On September 1, 1971 I packed my family and headed for a Chicago suburb, an unwilling victim of a decision to move our offices from Detroit to Chicago. At the time I moved because I was grateful for the job I had. Since then the world around me has continued to change, radically.
On January 4, 2013 I packed up my immediate family, which now consists of two dogs and self, and headed north, back to the Detroit area; this also being the result of radical change.
An endless string of phone calls, text messages and e-mails all asked the same question:
“Are you insane? Don’t you know that EVERYONE is leaving Detroit? No one, NO ONE is moving to Detroit.”
My family is scattered, literally to the four corners of the country. I have a son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in Prince Frederick Md.; a daughter in Orlando Fla.; a nephew in Palm Springs Calif.; a niece in Anchorage Alaska and a sister and niece in Minneapolis Minnesota. They all invited me to move to their area of the country. So, why Michigan? A cousin emailed and said she had found me a house that would be perfect. The landlady happens to be a dog person and was ok with me moving in with my two office mates, Remus and Milli.
Tuscaloosa, Ala. to Shelby Township Mich.is 900 miles, 12 to 13 hours if you drive straight through. With two dogs in a 2007 Chevy HHR you drive straight through because motels aren’t overly anxious to let you have 2- 100-pound+ dogs spend the night with you. For 13 hours we watched highway construction; some bridgework, some new stretches of interstate and a variety of other types of construction fly by our windows. As the HHR hungrily ate the miles, each one getting us closer to our destination, I noticed the temperature dropping from the high 60s as we pulled out of T-Town (Local nickname for Tuscaloosa) to the 50s, the 40s the 30s, the 20s. Friends I was talking to along the way kept me posted on the worsening weather.
As we sped across the state line entering Michigan we watched white fluffy stuff fall from the sky. The snow continued to accumulate and with each passing mile grew deeper. By the time we made our third and final fuel stop (fifth de-watering stop) there were several inches of snow on the ground. Needless to say, Remus and Milli thought this was great and wanted play.
Traveling cross-country vertically, make you realize just how important our highway infrastructure is. I made the trip in 13 hours with stops. Before the Interstate system this trip would have taken 2 to 3 days. Cruising along with little to do other than talk on the phone – and what a blessing this technology is. It can give you a lot of company across what would otherwise be endless empty miles.
Back to the cruising along, we were constantly passing or being passed by trucks loaded with virtually everything that makes our lifestyle possible – produce, cattle, fuel, vehicles, furniture, lumber, concrete products, materials, aggregates, electronics, household goods, the list is endless.
Traffic was light but steady. The pavements for most of the trip were in reasonably good condition but there some areas that did need attention. Traffic would usually get heavier as we neared the larger cities. The route we traveled took us close to or through Birmingham Ala., Huntsville Ala., Nashville Tenn., Louisville Ky., Cincinnati, Dayton Ohio, Toledo Ohio and Detroit. These areas not only had higher traffic volume they also show a greater need for road repairs, improvements or updating. Obviously heavier traffic volumes accelerate wear and of course the weather only adds to the problems.
The trip renewed my awareness of how important our highway system is to the economic strength of the country. It is a valuable resource and every cent we spend on it protects out investment in this country. I filled up 3 times an average of 14 gallons each time. As the gas was being pumped from the service stations underground tanks to the tank on my car I couldn’t help but think that the taxes I was paying to use this highway system were one of the best bargains I was getting. It cost less than $10 in taxes to travel safely, quickly and easily from the deep south to the frozen north.
We’re only 20 months away from another highway bill reauthorization effort. We are also going to be faced with the expiration of the current gas tax. We need both if we’re going to keep our roads and highways safe and functional.
Thanks to our great highway system, we did complete the trip. Even with the cold weather and snow it is good to be back here in Michigan where my journey started,. Shoveling snow is like riding a bicycle – once you’ve learned how you never forget…
Let’s go out and build a snowman.
This editorial appeared in the February 2013 issues of the 13 ACP magazines.