From the developed corridors on the Indiana-Illinois border to open space near the LaPorte County line, a person could live his or her whole life on U.S. 30 in the Calumet Region.
He or she could be born in a hospital, go to school, earn a degree, get a job, eat steak, fast food and farm-fresh produce, do banking, get married in a church and have multiple reception sites from which to choose.
The person could buy iced coffee, take gymnastics classes, hear and play live music, visit a library, go shopping, watch cars race, visit doctors, sip martinis, stay overnight in a hotel, get a tan and learn to be a barber or a locksmith.
One also could buy a car, get the oil changed, get a prescription filled, buy a wedding dress, obtain and renew a driver's license, play miniature golf, go to a water park, take flight, and, eventually, be buried.
All on U.S. 30.
It is a road rich in history, built on an idea in the early 1900s that people should be able to cross the country on one continuous highway.
In honor of the "Region's Road," The Times takes a look at the many communities -- starting from west to east -- that use U.S. 30 as a main artery of transportation and a critical part of their residents' very lives.
Once considered Dyer's downtown, U.S. 30 is the hub of the commercial area there, with St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers on the western border, the Town Hall near the intersection of Hart Street, the longstanding St. Joseph Catholic Church nearby, a slew of shops, a school, a cemetery and even a castle.
Home to part of the Ideal Section of the Lincoln Highway -- a stretch opened in 1923 to show the proposed highway's potential -- Dyer's main thoroughfare was not always so ideal.
For six years during the 1990s, a 1.5-mile stretch was torn up for widening. The project scared away shoppers.
"Talk about businesses going out of business; it was a mess," said Judy Hein, president of Dyer's Chamber of Commerce.
Many of the old buildings affiliated with downtown Dyer were gone after the widening, which Hein said was one of the saddest parts of the project.
She and her husband Bill Hein own Hoosier Sports, which sits along the highway and was hit by the driving drought.
"People avoided this area like the plague," she said.
But that problem passed, and restaurants and shops continue to pop up along U.S. 30 there.
Partly credited for that success was the connection to Calumet Avenue, which intersects the highway.
"That was the best," she said.
Making Calumet a through street created a north-south access other than Indianapolis Boulevard and Sheffield Avenue. A trip down Sheffield essentially cemented the chance of getting stopped by a train on your travels, Hein said.
Other than improving traffic flow, the busy intersection caught the eye of national retailers and restaurants, leading to the opening of a Chili's restaurant, McDonald's and more along U.S. 30. Dyer now has a variety of businesses along the highway.
Hein said it's interesting how much of an impact the Lincoln Highway has had on Dyer and how it has changed since the 1900s.
Dyer Town Manager Joe Neeb doesn't expect much more development coming to U.S. 30 anytime soon, although the highway will continue to be Dyer's largest commercial corridor, he said.
Future traffic counts on U.S. 30 are contingent on a few other issues, such as a possible connection of Dyer's Main Street to Joe Orr Road on the other side of the state line. Also being discussed in neighboring Lynwood is an overpass over a double set of railroad tracks, not too far from Dyer's border.
"I see those two big things affecting the amount of traffic (on U.S. 30 in Dyer)," Neeb said.
As a child, Jim Stephen spent many summer days atop a blanket on a farm hill, with comic books, fruit punch and friends at his side. They'd watch the cars go by on U.S. 30 and wait for a lull to run down and grab empty bottles motorists had tossed out their windows. Each bottle redeemed meant more change in their pockets to fund stops at the corner store for another lazy summer day.
The 69-year-old Schererville resident has spent nearly all his life on a wooded plot in a home that sits smack in the middle of U.S. 30 and Old Lincoln Highway. In the 1950s, the only stoplight on U.S. 30 in Schererville was at U.S. 41, he said.
His father owned one of three gas stations at the corner of U.S. 30 and U.S. 41. The fourth corner belonged -- and still belongs -- to Teibel's Restaurant. The intersection was a stopping point for tourists. They could order half a chicken for 50 cents at Teibel's and stay a night or longer at Teibel's Tourist Court, Stephen recalls.
