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When I was growing up, I always had a fascination with roads, maps, and all things related to transportation. One road that especially interested me was US 6, which I would see small sections of as we traveled I-84. When I was old enough to drive myself, I realized that US 6 often provided a quiet, scenic, and sometimes faster alternative to the often congested I-84. While bypassing the I-84 traffic, I would think to myself that at one time everyone driving a long distance visited all of these quaint little towns, instead of seeing the sameness and endless sea of brake-lights that had come to define interstate highways in the northeastern US. The more traveled these highways of yesteryear, the more intrigued by them I became.
One day I sat down with my road atlas, determined to find out just how far little US 6 actually went. I traced it through Pennsylvania, the Midwest, and then the West until finally it ended in California. It was hard to believe that this road that most people saw as their little local road stretched virtually across the country. I was determined to follow it someday. That day came in 1988, when I drove early one September morning to the tip of Cape Cod and began my journey along US 6, eventually ending in California.
I had such a wonderful time exploring US 6, that over the next couple of years I drove the eastern portion of US 2, as well as US 3, US 4, US 5, US 7, and US 9 from end to end. For the even numbered routes, I’d start at the eastern terminus of the road and head west. For odd numbered routes, I started at the northern terminus and drove south. I also decided at this time that I would always try to follow the main highway rather than a bypass, business route, or alternate route when those were available. To make sure I had really driven the whole road from end to end, if I got lost, I would always go back to where I had made the wrong turn, and when stopping along the road, I’d never follow a shortcut to get back on the road further down. I also always drove the currently signed alignment for the road. Occasionally I would find an older alignment that I would follow for a few miles, but I would always be sure to also follow the current alignment of the highway.
Due to a lack of time, money, and a reliable car, the next few years didn’t include any travel. I’d still dream about continuing my trips, staring at maps for hours to determine where each road would take me in the future, but the $5.00 for the road atlas was about all I could spare for my hobby at the time. Finally in 1993, I once again began traveling the US highways, taking US 1 from Maine to Florida. The following year, I drove the western section of US 2 from Michigan to the West Coast with an old friend of mine from college. US 13 was completed early in 1995, with my future wife accompanying me on about half of the trip.
Up to this point, I had taken very few, if any photographs of my journeys. My argument had always been that I remembered what each trip was like, and photographs would never do justice to the spectacular scenery along these roads. After significant urging from my soon to be wife, I began taking some photos as I drove US 8 later in 1995. These pictures were primarily of the state borders, the beginning and end of the road, and any other typical scenery along the way. After taking the pictures along US 8, I decided I liked the idea of creating a photographic notebook of the road. I felt like I needed more of a system for when to take pictures, since I need a system for pretty much everything I do. First, I decided that most of the pictures should include reassurance signs (e.g. the US 8 signs actually on US 8, also sometimes called trailblazers) so that all of the pictures of scenery would clearly tie back to the road I was driving. Over the years I have taken a few other photographs of roadside scenery that I thought was especially photogenic, but the vast majority of pictures include a reassurance sign somewhere in the photograph. I decided I should take a picture about once an hour, so I would capture most of the significant landscape changes along the route, while still spending most of my time driving, not taking photographs. Consequently, the distance between photos varies greatly in some areas. My ability to obtain pictures at regular intervals was often hampered by a lack of places to safely pull over, a lack of places to legally pull over, bad weather, a lack of reassurance signs, etc. Second, I decided to always take pictures of state border signs if they are present. At times this has been difficult, requiring long walks up bridges, parking in barely legal areas, and even stopping in the middle of the road to get the picture. Finally, I always tried to photograph the beginning and end of each highway.
I traversed a large number of roads in the next couple of years, including US 10 in late summer 1995, US 11 the following April, US 12 in early summer, US 14 and US 16 as one trip in mid-summer, and US 15 in late summer 1996. On each of these trips, I took photographs according to my photography plan above. I also managed to get some pictures of earlier routes, like US 2 and US 6. While driving out to the eastern ends on US 12 and US 14, and back home from the western ends of these roads, I followed US 2 and US 6 to take pictures of these routes.
My wife joined me for all of US 17 in December 1996. On our return back north followed US 1 to include photos of it. That summer we spent our honeymoon driving US 101, taking a bit more time than on my previous trips, and flying to the west coast, rather than driving as I had on all of my previous trips. In 1998 we drove US 18, followed by the western half of US 6 to take the pictures I had not bothered to take on my first trip. The remaining “missing” pictures of the routes I had traversed early on were captured during a number of small trips around the northeast.
From 1998 to today, we’ve been driving an average of two or three routes per year. We’ve been covering the routes generally in numerical order. The trips end up slightly out of order sometimes because we prefer to do the routes that go through the Rocky Mountains during the summer when snow is not a concern. A change that began with US 18 is that now we usually fly to the beginning of the route, rent a car to drive the route from end to end, then fly home. The mileage covered each day has also decreased steadily, from 400 miles per day when I traveled alone, to 300 when my wife started to join me, to 250 and now 200 miles per day as our two little kids join us.
I hope you enjoy the photos and other information on the site.
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