Everywhere a Sign – Some U Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

Its a unanimous understatement to say that I love traveling the back roads of America looking for the interesting and unique. It is ultimately my utmost passion (well, besides my family and my grandchildren).

I will also do something in this post. I will be posting some of the US Highway signs I have picked up, most specifically in 2018. I’ll explain down below.  I hope you enjoy some of the U Signs I discovered in my 2018 travels.  Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.

Uranus, Missouri

Welcome to Uranus Missouri
Uranus, Missouri water tower
Thanks for Picking Uranus
Sounds yummy
Help Keep Uranus Clean
The Best Fudge Comes from Uranus
Uranus Parks T-shirt

Might as well start this post on a humorously low point.  Yes indeed, there is a place in Missouri called Uranus. And yes, it is pronounced “Your Anus” (and by the way, I heard a question on Jeopardy recently and Alex Trebek pronounces it that way).  And yes, the main attraction is the Uranus Fudge Factory where all of the employees (affectionately referred to as Fudge Packers) all yell out “Welcome to Uranus” when you walk into the shop.  Indeed, the owners and creators made sure it was quite the attraction.  Rather than go into detail on this post (I think the pictures above give you enough hints), please go visit my detailed post about Uranus from last year.  You can see more about Uranus here.

US Highway Shields / Route Markers

US Route 61 in Mississippi, also known as The Blues Highway (taken in 2017)

OK.  You are probably thinking “How can looking at numbers on signs be interesting?”  And, I would give that to you.  To many they probably aren’t.  But look at the signs…they look like shields or badges.  And, to me, as a collector of road trip memories (via photos and memories), these are like Boy Scout merit badges.  I am always after yet another number for my collection.

For consistency, in my blog I refer to them as US Highways, though they are called Route XX in other places…ala Route 66.  But, they are definitely interchangeable.

US Highway 1 signs in Baltimore, Maryland. US Highway 1 actually goes along the east coast from Key West, Florida to Fort Kent, Maine… a total of 2,369 miles.

US Highway 1 is the easternmost route in the US and runs north-south (as do ALL odd numbered highways) along the Atlantic Coast.

The first highways were numbered with this universal system in 1925.  Nowadays,  the U.S. Numbered Highways (or Routes) are the original interstate highways, dating back to 1926. U.S. Highways are numbered in a grid: even numbered for east–west routes (with the lowest numbers along Canada) and odd numbered for north–south routes (with the lowest numbers along the Atlantic Ocean). Three-digit highways, also known as “child routes,” are branches off their main one- or two-digit “parents” (for example, U.S. Route 202 is a branch of U.S. Route 2). However, US 101, rather than a “child” of US 1, is considered a “mainline” U.S. Route.

US Highway 2 in Hurley, Wisconsin (taken in 2016)
US Highway 2 at Stevens Pass in Washington

US Highway 2 is the northernmost long highway in the United States.  Completely, it covers 2,571 miles from east to west, starting in Houlton, Maine and ending in Everett, Washington.   In 1926 it was intentionally split.  The eastern section ends in Rouses Point, New York, where it meets US Highway 11.  Then, the highway kicks in again in St. Ignace, Michigan and traverses across the northern US, ending in Everett, Washington.  I have actually driven (at different times) the entire length of US Highway 2 from Ironwood, Michigan to Everett, Washington.

US Highway 101 in Southern Washington

US Highway 101 was the only original highway to have a three digit number.  This is the westernmost north-south highway and runs from Port Angeles, Washington to Los Angeles, California for about 1,550 miles.  In some places it is nicknamed the Pacific Coast Highway and in California it is also called the El Camino Real (the Royal Road).  I have been on portions of this highway in Washington, Oregon and California.

US Highway 90 near Garwood, Texas

Like US Highway 2, US Highway 90 is the original southern route going east-west.   It basically begins in Jacksonville Beach, Florida and ends in Van Horn, Texas.   It has a length of about 1,633 miles and, in some places is called the Old Spanish Trail.  I have driven portions of this highway in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, most of it in 2018 when I drive to Houston via Mobile, Alabama, through Pascagoula and Biloxi, Mississippi, Lafayette, Louisiana and as far west as San Antonio.

