Take an unforgettable road trip down one of America’s most fascinating highways, U.S.
On what highway can you find the headquarters of the FBI, Dow Jones Interactive, and the National Enquirer? What road is home to the Bronx Zoo, the Okefenokee Swamp, and Flipper? On the side of what freeway can you find the Super Duper Weenie Wagon, Larry’s Redneck Bar, and the Big Chicken Barn? Peter Genovese found them all, along with about a million other fascinating and bizarre attractions, on U.S. 1, ‘the best damn highway in America,” as he calls it. Join him for the road trip of a lifetime The Great American Road Trip: A Journey Down U.S. 1.
U.S. 1 may not be America’s scenic highway, but it’s certainly the most colorful. It runs through Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Miami, in addition to Caribou, Maine, Quonochontaug, Rhode Island, and Alma, Georgia. It zig-zags along the wild and beautiful Maine coast and soars over the Atlantic Ocean as the Overseas Highway, one of the most spectacular stretches of road anywhere. The Star-Spangled Banner is on U.S. 1. Madonna lived on U.S. 1 (until she sold her house to Rosie O'Donnell). U.S. 1 is Main Street and the Miracle Mile, two-lane blacktop and six-lane expressway, straight as an arrow in some places and twistier than a Philadelphia soft pretzel in others.
Genovese spent two years on U.S. 1, talking to everyone from doughnut makers, dolphin trainers, and swamp guides to real Miami vice cops and the keeper of the national parasite collection. His resulting book is the most complete portrait of an American highway ever written. With his unerring eye for detail, sense of humor, and understanding of human nature, Genovese takes readers on a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always illuminating 2,450-mile journey from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida.
Ride along with Genovese and grab a drink at the Last Resort Bar or the Last Chance Saloon, then pick up a paperback at the Banned Bookstore. Visit Oscar, the biggest gator in the Okefenokee Swamp, have dinner at Hog Heaven, and take in a Portland Seadogs baseball game. Tour a Budweiser brewery and go into the pit at a NASCAR race. Looking for someplace to stay? How about the world’s only underwater hotel, the Jules’ Undersea Lodge, or in a cabin made entirely from one pine tree at the Maine Idyll Motor Court? If it’s culture you seek, the highway boasts dozens of museums. While you may have heard of the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American Art, how about the Blacks in Wax Museum, Tragedy in the United States Museum, and the Mushroom Museum? There’s something for everyone on U.S. 1, and Genovese has written about it all in The Great American Road Trip.
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Interview with Peter Genovese
Author of The Great American Road Trip: U.S. 1, Maine to Florida
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
A: Authors - not to mention newspaper reporters - like to take credit for book and story ideas, but I really can't take credit for this one. I had written a feature on U.S.1 for a newspaper. Marlie Wasserman, director of Rutgers University Press, was holding it up one day when I visited the office. "This is Peter's next book," she said. I thought: Not my next book; U.S. 1 is one boring highway. But I only knew U.S. 1 in New Jersey and part of Philly. But, like any reporter, I was curious. I took a week off and drove U.S. 1 all the way to Key West, where it ends. I was amazed. This is one wild and colorful highway, I told myself. I couldn't wait to get back and tell Marlie I wanted to do the book. I was hoping she hadn't changed her mind.
Q: What makes U.S. 1 unique? Why do you call it "the best damn highway in America?"
A: I've driven nearly a million miles around the country in the past 25 years; my Jeep has nearly 400,000 miles on it. No other road matches U.S.1's combination of history, culture, scenery, roadside attractions, variety, and vitality. It's the most visually diverse major highway in the country. Hey, the FBI is on US 1. So is the National Enquirer. The Okefenokee Swamp and the Bronx Zoo. The Natural Museum of Natural History is on U.S.1. So is the Mushroom Museum. Madonna once lived on U.S.1. Even the Star Spangled Banner is on U.S.1. Route 66, America's most revered highway, can't touch U.S.1. It's got romance and nostalgia behind it, but it doesn't have one-tenth of U.S.1's pizzazz.
Q: How much of U.S.1 had you driven before researching the book?
A: Not much. I knew U.S.1 in New Jersey, of course, and Roosevelt Boulevard, which is U.S.1 through Philly, from many childhood excursions to my aunt's house. She lived in downtown Philly. Q: How many miles did you drive in order to write this book?
A: I would say at least 20-25,000 miles, on U.S.1 alone. Q: How did you decide where to stop? What was it about a location that caught your eye?
