Sunday, November 2, 2008

North Platte to Ogalla (part 4)

Throughout the front pages, the editors refer to the roads of Iowa and Nebraska, to their muddy and impassable state after a rain. Finally, there is a free-floating memorandum inserted between the sections on Provisions and Lost Packages:

REMEMBER: In Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, where dirt roads exist, that after heavy rains, if the tourist will remain over in the community in which he is stopping for five or ten hours, it will enable him to proceed in comfort, as the roads are well graded and dry very rapidly. Such a delay will, in the end, save time and save your car, your tires and your temper, and make your trip more enjoyable.

It is perhaps not surprising that the first effective models for the national highway network were the state highway systems of Nebraska and Iowa, where the fine-grained soil made for a poor roadbed. Whatever the genesis, since 1919, based on those Nebraska and Iowa roads, Americans have built the greatest highway network in the world – the most extensive work, public or private, ever undertaken anywhere, by any one. But by some irony, a good portion of the Lincoln Highway, the route of the 1919 Convoy, is unchanged. While stretches of it have been absorbed by the four-lane interstate, much of the highway is two-lane blacktop, and some is still brick cobble. West of Cheyenne, wherever the interstate took a different route, it is often a gravel road, and for hundreds of intermittent miles in Wyoming and Utah, it is a dirt track, not particularly different today than it was in 1919.

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