Route 66 – Getting my kicks
Route 66 in Missouri … near Rolla, Missouri
Visiting Route 66 in White Oak, Oklahoma
Historic Route 66 in Staunton, Illinois

Though I have not even come close to gaining all of the “badges,” I have many.  Following are a few of the other US Highways I have been on.  Just for your interest…my favorites are (in order)…  US 2 (from Wisconsin to Washington), US 89 (from northern Montana to Southern Arizona), US 66 (naturally), US 61 (along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Mississippi), US 50 (another cross-country east-west highway that cuts through the heart of America for over 300 miles from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California), US 101, US 60, which cuts across the heartland of the United States and sometimes joins with Route 66, and finally, US 31 (which runs from Northern Michigan to Mobile, Alabama including a long stretch through Kentucky).  But, I love many more of them!

Following are a few random photos I took in 2018 to add to my “badge collection” of US Highway Signs.

US Highway 68 taken in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. This highway runs for 560 miles from Toledo, Ohio to Reidland, Kentucky
US Highway 177 taken near Byars, Oklahoma. This is a spur of US Hwy 77 and goes for 233 miles from South Haven, Kansas to Madill, Oklahoma
US Highway 81 in Ringgold, Oklahoma

US Highway 81  is a major north-south highway that extends for 1220 miles in the central United States and is one of the earliest United States Numbered Highways established in 1926 by the US Department of Agriculture Bureau of Public Roads.  It begins in the north near Pembina, North Dakota at the U.S./Canada border and ends in Fort Worth, Texas at Interstate 35W.

US Highway 287, also pictured above, is a north–south (physically northwest–southeast) United States highway that stretches for 1,791 miles.  It serves as the major truck route between Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas, and between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Laramie, Wyoming. The highway is broken into two segments by Yellowstone National Park, where an unnumbered park road serves as a connector.  I have actually been on many portions of this road.

US Highway 271 near Arthur City, Texas. It is about 297 miles in length from Tyler, Texas through Oklahoma to Fort Smith, Arkansas
US Highway 183 near Florence, Texas. It was the last route to be completely paved (in 1967). It runs north-south for 1250 miles from Refugio, Texas to Presho, South Dakota. I have been on many sections of this highway over the years.
US Highway 51 near Dyersburg, Missouri.

US Highway 51 is another major south-north United States highway that extends 1,277 miles from Laplace, Louisiana, to Hurley, Wisconsin on the  Wisconsin–Michigan state line where it ends in a T interchange with US Highway 2 near Ironwood, Michigan.  I actually stood at that very corner for my US Highway 2 photo (see above).

US Highways 79 and 190 in Milano, Texas

US Highway 79 is officially considered and labeled as a north-south highway, but it is actually more of a diagonal northeast-southwest highway. The highway’s northern/eastern terminus is in Russellville, Kentucky, at an intersection with U.S. Highway 68 and KY 80.  I have driven US 79 from Russellville all the way through Clarksville and Paris, Tennessee and then on to Memphis (where I took US Highway 61 south into Mississippi).  On other trips, I have taken US 79 in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.  US Highway 79 covers about 855 miles.

US 190 has been around since 1926.  It covers about 875 miles as an auxiliary route to US Highway 90.  It starts in Slidell, Louisiana and ends in Iraan, Texas.  It passes through Baton Rouge as well as Huntsville and Temple, Texas.  I have driven a good portion of US Highway 190.

US Highway 58 near Damascus, Virginia

This is a beautiful stretch of highway starting at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee and heading about 508 miles across southern Virginia eventually to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia.  At one time or another I have driven the entire length of this highway.

US Highway 89 and US Highway  2 meet up in northern Browning, Montana

US Highway begins in the northernmost region of Montana north of Babb on the Canada/Montana border. It goes south ending in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Over the course of my life I have traveled every inch of this 1,252 mile highway which was first established in 1926.  I would argue that this is one of the most scenic highways in the United States.  It passes seven National Parks (thus the nickname the National Park Highway.  These include, among others, Glacier National Park in Montana, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and the Grand Canyon.  Along the route it also passes a number of scenic National Monuments as well.  In fact, National Geographic magazine has called this the “No. 1 Driver’s Drive in the World.”  I would concur.  You can experience mountains, high plains, deserts and canyons on this route.

