November 11, 1926 wasn’t just Armistice Day (today’s Veterans Day), it was a big day for road travel in the United States.
Today, while the roads remain and there are streets named Old Highway 101, Old (and Olde) Highway 80 and Old Highway 395, these were once officially marked as U.S. Highways, a system that’s still in use and robust in the rest of the country on their 90th birthday.
On this date in 1926, the American Association of State Highway Officials made its map official, numbering selected highways from coast to coast. It was along those routes that the familiar US Highway shield and numbers were posted. The federal government recognized the routes, making them eligible for early government funding through—if you can believe this—the Department of Agriculture.
These folks were the ones that decided that east-west routes would be even numbered, starting on the Mexican border and Gulf of Mexico. North-south were odd numbered, starting on the east coast. Located in the lower left-hand corner of the continental U.S., that means the west-coast route and southernmost transcontinental roads both ended here. That gives us U.S. 80 and U.S. 101. The third U.S. highway that reached San Diego, U.S. 395, came along sometime later… maybe 1935?
The romance of old highways is lead by U.S. 66; the song, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” is 70 years old. In our county, U.S. 80 is a similar experience and while there are songs about it, none were as famous as Get Your Kicks.
By the way, I found out about the U.S. 80 songs after I taped this video, but otherwise it’s a pretty good trip down our old highway, if I do say so myself, as does the San Diego Press Club, which honored it at this year’s awards ceremony. And don’t forget my Towering Old Highway book on Amazon Kindle or as a chapter in the print book Joyrides Around San Diego. There’s also the U.S. 101 story in Quintessential California on Amazon Kindle, also in print as a Joyrides chapter.
Honor our veterans today, but also honor a road system that was built by many who were also veterans, and take a drive on the wonderful country they left for us.