Category Archives: Highways

America’s Newest Interstate

I’ve just driven the length of America’s newest Interstate highway.  Which didn’t take long.

Plans are for I-11 — as the new road is designated — to eventually extend from Nogales, at the Mexican border, all the way to Canada. But it currently runs for only 15 miles, or just far enough to bypass Boulder City, Nevada, and add fuel to an argument people have been having about the Interstate Highway System ever since it opened in 1956.

Will the 34 percent reduction in traffic through Boulder City and half-hour savings in driving time for thru-motorists that is projected as a result of the I-11 bypass help make the home of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead a more pleasant place to live, and drive through, or hasten it toward becoming one more American ghost town?

The locals seem to be divided, as locals seem to be about almost everything, almost everywhere. But for those of us passing through, excuse me, around, Boulder City, I’m pretty sure we alI agree that I-11 as it now exists is not the most scenic Interstate ever built.

Running through a desert crisscrossed with power lines carrying the massive amounts of electricity generated by Hoover Dam, new highway’s only visual landmark is one of those messages you see painted white on hillsides celebrating towns or college football teams, except this one celebrates Pro Gun Club, an organization, I understand, whose activities include trap and skeet, machine gun shooting, and the opportunity to “blow shit up.”

From the historical perspective, I-11 has a bit more to offer, starting as it currently does at the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Colorado River just below the dam. O’Callaghan, yawn, was governor of Nevada from 1971 to 1979, but Tillman, as anyone who lives in Arizona and follows NFL football will remember, was a star player with the Arizona Cardinals when he turned down a $3.3 million contract in order to join the Army and serve in Afghanistan, where in 2004 he was killed by friendly fire.

I don’t know if I-11 will turn Boulder City into a ghost town. But I do hope that the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge will continue to remind interstate travelers that there are ghosts worth remembering.

Interstate Bob’s Ultimate Road Trip — A 49,072-mile highway adventure

Hello rubber tramps and all who wish they could be. I’m Bob Payne, also known to some of you  as Interstate Bob. I hope you’ll join me on Interstate Bob’s Ultimate Road Trip,  a 49,072-mile highway adventure around (and around) America.

As a bit of background, I’ve spent much of my life as a travel writer, visiting 140-something countries and seeing my stories appear in some pretty good publications, including Conde Nast Traveler magazine, where I believe I remain the only writer ever allowed to put the cost of a Polynesian tattoo on an expense account.

But now I’ve decided to settle down, which to my mind means taking the time to see more of my own country. And I have begun with Interstate Bob’s Ultimate Road Trip.

I am driving all 49,072 miles of America’s Interstate Highway System, of which I’ve already done 20,411.

But looking for driving adventure on the Interstate? I know some eyes are rolling, because I’ve done the Blue Highways and Travels with Charley thing, too. And I remember totally agreeing with  Charles Kuralt, the On the Road storyteller for CBS beginning back in the late 1960’s, when he said, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”

Consider this point of view, though. Sure, it is possible to travel anywhere without seeing anything. Most people do it all the time. But if you look closely enough, in the desert, on the ocean, along the Interstate, you’ll find life, and drama, and sometimes even beauty.

To see all that, I’m looking  most closely at the people I meet along the way, because one thing I’ve learned in all my travels is that everyone — whether they are taking a break from working behind a fast-food counter, or picking up the pieces of a sofa that has just blown onto the highway from out of the back of their pickup truck — has a story to tell that we all can almost always benefit from listening to.

I hope you’ll come along and listen with me.