Wandering On The Backroads Of America

A number of years ago, I had just dropped off my family at the airport in South Bend, Indiana as they flew to visit relatives living on the west coast. Knowing that if I went with them, I would be the chauffeur for 2 women and 4 kids (did not count their dog...but it was a factor) in Seattle (a beautiful city, but a city I had yet to visit)...I chose to stay in Michigan (working proved to be much more restful than being a driver in Washington State). I decided, on a whim, to travel as many small roads between South Bend and the Detroit Metro area to visit my Dad. Being a planning kind of guy....the word "whim" is a bit foreign to me....but I took a chance. I looked at the area between the two locations...and immediately removed any travel choices on a highway or 2 lane road.

I was on a black and white photography kick (and had no clue what I was doing) and decided to find old barns and any abandoned small building with character. Being a male....and a man who even once took a cartography (map drawing) class in college (yes...on purpose)....I used the map only to be sure I was NOT heading toward that well beaten path of the masses.

Along the way I found a barn here....a farmhouse there.... Then I headed toward a small town. After all of these years, I cannot remember the name of the town (if you want that cluster of buildings a town)....but I remember the building. It once was the pride of the area. The school...not what you would expect...not a one room schoolhouse. Maybe it had two or three rooms. It was a single story building. Now covered in faded and flaking white paint, it was still able to grab my attention. Symmetrical in its design, the entrance split the mirror images of the left...and the right. Two windows were located high, accented by a bit of a curved gable. Some of the glass in the windows had fallen prey to a well aimed, or lucky, thrown stone....but the building, although simple...was still majestic in its own way. The roof looked to be in good condition. The door had not been opened in many years.

The lot was ringed by an older chain linked fence...the gate closed and locked long ago...and the key to unlock it had been lost over time. Weeds had overtaken the lot...and were now over two feet high. Yet, something pulled me to that place. I thought I would spend a few minutes taking a couple of photographs...then I would go. I was there, in that small town, too small for even a blinking stoplight...for over an hour. This was a time of using rolls of film....and I used an entire roll on this building that many would never see.

I thought about all of the people in the county, long since gone, that went to that school. I did not see its neglect...but what I did see was a building of character, the pride of the area,.and the lives it changed. It transformed mine.

Take time to travel the back roads of your area. Take time to go off that beaten path...and find your own old building. If you live in a city...look, really look, at some of the buildings downtown....even those that are neglected...and think of their history...

It was a much longer trip than it had to be....to get from point A...to point B. And I would do it again in an instant.
EloquentExec EloquentExec
51-55, M
8 Responses Nov 25, 2011

It was a great way to remember.....what matters.

A great adventure, Im sure.

Belatedly...thank you all for your comments

I still love to travel the backroads of Indiana

How fun!

Try it sometime...

Great story!! I absolutely adore old buildings and in the quiet if you listen long enough you can hear the echo's of their stories blowing in the wind. Like you when I see them there's a lure that attracts my attention as I think about that building in its glory days. I had the pleasure of living near one of the old one room school houses. Drove by it everyday for years and I absolutely adored it. I was lucky enough to be able to know some of the last people who attended that little school. Saw some pictures of the inside full of students. Found some old signature cards of poems and verses they traded back and forth.<br />
It went up for sale and my heart broke as it was converted into a home. Along the way I have found many little treasures like this, and the affect has always been the same. :)

That is EXACTLY what I wanted to express. You could nearly feel the history of the area that pulsed through that single building. Thank you for your kind comments.

As usual, ELuv....you constantly amaze me. I have always wanted to do Geocaching. It is the small things....those overlooked things that we notice when we look at our daily lives with a new perspective.<br />
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And, as always...thank you for your reply

I've done my version of this on foot using Geocaching. It's kind of like a treasure hunt using a GPS system. People all over the world hide treasures and give clues on the internet (geocaching.com). I thought I'd walked all over my town and seen it all .... that was, until a friend arrived for a visit. He's an avid geocacher and informed me that there were about a dozen treasures hidden around my little town. We set out to find them. The treasures weren't the real prize ... it was the hidden alleyways and little trails that I never knew existed.