Reader Ride: My Sunday Escape

Text: Jared Shaughnessy • Photography: Brian Grissom

Life is full of responsibilities, but the moment I turn the key on my motorcycle, the cares and pressures of everyday life begin to slowly subside. At the end of a 70-hour week, the open road irresistibly calls out with the promise of freedom and excitement. I have been fortunate enough to find a group of enthusiasts that shares my passion for winding roads. As we set out, we had a front-row view of the receding clouds that had been threatening rain. The glorious sunlight poked through to reveal a sunny, 75-degree day. As we headed west, away from the mundane straight roads of Indianapolis, we made our way to Parke County, Indiana. A sea of budding cornfields, typical of late June, blanketed the rural landscape. We eagerly traded the four-lane Highway 36 for a country byway, IN 75, to inject some curve into our ride. My 2006 Triumph Speed Triple along with a 1979 Honda CB 750 Limited, a 1980 Honda CB 900 Custom, a 2003 Honda Shadow Spirit, a 2004 Honda Shadow Aero, and a 2007 Harley- Davidson Sportster add the soundtrack for the scenery. The engines of such a diverse group meld into a symphony I would never want to drown out with a radio.

We turn onto East IN 240, which eventually leads us to Greencastle, Indiana, home of the DePauw University Tigers. We arrived in town around 12:30 pm, so we stopped at the Jackson's Family Restaurant. This old drive-in isn't much to look at, but we were feeling adventurous. What a delight! We all ordered the Manhattan, a roast beef sandwich smothered in mashed potatoes and gravy, at the insistence of a fellow diner. He was right, too. The meal was the best-spent $ 6.50 in quite some time. Feeling refreshed, we departed and continued west on East IN 240 as it turns into West 125 S.
Escaping the urban sprawl, the road again began to bend. As we entered a small valley, I caught glimpses of picturesque farmhouses and barns that exemplify the agricultural society of Indiana just off the road. People waved as we passed by, and I was enveloped in this simpler way of life. While West 125 South was not freshly paved, it was smooth enough and we had fun weaving from side to side. The fun lasted for 20 minutes until we hit the highway again. After a brief blast down Hwy 59, we turned off onto 900 South to find our way to our destination. This pathetic excuse for a road was not fun. The previous winter had been hard and the surface looked as if it had been used as a target range for artillery. Each curve had to be taken with the utmost caution so as not to lose the rear end in the gravel or potholes. A nerve-racking half hour later, we arrived in Bridgeton.
As we crested the hill and looked down, a majestic covered bridge spanned a beautiful waterfall. I was awestruck by its mammoth 267-foot span. A gristmill operates by the bridge, so we stopped in. This particular bridge had been destroyed by an arsonist in 2005; but through private donations, it was rebuilt in 2006 and stands as a testament to the hard work and dedication of the preservation society. The mill is the oldest continually working mill in Indiana, having been in operation for the past 180 years. As owner Mike Roe ground out some fresh flour, it filled the air with the promise of homemade bread. The mill is open from April through November, Monday to Thursday, from 10 a.m. "'til tired" and is a definite must-see.
We relaxed there for a few minutes, and then headed toward Rockville, the county seat and geographic center of Parke County. The town reminds me of Mayberry with its large town square and old-time facades. A converted house is the local tourist center, and I picked up an adventurer's guide of the local area there. The map highlights four different routes winding around and to all the covered bridges in approximately a 25-mile radius. We selected one and departed, passing by a local pub where 20 or more bikes were sitting in a row. With these roads to ride, I can´t understand why anyone would waste a beautiful day sitting in a bar. It soon became apparent that the map wasn't necessary once we left Rockville because the roads had been thoughtfully marked with red, blue, black, or yellow ribbons on the road signs and in the trees. Once again, we found ourselves on winding roads passing farms and sleepy little communities on this gorgeous, sunny day.

After stopping at a few of the covered bridges, we made our way north to meet up with Hwy 36 and head home. With thirty-one covered bridges to see, we could have spent several days rambling those roads, and when time allows, we will definitely return. While the road back was considerably less thrilling, I enjoyed the calmer pace. Those small-town residents seem to live a simpler existence and at the same time seem so content. At last, with the city and road home in sight, I waved to my friends and turned in. A sense of fulfillment and relaxation overtook me, and I was thankful for having another opportunity to explore Indiana on a motorcycle.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the May/June 2009 back issue.