Foot High Pie
Day 61 – May 31, 2003 – Saturday
One of my favorite movies of all times is “Hoosiers.” I also love “Rudy,” and a number of other movies where the underdog works hard and succeeds in the end. The movies are even better when they are based on true stories, like “Rudy” and “Hoosiers.” Basketball is IT in Indiana, so it was especially important for me to see an important basketball sight in the state.
“Hoosiers” was released in 1986. It’s a movie about a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. The film is set during 1952, when all high schools in Indiana, regardless of school size, competed against each other in one state championship tournament. It stars Gene Hackman as a new coach with a spotty past, Barbara Hershey, Sheb Wooley, and Dennis Hopper as the basketball-loving town drunkard, a performance that brought him an Oscar nomination. The movie was written by Angelo Pizzo, who co-produced “Rudy,” and was directed by David Anspaugh, who directed “Rudy.” The movie was loosely based on the 1954 Milan Indiana Indians becoming the smallest school to win the one-class Indiana state championship in the modern era against all odds. In 1954, Milan was a quiet rural town in the southeastern part of Indiana, with a high school of 161 students, but it became the scene of one of the greatest basketball stories in history.
So it was with great anticipation that I headed east from Indianapolis to the town of Knightstown, Indiana, site of the basketball gym that was used in the movie. The gym was closed, but I was able to peek in the windows. I couldn’t see much through the windows, but I replayed in my mind the movie and what I had read about that amazing team, and I couldn’t help but be inspired.
In hindsight, I wish I had planned to go to the town of Milan.
Knightstown has a lot of 19th and 20th century architecture with a number of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I took photos of a great restored gas station. I saw an interesting gun shop. The sign was a giant bullet, and there were two giant bullet holes on the roof. I’m sure there was a lot more to see, but there was a lot of road ahead.
I headed back to Indianapolis on US 40, the historic National Road, the nation’s first federally funded interstate highway.
Back in Indianapolis, I went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I drove in and enjoyed seeing this historic place. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be where I ended up. I just saw an open roadway into the Speedway, and I drove on in. A security guard waved me down and asked me to turn around and go back out the way I came in. I was happy to oblige, but I did hop out of the car and grab a couple of photos first. “The Brickyard” is the oldest race track in the country, and the Indy 500 is the most famous car race in the world. A half a million people were there just a few days before my visit for the race, held the Sunday before Memorial Day.
It was raining in Indy, and it rained most of the way to Illinois. I saw some cool barns today — Eaglesfield-Hunt Barn in Reelsville, Indiana, the Happy Valley Farms barn, and many others. I love the look of old barns — not sure why, I just have always loved the look of old barns and old buildings.
I visited Brazil…Indiana. I do enjoy the odd and funny names of towns. I have taken photos of many city limits signs for these towns.
I figured there are certain must-sees on a road trip of this type, and Terre Haute, Indiana was on my list because it is called the “Crossroads of America.” In the early days of cross-country travel, Terre Haute benefitted by its location on the old National Road (U.S. 40) between Indianapolis and Vandalia, Illinois. At about the same time, U.S. Highway 41 was commissioned between Chicago, Illinois and Miami, Florida. This north-south highway through downtown Terre Haute followed Seventh Street at the time, and met U.S. 40, which followed Wabash Avenue, the main east-west street in town. The Seventh and Wabash intersection thus became known as the “Crossroads of America,” and this is now memorialized with a historical marker at that corner. I found the corner, and took a photograph.
In the process, I’m afraid I found myself going the wrong way on a one-way street in Terre Haute, but Officer Ed helped me. No ticket — just help to get me headed in the right direction. Best Police award goes to Terre Haute!
Vandalia, Illinois was an interesting stop. Vandalia was originally the capital of Illinois, and I saw the Old Statehouse there as well as a Madonna of the Trail.
I stopped in Greenup, Illinois. I was attracted by really interesting overhanging porches on all the downtown buildings. It reminded me of New Orleans. I learned that Greenup is known as the “Village of the Porches” and is often referred to as the “Jewel of the National Road.” The Village of Greenup is filled with quaint antique shops. Many buildings in Greenup are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I had lunch at the Stockyards Restaurant in Greenup. I just loved my waitress, Jenny. She was SO ENTHUSIASTIC about the food and as sweet and cute as can be. I enjoyed my Very Berry Pie.
Just outside Greenup, I saw a great covered bridge. The Jackson Covered Bridge spans the Embarras River.
I drove for quite a few miles with nothing much to see, and then I saw a small, hand-lettered sign advertising “Mile High Pie.” I got an immediate adrenalin rush, and I sat up straighter and became more alert hoping the Mile High Pie place was still in business somewhere down the road. I had just about decided that the pie place was long gone when I saw another sign promoting the pie. And I was really excited when I spotted the cafe!
I pulled into the Blue Springs Cafe in Highland, Illinois for pie instead of dinner. Carlene, Lauren, Raechel, Cami, Brett, and Brian greeted me. Cami was the manager, and she was great. I told them all about the trip and the pie-eating that I had been doing. They brought Tammy, their pie lady, out of the kitchen to meet me. Tammy makes as many as 100 pies a day, though Highland’s population is only 1,200. Tammy and Cami prepared a special plate for me of six different pieces of Mile High Pie. The pie was great. The pies are 12-inches high because Tammy puts this huge meringue topping on all of her pies. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with everyone on the staff, and the customers all got a kick out of seeing me eat six pieces of pie. Half the place was wearing Mardi Gras beads before I left. Foot High Pie.
Tour buses were unloading as I headed out the door. The Blue Springs Cafe packs them in from buses. As I was about to hop in my car and head down the road, I met Tammy, Stephen, Brady, Little Allie, Edie, Kari, Luke, Marion, and Randy from New Mexico. They were just leaving the wedding of Marion and Randy’s son to a Casey Illinois girl, and they stopped for a pie. They were an especially lovely family, and I really enjoyed getting to know them.
My next stop was the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, Illinois. It was huge and very impressive. The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle is on Route 159, just south of downtown Collinsville. The 170-foot tall water tower was built in 1949 by the W.E. Caldwell Company for the G.S. Suppiger catsup bottling plant – bottlers of Brooks Catsup.
This landmark roadside attraction was saved from demolition and beautifully restored to its original appearance in 1995, due to the efforts of a preservation group. In August 2002, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
My day ended with a sunset in Alton, Illinois.
My thought for the day is how impressed I have been with most of the young people I have met on the trip. Nice, well-mannered, well-spoken young people. Marion and Randy’s children seemed like really special young folks, and the staff at the Blue Springs Cafe seemed special as well.
Today marked two full months since the trip began on April 1. It certainly doesn’t seem that long to me.
The Daily Journal of Round America:
Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.
You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.