“This little guy [I-73] sees itself, someday — way over a unicorn-filled rainbow in the distant future — as a direct connection between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the South Carolina Coast. For now it’s the country’s least busy interstate, a wee 77-mile heart line to Andre the Giant’s last home in Ellerbe, North Carolina.”
— From “The U.S. Interstate Highways, Ranked” at MapQuest (Feb. 20)
Stipulating that “ranking the Lower 48’s two-digit, primary Interstates — 66 in all… is a subjective business,” Robert Reid takes into consideration not only “vehicle travel miles per mile of Interstate,” but also “the general joy of the ride as a whole.”
North Carolina’s Interstates fall in the middle of Reid’s pack, except for the one that no traveler of the coastal plain will be surprised to see ranked No. 66. (But that doesn’t mean it lacks excitement!)
“… In rural parts of North Carolina where roads are small, it’s possible to see the face of a farmer coming towards you in his truck because you are both driving slowly. As often as not he will wave. (Imagine doing that on an interstate highway or a six-lane suburban throughway.) In the 200 or so years before automobiles came to North Carolina, our counties were sized based on the distance a farmer could travel on horseback in a day to pay his taxes at the courthouse, or sell his crops at market….
“Country stores, now usually shuttered, [were] spaced every few miles within walking distance of farmsteads; and country churches [rang] steeple bells at a quarter to 11 on Sunday morning to remind folks they had 15 minutes to walk to service.
“High-speed roads have liberated these older landscapes…. And on the whole, this is better. But as [Greensboro journalist] Jim Schlosser observed, architecture began to go downhill with the construction of the Interstate…. Since people no longer slowed down to drive through cities, architects designed buildings to be viewed at 65 miles per hour, with a consequent loss of scale, texture, and detail.”
— From “No One Drove Faster than a Horse” by Raleigh architect Frank Harmon (architectsandartisans.com)