After three “shorter” road trips this year (Oregon in April, Kansas in July, and Montana in August), we’re finally getting around to our annual epic road trip. Being that it is November, we decided to make a swing south, with stops in Austin, New Orleans, Panama City Beach, and Memphis, visiting relatives and taking in some of the sights.
The first leg of our journey was a 2-day drive on Interstate 35 (I-35). We got on the freeway in Roseville, MN, and got off 1200 miles later in Austin. Just one highway (except for a detour to avoid a crash in a construction zone between Waco and Austin).
I-35 cuts through the heart of the country, from Duluth, MN to the Mexican border in Laredo , TX, traversing 6 states along the way. (Note: most descriptions of the highway have it starting in Laredo and going north; I, obviously, think it’s the other way around.)
Along the way we stopped to have lunch with my cousins at a BJ’s Restaurant and Brew House in Dallas and in Waco to visit Magnolia Markets. If you are a fan of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper”, then you’ll know why we stood in line for 20 minutes to buy cupcakes!
While there is, to be honest, a certain monotany in driving 1200 miles along one highway, it is an interesting way to watch and experience the variations in geography, climate, and language as you make your way south. We left behind corn fields being harvested in Minnesota for the “home on the range” terrain of central Texas, with a few cotton fields thrown in for fun. Bare trees in Minnesota slowly gave way to ones that were still colorful to the still-fully green trees of Austin.
And somewhere along the way the accent of American English shifted from the nasal whine of “Minnesotan” to “southern.” Based on my numerous trips up and down the interstate I would say that the shift begins to take place at about the Iowa-Missouri border. What I’d love to do sometime is stop at every truck stop along the way and ask a clerk to read a short sentence to see if I can plot the shifting of the vowels as I move south. Another time.
I-35 is an important part of life in the Twin Cities with 35W going through Minneapolis, and 35E going through St. Paul, so it’s easy to forget that it is not “our highway.” This also means that it is strange to go to other cities that give pride of place to the highway. I find myself wanting to say, “hey, that’s OUR highway, not YOURS.”
But maybe that’s the point; it doesn’t belong to Minnesota, or Texas, or any of the other states along the way. It’s Middle America’s Main Street!
If you’re into American road trips, or just find yourself traveling on freeways and wonder how they got built, then you might enjoy this book: The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways
Image credit: KSAT.com