a brief guide to the interstate highway system -- 6/20/17

Today's selection -- from The Long Haul by Finn Murphy. A trucker's tips for understanding the U.S. Interstate Highway system:

"Here's a kind of fun primer for you four-wheeler drivers out there: On the US Interstate Highway System there's always a mile marker represented by a small green sign on the right shoulder. Truckers call them lollipops or yardsticks. Within each state, mile markers run south to north, so in South Carolina mile marker 1 is one mile from the Georgia border, and mile marker 199 is at the North Carolina border. On a horizontal plane, mile markers run west to east, so on I-80 in Pennsylvania mile marker 311 is at the New Jersey border, and mile marker 1 is near the Ohio border. When truckers communicate with each other, they use lollipops to give a location such as 'Kojak with a Kodak 201 sun­set,' meaning a state trooper has a radar gun at mile marker 201 on the westbound side.

Page from Rand McNally 2016 Road Atlas

"Interstate highways have even numbers for east-west routes and odd numbers for north-south routes. The larger the odd num­ber, the further east it is, and the larger the even number the fur­ther north it is. I-5 goes up the West Coast, and I-95 goes up the East Coast. In between, the major routes are I-15, 25, 35, 55, 75, and 85. East-west I-10 (the Dime) goes from Jacksonville, Florida, to Los Angeles (Jayville to Shakeytown). I-90 goes from Boston to Seattle (Beantown to Needle City). In between are I-20, 40, 70, and 80. Three-digit numbers indicate spur routes to the system. Odd-numbered three-digit routes do not reconnect to the main highway; even-numbered routes are circular and are usually belt­ways around cities. Using Washington, DC (Bullshit City), as an example, I-495 goes around the city, and I-395 ends in the city. It's a simple system that works extremely well except in massive, older urban areas like Chicago (Windy City), where the route numbers coalesce into a Rubik's Cube of confusion.

"Every driver should own and use the Rand McNally Motor Carriers' Road Atlas. Get the one with the laminated pages so when you spill your coffee you can wipe it off. It's the best fifty-nine dollars you'll ever spend. Forget about online systems, and don't rely on the voice. It can be useful as a backup, but your primary guide needs to be a map. You need to visualize the route in your mind. Willie Joyce told me that since they started using GPS, drivers get lost or confused three times more than when they used road maps."

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Finn Murphy


The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road


W. W. Norton & Company


Copyright 2017 by Finn Murphy


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