Somewhere between storming the beaches at Normandy and marching into Berlin, General Dwight D. Eisenhower became enamored with the German Autobahn system of superhighways, and so resolved to create a similar system in the United States — or so goes the legend.
After the war, America began to build out from its crowded urban cores, placing new homes and businesses where before there was farmland and wilderness. At first, these new developments were reachable only by hastily expanded surface streets, and longer distance trips used the U.S. Highway system of two-lane roads first designed in the 1920s.
For a forward thinking superpower, this was not enough. Enter the Interstate Highway System — and the Highway Trust Fund that literally paid to pave its way.
Atlas Obscura has a fine, fine retelling of former President Dwight Eisenhower’s treacherous slog across the U.S. in 1919, presumably before Google Maps could tell him where to go.
His 62-day, transcontinental epoch may have served as inspiration for the creation of America’s interstate highway system — not the threat of a nuclear attack and evacuation of America’s major cities, apparently — later on during his presidency.
Among the highlights: 6 mph traveling speed, biblical salts in Utah and misery in Nebraska. Pack a lunch for the long read, because it’s entertaining.
In the next couple of days Autumn will officially begin. For most of us, however, Summer ended back on Labor Day, that final day of freedom before kids all over the country had to get up early, stuff their new school supplies into their backpacks and board those big yellow nuisances to all of us who have a daily commute. Anyone with kids, kids, kids is tied to home so, for all but a privileged few, the season of great cross country road trips is at an end.