Downtown Schererville sits along Old Lincoln Highway, also called Joliet Street. Stephen remembers going to Gard's General Store and buying a Coke or ice cream and watching the steam engine trains go by.
"They came barreling through there," he said.
The Old Lincoln Highway was a hot spot for barber shops, bars, even a banquet center. But the bulk of commercial development these days is on the "new" U.S. 30, he said.
U.S. 30 has helped define the town, said Schererville Chamber of Commerce President Mark Hill.
"From an economic standpoint, the town of Schererville would not be anything near what it is, without Route 30 running through town," he said. "Any major business, whether a franchise restaurant or national retailer, always wants to be where there are heavy traffic patterns. It's absolutely a draw to business."
The intersection with U.S. 41 is particularly attractive, a crossroads that Hill said likely is one of the most desirable corridors in Lake County. The town slogan is Crossroads of America.
That commercial development likely will continue, especially as the remaining residential properties evolve into commercial uses, likely filled in with small retailers and professional offices, Town Manager Bob Volkmann said.
"You'll see the areas undeveloped start to fill in," he said. "Residences will be redeveloped. You'll continue to see development along the (U.S.) 30 corridor as you go east."
Aside from retail businesses, U.S. 30 in Schererville is home to the Illiana Motor Speedway, which is celebrating its 63rd year of stock car racing.
Before the restaurants and retailers, U.S. 30, from Broadway headed east through Merrillville, looked a lot like the spans of open land that sit more on the Porter County end, said Alice Smedstad, co-president of the Merrillville/Ross Township Historical Society.
And then came the interstate.
"I think that I-65 probably had a major impact on it," she said.
Now one of U.S. 30's most developed corridors, it's a far cry from when Smedstad was younger.
"When I was growing up, there was nothing to do in Merrillville," she said.
Back then, Merrillville consisted of gas stations, farms and a couple of houses. The Lincoln Highway, now known as 73rd Avenue, ran through Merrillville. A house near Interstate 65 and 73rd offered rooms for rent to people traveling the popular thoroughfare because there were no hotels or motels, she said.
"It was a big fad in the '20s to take a trip on the Lincoln Highway," Smedstad said.
Finding a hotel in Merrillville isn't a problem any more.
"(U.S.) 30 has spawned commercial up and down it," Merrillville Councilman Shawn Pettit said.
A major commercial area sits at the intersection of U.S. 30 and I-65, with the Radisson Hotel, Star Plaza Theatre and the Twin Towers office buildings, he said.
"We've got most of our car dealers on 30," he said.
All the commercial development means more traffic, which some people see as a blessing and others as a curse. The town recently partnered with the state to improve U.S. 30 between Broadway and Taft Street to alleviate traffic-related problems, Pettit said.
U.S. 30 was built as an alternate to Old Lincoln Highway, and Pettit doubts its supporters envisioned the impact the street would have. It's even home to Deep River Waterpark.
"I don't think they could've envisioned something like this," he said.
And the development continues. A portion of the eastern end within town limits recently was rezoned for commercial use. Going west, the north side of Grant Street and U.S. 30 has the potential for development, as does the southeast corner of U.S. 30 and Whitcomb Avenue, Pettit said.
Mike Adams thinks every city wants to be seen as a destination, and Hobart is no exception.
Adams, executive director of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, said bus tours are lined up through Hobart that will include Albanese candy and County Line Orchard. The orchard is a five-minute drive north of U.S. 30, but the candy factory, complete with chocolate fountain and dozens of bins of scoopable candy, sits along the highway.
Adams said U.S. 30 plays a big role in the regional approach to business in Northwest Indiana.
The center of gravity for the Hobart Chamber of Commerce and Hobart businesses is moving south toward U.S. 30, he said.
"We're ecstatic to embrace that," he said.
One of the most visible developments on U.S. 30 in Hobart is Westfield Southlake mall, which has a regional draw.