A: I drove the highway several times before I really started to notice things and decide what I would write about. I didn't read or research anything beforehand; I wanted to see the highway with an open mind, a fresh eye. Some things, like the Bronx Zoo or Okefenokee Swamp, were obvious chapters. Others, like the National Parasite Collection, I found quite by accident.
Q: How did people react when you told them you were writing a book about U.S. 1?
A: With surprise and delight. They were surprised little of substance had ever been written about the highway and delighted that someone was now going to tell the highway's full story - their stories. It was clear the highway had long held a special place in their hearts and memories.
Q: What is your favorite section of U.S. 1 and why? A: That's tough. Even in New Jersey, where U.S.1 is at its absolutely ugliest, there are scenic stretches, although it may not fit everyone's definition of scenery. The Pulaski Skyway - what a great bridge, and road. For sheer beauty, the two ends of U.S.1 - up along the Maine coast and down through the Florida Keys - are hard to beat. Through much of Virginia and the Carolinas, U.S. 1 is a beautiful two-land country road, dotted with mobile homes, general stores, and tiny post offices. The highway goes right through Boston, Washington. D.C., and Miami, among other cities. There's so much to see along its 2,450 miles. Q: Where did you find the best or worst scenery? food? signs? traffic? A: Best scenery - it's hard to beat the scenery at either end of U.S. 1 - the Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys and the portion of the highway that wraps along the Maine coast, but every state - even New Jersey! - has beautiful, rural stretches. Some (note: I emphasize the "some" there; this is not a ranking of the top) of my favorites: South Carolina, as the road goes through the Carolina Sandhills National Wildife Refuge; Florida from the Georgia state line to below Daytona (old-time motels, trailer parks, roadside businesses); The Bronx, New York (the wildest, most colorful stretch of U.S. 1); even Baltimore, as U.S. 1 changes names and character as it zig-zags through the city. Worst scenery - New Jersey (it pains me to say this!). Multiplexes, office complexes, strip malls. Bland, homogenized, gotta-keep-your-eyeballs-open-with toothpicks-kind of boring.
Food - I had great - and bad - food up down the highway. I had an especially memorable meal at MM88 (this is the actual name) in Islamorada, Fla. I sat on the outside patio, on the water, as the sun went down. For good, dependable breakfasts, you can't beat all the Waffle Houses and Huddle Houses down south. Worst traffic - that would be either New Jersey, from West Windsor (note: don't say Princeton!!) south to Trenton at rush hour; or Maine in summer, when U.S. 1 along the coast can turn into the world's longest parking lot. You haven't seen gridlock until you've spent time on U.S.1 along the Maine coast in the summer. It'll take you days to get from end of Maine to the other - if you stay just on U.S.1.
Best signs - probably Florida, both for sheer number and variety. All those welcome signs, plus lots of faded billboards. Great neon, too; Fort Lauderdale probably leads the nation's in neon per mile.
Q: What were your best and worst moments on U.S. 1?
A: The best moments were all the moments I spent with the people profiled in the book. Everyone was unfailingly kind and helpful. No one told me to go away, or come back some other time. I spoke to everyone from the woman who oversees the diets of the animals at the Bronx Zoo to a cop who took me on patrol up and down Dixie Highway - U.S. 1 in Miami - one night. The worse moment wasn't all that bad. I got a flat tire one winter night in Littleton, Me. This kid came out of a gas station and helped me change the tire. I almost had to beg him to take some money.
Q: If you had to pick one section of the highway to define as quintessential U.S. 1, what would it be and why?
A: It's not really quintessential U.S. 1 because there really isn't another stretch of the road like it, but the Overseas Highway - U.S.1 through the Florida Keys - really defines the highway's lure and charm and its sense of the great American road, and road trip. It's all sea and sky. It's almost as if you're flying over the water. I read in one book that many Floridians consider the Overseas Highway a pretty boring stretch of road. They should spend some time in New Jersey. They'd change their mind real quick.
Q: Each of your three books, Roadside New Jersey, Jersey Diners, and The Great American Road Trip: U.S. 1: Main to Florida, center around the road or roadside attractions. What is it about the subject that interests you and inspires your writings?
A: There is something about the freedom and lure and escape of the open road that has guided, even haunted, me since I was old enough to drive. When I was in college in the Midwest, I would just get in my car and get lost for a weekend. The U.S.1 book was the most challenging and demanding of the three books, but also the most fun. There was so much road to cover, so many people to meet and talk to. I have no idea what my next book will be, but I wouldn't be surprised if it involves the American road in some way. Q: You've done quite a bit of traveling, both in the United States and abroad, most recently to Japan, Laos, and Myanmar (former Burma). What motivates this wanderlust? What's been your favorite "road trip" and why? Where would you like to go next and why?
