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The Beauty and the Beast of Southern Indiana

West Baden Springs Hotel, photo by Geoff Chen


The Beauty and the Beast of Southern Indiana

For those of you who have headed south of Indy for any particular reason, the scenery makes it worth the drive. It’s truly a beautifully, amazing sight how our entire state changes from the flatness of growing crops to hills, mountains and windy roads. They will make your stomach turn if you aren’t careful. If you can look around and enjoy the drive, you’ll see hidden gems around each curve: the magic as the trees play off each other in their own unique color; little waterfalls and streams with glistening water; and the wildlife. Be prepared for your eyes to see baby deer with their mamas, almost camouflaged by the assortment of colors.

I have always enjoyed the drive south of Indianapolis, especially since I graduated from Indiana University. A lot of wonderful memories come flooding back as I pass the College/Walnut Street exit. Over the years, driving further south to French Lick, Indiana (home of the Historic French Lick Springs Resort and the neighboring hotel in West Baden) has become a bit of a tradition for our family.

So it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that I was looking forward to the drive south last weekend. The weather was perfect. My bathing suit and flip flops were packed, as well as dinner attire. I had the stops along the road somewhat planned out, if needed. Coffee and a snack were next to me in the car. I had my music playing and my windows down, and I was heading out just as rush hour traffic was ending. I was happy, confident, in charge and excited about a short weekend away.

However, that quickly changed once I got 45 minutes down the road.

The construction started shortly before I reached Bloomington. Although the lane markings got a bit tricky in some areas, the slower speed limits coupled with the Sunday drivers out on a Friday, were more of an inconvenience.

No, the construction wasn’t changing my mood at all. It was the crying and intermittent screaming fits coming from the backseat of my car which started out of nowhere that were slowly depleting my excitement. You see, I had my three kids in the backseat with me and it seemed on that particular day and time, my daughter was going to find anything and everything to cry about.

The worst of it actually didn’t start until I had already passed the 2nd Street exit for Bloomington. But, by this time, yelling at the brothers to not “look at me” and “they’re touching me” was beginning to escalate. At least the boys were listening and not adding to the outburst. I called my mother-in-law, as they were heading to French Lick, as well. We only were able to catch about every other word of the conversation because of the yelling. But all I needed to hear was “We’ll hurry!” to settle me a bit.

I told the kids that I was going to drive through McDonald’s in an effort to calm my daughter. The mere mention of McDonald’s can sometimes get them to behave a bit better, and actually, her screaming lessened a bit to just crying ‘very loudly’.

We were passing Bedford by now and the stops which I had picked out in my head had all been passed except for one of them: the McDonald’s just off SR 37 in Mitchell, Indiana. And with being so close to our final destination, I was only allowing for us to drive-thru, not get out and go inside, so I really hoped none of them were going to mention having to go to the bathroom.

She stopped crying long enough to eat her hash brown. And then she started full-force again. The road was beginning to narrow at this point in the drive and there are more turns to look out for. My eyes were glued to the road and I was trying as hard as I could to tune my daughter out, but it was nerve-wrecking and I was becoming a bit rattled.

When I got to a straight stretch in the roadway, I called my husband. I just needed to talk to the one person who knows exactly how our kids can act and also how to calm me when my anxiety kicks in. He heard the ruckus and asked “Do you need to pull over somewhere?” I was about to answer, but my daughter cried louder and instead I said “I need to go,” and we hung up.

His question hung in the air in the car: Do I need to pull over?

The answer to the question of whether I needed to pull over and try to calm my daughter down for the remainder of the trip was most likely ‘yes’; but the plan in my head did not allow for any more stops until we reached the hotel. So, I was going to stick to my plan and plow through, while hoping my child would settle down.

Seems silly to stick to some random plan in my head rather than pull over on the shoulder of a country road or even in a parking lot of a fast food restaurant or gas station, I know. But, you see, just as the landscape in Indiana changes from flat fields of corn to rolling hills and ever-changing colors the further south you go, so does the views and attitudes towards people of darker skin color change. And not for the better.

As a brown-skinned person (and a woman for the double whammy!), this is something I think about – especially, when the kids are with me.

Our trip was mapped out ahead of time:

  • Full tank of gas
  • Limit drink intake and keep snacks at the ready
  • Take IPads and other games to entertain kids
  • Wish, Hope and Pray to the Gods you believe in that the kids will fall asleep half way into the trip
  • SR 67 to 37 through Martinsville – we can stop along 67, but not anywhere in Martinsville
  • SR 37 – We can stop at any Bloomington exit
  • SR37 – We only go through drive-thru places in Bedford and Mitchell
  • SR 37 – Anywhere south of Mitchell until we reach the resort we Do Not Stop
  • Have pull ups handy in case we are between Mitchell and French Lick
  • Have extra clothes ready in case an accident happens – which, I will allow to happen before I take the chance of stopping and hauling my children into a potential unfriendly environment

You get the picture, right? And that’s only some of the things that cross my mind. I know, I know, so many people will disagree with me and go so far as to say that I’m exaggerating. They may even say that I, myself, am somehow making this racial divide in our state worse by thinking about these things and talking about them.

If you are one of those people, or if you just don’t know why these thoughts go through my mind as I travel anywhere nowadays, then I suggest you look into these potentially dangerous encounters on your own. And for those who don’t want to do the leg-work, then here’s an article from the Herald Times titled “White nationalist group seeks to form separate community in Paoli”. For those of you not familiar with the roadmap of the state of Indiana, Paoli is directly between Mitchell and French Lick, Indiana.

That scares the shit out of me.

If a road trip south of Indianapolis doesn’t have you mapping out your stops or worrying about what you will do or where you can stop if your child suddenly has an epic meltdown, then be thankful.

Unfortunately, I do not have that luxury. And only for the simple, yet oh so complex reason of that my skin color is only a few shades darker than most. It is a nice, tan brown.

I find it sad and unsettling that as the beauty of our state shows through in the landscape of Southern Indiana with so many different colors, the beauty in our varying skin colors does not.


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Sandhya is a wife and mother of twin boys (4) and little girl (3), first. She also goes by author, writer, caregiver, and the family-glue for her village. She's a dreamer, a soul-catcher, lover of words, an empath and wanderer searching for lost souls, all while craving culture and diversity to bring everyone together. She is author of the book, When It's Not As Simple As The Birds And The Bees: Finding Hope While Dealing With Infertility.  She enjoys writing poetry and has been published numerous times, as well as being a two time award winning poet.  She's dabbled as a songwriter, but leaves that to the pros. Stay tuned, you will see all of it here.

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