On the Interstate – Part 1

In my view, how much we like some place depends primarily on two factors. One is the people we know there, and the other is the opportunities the place offers us to explore our interests.

(The image on the left is a graphic of the interstate highway system. Note that it is denser on the East than the West. Click on the image to get to the wiki page on the interstate highway system.)

I like living in the US. I have a large number of friends and acquaintances in the US (but no family and I don’t have my own family, anyway), and I can indulge my hobbies and my interests. One of my passions is the open road. I love road trips. The US is made for road trips.

I don’t think that any other country offers anything comparable to the US if one is interested in going on long road trips. The country is vast and criss-crossed with a dense network of roads. Roads come in various varieties in the US: county, state and federal. The federal road system is known as the Interstate highway system. Click on the link to see the wiki entry. The Interstate was formed in 1956 and it’s been under construction all these years. I will leave you to read the wiki page on it. I find it fascinating.

Take the numbering of the interstate. Since the lower 48 states of the US is roughly rectangular in shape, the roads can be identified as running east-west and north-south. The even numbers are for east-west ones, with the numbers increasing as you move up the country — from 10 in the South to 90 in the North. The odd numbers are north-south interstates, with the number increasing as you move east. They go from 5 in the West to 95 in the East.

Click image for details

I used to live in California, and the N-S interstate there is I-5 (pronounced “eye-5”). Click on the image on the left for details. The total route length of I-5 is an easy to remember 2,222 kms — approximately the same as the distance between Bangalore and Chandigarh.

I-5 is the interstate that I have traveled the entire length of, from Canada to Mexico, several times. It’s the road most traveled for me. I used to visit an uncle in Portland, OR, and did tons of trips between the San Francisco bay area and Los Angeles during my over three decades in California. It passes through the central valley of California. I love I-5.

Click to embiggen

One time, a couple of friends and I went to Yellowstone National Park. That was about 1,800 kms from San Jose, CA. We went on I-80 East for about 1,200 kms to Salt Lake City, UT, and then headed north on I-15 North for another 600 kms.

Then five years ago, I moved from the West coast to the East coast — from California to Delaware. That time, I took I-80 East. I went from San Jose, CA, to Salt Lake City, UT. That was the first part. Then from SLC to Gillette, WY. Then from there to Watertown, SD. And then through Minneapolis, MN, to Chicago, IL. Here’s the map of my track, around 3,800 kms. That’s a lot of miles. But I loved every mile of it.

San Jose to Chicago

It was the first time that I’d driven that far East. It was immense fun. The people of the mid-West are not like the people on the West coast. They are laid-back and are willing to take the time to “visit”. One time, I had to chat with the lady at check-in for over 10 minutes. She wanted to show me pictures of her family and what they were doing.

I loved the neighborly attitude of the mid-Western people. When at the check-out counter of some store, expect to talk for a bit. “Hi honey, did you find everything you needed?” “Sweetheart, how is your day going?” “I don’t recall you from before. Are you passing through, darling?” Terms of endearment is standard. Warm and welcoming. They are willing to chat.

I stopped in Chicago, IL for a few days at a friend’s home. I took a side trip to see one of the greatest natural wonders — a total solar eclipse. It added around 1000 kms. I have written about that before.

So then from Chicago, IL, I headed east. I stopped along the way for an evening at a farm in Ohio. It was a lovely experience — the first time for me at an Air-Bnb.

Chicago IL to Newark DE Click to embiggen

That was my first West to East road trip. I took my time and had a great time. I arrived in August 2017. And after five years, I decided that I’ve had had enough and decided to move to a part of the US that I have never lived in: Texas.

This post has gone on long enough. I will follow up with part 2 of this post tomorrow. That’s the part where I drive from Newark, DE, to Dallas, TX.

Take care and be well.

 

 

Author: Atanu Dey

Economist.

7 thoughts on “On the Interstate – Part 1”

  1. There is more number magic in the US Freeway system –

    The auxiliary interstates are numbered based on the parent route and have three digits. All the auxiliary routes connecting to the main freeway I-10 are numbered I-x10. Odd prefixes ( like I-110) connect once into the city from the interstate and are called spurs. Even prefixes ( like I-220) typically loop around a city and are called beltways.

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  2. I have done these stretches of road except the portion from Rapid City (South Dakota) to Chicago.

    We are kindred souls. A lot of people have travelling as hobby but only few understand the joy of driving on American highway system and just enjoying the journey without worrying about the destination.

    As a kid I wasn’t interested in working in USA. But I was fully determined to travel the western USA. I wanted to drive through those desert terrains of California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas, see those Joshua trees and the bright red terrain. Most of my friends and family are totally stumped by my love for these roads which according to them are not worth travelling, but the true joy of life is in taking the roads less travelled. I have done the US50 terms as USA’s loneliest road TWICE and for no good reason other than just driving on USA’s loneliest road.

    A a child I had read marathi translation of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. The boy escapes to freedom on a steamer on this river and ends up questioning what freedom itself means. I wondered what this river with long name would look like. As kid who had not traveled beyond 100 km from the village I had not seen large rivers and the only boat I had seen was a small ferry used to move people and small vehicles across smaller rivers.

    A lot of people in today’s USA think of USA as a rich country and are not amazed by these roads, the same way people today claim US has shitty airports compared to India or China. That is because they simply do no understand the history of these roads, who travelled on them and why and how they were built. I think knowing the history of many of these roads easily explains why USA is such an exceptional country.

    Here is Alexis De Tocqueville on American roads and transportation , it is a very entertaining read :

    https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:eiR9hwSA9V4J:https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/alexis.cfm&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

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