Day 2 Summary – August 1, 2005
Downers Grove, IL to Lexington, KY
Downers Grove, where I spent the first night of my vacation, appeared to be a very nice, mildly affluent suburb some 20 miles west of Chicago. Unlike many suburbs in this day and age, Downers Grove also had a very clearly old, yet still very vibrant downtown area. The city council of Downers Grove should be commended for making the downtown area so warm and inviting.
Also prominent in Downer Grove’s downtown area is a classy depot served by both Metra and Amtrak. Metra is a commuter rail service that travels between downtown Chicago to the outlying suburbs. Although it may not be as fast as traveling by car, I’ve got to imagine it has to be a whole lot less stressful to drive – or walk, depending on how close you live – down to the Metra station, climb aboard the train and ride right into downtown Chicago.
We were fortunate enough to be in Downers Grove to see both the outbound 1227 Metra train and the inbound 1262 train arrive to the station just about right on time.
After spending close to an hour at the depot, we left at about 10:00 to get on the road to begin the long journey to Lexington, KY.
Since I had already seen the primary attraction in downtown Chicago (the Sears Tower Skydeck) two years ago, and did not particularly want to experience traffic through downtown on a weekday, we opted to go through the southern suburbs of Chicago into the suburbs in Indiana. This route required taking the Tri-State Tollway, which merged in with the Moline Expressway and later the Bishop Ford Freeway to form a merged Interstate 80/94 that took us into Indiana.
Pretty much all of the roads in the area were undergoing construction, which not only made it a bit difficult to navigate the area, but also meant that many of the signs that would normally be located along the roadway were not there. One of the victims of construction was the welcome to Indiana sign that I was anxiously waiting for. I really had no idea that we had crossed into Indiana until I began seeing exit signs announcing roads going into Hammond and Gary, two of the Indiana suburbs of Chicago.
We got off of Interstate 80/94 to get on Interstate 65, which would take us into Indianapolis and ultimately Kentucky.
The trip between the eastern suburbs of Chicago to Indianapolis didn’t include anything all that special. There was a rest area we stopped at about an hour south of the Illinois and Indiana border that was pretty much your typical Indiana rest area: no attendants on duty and a very, very limited number of brochures and travel information. It was basically just a place to get out of the car, walk around, and use the bathroom.
We soon got back on the road, went through the outskirts of Lafayette, IN, the home of Purdue University, and eventually made it to the Indianapolis metro area. I was in Indianapolis during my vacation to Washington D.C., and even though I thoroughly enjoyed the city and would like to visit some more of the attractions there, such as the Indiana History Center, we really didn’t have enough time to stop and look around. I knew that we would be losing an hour by crossing into the Eastern Time Zone in Indiana, so that made adhering to a strict schedule a little bit more important.
As we made it about 40 miles south of Indianapolis we came upon the city of Columbus. Even though the Columbus area visitors’ center was one of the places I had highlighted before the trip as being an attraction potentially worth seeing, I wasn’t confident at all that we would actually take the time to take a side-trip into the city of Columbus.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, after seeing a large sign along the interstate for the Columbus Area Visitors’ Center, we actually decided to turn off of the interstate and see what there was to see in Columbus, a city of roughly 40,000.
Looking back on it, I’m so glad we took the time to go into Columbus, since it was a very interesting place. After looking around at a small exhibit area in the visitors’ center dedicated to discussing the city of Columbus – from the past to present times – I soon learned that Columbus is an architectural masterpiece in the Midwest. Partly due to the desires of generations of city developers to make the most majestic city as possible, and partly due to being home to a major architecture firm for years, just about all of the city and downtown buildings in Columbus look simply wonderful and are truly one-of-a-kind. In fact, as pointed out by the displays in the visitors’ center, people studying architecture come to Columbus from all over the United States and world to see the massive amount of examples of striking designs on display in the buildings of Columbus. The city even offers a bus tour daily to those who wish to see all of the fine buildings in Columbus. For those who opt not to take the bus, however, the city also has a self-guided walking and driving tour, which was exactly in line with the amount of time we had to spend in the city.
Following the self-guided driving architectural tour of Columbus, we drove around the downtown area marveling at all of the stately-looking buildings for about a half an hour. You can view pictures of some of the buildings I saw below this entry, but I suggest going to the architecture portion of the official website of the city of Columbus here to learn more about all of the architectural gems in the city of Columbus. The website also has pictures, albeit small ones, of all the stops on the architecture tour.
