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Long before electronics were present to ‘occupy’ the kids in the car – it was what was passing outside the windows that provided travel entertainment – anyone could see, some even noticed..

As a kid traveling in the 1950’s; ‘crowd control’ from the parents was strict; there were few options.  My sisters and I could only stare into each other (which was not advisable) or try to comprehend what was passing outside our windows.  My family’s yearly treks from South Florida to Northeast Georgia left plenty of time to stare into the impending pavement ahead.  That particular highway played-out over the hood of our Mercury like a black ribbon unfurling before us.  The small Georgia roadway split the fields, towns, and tall pines into the next horizon.  That simple scenery remains fresh in my warmest thoughts.  I suppose that I found value in what was passing our windows; for I began to notice the homes and stores too – there was ‘character’ in the surroundings and it remained to be noticed for years to come.  “Little circles.” Features from those same byways lingered into the late 60’s and then as I drove on my own in the 70’s – fewer stand today.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s the interstate system was still being completed, the older thoroughfares along these routes were lined with character.  It struck me as an evolution of sorts – losing the settings of our past.  What I recognized oozed with stories of a once thriving economy’s.

In my young adulthood I drove a truck delivering produce from Florida to New York City on similar highways – I can’t think of a trip that I didn’t continue to notice the same character along the roadside that I recognized from my youth.

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@ Jasper, Fl

As a driver in the early 70’s I was bound to a schedule and to the interstate’s effectiveness in meeting my deadline.  I delivered strawberry’s from Plant City, Fl and it took 22-hours of straight driving to reach Hunts Point market in New York City.  My pace was too steady to fully appreciate that rich history – yet still I noticed the contribution of those byways to their particular economy.

Within the early years of my driving the major interstates were incomplete.  It was a constant to leave a completed section of interstate and pass through a ‘local’ stretch of highway.  This was standard travel for the early 1970’s.  I didn’t have an ipad or Garmin, we either knew the road or had a map to glance at and follow the road signs.  My entertainment was watching the trucks gauges, mirrors, and in observation of the world passing my ‘picture window’ (the windshield) before me. Driving was certainly better than the back seat as a kid.

Goer's

As it would happen, a family became attached to my travels – stopping along the by-roads for me to snap a picture was simply too much of an interruption; too stressful (to the wife).  I tried several times, but to stop for that reason and to take a few moments was simply too much trouble for her – ‘getting there‘ once again was the point of our ride.  A family destination and I had to understand.

Still, it wasn’t difficult to notice the structures along the way; it wasn’t difficult to notice the businesses suffering which had at one time thrived and supported the families of the business, so many.  The revenue that once came through the travelers,  and had so for many years – was moving.

 

Al

The interstate of our country has provided us with expeditious travel and a certain ease of migration.  At the same time we altered those small towns, cultures, communities, and their economies – before once again removing traveler revenue.

In the truck, the windshield was my ‘picture window’ and while traveling many highways made me a part of that change  – I couldn’t help but to experience the sorrow as it was taking place.

On the eastern shore Interstate 95 replaced US Highway’s 17, 15, and 301 as major routes – those byways were the cash-flow for the local businesses and the activities which had sustained generations of families.

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In the South highway 441 was another more northern route through Georgia which was replaced by Interstate 75; altering the local impact of those visiting the south from Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  No different than the once great highways route-66 and the Lincoln highway 50 leading Westward to California. We experienced the completion of the interstates and it is now rare for a new generation of travelers to deviate onto the older byways.

When in no particular hurry I continue to search the trail of decaying and lost businesses that remain – they are apparent for those interested.

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Further evolution with other leading factors continue – there continues to be gas stations, tire stores, restaurants, and local hotels in decline.  There is grass growing in the cracks of those parking lots.  Weeds become trees, vines have replaced the shrubbery; and the only activity present is deterioration.  Relic’s.

81 Gs

I suppose I was touched because the highway has been the greater part of my life – my father was associated with the trucking industry and we spent alot of time ‘on the highway; driving was his passion, his business. I just happen to be a youth in position to hear many of those ‘trucker’s stories’ as drivers sat around the truck stop sipping their coffee.  What a bunch of characters they were; especially ‘Ham-bone,’ short in stature but with the richest of tales – captivating all around with never ending stories and antic’s.

This past summer I took a small ‘raft’ down the Mississippi River to New Orleans (out at Biloxi); 1800 miles worth (Raft The Mississippi) – and after completing 30 years as a firefighter for the City of Asheville, NC. I just may find an opportunity to ease down a few of those overlooked highways once more; in a little less of a hurry.

Why Not?

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