In the last century, in the days just after the dinosaurs ceased to wander the continent and the ice retreated northward I was a young impressionable schoolboy. In those halcyon days of the late 1960's the nation was in turmoil, protests rocked the very foundation of the political process. Hippies and flower children tuned out and turned on, and hundreds of thousands of Americans found themselves on the far side of the world fighting little brown men under rules very similar to the prevent defense used in the NFL. I roamed the halls of Samuel P. Kyger Elementary oblivious to it all.
Occasionally the teacher wheeled in the big projector and threaded an educational film to pass the afternoon. One of my favorite films was a documentary of indiscriminate age detailing a trip down legendary highway US 1 from Maine to Florida. I think the filmmakers were searching for a way to cash in on the popularity of Route 66, looking for a way to insert highways of every stripe into the fabric of the national consciousness.. Why not, in just a few short years Sports Illustrated would trace the sporting history of US 421. Good ideas never die.
Anyway, I loved that movie. I think my fondness for travel was born in the flickering 16mm images of the winding path of US 1 through the heart of the East Coast to its terminus in Key West.
This week I found myself traveling the back roads of the northernmost of the Carolinas. I traveled from south of Charlotte to Greenville, a trip from the southwest corner to the eastern portion of the state. The GPS sent me across US 74 and up US 1 towards Raleigh. Imagine my excitement to travel the famous US 1! I have driven portions of the highway in Florida and Pennsylvania, but here I would travel through the hinterlands on the highway of my youth. Alas, the highway has altered course, it is a four lane limited access highway cutting across the rural lands of the Tarheel state..A fine drive, mind you, but not the twisting route through forgotten cities and towns I hoped for.
One of the fun parts of my job is to drive the state highways and old US routes through the country. Dying towns, roadside attractions and lonely motels mark time; a blurred and aged vision of post war travels across America. The interstates are great to get you where you are going. But the dying towns hugging the old highways speak to me in ways I cannot describe.