US Highway 60 on Midland Trail in West Virginia

Last sign for this post is a biggie.  US Highway 60 is an east–west United States highway, traveling 2,670 miles from southwestern Arizona to the Atlantic coast in Virginia. Despite the final “0” in its number, indicating a transcontinental designation, the 1926 route formerly ended in Springfield, Missouri, at its intersection with Route 66.

US Highway 60 cuts through West Virginia as the Midland Trail and also passes through Central Kentucky and westward.  I have driven the entire length from Norfolk, Virginia through Lexington, Virginia and on through West Virginia, Kentucky into Cairo, Illinois.  This has been a major route for me for many years, especially since it extends out of Lexington both east and west.

Like what you see? Well, there is lots more!  I currently have two books about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips. You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Working on Book 3, coming in late Spring 2019!!

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A to Z Challenge: The G Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

G The G Towns

Gainesville, Texas

Sumoflam at Glen Goode's Big People in Gainesville, TX
Sumoflam at Glen Goode’s Big People in Gainesville, TX
Glen Goode's Big People
Glen Goode’s Big People
Glen Goode's Big People
Glen Goode’s Big People

Across this great country there are dozens of giant Muffler Men, Big Johns and Uniroyal Gals.  In the 1960s these advertised Mufflers, Tires, etc.  Nowadays they can be seen at state borders, at tourist spots or advertising cafes (see Blackfoot, ID in my A to Z Challenge posts as an example).  I have written a post all about these giants HERE. Then there are folks like Glenn Goode (who passed away in March 2015).  Known as the Fiberglass Man because of his collection of these giants, he was in the fiberglass and sandblasting business for over 44 years.  On his property on Walnut Bend Road, Gainesville, he had five big fiberglass people .  See my full post about his unique site in the middle of nowhere HERE.

Gothenburg, Nebraska

Gothenburg, Nebraska 2007
Gothenburg, Nebraska 2007
Original Pony Express Station, Gothenburg, NE
Original Pony Express Station, Gothenburg, NE
Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, NE
Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, NE
Barbed Wire Indian at Sod House Museum
Barbed Wire Indian at Sod House Museum
World's Largest Hand Plow at Sod House Museum
World’s Largest Hand Plow at Sod House Museum

Back in 2007 I ventured west to Washington with my son for some shows with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours.  Along the way we visited a number of states and places.  One of the more unique stops along the way was in the town of Gothenburg, Nebraska.  This town is apparently one of only two Gothenburgs in the entire world, the other being the famed city in Sweden. Gothenburg is probably most well known as the home of the Pony Express in Nebraska. The town has become somewhat of a tourist attraction with the Pony Express building and also the Sod House Museum, which is just off of Interstate 80 at exit 211 to the left as you go into Gothenburg. The Sod House Museum was dedicated to the settlers of this area who initially built their homes out of sod.  Also at the Sod House museum are two barbed wire sculptures including an Indian and a Buffalo.  Both have well over 4 miles of barbed wire in the work.  See my write up about this 2007 visit HERE.

Guthrie, Kentucky

Welcome to Guthrie, KY
Welcome to Guthrie, KY
Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Cow with Pink Sunglasses in Russellville, KY (around the corner from a big pink elephant - see below)
Cow with Pink Sunglasses in Guthrie, KY (around the corner from a big pink elephant – see below)

Guthrie, Kentucky is located at the junction of US Highway 79 and US Highway 41 near the Tennessee Border.  I ventured through here on my way to Memphis and the Blues Highway in the fall of 2014 (see a couple of other A to Z Challenge towns in earlier posts including Alligator, MS and Brownsville, TN from this same trip.  Paris, TN and Paris, TX will also be included in my P Towns post.).  Guthrie has its own version of a Pink Elephant (different from the one I posted about in DeForest, WI in my D Towns post).  They also have a pink sunglass wearing giant cow. You can see full details of this visit and more photos HERE.

