Some twenty years ago, I made the aspirational purchase of two volumes in the American Guide Series, (c. 1938, Federal Writer’s Project of the Works Progress Administration) for imminent — IMMINENT — road trips I planned to take.
It was the cover of The Ocean Highway that gave me the idea in the first place. I wanted to see how well the points of interest defined by the WPA would hold up after 60-ish years, so a few weeks later, I meandered from my home in Alexandria, Virginia to Wilmington, North Carolina along what is mostly U.S. Route 17.
Turns out 65 years can do either absolutely nothing or entirely too much of everything to towns that line a highway.
A memorable experience I fully intended to replicate with the second book, but could not carve out the time to pursue.
U.S. One: Maine to Florida.
Route 1: Every town’s favorite place to put an Arby’s. Or a “gentleman’s” club. Or 10 car dealerships in a row. Where the speed limit, I’m told, can reach up to 50 mph!
I have traveled parts of this road up and down the coast for donkey’s years. I have cursed in summer traffic many a time along Route 1 between Bath and Belfast, Maine.
I have driven my kid to doctors’ appointments and my pets to the vet on Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. 1 in Alexandria, VA) for a decade. I just took it up to Baltimore this summer to visit the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, in fact. But never have I had the time to drive Route 1 in its entirety.
Well now, thanks to a generous leave program at my job (and the time I put in to earn it), I am taking this dusty-ass book and my dusty old self from the tippy top of Maine to the southernmost point of the continental United States in Key West, Florida. Just in time for hurricane season!
I will NOT be using GPS, but paper maps. Maps from when Route 1 was just about finished (c. 1932). Maps from when Route 1 was just about to become a secondary road (c. 1955). Maps from a couple weeks ago that I got from the AAA up the street. I will be following the actual road signs on the actual road and reading turn-by-turn directions that I previously scrawled on an index card like my mother taught me.
After twenty years of maybe, someday, this trip finally begins September 7, 2021.
Stay tuned! There will be clams.