Sure, I hear the call of the open road every once in a while. It usually gets drowned out by other calls, like, “Mom, what’s for dinner?,” and “Mom, where’s my Princess Aurora dress…you know, the one that lights up?”
So it was with great envy that I learned that writer Malerie Y. Cohen, who I met at the ASJA conference this spring, took an extended road trip by herself. What’s more, she drove the longest continuous highway in the country. Her book, Stay on Route 6; Your Guide To all 3,652 Miles of Transcontinental US Route 6, provides both narrative and information on the points of interest she discovered.
Weeks alone with just my thoughts, enjoying the scenery. Pinch me.
We invited Malerie to share her story:
Where we went, and who was coerced into going:
I drove solo for 1 1/2 months (six weeks) across the country; 3,652 miles from Provincetown, MA to Long Beach, CA completely on US Route 6 – the longest contiguous highway in the United States. Why solo? No one can stand my snoring.
WHY did you go there, exactly?
As a travel writer, I was eager to follow one route complete across the USA and write a guidebook to this historic road. Initially, I typed “Longest Road In the USA” into Google, and up popped “US Route 6” as second only to US Route 20. Route 6 was truncated in 1964 – it now officially ends in Bishop, CA and is currently 3,205 miles long. But it was once the longest American highway, and is still the longest CONTIGUOUS highway, as Route 20 breaks up through Yellowstone National Park.
Okay, what was so cool about it?
1. Hardly anyone knows about it! Even folks within the 14 US Route 6 states have no idea it goes completely across the country; they think it’s a “state road.”
2. Jack Kerouac was going to take Route 6 – the “One Red Line” that went completely across the country – on his transcontinental road trip (“On the Road”), but found himself alone on a dark and stormy night near the Bear Mountain Bridge, found a ride to NYC and abandoned his “hearthside dream” to take one Great Line across the USA.
3. Historic Route 6 begins and ends in flamboyant, artsy, touristy, entertainment-rich oceanside towns: Provincetown, MA on the Atlantic Ocean and Long Beach, CA on the Pacific Ocean. What’s in between is a virtual time-line of American history. Revolutionary War sites in New England give way to pioneer homes in the plains and prairies of Iowa and Nebraska, and eventually to the stark silver and gold mining camps in Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.
4. Route 6 travels through two towns called Brooklyn, and neither are in New York. It touches two oceans, runs along the shore of one Great Lake (Erie), crosses most of the country’s major rivers, traverses five state capitals, and climbs, exhilaratingly, up and over the Continental Divide.
How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):
This was in fact one of my bucket list items; to cross the country while pretty much staying off the interstates. And so, I’d give it a 10. Driving it put me in touch with small towns, great people and big ideas that make this country great. Away from the politics, I found that as a nation, we have more in common than not. And most of these smaller towns, with “down home” restaurant and welcoming B&B’s really want visitors to see what they’re all about. I found it very heartening. And of course, there are plenty of surprises – sometimes in the middle of nowhere.