August 30, 2009

Bumpity. Bump.

My mother’s ancestors moved to Whitley County in the late 1830s. I can imagine these frontier pioneers in a wagon pulled by oxen arriving in Washington Township. As the Long brothers steered their oxen team to their new farm, I suspect they encountered orange barrels on the Tunker Road.

Bumpity. Bump.

Does the State put orange barrels on log roads?

The orange barrel might as well be the State Flower of Indiana.

Since the hot July day I arrived at the Whitley County Hospital, I have lived all over the state except for five years when we lived in Florida. Now I live in southwestern Indiana, have family in Indianapolis, West Lafayette, and Anderson, and still make an annual trip to the place of my birth.

While I am not against progress, the roads that seemed troublesome when I was a child, are still mighty troublesome, and the “new roads” never seem to be finished.
Indiana 5, north of South Whitley, is where I have a fond memory of turning my maroon 2-door Chevette upside down in late 1981. On my way to a wedding in ice and snow, a kind stranger pulled me out of the car and drove me to my parents. I left the car in the ditch and went to the wedding, only to discover others also had difficulty.

The curves of Highway 5, at least then, were perilous in bad weather. (For that matter, they were perilous in good weather when semis took the curves too quickly or lake traffic unfamiliar with the road did the same thing while pulling a boat.)
The story told today would be very different. I would not be caught in a Chevette (although the hatch area could hold a full-sized dresser or used as a camper for up to four people, a selling point for someone in her twenties.)

Today I would be leery of the kind stranger. Today I would have a cell phone. And I do not think I would be idiotic enough to drive on highway 5 in a snow and ice storm, no matter how determined I was to go to a wedding.

Terre Haute is another challenging place to drive, whether east-west or north-south matters not. While Evansville sometimes gets the name “Stoplight City” Terre Haute is “Stoplight World.”

Terrible Haute. Getting off Interstate 70 to Highway 41 or vice versa is darned near impossible with the labyrinth of orange barrels. Rumor has it a new by-pass is being built around the city. I’ll believe it when I see it.

To get to Indianapolis from Evansville you have three choices – up 41 to Terre Haute, through the country to Interstate 70, or through Bloomington and up Highway 37. People in The Ville spend hours arguing over the best route, when all of them are the same. All options stink.

Since I moved back to Indiana in 1988, I’ve heard about the extension of the Interstate Highway from Indianapolis through Evansville and points beyond. The road construction is started, a stretch will be completed in several years, enabling persons from southern Indiana to drive to the middle of Gibson County. Wow!

In theory, this means persons from Gibson County can also drive back to The Ville!

My family has a cemetery plot at Eberhart Lutheran Cemetery in Whitley County. If I am given the gift of a full, long life, I want the road to be finished when I take my final trip home. I do not want to be buried in the middle of Gibson County. If the road is not completed, perhaps my tombstone can have an orange barrel made of marble on the top.

Even getting out of our own home has been difficult this summer. The state highway two blocks from our home is widening to four lanes. Both access points out of our subdivision were blocked for six weeks.

We had to go several miles out of the way on narrow country roads to get to another road to take us to the highway. At the highway, the car suddenly feels like that oxen-directed wagon of my ancestors as it jostles across the construction lane into the new road.

Bumpity. Bump.

While our subdivision is now open, the state highway is not nearly finished. To make this process more exciting, lanes are often switched. It’s like playing the retro Atari game Frogger with your car.

You can leave home in the morning and be on one side of the road and come back eight hours later and be on the other side. If you don’t know where you are going, well, guess what, that’s where you will go. Moreover, if you do know where you are going, that may not matter.

Ten hours ‘til dawn. Must feed the oxen and prepare for the trip to town in the morning over the log road. Quoth the raven.