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What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

Route 6: Longest Contiguous Highway in the United States

Stay on Route 6Sure, 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.

Westernaires

Discovered in Lakewood, CO — Westernaires; a youth group that instills civic responsibility through horsemanship. This precision-riding team drills on summer weekdays at sunset with Rocky Mountains as backdrop.

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.

Majors Place

Off the grid in Nevada — Major’s Place; a tavern about 26 miles from the closest town, Tonopah. Full of antlers and deer heads, and plastered with dollar bills on the walls and ceiling left by guests from all over the world.

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.

Route 6

10 comments

  1. Sumoflam said,
    October 24, 2012 @ 7:22 am

    Thanks for this post. I have touched on US 6 in a few places, but never knew it was the longest contiguous highway in the country. Gonna buy the book, gonna take the trip, gonna write about it on my site!! Thanks Traci!!

  2. October 24, 2012 @ 8:13 am

    I think I might need to add this to my bucket list. Great article. Looks like a very interesting book.

  3. Mike said,
    October 24, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

    Great post. Sounds like a wonderful trip. 2 more Brooklyns….who knew?

  4. B.S. said,
    October 24, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    I have wanted to do this for awhile and almost did it this past summer, but was never able to swing it. Looks like a great read, I would love to check it out.

  5. Denny Gibson said,
    October 26, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    I just ordered the book and look forward to reading it. I also look forward to adding the rest of US 6 to the bits I’ve driven — someday.

    Amazon.com tags this “Volume 1” although nothing on the book indicates anything of the sort. Amazon goof/joke or is Malerie hard at work on the sequel?

    • Denny Gibson said,
      October 26, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

      I guessed that was the case though I couldn’t rule out the possibility that you, like Mel Brooks, were leaving the door open for a Part 2. I’ll likely do some sort of review and (just because you asked:-) could put something on Amazon.

  6. Sandra Foyt said,
    October 31, 2012 @ 11:08 am

    Another bonus: some of the most beautiful American landscapes are seen from Route 6.

  7. Denny Gibson said,
    November 14, 2012 @ 8:19 am

    I’ve now read “Stay on Route 6” and I like it — after I didn’t.

    For some reason, Malerie’s response to my first comment has gone missing so that I appear to be talking to myself. That’s OK. I’m actually pretty good at it. But I swear there was a reply answering my question about the “Volume 1” designation (she didn’t know) and asking if I’d comment about the book at Amazon. My Amazon review is here:
    http://tinyurl.com/d6jcs6p

    and there’s a somewhat wordier one here:
    http://tinyurl.com/cho3p2q

  8. Wendy said,
    November 28, 2012 @ 7:03 am

    I’m from MA and never knew rte 6 ran across the whole country. Like you said, I thought it was just a state road. Here’s my question: Is it safe for cycling? I have always wanted to bike across the U.S. but many of the trans-continental routes are too busy (interstates). Was rte 6 a low-key route the whole way or is it only like that in MA (the part I’m familiar with)?

    • Malerie said,
      November 28, 2012 @ 8:55 am

      Hi Wendy; Much of 6 is great for cycling, though there are a few hundred miles where 6 pairs with Interstates. Most can be avoided by taking parallel roads, but others, like the I-195 bridge in Providence, are unavoidable (and pretty dangerous for bicycles, in my estimation). That said, Connecticut native Joe Hurley, WALKED across the country completely on Route 6 and lived to tell the tale in another great cocktail table book; Ten Million Steps on Route 6. It took him 9 months, rain and shine.. If you do choose to pedal, just be aware that there are some very challenging parts like the narrow “Goat Trail” that switchbacks along the Hudson River for a couple of miles (up and down), and Loveland Pass in Colorado, which you have to share with fuel tanker trucks that must avoid the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70. It would probably be best to have a sweep up van if you decide to cross the country on US 6. But it is a great way to see small-town USA!
      Malerie