The Greatest Place to Live in the Greatest Time to Live Here

Besides founding and writing for National Road, Donovan Wheeler writes for Indiana on Tap and ISU's STATE Magazine.
Besides founding and writing for National Road, Donovan Wheeler writes for Indiana on Tap and ISU’s STATE Magazine.

Almost five years ago, after my divorce and subsequent bankruptcy, I was looking to move…as far away as possible to the most non-Midwestern place I could find so I could engage in a complete life-reboot. As it happened, I landed a date with a woman. But she wasn’t any woman; she was (and still is, of course) that woman you’d drop every life plan in the universe to be with. She was, and I did.

—–A half-decade later, both my personal life and my credit score in much better shape, I find myself thankful that I never left Western Indiana. Much of America jokes about this part of the nation as “fly-over” territory, but that’s both an arrogant and ill-informed claim. It just so happens that from my address I enjoy arguably the greatest quality of life…not just in the country but in the world.

—–Life on each of the coasts is expensive, and almost all the people I know who go out there end up coming back, forced home because coastal living cleans out their bank accounts. There’s no shame in that, trust me…I know what it feels like to turn your pockets inside-out. Instead, coming home is actually a blessing, a gift. And the coasts aren’t the only false-paradises out there. The South is too “Dixie” for me. Canada is cold, Mexico and much of the Caribbean is honestly dangerous. South America is increasingly destabilizing. Africa…? No. Australia seems cool, but it’s also pricey. The Far East requires way too much of a cultural adjustment for my tastes, and Europe is a political mess which is on the verge of becoming an economic one to boot.

—–That leaves right here: The Midwest, and specifically, Western Indiana. Where I live, I’m one hour or less from small towns such as Bloomington, Lafayette, Terre Haute, and I’m 50 minutes from Indianapolis. And as big cities go, Indy offers me everything I can get in Chicago without the outrageous parking costs or the need to ride a train all over the city. It’s all concentrated in a well-planned downtown, much of it within walking distance. But if I do need to get my Windy City fix, I’m only three hours away…the same goes for Cincinnati and St. Louis as well. If I’m willing to drive a little longer I’m only 5-6 hours from Nashville, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Cleveland.

—–Strangers traveling along some of the most concentrated gathering of interstate highways in the nation see only cornfields and barns (cue all the jokes Knicks fans tossed at us in the ‘90’s). But this part of the country is actually experiencing an explosion of culture, bordering on Renaissance levels. Central Indiana’s craft breweries rival the rest of the nation in both number and quality. If I want to take Wendi to the theater, I have several options in the Circle City, I can take her to a show at IU in Bloomington, a show put on by the theater department at ISU in Terre Haute, or we can stay right here in Greencastle and see something DePauw is showing. Live bands play everywhere, and some of the best bands around are developing in places like Bloomington’s Bluebird, Terre Haute’s The Verve, Greencastle’s Swizzle Stick, and the dozens of joints in Indy (such as The Slippery Noodle or Radio Radio).

—–And compared to other parts of the country, all of this is on the cheap. On a modest salary, I can experience nearly everything I would normally do in New York or California for a fraction of the cost.

—–That’s why I settled on National Road as the name of this magazine. Formed in the early 19th century, only a few decades after the nation began, the road now connects one coast to the next. When I put my tire on Highway 40’s pavement, I’m bonded to San Francisco, Atlantic City, Columbus, Denver, and even little spots like Terre Haute. But the road doesn’t just connect me to the rest of the nation. It’s also hallowed ground as well, a spot (or close to the spot in some cases) where those greatest of Americans loaded every little bit they owned and headed west hoping to make their place in the world on their own terms. The road, therefore, is less a geographic location than it is an idea…a concept. The National Road is that most American of uniquely American creations, and if you live anywhere within five or six states of it, then you are a part of it.

—–I don’t just live near the National Road. I live in one of the best spots along it. Western Indiana is the greatest place to live, and this is the greatest time to live here. I’ve learned the hard way that life is short, and those of us blessed with the chance to enjoy it should do all that we can to fulfill that opportunity. To that end, we bring you this magazine where we will write about all the amazing events and people we encounter as well as the occasional political consternation which concerns us so that we can all appreciate how uniquely lucky we are to be living right here, right now.


Donovan Wheeler
Author: Donovan Wheeler

Wheeler proudly teaches English to a horde of bright and lovably obnoxious high school seniors in a small college town. He has written in the past for Indiana on Tap and STATE Magazine, and is an occasional contributor to NUVO, Indy's alternate news website. Since picking up the guitar three years, he can now play a dozens songs while singing them quite badly.

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