Savoring the joys of a road less trodden

Becky and I have learned over these wedded years that if we don’t go away for our anniversary, we will spend the day doing everyday, at-home stuff. You know, bills, errands, housework, and the other necessary but prosaic activities that fill our lives. We wind up frittering away our special day.

This year we chose to leave all that for three days to explore the environs of Corydon in southern Indiana.

Fully aware of Interstate 65 construction (suggestion for a new state motto: “Indiana: Road Work Next 852 Miles”), our plan was to do a blue highways trip keeping to smaller roads. We worked our way to State Road 135. Maybe it was because it was midmorning, midweek, but we had the road mostly to ourselves.

On our map we read “The Longest Historical Covered Bridge in the United States” just off the highway near Medora. Let’s check it out.

We had the bridge to ourselves until a truck pulled up, a guy got out and slowly walked up the ramp. He was carrying an adz. (Later I imagined what a suspenseful scene from a horror movie that would make.) We soon figured out he considered himself the unofficial caretaker of the bridge. He brought the adz to show us how the builders back in 1875 would have shaped the wooden arches of the 430-foot bridge.

It was obvious that this bridge was his passion, especially when he went into a detailed explanation as to why those people out East who claim the Cornish Windsor Bridge over the Connecticut River is the longest historical covered bridge are all wet. “It’s the way they are measured,” he declared. “A bridge should be measured by the part that spans the river not by the housing beyond the span.”

It was obviously a heartfelt, long-running disagreement in which we weren’t prepared to participate, so we listened politely until Becky pointed out a heron standing in the White River. After a time we were back on the road.

We arrived in Corydon; and before we checked in at our bed and breakfast, we talked to the volunteers at the tourist office. We strolled around the town, visiting the First State Capitol building, the Governor’s Headquarters, Constitution Elm, the site of the Civil War Battle of Corydon and the Leora Brown School, one of the first schools for African-Americans in Indiana. Lots of early Indiana history in such a small town.

Our bed and breakfast was in another historic building, the Kitner House. You always meet such interesting people at B&Bs. We were sitting on the old front porch rocking in our chairs when a young man rode up on a bicycle with a New York State license plate attached to the frame. Jeffery had left New York the first part of August with a vague intention of riding across the country. (“Maybe I’ll follow Route 66.”)

We enjoyed talking with him. He seemed like an intelligent guy, but it was the end of September, after all, and his ride was one of those clunky shared bikes you can rent in some bigger cities. (Indianapolis has such a program.) A lot of cold weather was ahead even taking a southern route.

I certainly respect spontaneity and serendipity, yet I couldn’t help feeling he hadn’t thought this through. Nevertheless, Becky and I wished him luck when we parted.

At the O’Bannon Woods State Park, the park ranger was enthusiastic as he explained the mechanics involved in the earliest attempts to bale hay instead of delivering it loose in wagons. The town booster we met at the pizza place (He referred to himself as “the mayor of Corydon”) was enthusiastic, as well. Although we are pretty sure he was never actually elected, he sure loved his town.

The importance we assign to the place we call home, to where we are grounded no matter how big or small, cannot be overstated.

We took another blue highway, U.S. 31, on our way home. Ate lunch in Scottsburg on the courthouse square, and the people sitting at the bar bantered like they had known each other forever.

Eventually we arrived at our little spot in southern Johnson County. We soon settled into the familiar routine, happy to be back at the place we call home.