Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Open Road

When automobiles first appeared in the early 1900's, they could only be enjoyed by the rich and privileged. The few available roads were either cobblestone or dirt "mudtraps." Private for-profit auto clubs emerged to build roads accessible only to members.

With the advent of Henry Ford's Model T in 1908, cars became available to the masses. Cities and towns built their own asphalt roads but there was no organization on a national level. The Federal Highway Act of 1925 sought to resolve confusion between state and local routes. Highways were given a standard numerical designation--north to south highways were odd numbered, west to east highways were even numbered. Redundant numerical highways were renamed.

The automobile industry struggled during the Depression and World War II but the early 1950's saw a major increase in car ownership. Road trips emerged as a desired vacation choice and a spate of new businesses were born: gas stations, roadside diners, repair shops and highway motels. President Eisenhower argued that in the event of a foreign invasion the army would need highways to transport troops and supplies across the country. He passed the National Interstate & Defense Highway Act of 1956 which authorized the creation of 41,000 miles of highways. Today the US highway system totals more than 157,000 miles.

I love road trips. My favorite trek is driving north on Highway 1 up the California Coast. I stop for chicken pot pie at Linn's in Cambria, go jade-hunting at Jade Cove in Lucia then hike through the redwoods in Big Sur. There's something magical and liberating about leaving the city behind and taking unknown roads through small towns and the beautiful back country. You're filled with a sense of possibility and you never know where a mysterious road might lead. It can be scary too, but that's part of the adventure. The open road beckons and the lucky few heed the call. (5" x 10", black ink print)

9 comments :

  1. This is really interesting, Loren! I didn't know there used to be private roads only for members. Also, I agree about Hwy 1 up the California coast, beautiful!
    Laurie Gough

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  2. Looks like a landscape in my home state of New Mexico!

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  3. Great words. I miss road tripping. The USA is the best country in the world for it.

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  4. I named my book "Maya ROADS, One Woman's Journey Among the People of the Rainforest," because it travels an unknown path toward a beckoning point, much as your road here reflects. Thank you for this, Loren, proving again that an image is worth a thousand....well, you know.

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  5. Thanks for letting me know about your post on the open road. I love it!

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  6. I had no idea this was the history of roads but I guess it makes so much sense. I love the imagery here, there is such a sense of adventure.

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  7. Very cool. I've seen lots of road scenes just like this one, and it's inspiring every time.
    Very nice work.

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  8. Interesting bit of history to accompany your artwork. Nope, there's nothing like a road trip, and the USA is a great place for them. We did 3300 miles on our last one in 2011. Thanks for sharing, Loren.

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