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Chuck Woodbury

Editor’s Note: The following column by RV Travel Editor Chuck Woodbury pays homage to President Eisenhower’s creation of the interstate highway system in the U.S.

The next time you’re speeding down an interstate highway, thank President Dwight Eisenhower. He’s responsible for the speedy roads.

As a young military officer Ike had crossed the U.S. as part of a publicity stunt to raise awareness for good roads. It was a long, difficult trip. When president, after highway travel had improved vastly, Eisenhower still envisioned something better. He had driven the famous Autobahn in Germany, where motorists drove as fast as some airplanes. He figured America needed similar roads, not just to accommodate people but also troops in case of a national emergency. And so he championed the creation of our present interstate system.

The formal name of the roads is the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. The first mile of pavement was laid in 1956. Today there are 47,182 miles in the vast network.

I’m not old enough to have driven before the interstates. As a child, traveling with my parents, I remember mostly two-lane roads. They went right down main streets, causing motorists to pause occasionally when they spotted a giant root beer mug atop a cafe — a good indicator that the beverage served inside was tasty and cold. I also remember seeing many war surplus airplanes permanently affixed atop gas stations like they had crashed there — to attract attention to the business. And giant steers were atop any decent steakhouse, as many still are today along the backroads.

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