Sunday, August 9, 2009

Don't Snore/On I-64

Interstate 64 is a 950 mile highway from St. Louis, MO to Chesapeake, VA. I’ve lived near the highway in three different states. The first was in the 1980s when my wife and I lived in Charlottesville, VA. The first time we drove to Virginia from Illinois, the highway was not finished through the mountains of West Virginia. Instead of making the long trip on I-79 south of Charleston, WV then up I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley, we opted to take US 60 through WV, which on a map doesn’t look so long… Oh man, what a winding, mountain road! I think we spent over three hours going 90 miles.

I don’t remember much else about I-64 in Virginia, other than occasional trips to Richmond and other towns. Beth and I were doctoral students and we stayed pretty close to home, with noses firmly to grindstones. But later, during the 1990s, we lived in Louisville, KY. For several years, I-64 was my preferred route when I drove to see my elderly parents in Illinois. Throughout the decade, I went to see them every two or three months. They lived 260 miles away, and about 200 of that was the interstate through pretty, flat, rural countryside in southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois. Long stretches of the highway--for instance, the forty miles between Corydon and Ferdinand, IN, and the ninety miles between Mt. Vernon, IL and the US 41 exits near Evansville, IN--had few services.

I liked the countryside, though. I certainly became familiar to the scenery: the billboards, the fields, the small country neighborhoods, the rivers and streams. I took along tapes and CDs, mostly classical music, and some of this music still reminds me of southern Illinois and Indiana. Radio reception wasn’t great through those parts. If I liked country music better, I’d have had more choices. Evansville has a dandy classical NPR station that I could pick up for about sixty miles. During their pledge ride I sent them $20 out of gratitude.

Funny things can happen on the road. Once, as I gassed up at a BP station, a DeLorean pulled up. That’s unusual, I thought. Then shortly another pulled up. That’s very strange. Then a third. Okay, what's going on? It was a DeLorean car club, heading across southern Illinois.

Now, during the late 00s, we live in St. Louis, where I-64 is being upgraded and extended west to Wentzville, MO. Once a significant part of the highway is opened in late 2009, we’ll easily be able to drive to downtown St. Louis; at the moment, we must do a bit of winding around through the city.

I still think of all those years I drove to see my parents. I figured, conservatively, that in those years I traveled the circumference of the world on I-64. Among interstates I tend to love I-70 the best, because it passes through my hometown and I remember when it was constructed. But I-64 has, by default, become one of my life's major highways.

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