Gregory, South Dakota

Welcome to Gregory
Welcome to Gregory
Gregory Wall Art
Gregory Wall Art
Giant Pheasant statue in Gregory, SD
Giant Pheasant statue in Gregory, SD
Gregory - Home of the Gorillas
Gregory – Home of the Gorillas

Gregory, South Dakota is another town along the Oyate Trail. South Dakota is the pheasant capital of the U.S. and this area of the Oyate Trail is one of the centers of the pheasant hunting world (and, in Gregory there is also a Gorilla or two….). Apparently Gregory is “The Ground-zero of Pheasantdom” according to Fortune Magazine in 1992.  You can read more about my visit to Gregory and see some photos of old movie theaters, interesting bars, etc., in my 2013 Oyate Trail post, which can be seen HERE.

Galata, Montana

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 - The Hi-Line - in Galata, Montana
Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana
The Ghost Town of Galata, Montana
The Ghost Town of Galata, Montana

Galata, Montana is one of two Montana and US Highway 2 Hi-Line towns I am including in this G Town post.  Located about 23 miles east of Shelby, Montana, Galata is practically a ghost town.  But the 1960s era neon sign advertising the Motel Galata is a classic.  Definitely something worth looking for on a roadtrip across northern Montana.

Glasgow, Montana

US Highway 2 in eastern Montana outside of Glasgow, Montana
US Highway 2 in eastern Montana outside of Glasgow, Montana
Hangar Bar and Grill in Glasgow, Montana
Hangar Bar and Grill in Glasgow, Montana
Welcome to Glasgow - large metal artwork by Buck Samuelson
Welcome to Glasgow – large metal artwork by Buck Samuelson
Train mural in Glasgow Montana on the side of a building
Train mural in Glasgow Montana on the side of a building

On the eastern end of Montana on US Highway 2 is the town of Glasgow, Montana.  A town of about 3000, it is a colorful place with all sorts of dinosaur lore.  As one proceeds west on US Hwy 2 out of Glasgow, you will see dinosaurs up on the hillside. These and the other animals and sculptures (as well as the dino at the Hangar Bar) are all creations of artist Buck Samuelson, who offers them for sale. Read more about US Highway 2, the Hi-Line Drive across northern Montana HERE.

Glasgow, Kentucky

The Plaza Theatre in Glasgow, Kentucky
The Plaza Theatre in Glasgow, Kentucky
Wall Art in Glasgow, KY
Wall Art in Glasgow, KY
Painted Facade in Glasgow, KY
Painted Facade in Glasgow, KY
More Wall Art in Glasgow, KY
More Wall Art in Glasgow, KY

There are apparently 21 places in America named Glasgow that range from a tiny town in Fallen Timber County, Pennsylvania, which has 63 inhabitants, to Glasgow, Kentucky the largest of them all with a population of  just over 14,000. As a Kentucky resident, I have visited many of the towns and Glasgow is unique because of its cultural depth with an amazing old Theatre and its many wall murals. Founded in 1799 by a group of Revolutionary War veterans, Glasgow boasts historic homes and buildings, the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center, downtown walking/driving tours, Barren River Lake State Resort Park and Brigadoon State Nature Preserve. The town sits at the intersection of US Highway 68 and US Highway 31.

Gardiner, Montana

Entering Gardiner, Montana
Entering Gardiner, Montana
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything
Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone National Park

Montana is a huge state and so it is not a surprise that this post has three G Towns.  I would be remiss if I didn’t include Gardiner, Montana, which is situated in Southwest Montana, at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The town is nestled in breath taking Paradise Valley, with the Yellowstone River running right through town. The Roosevelt Arch is the most famous structure in Gardiner. This Yellowstone Entrance, Gateway or Arch was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on 24 April 1903. The arch is visible two miles north of Gardiner on US Highway 89.  See more about my 2014 trip down Montana’s US 89 and Yellowstone HERE.

Gillette, Wyoming

Welcome to Gillette, WY
Welcome to Gillette, WY
Large Wall Mural in Gillette, WY
Large Wall Mural by Harvey Jackson in Gillette, WY
Rockpile Museum - Gillette, Wyoming
Rockpile Museum – Gillette, Wyoming

In June 2013 I made my way to Rexburg, ID and passed through Wyoming on my way to Yellowstone National Park.  (I noted the Montana entrance above).  On this particular trip I found my through Gillette, WY on my way to Cody and Yellowstone.  Gillette is home of a few nice murals, an artist walk with a number of unique sculptures that change each year and then there is the Rockpile Museum. This Campbell County Museum focuses on general, regional, and local history with an emphasis on the culture and people of Campbell County.  It was opened in 1974 at the site of the historic natural rockpile, which has been a piece of Gillette history since the 1890s. See my full report about Gillette and the drive to Cody and on to Yellowstone HERE.

