History In Your Own Backyard

Gatekeepers of Hidden Treasures

Trip to St. Louis, Part 1

April 28, 2014

On Friday, April 25 we headed out for a 3 day trip to St. Louis. Our destination was the Gateway Arch but our goal was to explore the countryside going out and  coming back. A trip from my house to St. Louis should take 5-6 hours but I rarely take the Interstates and tend to travel along the old U.S. Routes, the historic State  Routes and of course the back roads. We left at 6:00 am and 12 hours later we were still 50 miles east of the Mississippi! True to form, we traveled slowly and stopped often.

Pony  Truss  Bridge-1890

Pony Truss Bridge-1890

Here are some of the highlights from that trip west.

Our first stop was Blue Spring Caverns just west of Bedford, Indiana. Unfortunately, when we arrived at 8:45 am they were still closed so we pressed on in our search of hidden treasures.

Once entering Martin County, Indiana, we bailed out onto a gravel backroad from U.S. Route 50 (Which begins in Ocean City, Maryland and ends 3,000 miles later in West Sacramento, California! It even goes thru the heart of Washington D.C. and is known there as “Constitution Avenue”!). I had heard that there was a multitude of steel bridges on this rarely traveled road and I was out to find these elusive steel hulks built by a generation of men far greater than I.

Our first find was a beautiful Pony Truss bridge built in 1910 and located just feet from a freight rail line serving the local Gypsum Plant. Next up and just a mile  down the road was another well preserved Pony Truss built in 1890. Heading just 1/4 mile down the road we found yet  another Pony Truss bridge also built in 1890! This bridge was the gateway to a cut in the local limestone which made for some beautiful pictures. I had to wonder if this old road wasn’t a former narrow gage rail line. Why would anybody cut down 20 feet into rock to lay a road which might see a half a dozen cars on a busy day? More research needs to be done for an answer to this question.

Steel  Through  Truss  Bridge-1890

Steel Through Truss Bridge-1890

Three bridges within 2 miles…..life is good here in Martin County!

Back in the car we travel about a half of a mile and find out fourth Pony Truss bridge built in 1921! How good can this get I asked myself? Yet just a stones throw down the road we find a beautiful Steel Through Truss bridge also built in 1890 but still in excellent shape for being over 110 years old.

Driving further on this rainy Spring morning I swerve and slam on the brakes before hoping out to move a beautiful orange scaled male Box Turtle out of the roadway. This Turtle was probably 40 years old and was my first Turtle save of the season! Shortly thereafter we came across one of the most unique sites in the county…..a very large tree that was growing on top of a boulder! History comes in all shapes and sizes and it doesn’t have to be man made to be historic.

After taking several pictures of the stately tree we travel further and find a Pony Truss bridge sitting off to the side of the roadway near a newly built concrete bridge.  The old bridge had been hit hard by a semi and needed to be replaced although it was just built in 1903! The bridge has been straightened since the accident and quite frankly it didn’t look too bad compared to the before pictures when it was bent and twisted.

Ancient  tree  on  a  rock

Ancient tree on a rock

We found one last bridge on this stretch of road…..a modern Pony Truss built in 1995 but still a joy to be found. Seven bridges, a Box Turtle and a giant tree growing on a boulder, all in less than 5 miles! It just doesn’t get any better than this and all before 10:00 am.

I can’t say this enough, get off the main roads and discover what’s right around the bend on the back roads. If you do a little searching, you’ll find treasures in your travels everywhere you go whether it’s Indiana, Wyoming or Florida.

Our next article will be about the first half of Friday afternoon! Don’t miss it!

Travel slowly, stop often.

Satolli Glassmeyer

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