Finding the perfect driving road is simple in California. It doesn’t take much time after leaving Los Angeles or San Francisco to stumble upon a good one winding its way through the hilly landscape.
Doing the same in the Midwest isn’t as easy. There are a few hidden gems, but you must be willing to travel to find them. One worth putting on any enthusiast’s list is where I just spent an entire day gallivanting about in the 2021 BMW M3 Competition: the Indiana Nürburgring.
Named the Schweinefiletring by locals, it’s a series of roads strung together in southern Indiana that resemble Germany’s Nürburgring in shape. The loop begins in Bloomington, winds through 175 miles of driving bliss, circling back into Bloomington. And about the Schweinefiletring name — it’s derived from the numerous pork tenderloin restaurants you can visit along the way. This is Indiana, after all.
The route … and what to look at
Your lap of the American Nürburgring doesn’t logically begin where the start/finish line is for the real Nordschleife. State Road 45 (nearest to the Kallenhard area of the track) is your entrance to the rollercoaster, and it’s a perfect preview of things to come. After you leave the college town of Bloomington behind, this road gets downright silly. Small cars like a Miata or other sport compacts do best here, because the road is so chock full of tight corners that suit cars with smaller footprints and less power. This section full of on- and off-camber curves is not ideal for the 503-horsepower M3 Competition, especially if you go early in the morning when road temperatures are still on the chilly side.
As you exit this area, you come into an opening called Bean Blossom Overlook. It’s where the photo below was taken, and it’s undoubtedly the most picturesque part of the loop. You’d never expect to find such beauty in Indiana, but here it is.
From here, you can go a couple of different ways. One route takes you east along the official “Nürburgring” route. I’d recommend skipping that, though. Instead, head straight south along a road called 135 toward a little town named Story. This 30-mile section is the most-traveled by Harley riders moving at about half the posted speed limit, so you may have to run it back and forth a couple times to get a clear run. It’s here that the narrow road best resembles Germany’s Nürburgring with its near-constant corners, forested edges and elevation changes aplenty. This road alone is worth the hike from wherever you’re coming from.
After this bit empties into Freetown, it’s time to turn back west and make the long trek down the route’s Döttinger Höhe. It’s the straightest part of this entire route, taking after the long straightaway on the Nürburgring.
At this point, if you’ve been counting churches with your fingers, it’s likely time to move onto the toes. That’s simply a result of being in the Hoosier State. There are enough along this route through what is seemingly the middle of nowhere that we can’t drive much more than 10-15 miles without seeing another one. On the topic of roadside observations, nary a town passes by that doesn’t feature at least a few homes still waving “Trump 2020” flags out front, oftentimes accompanied by a Confederate rag — yet Indiana was part of the Union. One restaurant named SGT Rick’s American Cafe even has a “Trump 4EVR” flag flying.
There isn’t much to see or do on the southwest portion of the loop. Take a break to check out a massive valley at Shoals Overlook to bolster your energy, though, because things get extremely good as soon as you turn back north. The road follows a meandering river here, and river-following roads are always the best. You could end the day right after this stretch and be completely satisfied. There’s a pretty bridge named the Williams Covered Bridge (just don’t read the depressing graffiti inside it), and the Salt Creek Brewery lies just up the road for an end-of-day beer.
And it would be the place to stop if it weren’t for State Road 43 that extends the Indiana Nürburgring even further. This road complements any car no matter its power or size. Wide-open straights lead into 90-degree, cambered corners. Farm fields quickly meld into forests, then transition back into farmland. If a car’s brakes aren’t up to snuff, this road will expose them with its frequent downhill braking sections. It’s near Bloomington, but you feel far away from the bustling town out here. And don’t worry, there are plenty of churches, too. Any car worth its mettle (get it?) will put a smirk on your face on 43, and the M3 Competition did far more than that, causing me to cackle at how easily it chomped through this road. It’s a required stop if you choose to venture to the Indiana Nürburgring, and it leaves you with only a short hop over to town for a tasty dinner after the exhausting day of driving.
When should I drive the Indiana Nürburgring?
Any time it’s dry and warm works, but there’s an event that happens every year called the “Tire Squeal.” It’s a special two-week-long period of time that organizers of the event encourage enthusiasts everywhere to cruise the roads, eat pork tenderloin and donate to charity. This event has gone on for three years now, and the 2021 rendition is ending just as we’re publishing this story.
You’ll have to wait for next year to join in on the Tire Squeal fun, but don’t let that stop you from getting down there and scouting out some of the roads before then. I can promise that any driving or riding enthusiast is going to fall in love.
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