After viewing downtown, we decided to head down to Mill Race Park, also on the architecture tour. The park could really be considered a sculpture garden, though, since there were so many fine examples of design here on display. Even the bathrooms in the park looked magnificent (look at the pictures below to see).
By far the greatest part of the park was the 84-foot observation tower located within it. I climbed up to the top and was greeted with a nice tree-level view of the city of Columbus as well as the Flat Rock and Driftwood Rivers that flow together in Columbus to form the east fork of the White River.
If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Columbus, I would highly recommend visiting to take a look around. I know now why in 2003 Rand McNally picked the city for its Best of the Road™ feature, stating that “Columbus ranks among the country’s top 10 architecturally significant cities.”
After climbing back down from the tower, we left the city of Columbus and got back on Interstate 65. After traveling a bit, it was time for another small excursion, this time to visit Pigeon Roost State Historic Site near Scottsburg, IN. The site is home to an obelisk monument dedicated to a group of area settlers that were killed by hostile Indians during the War of 1812. The obelisk and surrounding gardens were interesting to look at, and the area provided a nice place for me to stretch my legs and do some walking around.
After visiting the historic site, we got back on the 2-lane U.S. Highway 31 for a short, 7-mile drive to Henryville, IN. Here, we got back on Interstate 65 and were on our way into Kentucky.
Before I get ahead of myself, I should mention that I do believe there is an accent border around the Columbus area. Up to that city, the people spoke largely with the same Midwestern accent I am used to here in Minnesota. After Columbus, and actually within the city of Columbus, the people I had interactions with spoke with a mixture of a Midwest and a southern/Kentucky accent. I’m guessing the closer we got to the Kentucky/Indiana border, the more people began speaking with full Kentucky accents.
I think, after losing an hour somewhere in Indiana (in a part of the state that adheres to Eastern Daylight Time), it wasn’t until 6:30 or 7 at night when we finally got to Louisville. Consequently, any attractions that I would have wanted to see in the city would have already been shut down, so we more or less just drove through the city and got on Interstate 64 heading east toward Lexington. The view from the interstate bridge crossing the Ohio River between Jeffersonville, IN and Louisville, KY was pretty amazing, however, so check the pictures below for that.
The landscape definitely got hillier as we entered Kentucky; there were even some small tunnels in the eastern section of Louisville.
At the southern border of Frankfort, we got off the interstate to take some scenic back roads into Lexington. First U.S. Highway 127 got us into Lawrenceburg, and then U.S. Highway 62 got us to Versailles and later our hotel in Lexington. Not much happened after that, except I did get to eat once more at a Popeye’s, a restaurant chain I desperately think should be brought to the Brainerd area.
The depot in downtown Downers Grove
Main Street Plaza in downtown Downers Grove
The rest area in Indiana had a small pine forrest
Halfway between Chicago and Indianapolis
Getting on the road to Indianapolis...
The Central High School in Columbus
The First Christian Church in Columbus
The front of the Columbus Public Library had this figure
One of the office buildings in downtown Columbus
Columbus's library had a drive-thru book drop-off
Even the bathrooms in Columbus's Mill Race Park look nice
An interesting sculpture in Mill Race Park
Mill Race Park also is where three rivers come together
Looking down the East Fork White River
The interesting viewing platform to see the three rivers
A bridge going nowhere in the park
Another sculpture in the park along one of the walking trails
The oberservation tower in Mill Race Park
The view of downtown Columbus from the tower
Two bridges going over the East Fork White River
The tallest building in Columbus is the county courthouse
One more look at downtown Columbus
Climbing down the stairs of the tower
Pigeon Roost State Historic Site
The oblisk at Pigeon Roost
The picnic area at Pigeon Roost
The Anderson County Court House in Lawrenceburg, KY
One of the over-the-road Oasises along the Tri-State Tollway
One of the only Indiana signs I saw
The Indianapolis Skyline
A "committed to education" Indiana license plate
The welcome to Kentucky sign on the bridge spanning the Ohio River between Jefferson, IN and Louisville, KY
The Louisville skyline
The Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky
Click here to view all these pictures in one gallery.
Morning Traffic Report from WBBM-TV
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View from Columbus, Indiana Observation Tower
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Pigeon Roost Historic Site
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