June 18, 1969: “See the USA…”

I’ve always been fascinated by the interstate highway system — the scale of the vision, the resolve to get it done, the fact that it did get done. I actually have a favorite interstate: the beautiful and elegantly contoured I-280 from San Jose to San Francisco. Fun fact: It wasn’t near complete in 1969.

Another fun fact: 15 miles of my commute on the lovely I-680 in the east bay is now under panic-inducing construction, providing a magical reminder that the system will never truly be done. My tax dollars at work. Indeed! But I digress.

As you probably know, President Eisenhower gets credit for thinking big and delivering in the 50s (though the concept arose in the 30s). By then, the automobile was ubiquitous, and the timely combination with wider, smoother, longer roads made Americans truly mobile. Here’s a new book out about the history (and future) of motoring across this great big land of ours.

And of course, all of this was romanticized by our friends at Chevy. Cue Dinah Shore!

See the USA in your Chevrolet
America is asking you to call
Drive your Chevrolet through the USA
America’s the greatest land of all
On a highway, or a road along the levee
Performance is sweeter
Nothing can beat her
Life is completer in a Chevy
So make a date today to see the USA

And this next spot from 1972 was practically inspired by Marge Binder’s Epic Adventure but with more…er, Native Americans.

Most of the interstate network was completed by the time of our trip, but there were still big stretches through the midwest and northwest that were connected by older highways and blacktop, including the famed Route 66. And, of course, the interstates weren’t yet teeming with services like fast food malls, motels and major travel centers.

Here’s a great site for satisfying your inner highway geek, including addressing a few myths about the program.

Started about 10 again. Had breakfast “out” but then a tailgate picnic for lunch. Went through a lot of rain in Indiana. Stopped at Bauer’s Bonanza in Smithboro, IL about 5 and swam & fished and cooked out. Cleared and was lovely evening. Called Jim and Momma.

Marge Binder, June 18, 1969

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