary highway are completely different from those along the heavily traveled interstate. For one thing there is no reminder of donuts.
There is, however, a Dairy Queen, which is the one real piece of civilization along this particular highway. There are few places more appealing than a Dairy Queen when you are in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know why I like their chili dogs so much. I am usually able to resist the lure of one of their cones of kind-of-ice-cream dipped into a chocolate that hardens into a shell. But not always.
Several months ago there was a house fire in one of the houses near the highway. I have never suffered through a house fire but know others who have. I have always wondered what caused the fire and if everyone made it out alright. I hope so.
What is up with the cinder block building with a big sign proclaiming the vending machines inside? There is nothing else around here but farms and I cannot imagine there are many who stop there for snacks. I have always wanted to park and go inside but then I imagine that this might be the modern version of one of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales wherein unsuspecting victims are lured to their doom by the house of candy. Nobody needs a Baby Ruth or Milky Way badly enough to be tossed into some witch’s oven.
Why would anyone in this part of the country name a stream “Little Potato Creek”?
There has been a house that is one of my landmarks. It was sided with those old wood shingles and painted barn red. I always wondered how long the people had lived there because it looked like the kind of place where someone’s grandparents had lived since perhaps 1954. But now it has been freshly sided and painted and I wonder what happened to the folks who used to live there.
Would my life be less complicated if I lived in a house way out here in the country? Probably not.
The farming heritage of this area is unmistakable and there are still what appear to be many working farms here. There are not nearly as many old wooden barns as there used to be. Every year it seems that another one has burned down or collapsed of its own weight (often aided by a storm). These old structures are completely obsolete for modern agriculture but they are comforting sights to those of us who pass on the highway. I wonder how long until we are down to the last one.
It is funny the way the mind can work. I always scan the horizon for interesting old cars. If possible I like to take pictures of them. About three or four years ago as I was leaving Lafayette on a Sunday evening I was stopped at a red light at Veteran’s Memorial Way, a road that leads from “the country” to Lafayette’s growing industrial area. On that day I saw a dark green Kaiser sedan from the early 1950s glide along the blacktop through the intersection.
This may be the only time I have ever seen a Kaiser under power on the roadway. That car reminded me of my mother because her family bought one like it in 1951, when she was a senior in high school. I ask myself: Why do I look for that car every time I drive through that intersection? Every single time. It will not surprise you that I have never seen it since. But that doesn’t stop me from looking.
Finally, there is one thought that keeps recurring – I hope that the self-driving cars we are now being promised come on a faster timetable than the flying cars that were promised sixty or more years ago. I like to drive but there are times – like now – when I keep running the same boring route over and over. It would be nice to use that time to just sit back and read a book. Or write a better blog post.