Roads once traveled


By Keith N. Leonard, Esquire

Some thoughts for anyone on a road trip this holiday weekend!

Most Americans thirty-five years old or younger have no memory of traveling on roads before the Interstate Highway system. However, for most of the years that America has been a nation, the roads (to the extent they could even be called roads) which existed were pathways repeatedly used or created through an area, evolving into dirt roads, and then into what we commonly call secondary roads today, well before the federal government passed the Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956 and established the Interstate Highway System.

When I was a (very) young child, my parents decided to take the family on a vacation to Florida. My children would say “no problem – just book a flight to the airport in Florida nearest to where you want to go on vacation.” They would of course also assume that at least part of the trip would be to visit Disney World (again) but that little attraction did not exist at the time of my family vacation. And they likely do not remember that their father’s first airplane flight did not occur until his junior year of college.

Well then, if your parents could not afford to fly the family to Florida, then you all piled into the family car and hopped onto I-95 South for a leisurely twenty-plus hour drive. That is assuming you chose not to eat, drink, refuel, or go to the bathroom. I-95 is the longest north-south Interstate Highway in the United States and goes from Maine to Florida. For trivia fans, I-90 is the longest Interstate in the country, though it passes through fewer states than I-95.

Unfortunately, I-95 in anywhere near its current form did not exist at the time of my parents’ well planned Florida vacation. We traveled a little more scenic route to get to Florida and my first visit to an alligator farm. The trip involved a much longer (both in distance and in time) drive along U.S. Route 1. My father was an educator and not, like my father-in-law, a one-time trucker; thus my father was not a man used to driving long hours at any one stretch.

The result was a drive over a number of days, with nightly stops at motels along the way. This was not a trip where the stops were in major cities with taking in the sights during the day. Instead, this was a drive where we traveled as many hours as my father could last (or tolerate my brother and me arguing from the back seat) and then my parents would look for a motel in the next town of any size. And no, we did not use our laptops, Blackberries, or IPads to look up the motels in the area. Nor did we call the motels on our cell phones to book reservations. Unfortunately those little pieces of technology would not be available for quite a while after this trip.

For those of you under thirty, this is not a tale intended to sound like your father’s (or grandfather’s) stories of how he walked five miles to school each day in the snow, and “uphill both ways.”

First, this was a great trip (a later trip to Cooperstown was even more memorable) that I look back on with fond memories. Well, except for the time when I was knocked to the ground by a deer and then surrounded by the herd—I have never watched the movie “Bambi” the same after that trip.

Secondly, I got to actually see parts of this great country that I would not have otherwise gotten to see, and certainly not seen in the same way looking out the windows of an airplane or even out the windows of a car traveling sixty-five or more miles per hour whizzing along an Interstate highway.

Traveling south from Pennsylvania on U.S. Route 1 leads through Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia before entering Florida. That route goes through major cities – Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville – and state capitals including Raleigh and Columbia. It also goes through the oldest, continuously occupied city in the continental United States, St. Augustine, Florida, as well as many, many smaller towns. You can travel from the Canadian border (at Fort Kent, Maine) to the southernmost city in the continental United States (Key West, Florida) and stay on U.S. Route 1 the entire trip.

The technological advances of the last fifty years in all areas of our lives have been a wonderful thing and have made our lives easier. If nothing else, I certainly make use of and enjoy the advantages of my computers, laptop, Blackberry, cell phone, and my car (with air conditioning at a minimum). I have certainly gotten to various vacation destinations a lot faster due to air travel and the Interstate Higway system.

However, I have to admit to certain nostalgic feelings about the slower pace of family trips like that one to Florida, allowing me to visit towns that I will likely never see again although their memories remain. I also have to admit to a certain amount of sadness when I realize that a lot of people in small town America have lost their jobs over the years; their employers closed up businesses as the number of travelers passing through those towns significantly declined due to the Interstate Highway system.

Happy and safe motoring to all, no matter the road you may choose.
Remember that laws are constantly changing and are often not uniform throughout the United States. Do not place unqualified reliance on the information in this article. Always contact legal counsel for detailed advice.
If you have a particular issue, law or problem you would like to see addressed in a future column, please contact me at KLeonard@LeonardSciolla.com, or Leonard, Sciolla, Hutchison, Leonard & Tinari, LLP, 215-567-1530.

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