Covered Bridges

Riding on Three Across Antique Lumber

On a trip back from Colorado last year, my wife and I stopped at a rest stop in Indiana and, as usual, she was pulling out some of the free brochures of things to see and do. One of the brochures that she picked up read, “Covered Bridges in Parke County, Indiana: The Covered Bridge Capitol of the World.” At first I had no interest in riding back to Indiana, but the more I thought about covered bridges and the fact that I had never seen one, the concept started growing on me. I began to do a little research of the area to see what our options were for places to stay were and where the covered bridges were located. We fl oated the idea of a covered bridge ride to some friends of ours. They loved the idea and were all in, so the trip started taking form.

The first order of business was to decide on a time that would work for everyone’s schedule. We also wanted to go before the weather got too hot, but still hoped to wait until everything had turned green from the winter thaw. After doing some posting on some forums to get feedback from people that lived in Indiana, the dates were set: we would go on Memorial Day weekend. The plan was to leave from Jacksboro, Tenn., on Friday, May 23, and return on Memorial Day, Monday, May 26. As the time was drawing near, we kept a close eye on the weather, as they were calling for rain that weekend and I had no desire to ride that far wet. But as luck would have it, the forecast got pushed out and there was only a small chance on that Friday morning and none during the weekend.

As the day fi nally arrived we had all our gear packed, the trailer hooked up, and the trike all gassed up and ready to go. The trailer is a Wags trailer that we were able to find so that we can take our toy poodle, Muffin, with us on our trips. With everything ready to go, Patty, Muffin and I headed out to go meet with the other couples and head to Indiana. Our friends, Greg and Teresa, plus Jeff and Mary, were waiting at our selected location, and after all were gassed up we hit the road.

None of us really wanted to ride on the interstate, so we opted for riding secondary roads instead. The ride would be roughly 350 miles and at a slower pace, we estimated it would take us about eight hours to get there.

Our ride started out real nice as we went through part of the Daniel Boone National Forest on our way toward Somerset, Ky., and from there was up towards Bardstown and then into Louisville. The sun was out and the temps were running around 80 degrees, so as soon as we had Louisville in our rear-view mirror, we decided to stop and rest — and what better way than getting some ice cream at a Dairy Queen that we found in Salem, Ind.? After fi nishing our ice cream we made our way on up through Bloomington, Ind., and then on to Brazil, Ind., where we would stay for the next three days while we went out looking at the covered bridges.

We stayed at a Best Western Inn that was only nine months old and laid out very nicely. There were also a couple of options for food that were within walking distance of the motel. After trying a couple of places, it didn’t take long to work out that a truck stop across the road called the Iron Skillet was our best choice. It has some of the best food that I think I had ever had. In fact, it was the only place we went to the rest of our time there.

On Saturday morning we started out to fi nd the covered bridges. They were scattered out over a fairly large area, so we began with the closest one fi rst, which was a 16-mile ride from the motel. With perfect weather in the skies, we headed out.

The first bridge we came to was called Mansfield Bridge. It was built in 1867, and at 247 feet long it was very impressive, to say the least. It was located where they set up the Covered Bridge Festival, in an old-town setting complete with an old mill. After walking around and taking some pictures, we were ready to head to the next one, which required us to ride through Mansfi eld Bridge. I was a little nervous to ride on it, since the front wheel would be in the center of the planks while the two back wheels would be on the runners, plus the trailer would be staggered on runners and the planks.

Jeff was the first one to blaze a trail though the bridge and after watching him go through, I felt a little bit more at ease with it. Not all the bridges that we saw allowed traffic, but some were used every day and had just one operational lane. There was also a posted walking speed.

The next bridge was built in 1900 and did not allow traffic. After looking at this bridge, we had to backtrack over the first bridge before we headed to the third one. After crossing it and the main artery that we rode to get there, we turned off one of the many back roads that we would ride in the area. This turned out to be one of the worst roads I had ever been on. There were huge potholes scattered around. We couldn’t ride our trikes more than 10 to 20 mph.

After four miles of this, we fi nally got back onto a nice road and made our way to probably to the nicest-looking bridges and settings of all the covered bridges. Bridgeton was a very nice and very small community, and its bridge is also called Bridgeton. It was built in 2006 to replace the one that had been destroyed by arson the year before. There was a very nice old mill that was there that had been turned into a small store. The bridge had a small waterfall that ran under it that stretched from side to side, and at 245 feet, it was very nice. The mill had platforms to view the bridge and some picnic tables that we took advantage of by pulling out our coolers and fi xing ourselves some sandwiches. After eating, we walked in the small town where there was an antique store and an old cabin. After having our lunch break and doing some exploring, we were off to fi nd more bridges.

We only were able to catch two more of the bridges before calling it a day and heading back to the Iron Skillet.

Day two: Sunday morning found us heading out early. We made a semi-long run up from the motel that morning headed toward Turkey Run State Park and another beautiful bridge called Narrow Bridge. It was built in 1882 and it ran 121 feet across Sugar Creek.

After Narrow Bridge we would visit 11 more bridges. Some we had to go out on gravel roads for up to three or four miles, and at a slow rate so as to not throw rocks all over the paint. I have since learned that it is a lot easier to traverse gravel on three wheels than two, especially on a bike as heavy as a Gold Wing.

In all we visited 16 of the 31 covered bridges. The oldest was built in 1856 and is still in use today. The bridges ranged in length from 43 feet all the way up to 247 feet. It was very impressive to ride across something that had been built by hand that long ago and is still fully functional today. The bridges are an amazing piece of history that still serves a vital part to this small area.

After visiting the Iron Skillet once more, it was time to pack our bags and head back to Tennessee. This was a very nice area with some great people and although we only accomplished 16 of the 31 bridges there, we had a very good time.

We headed for home Monday at 7am. They were calling for heavy rain coming into Indiana and Tennessee. We were close to the interstate, so we hopped on it and headed home. We made very good time coming back and after pulling into the garage dry as a bone, we watched as the rain came pouring down 30 minutes later. We narrowly missed the wet weather, but it had been a great weekend with some good friends looking at some amazing engineering structures.

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