Woodbury Pays Homage to D.D. Eisenhower
Editor’s Note: The following column appeared in the RV Travel Newsletter and was written by Editor Chuck Woodbury.
The next time you’re speeding down an interstate highway, thank President Dwight Eisenhower. He’s responsible for the speedy roads.
As a young military officer Ike had crossed the USA as part of a publicity stunt to raise awareness for good roads. It was a long, difficult trip. When president, after highway travel had improved vastly, Eisenhower still envisioned something better. He had driven the famous Autobahn in Germany, where motorists drove as fast as some airplanes. He figured America needed similar roads, not just to accommodate people but also troops in case of a national emergency. And so he championed the creation of our present interstate system.
The formal name of the roads is the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. The first mile of pavement was laid in 1956. Today there are 47,182 miles in the vast network.
I’m not old enough to have driven before the interstates. As I child, traveling with my parents, I remember mostly two-lane roads. They went right down main streets, causing motorists to pause occasionally when they spotted a giant root beer mug atop a cafe — a good indicator that the beverage served inside was tasty and cold. I also remember seeing many war surplus airplanes permanently affixed atop gas stations like they had crashed there — to attract attention to the business. And giant steers were atop any decent steakhouse, as many still are today along the backroads.
The interstates pretty much did away with those large attention-getting icons. Motorists were moving too fast to spot them. Instead, they began to rely on recognizable logos as guides about where to stop.
Most of those two-laners still exist. Some RVers, myself included, prefer to travel these old roads, where the pace is usually slower and there is still plenty to see. The late CBS-TV “On the Road” correspondent Charles Kuralt once said of our interstates — and he has been quoted at least a million times since — that, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”
Still, when you want to get somewhere fast, an interstate is the best way, and a modern marvel.