Have you been down U.S. 20 East of Elkhart lately? I live out that way and I’m afraid I won’t be able to find my way home anymore. I am getting old, and maybe I am getting old-timers disease. Or could it be that nothing looks like it used to? Where is Pine Creek? Do any of you remember the Farmers Inn on the curve at C.R. 17? Yeah, it was a little greasy spoon, but they had good grub. I’ve lived out that way for 50 years. The first 30 were wonderful. We lived in the country, which is why we moved out of town. In 1987 they built the bypass. They took my mother’s house (where I grew up), farm buildings and most of the neighborhood I was familiar with. Most of our neighbors moved away.
We tolerated months of inconvenience caused by aggressive construction crews. They smashed my fruit trees and almost ran over my young son as he was getting on the bus in the mornings. A stranger almost snatched up our dog when it wandered out onto the moonscape construction zone. I have read that 60,000 or 70,000 vehicles pass by each day.
Honey bee colony collapse? I am seeing a total insect population collapse. As for the wildlife and songbirds, it was a struggle for them to survive the drought last year, and now more highway construction. I do thank the man on the highway who I saw stop his dump truck to pull an ugly snapping turtle off the road and toss it back into the swamp. Even nasty snappers deserve a break from the traffic. The deer can’t navigate the highway medians and spaghetti bowl. Most of them now go under the highway via the Pine Creek bridge. They are smarter than you think.
I remember sitting recently at the new Ivy Tech College, looking out the back window. I suddenly remembered that when I was 6 years old we had rented a barn to keep our horse and pony on a farm owned by Alice Moore. The barn was right there where I was sitting. In later years, I remember zipping around those field and pine tree groves on a snowmobile. The area is now Arbor Lakes apartments. I was riding my horse through the Bullard Farms Corn fields in 1974. The horse threw me off and I broke my leg. That field is now where the bowling alley is located.
The current U.S. 20 East construction really caught me by surprise. I did not realize it was going to impact the neighborhood yet again. I feel for all the folks who live down east of me who have lost their homes or most of their front yards. I think there are a couple of holdouts who have stated that they will have to “lock them up” to get them out of their houses. Have you seen how they just grind up the trees up and spit them out in a big pile? It is awesome. And the houses! They were there yesterday, and gone today! Poof! Our societal goals seem to be all about keeping the cars rolling.
I still love this area. It is where I grew up. But I think I am in love with old memories rather than today’s reality. S.R. 19, Cassopolis Street and U.S. 33 in Dunlap, I am sorry to say, are not very attractive, unless you like telephone poles and power lines. With all the fast-food joints, you could be on the main drag in almost any city in the country. They all look the same. Where are the county planners? Are they planning on building more roads? We had to spend that stimulus money, didn’t we? Talk about a carbon footprint! It looks like Bigfoot has been through there. And the design of these roads. Can you see the river when you cross the bridges? No. Tourists, come see our roads! Miles and miles of hypnotic concrete medians. Don’t fall asleep!
So if you see a bewildered-looking and/or angry older lady, perhaps ranting and yelling expletives, it’s just me, that crazy lady who lives on the north side of U.S. 20. I’m sure many of you will get to share my delight when you are stuck in backed-up traffic. Oh, I’m sure there will be backed-up traffic, and in hot July, I hope.
The new road will be beautiful when it is finished. Enjoy it.