Granbury, Texas

Welcome to Granbury, Texas
Welcome to Granbury, Texas
The County Court House in Granbury, Texas
The County Court House in Granbury, Texas
Who would stay in the Nutt House Hotel?
Who would stay in the Nutt House Hotel?
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Granbury, Texas
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Granbury, Texas
Giraffe Eye taken at Fossil Rim
Giraffe Eye taken at Fossil Rim

The town of Granbury, Texas, south of Fort Worth, is a fun place to visit, filled with history, an old fashioned courthouse square surrounded by unique shops and some good places to eat (especially Babe’s Chicken!!).  It is home to the Nutt House Hotel (crazy name eh?).  Not too far down the road is the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, an amazing drive thru Wildlife Park in Glen Rose, TX (another G Town!) The current facility has grown to 1700 acres and has over 1000 animals, with 50 species of native and non-native animals, including Cheetah, Rhinoceros, Giraffe, various African antelope varieties, Zebras, Ostriches and Rheas, among many others.  You can see dozens of photos of the park and also more on Granbury in my 2012 post HERE.

Grand Forks, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)

Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower

Grand Forks is another US Highway 2 town also cut through by Interstate 29.  I mention it here because of its famed Smiley Water Tower, one of three or four in the US (note the Adair, IA Smiley in my A Towns post).  This tower has the Smiley above and on the other side of the water tower is a Winking Smiley.  You can see more photos of it and also see more about my 2014 US Highway 2 drive through North Dakota HERE.

Gravel Switch, Kentucky (Honorable mention)

Gravel Switch Community Center
Gravel Switch Community Center
Gravel Switch, KY
Gravel Switch, KY
Amish Buggies in Gravel Switch
Amish Buggies in Gravel Switch
Penn's Store Sign
Penn’s Store Sign
Penn's Privy - a famous outhouse!
Penn’s Privy – a famous outhouse!

With a unique name for a place, the small village of Gravel Switch, KY.  grew up around a gravel quarry on a spur line of the L&N railroad around 1870.  There is not much there now but a small Amish school, a Post Office, a bank and a few houses. Not far from Gravel Switch is perhaps the most famous place in the area…Penn’s Store.  According to its website, “Penn’s Store is the oldest country store in America being run continuously by the same family. It has been in the Penn family since 1850.” There is a nice writeup about it here. I drove through there on a trip to Elizabethtown, KY in February 2013.  See the entire post HERE.

Gilboa, Ohio (Honorable mention)

Stinky's Country Well - Gilboa, Ohio
Stinky’s Country Well – Gilboa, Ohio
Giant Steer in Gilboa, OH. I have seen many similar ones in other places
Giant Steer in Gilboa, OH. I have seen many similar ones in other places

On one of my trips back to Kentucky from Canada in 2008, I drove through the community of Gilboa, OH.  Thy had a humongous steer statue and also a unique restaurant/bar called Stinky’s Country Well.  Had to include Gilboa for these reasons.  The town is on US Highway 224 west of Findlay, OH.

Georgetown, Texas (Honorable mention)

A mural in Georgetown that depicts some of the towns more famed buildings
A mural in Georgetown that depicts some of the towns more famed buildings
Statue of Three-Legeged Willie in Georgetown, TX
Statue of Three-Legged Willie in Georgetown, TX
The distinctive Onion Dome on the San Gabriel Masonic Lodge Building in Georgetown, TX
The distinctive Onion Dome on the San Gabriel Masonic Lodge Building in Georgetown, TX

Finally, on Interstate 35 north of Austin lies the historic town of Georgetown, Texas.  I have had a couple of opportunities to visit there in the past few years and it is a unique place.  The town features some of the best Victorian architecture in the state of Texas.  And then, there is the story of “Three-Legged Willie” (Robert M. Williamson), the beloved Texas patriot, Ranger, lawyer, judge, newspaper editor, and Williamson County’s namesake. Known affectionately as Three-legged Willie due to the wooden leg he used following an illness when he was 15. His right leg drew up at the knee and could not support him. Thereafter, he wore a wooden leg, leaving his useless foot extended behind him. A lawyer at 19, he fought with the cavalry at the Battle of San Jacinto. An enthusiastic supporter of Texas statehood, he named one of his sons Annexus.

Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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Traveling US Numbered Highways – Part I: An Overview and History

US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana
US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana

When I was young and living in Albuquerque, NM in the 1960s, there were not many Interstate Highways.  Most of the country still relied on the U.S. Numbered Highway System.

Even to this day I can recall our family drives along the iconic Route 66 out of Albuquerque to Gallup, NM and then, eventually, when we moved to Dallas in 1968 we took it all the way to Amarillo, TX.  Even at that young age I was already enamored by the maze of highways and the desire to see what lays along these long black roads with millions of white lines in the middle and endless telephone poles and wires along both sides.  I too remember the many billboards advertising Stuckey’s roadside stops, gas station or unique tourist attractions.

Albuquerque as I knew it in the 1960s (Really!!) Official caption: Traffic in the streets of Albuquerque, New Mexico after a heavy downpour. Original Publication: Colour Photography book. (Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty Images )
Albuquerque as I knew it in the 1960s (Really!!).  This was Central Avenue, which was part of Route 66.  Official caption: Traffic in the streets of Albuquerque, New Mexico after a heavy downpour. Original Publication: Color Photography book. (Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty Images )
Historic Route 66 in Illinois
Historic Route 66 in Illinois

Since those days I have had the opportunity to travel many of these wonderful highways that ribbon across this glorious country.  They highways have taken me through deserts, mountains, mosquito-infested lake areas, the high plains, through small towns and big cities.  As I near 60 years old the fascination with these highways continues and I drive them every chance I get!!

Map of Current US Highways By SPUI - Own work / Base map is http://www.nationalatlas.gov/printable/images/pdf/reference/genref.pdf, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=944944
Map of Current US Highways
By SPUI – Own work / Base map is http://www.nationalatlas.gov/printable/images/pdf/reference/genref.pdf, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=944944

The current system of United States Numbered Highways (also called U.S. Routes or U.S. Highways) is an integrated network of roads and highways numbered within a nationwide grid in the contiguous United States. The roadways have always been maintained by state or local governments since their initial designation in 1926.

Old Lincoln Highway sign - from the Federal Highway Administration website
Old Lincoln Highway sign – from the Federal Highway Administration website
Carl Fisher, creator of the numbered highway system and also the Indianapolis Speedway
Carl Fisher, creator of the numbered highway system and also the Indianapolis Speedway

According to an article entitled “From Names to Numbers: The Origins of the U.S. Numbered Highway System” by Richard F. Weingroff of the Federal Highway Administration, highway numbering didn’t get started until 1926.  Prior to that time there were just a couple of cross country roads, known as trails back then.  These would include the Lincoln Highway (a direct route from New York City to San Francisco) and the Victory Highway (New York City to San Francisco via Baltimore).  The idea of the Lincoln Highway came from the fertile mind of Carl Fisher, the man also responsible for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Miami Beach. With help from fellow industrialists Frank Seiberling and Henry Joy, an improved, hard-surfaced road was envisioned that would stretch almost 3400 miles from coast to coast, New York to San Francisco, over the shortest practical route.

Weingroff notes:

The trails were a product of the pioneer days of auto travel when government took little interest in interstate roads. Most long distance trips, even by the most avid advocate of the automobile, took place in the comfort of the Nation’s railroads. Although named trails can be traced to the 1890’s, the movement began in earnest in the early 1910’s, with the National Old Trails Road (Baltimore to Los Angeles) and the Lincoln Highway setting the pattern. Boosters selected a route over existing–often, just barely existing–roads, gave it a colorful name, formed an association to promote the trail, and collected dues from businesses and towns along the way. The associations published trail guides and newsletters, held annual conventions, and promoted the improvement and use of their route. The goals were to promote the road, the good roads cause, and economic opportunity for the cities and businesses along the way.

