Learning about Our Highways

I have been somewhat of a history buff when it comes to motorcycling, travel and highways. I love to ride historic highways and trails, to see the history. So, it makes plenty of sense to me that I would love to read about the history of highways. I find it fascinating.

Americas First HighwaysWhen I found a book recently published, I had to have it. America’s First Highways, by Stephen H. Provost, is a great read for understanding how our country arrived at our highway system.

I understood how many of our roads were originally Native American Trails, and one can see that from early 1700 and 1800 maps, but I discovered a few things about how our highways were developed.

In the late 1800s, as towns and cities began to grow, it was the bicycle industry that called for better roads, although mainly in urban settings. By 1900, there were “321 bicycle companies churning out an astonishing 1.2 million a year.”

City streets began to improve, but the roads between cities were still primarily dirt, and as automobile manufacturing began and started to grow, the need for better roads between towns grew with it. That gave rise to the automobile and highway associations, and efforts to improve the rural roads. Building better roads gave rise to the real idea of “If you build it, they will come.” Tourism and commerce demanded better roads with the rise of automobile manufacturing.

Early on, the Federal government had no part in the development of highways. It was all local and regional. But there was a need for major roads from border to border and coast to coast. Hence, the idea of national highways like the Lincoln Highway, Yellowstone Trail, Dixie Highway, Old Spanish Trail, and the Lee Highway, just to name a few, grew in popularity but not without easy consensus. Which towns would these highways go through? What would be the final route?

Finally, in 1917, the Federal government created the Bureau of Public Roads, but its efforts were minimal. It was not until 1926 when the Feds designed a numbered highway system to replace all the named highways. For interstate highways, there were to be 10 east-west routes ending in zero (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.) and 11 north-south highways ending in the number 1 (1, 11, etc. to 101). The numbering system brought an end to the named highways, but many of those names still exist, and a few are marked, like the Lincoln Highway and the National Road.

I have touched on a few key points of this book, but there is so much more detail. If you are interested, read the book.

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That’s what is exciting about finding a book like this. The richness of these early highways, and the development of towns and the road are all waiting to be discovered.

See you on the highway.

Brent

Dreaming of the Oregon Trail

For some strange reason, I awoke this morning dreaming of my 2012 ride on the Oregon Trail. It was a 6,000-mile, 21 day adventure. But, why this morning? Maybe I’m just dreaming of another motorcycle adventure. 

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Chimney Rock in Nebraska, a landmark for travelers on the Oregon Trail.

See you on the highway. 

Brent

Easter ride

It’s Easter. He is risen and all things are new again.

There is something about a motorcycle ride in Spring when the trees are turning from empty to green with early leaves and buds. The roads with no center line or any paint markings are a joy to ride. To explore. Occassionally, a beautiful red bud tree shows its shade of red among the green giving a wonderful contrast of those country roads.

Oh the joy of a springtime ride.

See you on the highway.

Brent

Life can be like folding laundry

Doing laundry is one of those life chores that is required … if you want to wear clean clothes that is. So when the dryer is done, you fold the clothes and put them away. But what do you do when a sock is missing?

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Missing sock? You look for it. Right?

Every now and then, something in our lives goes missing. Could be a person. An activity. A social gathering. A good friend who has passed. You can search for most of those missing items. The good friend who has passed shall  be missed until … until … well … until you pass and meet all those who have gone before.

You can find missing keys. You can find that sewing club you used to attend. You can find that sweet fishing hole that you never told anyone about. You can find that alternative road through rural America that gets you off the interstate that takes you coast to coast where you see practically nothing. All you have to do is look.

Just look, and you shall find.

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See you on the highway.

Brent

High Desert Highway

High desert for miles around.
A highway cuts through it from horizon to horizon
with a town every 100 miles or so.
To some, it seems desolate.
To others, it is beautiful like no other place.
Storms to the rear have already doused the earth
with a cleansing rain, and the sweet smell of wet
sage brush fills the air to be taken in and savored.
It is the lonely road, the loneliest highway
that exposes you to this beauty.

Brent

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