After a land dispute with Merrillville, Hobart was named home to the mall, although many people still think the mall is in Merrillville, Adams said.
More development is likely to join the mall along U.S. 30 frontage in Hobart.
"Logic dictates there's going to be more development there because the population going eastward is really filling out," Adams said.
The Hardesty family has farmed the same land in Union Township for more than a century, and Bob Hardesty has been a part of it for 92 years. He was there when workmen poured the concrete for U.S. 30, the fabled Lincoln Highway.
Hardesty, who still lives on and farms the family acreage north of U.S. 30, was a lad of about 4 when he watched highway history being made in 1923. He recalled how he and a friend later walked U.S. 30 from the county courthouse in downtown Valparaiso home one night, a distance of about 10 miles, when another friend, who was supposed to pick them up, failed to show.
It was after midnight when the pair started their journey, and Hardesty said they stopped to rest in the road. Traffic wasn't a danger back then. What he recalled as U.S. 30 also isn't the U.S. 30 we know today. The Lincoln Highway originally followed Joliet Road into downtown Valparaiso and proceeded along Lincolnway, where the city has marked the route with one of the original road markers at City Hall.
Hardesty's memories of U.S. 30 include herding cattle across it on the way to pasture. And he can name the original owners who farmed just about every parcel west of Valparaiso.
Hardesty said the city once used the land on the south side of the road just west of Tower Road as a dump, and the property where the Walgreens warehouse (formerly Ribordy's) sits was a swamp.
"I don't know how they got a permit to build that," he said.
He has seen the old U.S. 30 vanish, replaced by a four-lane ribbon of high-speed traffic.
"You can't imagine the traffic," he said. "U.S. 30 today is death row. You can see anything happen over there."
As an example, he told of driving a tractor and wagon on the highway in August and seeing a car go around him on the shoulder at high speed. He said if the driver had done that just a few hundred feet farther down the road, he might have collided with Hardesty's tractor as Hardesty turned off to go home.
"Everybody's in a hurry," he said.
Whenever a new development is proposed, residents immediately complain about the potential traffic problems. Residents along U.S. 30 know about traffic problems.
Eugene Greer, 67, bought his house at 583 E. U.S. 30 in 1980 and moved in the following year. Greer said traffic has increased by about 80 percent since then.
"It used to be you didn't have to wait (to get out of the driveway), and now I wait sometimes 10 or 15 minutes," Greer said. "You can tell when the light turns green in Wanatah because traffic and trucks don't stop for a long time. I don't think you get used to the noise. You can't talk with the trucks and loud motorcycles. You have to wait until everything is gone before you can talk."
Accidents and vehicles breaking down are all-too-frequent occurrences, he said. He helps motorists in trouble, changing flat tires as late as 3 a.m. He has a trucking and excavating business and uses his equipment to plow snow from the crossover in the center of the road when it gets blocked by state plows.
When Leo Burke, 77, moved into his house at 745 W. U.S. 30 in 1961, traffic was so minimal you could picnic in the middle of the road, he said. He started his lawn and garden business at his home in 1965 and said the increased traffic has been good for his business, but the picnicking days are done and he sees a lot of accidents.
"The past couple of years we've had an awful lot of accidents out here," Burke said. "Several people were killed, and we've seen some bad accidents. I just wish people would slow down. People don't realize how fast they're traveling. They need to redo (U.S. 30) and put in more deceleration lanes and turning lanes on both sides. There are so many (crossing) roads now that weren't there before."
Burke has no regrets about moving to his home. After 30 years, Greer has no plans to move because "wherever you go you've got a problem, so I'm here until they plant me."
Jim and Nancy Burge, 441 E. U.S. 30, are also staying.
"We like it where we are," Nancy Burge said. "The traffic doesn't bother us because we've been here 49 years, and we're used to it. The traffic has increased since we moved here and sometimes we have to wait a bit to get on the highway, but we're older now and it's convenient in bad weather and we just like it here.
"We've got something to do when we've got nothing to do -- we watch the traffic."