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US-6 The Longest Highway - Introduction

Let's Get Started!

Hello, and welcome to Roadtrip-'62 ™ again. We’re ready to take our second trip in time, and the highway is...(drum roll, please)...US-6! We’ll be taking a journey of over 3500 miles, which will take us from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Our point of departure on the Atlantic is at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts. We’ll be heading west, but not across Cape Cod Bay. No, we need to head east first and the wrap around the bay before we can drive west. And of course, we’ll be traveling in time also, because we’ll be traveling US-6 as if it’s 1962!

Cape Cod Bay from Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown, Massachusetts
Cape Cod Bay from Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown, Massachusetts

Highway US-6 begins here and in 1962 it ended in Long Beach, California. Even though Roadtrip-'62 ™ will make it to Long Beach, US-6 no longer does. It was the longest US-numbered route, 3,517 miles from ocean to ocean back in 1962, across 14 states. Today at 3,205 miles, it’s only the second longest, being just 116 miles shorter than US-20. In 1964, US-6 was almost completely eliminated in California. Only the portion from Bishop to the Nevada border remains. At this period, many roads were shortened, especially to avoid dual route numbering with the new interstate routes. In the case of US-6 through California, it was dual numbered with US-395, which remains, but not an interstate. Many states simplified their signing this way.

The highway is also known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, honoring an the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Before numbers were assigned in 1926, parts were also known as the Midland Trail. It was also known as the Roosevelt Highway through the 1960s as late as 2000, there were still a few battered signs for it remaining in Pennsylvania. However, the Grand Army of the Republic Highway was formally dedicated at Long Beach in 1953.

Old sign for Grand Army of the Republic Highway and Roosevelt Highway, Pennsylvania
Old sign showing Grand Army of the Republic Highway and Roosevelt Highway, in Pennsylvania (photo by Joyce Tice, Tri-Counties Genealogy & History, used by permission).

As with the last Roadtrip-'62 ™ down US-23, we’ll be using the roads of 1962, and that means we won’t be on freeways very much. There weren’t many freeways in 1962, as the country had just begun building the Interstate system, so we’ll travel mostly the two-lanes through every little town on the way. Also, most of US-6 does not serve major transportation corridors, so it remains on the backroads even today. We’ll head through parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, looking at some of the oldest historical places in the country. We’ll cross the Hudson River in New York and then head across Pennsylvania’s northern forests. Across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois we will touch the Great Lakes and the metropolises of Cleveland and Chicago. Then it’s time to cross the prairie, through the farmlands of Iowa and Nebraska. In Colorado, we’ll see the Rocky Mountains and gold rush country. The desert and some mountain surprises wait for us in Utah and Nevada. And we’ll finally reach the Pacific Ocean in California, ending in the largest urban sprawl of the country, the Los Angeles area.

US-6 route map
US-6 route map

US-6 passes through a great variety of scenery, climate, and culture along the way; perhaps the greatest variety of any route, due to its length. We cross the Old Man River of the United States, the Mississippi River, and the Mother Road, US-66. We'll see many small towns and several major metropolises. US-6 will take Roadtrip-'62 ™ through the historic Northeast, decaying manufacturing towns, wilderness areas, deserts, and over the highest mountains as we cross the Continental Divide. And we'll see lots of history along the way, from 1962 and before. Of course, we'll learn about that history through people, places, events, technology and culture. A lot has happened along US-6…a lot that may surprise you. We’ll do all this within just 5 miles of US-6, to keep this trip focused. As for weather, don't worry. It's always an endless summer on the road, between Memorial Day weekend, and Labor Day weekend...or sometimes a little longer.

We cross our previous Roadtrip-'62 ™ route, US-23, at a pair of quiet intersections in farm fields near New Rochester, Ohio. The intersections are arranged on opposite sides of the Portage River, so that only one bridge is required for both highways. This location is where US-23 was located in 1962; today it’s a few miles east, but still in the farm fields. And unlike US-23, but like the more famous Route 66, US-6 has it’s own tourism association, the U.S. Route 6 Tourist Association.

westbound on US-6 at old US-23, near New Rochester, Ohio
westbound on US-6 at old US-23, near New Rochester, Ohio

But, we're not quite ready to hit the road yet. I've got to pack my suitcase, a picnic to start, the maps, some comics to read, etc. Don’t forget to pack some products from 1962, and some traveler's checks too. You can't just waltz into every place and expect to use a credit card in 1962! So check out all the other stuff on this site, for more 1962 fun. Then bookmark the site, stop back a couple of weeks from now, and we'll buckle up and hit the road for some time travel! ‘Til next time, have a great roadtrip, I am!

Massachusetts US-6 sign from 1961
Massachusetts US-6 sign from 1961

All photos by the author and Copyright © 2016, 2021 - Donald Dale Milne, except as noted.

All other content Copyright © 2016, 2021 - Donald Dale Milne.

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More Fun Stuff:

What's the weather in 1962?

Weather on March 5, 1962 for Provincetown, MA, from the National Climatic Data Center:

  • Low = 33°F
  • High = 43°F
  • Precipitation = no data
  • Mean Wind Speed = 5mph

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