Friday, January 25, 2008

Road Warriors

TransGriot Note: The interstate highway pictures are from

The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, aka the Interstate highway system, is comprised of 46,837 miles (75,376 km for you international readers) of limited access high speed divided highways and freeways.

The 50th anniversary of the creation of it was celebrated in 2006. Believe it or not, even Hawaii has interstate highways. They're on the island of Oahu, go from Honolulu to military bases on different parts of the island and are numbered H1, H2 and H3.

It seems like I've traveled on half of it for various reasons at different times in my life.

A few months ago when Dawn, AC and I traveled to Chicago for the Remenyck Open fencing tournament she was competing in, on the way up there I remarked that this was the first opportunity for me to travel on I-65 north of Indianapolis. That triggered a discussion into how much of the interstate system that each of us has traveled over our lives.

A lot of it.

Dawn and AC's interstate travels have been concentrated in the Midwest, the South and Northeastern US. In my case, much of my interstate highway travel has been concentrated in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Since moving here I've been driving a lot of Midwest and Southeast interstates as well as the interstates that traverse Kentucky and the Louisville area. I've driven across West Virginia a few times en route to DC from here. I've also gotten to travel interstate highways in other states like Florida, California, Oregon and Colorado, the New York-New Jersey corridor, the Los Angeles area, Chicago and the Washington DC area thanks to my time in the airline industry.

When I thought about it, I've done so many road trips that on I-10 for example, which is a transcontinental route, the only section of it I haven't traveled is from the I-59, I-12, I-10 junction near Slidell, LA to its terminus in Jacksonville, FL. On I-65, which runs through Louisville, the only section of it I haven't traveled is from Birmingham, AL to Mobile.

And what are my favorite interstate trips or scenic drives along interstates?

I've mentioned I love the Atchafalaya swamp along I-10 between Lafayette and Baton Rouge. I was visiting a friend in Portland, OR a few years ago. We piled into her car and took a 40 mile ride east to Multnomah Falls and the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. We had a beautifully scenic drive down I-84 and the Columbia River Gorge that forms part of the border between Washington and Oregon and I-84 runs parallel to the river. Michelle and I were going to do a run up I-5 to Seattle on a subsequent trip I took up there but it didn't happen.

I like I-10 in terms of the contrasts in scenery. You get everything from the cities of Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, Houston and New Orleans to the varied topography you'll traverse. You'll see the deserts of California, Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas, cross the Continental Divide in New Mexico, traverse the Edwards Plateau and the limestone cuts of west and central Texas to the Gulf coastal plain and the Atchafalaya swamp in Louisiana. It even runs less than a mile parallel to the Rio Grande for about 100 miles, a fact I discovered during my 1988 trip to help my mom's friend Ms. Helene move.

After we zipped past two Mexicans trying to hitchhike early into our long eastbound run toward Houston we encountered the mandatory US Border Patrol checkpoint near Sierra Blanca, TX for all vehicles before I-10 turns toward the West Texas interior. There's a similar one west of Las Cruces, NM for I-10 westbound motorists and another one north of Las Cruces on I-25.

So for you GOP peeps flapping your gums about border security, Border Patrol was (and still is) handling their business. So chill with the racist rhetoric about it.

I-5 southbound once you get out of The Grapevine at night gives you a spectacular view of the LA basin in all its lit up glory. The same is true when you're descending out of the Rockies toward Denver and the Great Plains. I love I-24 in Tennessee as it descends out of the Monteagle area and winds its way around Lookout Mountain as it approaches Chattanooga.

One of the things that we talked about as well is that we felt sorry for the kids that are having to grow up with the reality of $3 a gallon gas. We all talked about the joys of hopping in our cars at various times, filling up the tank and just driving somewhere.

For me, it may have been a stretch of beach on Galveston Island, a two and a half hour hour run to San Antonio, or a five hour trip to New Orleans. There was another memorable trip I took to Fort Worth in 1982 with my godbrother Brent to visit his girlfriend who was attending school at TCU. AC talked about the drives he made from Louisville down I-65 to the Florida panhandle beaches, his journey to Boston to check out a Red Sox game, the trip to the IFGE convention in Toronto and his adventures when he lived in the Dallas area for a while.

The interstate highway system, in addition to being one of the largest public works project every attempted and completed(?), has impacted American lives in subtle and not so subtle ways. Note all the truck traffic the next time you're on a freeway as a prominent example of it. One of the other ways it impacted our lives is that it cut travel time to various cities in this country to hours instead of days.

Every summer during my teen years we used to drive seven hours from Houston to Jackson, MS to visit my great grandmother. Imagine how long that would have took in the days before interstate highways. And I can't tell you how many times I've hopped interstates to go to ball games, various events, conventions, do lobby trips or just give myself a change of scenery.

I'm looking forward to the next time I jump on an interstate and head somewhere. And it's no surprise that one of the things I have on my travel to do list is drive on Interstates H1, H2 and H3.


Polar said...

Damn, girl. You know, there just aren't too many things better than an open interstate, a good car with a decent sound system, and a full tank of gas.

You quoted me on the subject of young people and $3.00/gallon gas. It's really a shame that young folks can't afford anymore to just saddle up the ride, put the foot down on the superslab, and go where whim takes them. It's a big country, even bigger when you include Canada (some great touring up there, too!).

And, even though cars and trucks are engineered far better than ever before, there's something the 'younguns' are going to miss about never hitting open interstate in a '77 Trans Am with the T-tops out, a '69 Bonneville convertible with 455 cubes under 8 foot of hood (takes 2 parking spaces to park it), '68 Barracuda Formula S fastback, or a decked out mid-70s Dodge Van. Old-school Dee-troit iron. Can't afford to drive any of those farther than Kroger's on $3.00/gal gas.

Where'd I put them old 8-tracks?


Monica Roberts said...

You got that right.

One of the things I'd like to do is explore this Louisville-Southern indiana metro area, but with $3 gas I have to be more selective about when, where and how much of it I do.