Nicknamed “Stone City” because it holds some of the largest and most famous limestone quarries in the country, Bedford (pop. 13,413) is a busy industrial-looking city, the largest on the Indiana stretch of US-50. The quarries that earned Bedford’s reputation are still in use, producing the durable stone that has clad many high-profile structures, including the Empire State Building. Though you can see the limestone in situ at many road cuts along US-50, perhaps the most prominent examples in Bedford are the monuments and gravestones in the cemeteries lining the highway through town.
Bedford’s main hard-rock attraction is Bluespring Caverns (812/279-9471, daily mid-Mar.-Oct., $18), five miles west of downtown on US-50, where you can descend into a cave and take an hour-long boat tour along the largest underground river in the United States.
Roughly 27 miles east of Bedford and 10 miles west of the I-65 freeway, Brownstown (pop. 2,947) is an unusually pretty Indiana town set around a large central square shaded by 100-year-old maple trees—and a war-surplus tank. An old-fashioned general store and a couple of down-home restaurants make it worth a brief stop.
East of Brownstown, it’s a scenic 10 miles to Seymour (pop. 1,503), with its many motels (including a Holiday Inn Express & Suites and an EconoLodge), fast-food franchises, 24-hour gas stations, and an absolutely huge Walmart distribution center marking the junction with I-65. Blue-collar Seymour is the birthplace of rock star John Mellencamp and Indiana’s first Miss America (2009 winner Katie Stam). You can get a good feel for the place by stopping for a meal at the Townhouse Café (206 E. 4th St., 812/522-1099).
Twelve miles east of Seymour, turn south from US-50 at neat little North Vernon onto Hwy-7, which runs toward the Ohio River town of Madison, across miles of rolling farmland, closely paralleling the route of Morgan’s Raid, when General John Morgan and 2,000 Confederate soldiers invaded Indiana during the Civil War.