Lincoln Highway after numbering
Lincoln Highway after numbering

In March 1925, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) started planning the federal highway system. Major east-west routes would be numbered in multiples of ten, from U.S. 10 across the north to U.S. 90 across the south. The major north-south routes would end in 1 or 5, from U.S. 1 between Maine and Florida to U.S. 101 between Washington and California. The Lincoln Highway was then broken up into U.S. 1, U.S. 30, U.S. 530, U.S. 40 and U.S. 50 (see above). The Lincoln Highway Association was created in 1913 to promote the Lincoln Highway using private and corporate donations. The public responded favorably, and many other named roads across the country followed.

The Lincoln Highway Map from lincolnhighwayassoc.org
The Lincoln Highway Map from lincolnhighwayassoc.org

Today the Lincoln Highway Association maintains an informative and history-filled website (see it here) about the first real cross country highway.

US 212 East on Beartooth Highway
US 212 East on Beartooth Highway

As I mentioned, the numbering of highways began in earnest in 1925. Generally, north-to-south highways are odd-numbered, with lowest numbers in the east, the area of the founding thirteen states of the United States, and highest in the west. Similarly, east-to-west highways are typically even-numbered, with the lowest numbers in the north, where roads were first improved most intensively, and highest in the south. Major north–south routes have numbers ending in “1” while major east–west routes have numbers ending in “0”.  Expansion of the system continued until 1956, when the Interstate Highway System was formed. After construction was completed, many U.S. Routes were replaced by Interstate Highways for through traffic. Despite the Interstate system, U.S. Highways still form many important regional connections, and new routes are still being added.

Scenes from US 89
Scenes from US 89

Throughout my years of driving, I have been blessed to be able to traverse thousands of miles of these numbered US highways.  In some instances, I have covered the entirety of the routes (over a number of trips).  For instance, from the 1970s to as late as 2014, I covered the entire north/south path of US 89, from Canada to Mexico.  I have been on most of US 66, US 61, US 20 and many others.

Official Route 66 Roadside Attraction
Official Route 66 Roadside Attraction

Some of the US Highways traverse the entire length of the country east to west or north to south.   Some of the longest of these are listed below:

25px-US_20.svgUS Highway 20 from Boston, MA to Yellowstone NP to Newport, OR – 3,237 miles

US_6.svgUS Highway 6 from Provincetown, MA to Bishop, CA – 3,207 miles

25px-US_30.svgUS Highway 30 from Atlantic City, NJ to Astoria, OR

25px-US_50.svgUS Highway 50 from Ocean City, MD to Sacramento, CA – 3,011 miles

US_2.svgUS Highway 2 from Houlton, ME to Rouses Point, NY and then starts again at St. Ignace, MI and goes all the way to Everett, WA – 2,572 miles (combined)

US_1.svgUS Highway 1 from Fort Kent, ME on the border with Canada to Key West, FL – 2,377 miles

31px-US_101.svgUS Highway 101 from Olympia, WA to Los Angeles, CA – 1,519 miles

25px-US_66.svgUS Highway 66 – the famed Route 66 – from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA – 2,451 miles (though much has been replaced by I-10, I-15, I-40, I-44 and I-55)

US_61.svgUS Highway 61 – the Great River Road along the Mississippi River and then the Blues Highway in Mississippi – from Wyoming, MN to New Orleans, LA – 1,400 miles

25px-US_89.svgUS Highway 89 – goes along many of the US National Parks including Glacier NP, Yellowstone NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Zion NP and the Grand Canyon – from just north of Babb, MT on the Canadian border to Flagstaff, AZ.  Continues 89A south through Sedona and then onto Nogales (according to the US 89 Society website) – officially 1,247 miles, but the US 89 Society shows it as 1,800 miles)

DSC_5062Currently there are numbered highways from US 1 all the way to US 830 and a couple hundred in between. I have not been on a good number of these, but many of the cross country ones have felt the wheels of my cars and my footprints.  I have been on US 1 along many parts of the Atlantic Coast and have traveled much of US 101 on the Pacific Coast.  I have traveled the length of US 89 and have been on most of US 2 from Michigan to Montana.

DSC_7579Over the course of my next few posts, I will address my travels on the US Numbered Highways and note some of the wonderful places that can be seen along these routes.

US Highways 71 and 59 in Arkansas
US Highways 71 and 59 in Arkansas

 

 

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