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article number 75
article date 11-08-2011
copyright 2011 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Scenic Western Indiana, US Route 36
by Stu Moment with Photos Contributed by Jackie Wells Jamison

West Central Indiana is known for its annual Covered Bridge Festival. To a corn-belt person, the area’s scenery offers hills and trees. Intermixed in the scenery are old homes, barns and of course, covered bridges.

Coming from the west (Illinois), you will go through the towns of Dana, Montezuma and Rockville. Our trip also took us to Mansfield but that portion of the trip will be covered in a separate article. Downtown Montezuma and Rockville contain businesses which also warrant in-depth presentations.

The area you will see was inhabited in the mid 1800’s. The river and railroad systems which affected our society during that time period are still visible.

We will cross the Wabash River at Montezuma. The Wabash River affects the landscape for miles east and west. It is quite pretty.

Dana Indiana, hometown to World War II correspondent, Ernie Pyle. Ernie Pyle died under enemy fire in the Pacific. Pyle’s birthplace home and museum was to be closed due to state funding, but appears to have survived. It should be open spring through fall.
Replica Monument to Ernie Pyle is located at the Ernie Pyle Rest Area, a couple of miles east of Dana.
When you stop in Dana, get your picture taken with this giraffe. Maybe you can send it to us?
Airborne shot of Dana, Indiana.
Besides the monument, you will enjoy this covered bridge at the Ernie Pyle Rest Area.
Airborne shot of Montezuma area roads.
To get into Montezuma, Indiana, you cross a multi-span truss bridge.
You can see the long bridge in this airborne shot.
Wabash river looking south to the railroad tracks.
Nice airborne shot of the Wabash River, south of Montezuma.
Go north into downtown Montezuma. You’ll find some neat old buildings and shops.
During the fall Covered Bridge Festival, you’ll find some early morning grub at food stands right on US 36.
Nothin’ like hot chocolate or coffee with a cruller in the early morn’. Their will be much more food, from down-home to fancy, during the day. If you like to pig out just one day a week, save your appetite for this trip.
Every gas station has a colorful Park County Indiana Road Map which also lists attractions. Salt Of America disclaimer: don’t drive while looking at map … but if you do, have someone else steer and operate the gas pedal and brakes.

Why were bridges covered? Online research tells us that they were covered to make the wooden base last longer. A friend of mine told me that they were covered so that horses wouldn’t get spooked when crossing the bridge … and this must be the truth because he is my friend … however it’s a good time for us to make up (and spread) a different story … “they were covered to keep headless horsemen from falling off the bridge.”

Rockville Indiana is a giant city of over 2500 people.

If you are lucky enough to get past the Headless Horseman you will arrive in Rockville, Indiana. You will find lots of interesting shopping, eating and history there.

Our trip continued to Mansfield and should have continued to Raccoon Lake. The Mansfield portion will be covered in a separate article. Raccoon Lake is an Indiana State Recreation area and is really beautiful. The park entrance fee is reasonable and there are many activities … so if you want to drive Scenic Western Indiana US Route 36 with kids aboard, and the kids aren’t into “Scenic”, you can wear them out at Raccoon Lake.

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