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Where we're always on the road, and it's always 1962! TM
Another guest post this week, by reader John Gower. John is a writer for NerdWallet, a site that helps you save money by "doing the homework for you." If you would like to appear here, just drop me a line and I'll see what I can do.
Map of US-6 through the desert states, (from 1959 Rand-McNally atlas)
First things first: Route 6 is not Route 66, although it is easy to see where the confusion originates. Did you know that Route 6 was actually the longest continuous highway in the country, stretching from coast-to-coast? If you didn’t know, don’t feel too bad. Not many people do, actually. Route 6 began in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, and at first, it only took travelers southwest to Brewster, New York. It grew through the years as infrastructure developed across states, and in 1937, it was approved to stretch to Long Beach, California, making it the longest continuous US-numbered route in the United States.
If you start on the West coast, you will eventually drive within about 20 miles of Death Valley National Park, but that’s a bit more desert than we need to deal with. You will pass Boundary Peak, the highest point in Nevada, after you cross the state line from California. As you pass Boundary Peak, you will also see Montgomery Peak on California’s state line. These twin peaks are within the White Mountains range of Inyo National Forest. The rest of the drive in Nevada is filled with more deserts with mountains as backdrops. You will also go through Snake Valley before you reach Baker, a Mormon farming community near the Utah border.
Downtown Tonopah, Nevada (from 1961 postcard)
There is great history to experience in the desert stretch of Route 6. You will drive through towns that are rich with gold and silver mining history (places such as Golden, Colorado, and Tonopah, Nevada). Also, there’s the Mojave Desert, where many aerospace tests have occurred.
While there are countless wonders to marvel at along Route 6, if you do your research before embarking upon a road trip, you will certainly find some travelers that caution you regarding the dangers of this curvy highway in the mountains and valleys of deserts. In an NPR article from a few years ago, the author writes, “Avoiding Highway 6 is difficult because it's the direct link to medical specialists, government offices, shopping, colleges and family along Utah's populous Wasatch Front, which includes Salt Lake City. Truckers use the road because it's the shortest route between Salt Lake City and Denver, linking Interstates 15 and 70 — two of the West's busiest trade corridors. And tourists drive the route because it leads to the national parks, wild rivers and red rock canyons of southeastern Utah. More than 6,000 vehicles make the trip every day. That's more traffic than travels on most of Interstate 70 in Utah.
House Range Recreation Area, Utah (public domain from Bureau of Land Management)
Translation? There is a lot of traffic on Route 6, especially if you are on the western end. As with any road trip, you must use caution, especially when traveling roads with such beautiful scenery and so many cars, trucks, and other forms of transportation. Also, don’t be surprised if you pass signs that say things like, “No service for [A LOT OF MILES].” And, don’t expect your smartphone to work as you trek down this historic road. When you think about why this road developed across the country (westward expansion), it makes sense there wouldn’t be perfect cell reception in the more rural areas.
Route 6 is a fantastic way to see many small, western towns that thrive on the road trip enthusiast’s desire to explore the road less traveled.
US-6 route shields of the desert states, 1961
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2013 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
Music of the week from 1962. Enjoy while you read, and then buy some to take home!
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