Sometimes you start out on one trip and end up going on a trip you never suspected you were starting.
Last Saturday I decided to take the ’48 Truck to one of the bigger Car Shows in the area. It is in a place called Roanoke, Indiana that really isn’t even a wide place in the road since the road goes by it – but they have put together a set of sponsors that end up bringing almost 500 cars to the show. They include celebrity cars, movie cars and one of their sponsors sprinkles high end cars all around the show. (I’m talking Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis). Corvettes are as common as elbows.
But, the trip I ended up taking was an altogether trip than just going to the show. If you drive an old Jeep, you have already put yourself into a different mindset. Going from here to there isn’t just jump on the road and go, you have to think about how you want to get there. Unless you want to get passed in the fast lane at twice your own speed, you avoid the easy ways.
In northeast Indiana, the interstates take you from one big city to another. At the next level of highways are the US and Indiana highways that tie smaller towns together. You move from Portland to Decatur to Bluffton to Avilla to Kendallville down Indiana highways. But, if you want to stay out of people’s way, the old township roads are the route of choice. Unless lakes and rivers got in the way, Indiana was laid out like a checkerboard with roughly square townships butting up to each other to make square counties. You move across the counties on roads named for the platted townships, keeping track of how you are progressing as the road name changes.
That is the trip I ended up taking Saturday morning. I avoided I-469, US-24, as much of Indiana 1 as possible and I set off across the townships. Township roads are named Adams Center, Marion Center, Pleasant Center, Lafayette Center and such, since they were laid out to connect the centers of townships. They tend to be nice chip and seal roads with no traffic on Saturday mornings, a perfect road for an old Jeep running 40 MPH.
Once you are convinced that the truck is running well, your mind starts to look at what is going on around you. At 40 MPH, you have time to look. The windows are open – original factory air as I tell the grandkids. You can smell the country. (Well, if you go by the pig farm there is “country air”). We had a very wet spring this year and crops are about three weeks late. As you work your way down Pleasant Center Road, the most noticeable smell is corn. It is a sweet smell – but it’s a smell that should have been here by July 4th, not the end of July. Most of the wheat has been harvested and as you pass a field of wheat stubble or straw, you sniff a dusty aroma. Then, in several places, there are huge fields lying fallow. Some farmer decided not to throw good money after bad and had decided to leave a field unplanted because of the weather. It reinforces that even though I did not have to farm as did my grandfather, many of my neighbors still live by the nuances of weather.
As the trip settles in, the gauge scan in the truck becomes more routine. Oil is steady at 35 PSI, temperature is a hair above 160 where it is supposed to be and the ammeter is just a tad above 0, things are good. (Gas is FULL where it stays all of the time until I get that stinkin’ stuck float fixed).
Since I have time to look around and appreciate things, I see things I miss running 75 or 80 down a boring interstate. Township roads are lined with farmhouses that date back close to a hundred years. It is not uncommon to see a sign saying “Heritage Hoosier Farm – 125 Years”. On their west sides are rows of trees planted years ago for windbreaks, probably the second or third generation of those trees. The barns may be new steel buildings, or sagging and droopy bank barns, but the houses tend to be solid and substantial houses built to shelter generations of families.
Red Tailed Hawks sit on power lines and watch me pass and a couple of vultures are disturbed from their breakfast of some unfortunate critter as I putter past. Every so often I pass a substantial, square or rectangular brick building sitting squarely at an intersection. These are the old township schools. Lafayette Township School #2 has been nicely remodeled into an attractive dwelling. On its face is a limestone plaque listing it as dating to 1898 along with the names of long forgotten Township Trustees, architects and builders. Marion Center School has not fared as well. After being converted to a barn or shed, the roof is long gone, the brick walls have mostly fallen in on themselves and the builders’ plaque has been scavenged for its antique value.
Crossing roads speak to the people who settled the area. Roads crossing the township roads still keep their old names; Swartz Road, Graber Road, Tillmann Road, Hessen Cassel – testifying to the German heritage that settlers brought with them. Then too are their churches, good German names like St. John, Emanuel Soest, Decatur Bingen. But, unexpectedly, come names like Berthaud, St. Croix and Lemont – names unmistakably French – with churches named St. Rose of Lima. Not everyone was a German Lutheran.
It’s been a good trip. I’ve seen only about five or six other vehicles and almost all of them gave me high-fives or a thumbs up. At one intersection a young man in newer Wrangler stopped me just to walk around the truck. But, the sign up ahead says “Road Ends 1 Mile”. Try as I will I have to ease south about a half mile and make a mad dash down the end of I-469, evading the semi’s and 80 MPH drivers, to get where I need to go.
What does this have to do with Jeeps? We sometimes lose ourselves in just getting the dern things to run. As I say, Jeeps are a frame of mind. Let yourself kick back and see what kind of journey your Jeep can take you on – it may well be a totally different trip than you originally set out to take.
Check out Larry’s other Blog “Ham’s 48 Willys Truck”
Willys Jeep Life Story – Larry Beardsley
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