Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Life in the Fast Lane -- By the Numbers

It's the 2nd of August. Zoe and I have travelled over 10,000 miles this calendar year, and who knows how many miles I've logged since I started RVing over 6 years ago. I'm not claiming to be an over-the-road trucker (nobody's paying me by the mile anyway), but one does form observations about our amazing but imperfect Interstate highway system. Please allow me to ramble for a few lines.

President Eisenhower convinced Congress in the '50's that a new highway system was absolutely essential to the national security. We needed to move armies, missiles, equipment rapidly across country. The results were amazing! Not from the military aspect, but from what the system opened up for the American economy. The next time you slip onto an Interstate highway, take note of the "18-wheelers" out there. Then try to imagine all those rigs on a 2-lane road going cross-country with Mr. and Mrs. Old out in front of them in the ol' Buick going for a little drive in the country! And you thought the economy was slowing down now! You want it when??? So don't get too nostalgic for Route 66 and the good old days. Go back there and you're still shopping at that very tiny Mom and Pop grocery store that you remember from your childhood.

Here's a little info on the "system" as it applies in most of the country. Even numbers flow east and west; odd numbers flow north and south. East-west routes have the smallest numbers in the south; north-south interstates have the smallest numbers in the west. This is generally opposite from the US highway grid. I don't want to get too textbookie, so go look at a road atlas.

Now here's the really good part! All Interstate highways have mile markers along the route. They are there to help you navigate! I have been absolutely astounded at how many people I've met who don't have a clue what those little green signs with numbers on them mean! Maybe it's because they're from the Northeast. In a misapplied attempt at independence, the Legislatures/Highway commissions decided to not only do everything backwards, but totally convert the whole system to a meaningless numbers game.

Example. A state I know. If you drive into Iowa from Missouri on I-35 the border is MM0. When you continue on into Minnesota (don't know why, but maybe it might be bizness, eh), the numbers start over at 0 again and run up all da way ta Dulut, eh.

So you come from Nebraska into Iowa and no one stops you when you cross the Missouri River on I-80. You are at MM0, and the atlas shows you have 307 miles of beautiful rolling hills of corn and bean fields to go before you get to MM0 in the middle of the Mississippi River and 161 miles of very flat corn and bean fields and a whole bunch of the South Side of Chicago before you hit MM0 in Gary, IN. See, Iowa wasn't so bad after all, was it? Well, if you're tired of I-80 by now, you can seamlessly switch over to I-90 and continue across Indiana. You'll cross the state line at MM157 into Ohio. Ohio can be fun. There are hidden National Parks along the route, as well as stupidly designed touristy stuff like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (my visit there didn't give me a clue as to was actually inducted, but I'm sure that's changed since What's-His-Name died of unknown causes), but it's best to just scurry along. Anyhoo, at MM244 we enter that odd little clam neck that was obviously a political compromise to give the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania access to both Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean via Delaware Bay. But, alas, Pennsylvania only lasts for 47 miles.

Then all hell breaks loose! The first MM should be 0 -- but no! It's MM495 and the first exit is 61!!!Where is the sanity? For the sake of my own, I must leave you now, fellow traveler. I am so totally confused in this part of the country. I have to go find my GPS now so I can get to the toilet.

John signing off

1 comment:

Wandrin said...

Hey. I'm old enough to remember when some purchased items cost more west of the Rockies. In fact I lived in the west during some of that time. Those freeways reduced the costs. It's a wonderful world.