As I plan our photography trips, I am always on the lookout for places to stop and take a break on the way. Illinois is usually on the list, since we can’t get to many places without venturing into Illinois.
In 2009, our planned destination was southern Ohio. That meant planning places to stop across Illinois and Indiana. We got a late start on this trip due to some unexpected early morning car trouble, but finally we got on the road around 11 AM (a very late start, if you know us at all).
Our first stop in rural Illinois was an old stone barn. Stone barns in this part of the country are hard to find, so whenever we have the chance to stop at one, we take it.
Another barn we’ve stopped at several times is a barn we had seen as we passed it on the interstate. Finding it on the backroads was a little harder, and the couple of times we hunted it up, we thought we must have taken a wrong turn until we finally stumbled upon it.
After the stop at the stone barn, we got back on the highway and headed east. At a small town called Mansfield, we saw a sign that advertised “General Store” and pointed off the highway. Never ones to pass up a general store, we veered off the highway and into town.
It was quiet on the downtown street with the general store, but luckily the store was open. The old door had several antique advertising signs on it, and the inside still had the old wooden floors and a vintage cooler section.
Advertising for Purity Bread, Boylan Soda, and Mountain Dew on Door of General Store, Piatt County, Illinois
After chatting with the store’s owner and buying a couple of sodas for the road, we went back to the car and headed down the highway.
Another planned stop was a small town we had visited on a previous trip. The main highway runs along the edge of town and along the highway sits an old depot and an old farmstead with a Mail Pouch Tobacco barn.
The depot has many interesting details, and Joann spent some time photographing the doors and architectural details.
The depot is unpainted, and the wood is varying shades of brown, making all of the details of the building that much more interesting.
Hidden off the main highway is an old Bull Durham advertising sign. We had to ask a local to find out the location of the sign. When we know something is in town, but we aren’t sure where it is, we’re always glad to find someone who knows.
By now the sun was setting and we were getting tired. We had intended to get quite a ways into Indiana that first day but, due to our late start, we only made it just across the border. So we had to hunt up a motel in the dark. This is never the best situation, but we have to do what we have to do sometimes just to find a place to fall into bed.
Early the next morning, we hit the road. We decided to take the historic National Road. It would allow us to make pretty good time, yet keep us off of the interstate. We kept our eyes on the old buildings we passed for unique architectural details.
Joann loves old doorknobs and keyholes, so we always have to watch for old doors that may have possibilities. I keep my binoculars handy, so if we see a possibility, she can slow down or pull over and I can check out the door.
The old barns we find are almost always just stumbled on. There are very few sites that document old barns or give away their locations. We love old barns with interesting details, like this barn with unusual cupolas.
Right before we reached Ohio, we made one last stop at an abandoned farm, where I had a short conversation with a local cop.
No matter where we’re headed, we can always find interesting things along the way. On your next trip, pay close attention and see what you find.