Thursday, June 05, 2014

US Hwy 70: A Signpost At The End Of A Road

In Globe, AZ, I found the sign I was looking for:

After 63 days and 2,385 net road miles -- over 4,000 miles gross with exploration and detours -- it's not much of a destination. But I subscribe absolutely to the adage that the journey is what matters, not the destination.

My cross-country road trip on US70 has been an excellent journey. Except for tornado threats in Tennessee and crazy heat in the desert, it's been almost entirely without hardship. That's a good thing when you're on a long journey.

This was my fifth cross-country road trip on old US Highways: 2, 20, 30, 50 and now 70. No two roads are the same, of course, but they do have a lot in common.

Primarily, they are two-lane affairs, sometimes four-lane and occasionally more through big cities or when subsumed into interstates.

Generally, they are "out there" and have little traffic, sometimes practically none. Wide open spaces are punctuated by small towns, more and more of which are either struggling, decrepit or practically abandoned. The railroad is an almost constant companion, since roads typically followed rails.

US70 is the most southern route I have taken so far, and it's an understatement to say that latitude matters. On the more northern routes, corn is king. Large, orderly fields of tall, robust crops. Healthy looking farm operations with attractive houses and barns. Family farming is alive and well.

On US70, croplands are immense, flat and wide open, without much that looks productive. Hardly a home can be seen. What was once family farms with a house on almost every 40-acre plot, seems to have been assimilated by BigAgra. That's an observation, not a political statement.

Grasslands in the north are scrub at this latitude. US70 runs along the southern edge of the Dust Bowl, and it seems that the land is still a long way from recovering its original fertility. I have no words for the panhandle of Texas, and I have no idea how anything grows in New Mexico or Arizona.

And yet, I found priceless gems on US70: Biltmore Estate, Roaring Fork Motor Trail, Cumberland Homesteads, Natchez Trace Parkway, Birdsong Pearl Farm, Dyess home of Johnny Cash, Lincoln City, Fort Stanton, Smokey Bear and White Sands Missile Range Museum to name just a few.

Perhaps ironically, what feels like the least prosperous route probably has the best roadway. In general, US70 has better infrastructure (e.g. pavement, bridges, etc.) than the other routes. This may be because the winters are less destructive down here, or perhaps there's just more political power for road appropriations. Whatever, it's an inkling you get when you've traveled them all.

There are a few other topics on my "things to think about" list which I may write up someday, but I'm going to stop here for now. In conclusion, I'll just offer this point: There's no limit to what you can see, find or learn when your destination is just a signpost at the end of a road... Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Joanne from upstate NY said...

Thank you Mac and Happy for another interesting and informative trip across the U.S. We enjoyed the virtual ride-along!!