Thursday -- 29 June 2006 -- marks the 50th anniversary of The National Defense Interstate Highway Act, signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on this day in 1956.
Yeppers, our wonderful interstate highway system turns 50. While serving in his capacity as a General during WWII, Eisenhower saw the impressive network of superhighways the Germans had built, and envisioned a similar system of roads for the United States. Sure, we love to rag on our interstates, and you won't find an argumentative peep from me that many are as boring as one of those old B/W school classroom films. Especially I-16 between Savannah and Macon.
I should know; In the nearly six years I've been living in coastal Georgia, I have been making trips to Alabama to see my son Tiger at least once a month. Trust me when I tell you that Talmadge Gleck is intimately familiar with every bridge, every curve, every crack in the concrete slab, every bloody inch of Interstate Highway 16, a/k/a Jim Gillis Highway. I can practically drive that @#$%ing road with my eyes closed!
But as much as I like to diss the Sominex Slab, I don't know what I'd do without 'em. Without I-16, the trip over toward Alabama would be more interesting, yes, but would YOU want to go back to the old two-lane slab, the original US Highway system ... originally designed so that a given route was Main Street through the heart of every cotton-pickin' Boo Foo Egypt. Speed limit 25. Traffic lights. Trains. Fools and drunks aplenty. Accidents. Gloom, despair, agony and bloodshed on the bituminous pavement.
Ya know, for all the pining I do for "the old way of doing things", I like the convenience of the interstate when I need it. Sure, I sometimes wish I could go back in time to 1955, when Georgia's main arterials were such US routes as 41, 80, 19, 29 and 301. To be able to count the creative billboards ... the barn roofs with the South's most famous three words: SEE ROCK CITY .... the original Stuckey's stores along the way ..... all the roadsides had to offer. Making a trip was certainly more fun back in 195x.
However, admit it (and I do!): if you had to make the same two-lane trip, slowing down for every little bleedin' town between point A and point B (some of which propped up their town budgets through well-oiled speed traps), and do this more than once a month, you'd go plum' crazy. Six hours to Montgomery or Troy, Alabama is long enough, goodness knows ... but what if that monthly trip were more like 8-10 hours?
Kinda puts a little perspective into those boring concrete slabs, yes?
Happy Birthday, Interstate Highway System. Friday, I'll have a Coke and "Nabs" at a rest area along I-16 in your honor. And although I probably won't be able to drive my favorite of the Birthday Boulevards, I-65 in Alabama, this go-round ... I'll be thinking about her.
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "Road Scholar" Gleck
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