Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
Welcome back. The trip from the far northeast corner of Oklahoma along highway 44 to St. Louis and the internationally known structure known as the “Gateway to the West” or the “Arch of St. Louis” takes six hours. Along the way you pass beautiful mountain scenery, the famous resort town of Branson, Missouri and Six Flags amusement park. Then you see the striking monument that was built in 1963 to celebrate the westward expansion of the United States. At 630 feet this gleaming stainless steel structure is the tallest man made monument in the country.
From the Arch going north, highway 44 becomes highway 70 and the mountainous terrain turns to farmland. The exit ramps lead to small rural communities and mostly $60 a night and up motels for the weary travel until you hit Terre Haute, Indiana, the home of a major federal penitentiary. The prison was constructed in 1938 by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was responding to the request of the local Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. At the time, during the Great Depression, the prison was seen as an important source of jobs and other economic stimulus. Since then the prison has grown to become a multi-purpose facility. It includes a rehabilitation wing devoted to improving inmates’ reading, writing and math skills along with a trade school. There is a level three care unit which provides medical services to seriously ill prisoners, some of whom are transferred from other parts of the country to be cared for in Terre Haute. Another area of the prison houses “lifers”, who are the inmates who will never be released. And then there is death row.
Due to its central location, in 1993 the federal government designated United States Prison (USP) Terre Haute as the facility that would house and ultimately execute those prisoners who have received a death sentence in federal court. There are currently58 inmates in what the government called the “Special Confinement Unit” on death row.
You may have heard of a few of the notorious men who drew their last breath here. Timothy McVeigh who was convicted in 1997 for planning and carrying out the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City which killed 168 people is one example. McVeigh was executed in 2001.
Also executed in 2001 was drug king pin Juan Raul Garza. Garza was convicted of numerous murders and for importing thousands of pounds of marijuana into the United States.
Gulf War veteran Louis Jones Jr. was put to death in 2003 for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of an enlisted woman at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. As you can see the list goes on as the men awaiting execution includes a wide range of convicted drug dealers, sex offenders, murderers and terrorists. Although there’s plenty of hotels in this area right off I-70 in Terre Haute, Indianapolis is just an hour and a half away and I usually go on.
The Indianapolis area is rich in history from many eras. This was once the home of the Delaware tribe until they were displaced by the government and relocated to other lands. The city was chosen to be the state capital in 1820.
According to the 2010 census, Indianapolis is now the 12th largest city in the country with a thriving arts and sports scene. The Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard 400 and Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball tournaments all take place here along with concerts, exhibitions and a variety of cultural festivals. Definitely a place where I would like to sped more time.
Richmond is the last major town before you leave Indiana as I-70 rolls across the American heartland into Ohio. The next stop for me was Columbus, Ohio which at one point in time was governed by the French. Back in the early 1750s George Washington conducted a survey of the area and that survey led to a struggle for control of the region, sparking the seven year French-Indian war.
From Columbus, I travel on through Wheeling, West Virginia and on to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Then I take a turn north toward I-80 and Lake Erie of Great Lakes fame. I-80 cuts across Pennsylvania and this is where I stopped for my second night on the road.
The vast terrain of Pennsylvania is nothing less than spectacular and well worth a closer look but I’ve got business in New York City and on the streets of Manhattan where I’ll be reporting from next time. Till then, I’ll see ya down the road….