Monday, August 19, 2013

The Ghost of Highway 61

I have had occasions to walk on roadways long abandoned and near forgotten.  Here for instance is the approximate location of the Stanegate Road.  For at least five hundred years it was the major east-west road across Britain near Hadrian's Wall. Now...

But you do not have to go that far to find ghost roads.  On our Minor League ballpark road trip we drove some enjoyable miles down Highway 61 as it winds south from the Twin Cities down towards LaCrosse.

Highway 61 has been described as one of the most scenic, most iconic roadways in Minnesota.  It runs from the southeastern part of the state near Lacrosse Wisconsin, clear up to the northeastern corner where it hits the Canadian border.

It probably started out as an early military road.  Sure in Territorial times the Mississippi River - just out of view stage left - was a far superior way to travel.  But in times of crisis you really did not want to have to wait for the river to thaw!

In more settled times it became just a dirt road for farmer's wagons, but in the 1920's the first steps were taken towards a state wide system of roads designed specifically for automobiles.  US 61 was paved in 18 foot wide concrete.

Cars and trucks got bigger and faster, necessitating the widened, expressway version of 61 on the build up rise to the right.  But if you peek into the underbrush you can still see the old road, gracefully crumbling away...

For a more detailed history of the roadway, go here.

To see what a serious fan of road tripping and of Highway 61 has done on the subject, a Minnesota Public Radio commentator has done a lot of work on this  Kathy Wurzer and Tales of the Road.

Quite a ways to go yet before the old section of 63 reaches the Stanegate level of decay.

1 comment:

BadgerMedic said...

After living 10 years in La Crosse, I never was tired of driving that route... Thanks for the post!