Notes from U.S. Route 1 by Gordon Stettinius
“There are two kinds of adventurers: those who go truly hoping to find adventure and those who go secretly hoping they won't.” ~ William Least Heat Moon
Notes from U.S. Route 1 is a photographic survey of an historic American highway running from Fort Kent, Maine, which lies at the Canadian border, southward over 2,000 miles to Key West, Florida and connecting most of the major cities along the east coast.
After it was superceded by U.S. Interstate 95 in the 1950’s as the main north-south thoroughfare on the east coast, Route 1 has been evolving the character of the blue highways that William Least Heat Moon wrote so brilliantly about. Traveling these roads, a person will find mostly two lanes throughout, which then morph into fourlanes and turnpikes when approaching any larger metro areas, then turning back again onto the smaller roads into the countryside, for a while and then…
Awash in nostalgia and the ghosts of tourism from decades past, you drive the blue highways and you follow your instincts. Where to stop is the perpetual question. There is always the sense of adventure when driving with no destination. But adventure is a bit like the angel on your shoulder whereas intellectual laziness and corporate homogeny are the devils perched on your other shoulder, and always they are slugging it out… What should it be? A small probably clean and possibly charming local hotel for the night? Or maybe the predictably adequate but generally innocuous Super 8 down the road? A café named for Dixie Lee? Or the Starbucks that seems like it is actually following you around? Choices. All manner of choices. And so the trip comes to resemble the traveler.
If you should have an interest in the state of this nation – and you should - then all the vital signs of our economy and social condition can be found along the way. Tensions abound, of course, but so does beauty. Pastoral scenes are punctuated by urban blight. Religion is found directly alongside temptation. Cafes and vegetable stands and city parks versus fast food and strip clubs and roadside attractions. The blue highways once gaveth and the bigger highways have now taken away.
Some places along Route 1 seem to have reclaimed their dignity, managing to avoid the crush of commerce and the lure of the tourist dollar to become picturesque American small towns. And some places seem as though they have become profoundly distressed and inhospitable. But almost always there is a restaurant up ahead that will be glad to see you. A slice of pie and a little human interaction or just a beer and maybe a game of pool or a little eavesdropping and then it is off to whatever lies in wait for the inquiring mind.
Gordon Stettinius is a Richmond, VA based artist and teacher.
To view more of Gordon's work, please visit his website.