Tuesday, August 28, 2012
We Americans love our vehicles and the open road. President Eisenhower enacted the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956 to construct 41,000 miles of beautiful ribbons of concrete and asphalt that just beg you to jump on them and drive simply for the enjoyment of cruising out in the open spaces of this great country. The initiative was actually started in 1938 as a national Great Depression jobs initiative and we’re now due for another one to reconstruct the system. If I’d been born one hundred years earlier, I’m certain I would be out riding my favorite and fastest horse over the unpaved hills and valleys on an inviting, sunny morning every chance I got. But in this generation, an open air sports car with a wind deflector works very well. And the prime value of a vehicle for me is measured in units of “satisfaction per gallon”. I use a vehicle to move my body from point A to B like most folks, but I really enjoy the freedom of driving out on the open road as the mile markers mark time and space.
The Second World War delayed the project, but it also provided the exposure of our troops and General Eisenhower to the German autobahn highway network and its enhanced mobility. One myth is that there was a provision for one straight mile in every five to accommodate airplane landing strips, but the mobility of our troops in case of a land invasion along with effective evacuation routes and highway safety were also incentives. However, one significant unintended consequence was the flight to the expanding suburbs from urban centers and the resulting construction of unplanned loops and beltways. The pattern of community development and national priorities was subsequently based on the automobile and its dependency on oil.
I’ve found it amusing lately in observing how many of my fellow motorists seemingly find it difficult to distinguish between driving fast and speeding. There seems to be a Pavlovian response for many folks when they’re approaching a sports car out on the interstate highways. Even though the legal speed limit may be 70 miles per hour and I’m cruising along at about that speed, they apparently have an instant infusion of testosterone and instinctively must speed up to pass. My car could keep up with them, but I don’t need a ticket and higher insurance rates-- or a confrontation with a stranger that’s having a postal kind of day. So I generally just let Scotty speed by at full warp speed and quietly wish him a good day. And occasionally on a day like today, I have the satisfaction of waving at ol’ Scotty as he is being pulled over a few miles ahead by Captain Kirk in a flashing interceptor land rover!