A: I've always wanted to see the world, especially its more remote or exotic corners. Must have been all those National Geographics I gobbled up as a kid! On one trip, I visited Pakistan, Nepal, China, Thailand, and Hong Kong. That was mind-blowing. I've long had a fascination with Asia; I just came back from a trip to Laos and Myanmar. Next year, I hope to go to Mongolia and Tibet. Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to take their own "Great American Road Trip?"
A: You don't have to do U.S.1 all at one time, of course. The next time you're speeding down I-95 or I-85, take a detour onto U.S.1. It will be a lot more interesting than the interstate - in some states, it might even save you time. Make sure you have good maps, especially city maps. Don't worry about bringing music. You'll pick up plenty of great radio stations along the way. And don't forget the snacks. My favorites: chocolate chip cookies, popcorn, pretzels, and Cheetos.
U.S. 1's history begins in colonial America. The Boston Post Road connected New York City; Princeton, N.J., and Philadelphia, which served as the nation's earliest capitals, and Washington, D.C., the final choice.
U.S. 1 was not the first highway in America. As the first north-south route along the Atlantic Ocean side of the U.S., it received the number one when highways were numbered in the 1920s.
U.S. 1 runs begins in Fort Kent, Me., and runs through Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida before ending 2,450 miles later in Key West, Fla.
The Topsfield Fair, America's oldest country fair, is held on U.S. 1 in Topsfield, Mass., each October.
The NFL's New England Patriots (Foxboro, Ma.), the NBA's Miami Heat (Miami), and the Portland Sea Dogs, a AA affiliate of the MLB Florida Marlins (Portland, Me), each have stadiums on U.S. 1.
Mystic Pizza, made famous by a movie of the same name, can be found on U.S. 1 in Mystic, Conn.
U.S. 1 is home to the nation's largest urban zoo - the Bronx Zoo, in the Bronx, N.Y.
The country's first traffic cloverleaf was built at the intersection of Routes 1 and 9 and Route 35 in Woodbridge, N.J.
In the 1980s, U.S. 1 was the subject of Marvel Comics' U.S. 1. The comic book lasted 12 issues.
In Newark, N.J., U.S. 1 is home of one of Budweiser's largest breweries. The St. Louis plant is twice as big, but the Newark brewers make more regular Bud than any brewery in the world - more than 100 million cases or 400,000 gallons of beer annually. On the brick facade of the 12-story-high main building, the word "Budweiser" appears horizontally when viewed from U.S. 1 North; from U.S. 1 South, it appears vertically. The signs were built that way to orient pilots flying in and out of Newark Airport.
The self-proclaimed "Mushroom Capital of the World" can be found on U.S. 1 in Kennett Square, Pa., home of the Mushroom Museum. More than 50 percent of Pennsylvania's annual output of 350 million pounds of mushrooms is grown within a 25-mile radius of Kennett Square.
A sign indicating the Mason-Dixon Line can be found on U.S. 1 as it crosses into Maryland.
The Great Blacks in Wax Museum can be found in Baltimore on U.S. 1. The museum, expected to draw close to 200,000 visitors this year, features 120 wax figures, including Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Crispus Attucks, Billie Holiday, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Jackie Robinson, and Nelson Mandela.
Four miles south of Laurel, Md., on U.S. 1 is a marker commemorating Samuel Morse and the first telegram. "What hath God wrought" passed over the wires here on a line of poles on May 24, 1844.
Fast Facts From The Great American Road Trip: U.S. One, Maine to Florida
by Peter Genovese
On U.S. 1 in Beltsville, Md., you'll find the Beltsville National Agricultural Research Center, home to the National Agricultural Library, the National Rhizobium collection, the National Seed Herbarium, the National Fungus Collection, and the National Parasite Collection.
In Washington, D.C., U.S. 1 is home to the National Museum of American Art, the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, FBI headquarters, the National Archives, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History, the Interstate Commerce Commission, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the Jefferson Memorial.
Fort Belvoir, headquarters of the Army Corps of Engineers, is along U.S. 1, and so is the main gate to Quantico Marine Corps base in Quantico,Va. The U.S. Special Forces - the Green Berets - train at Camp Mackall on U.S. 1 near Hoffman, N.C.
The Raleigh Road Drive-In, one of only two operating drive-in movie theaters left in America, is located on U.S. 1 in Henderson, N.C.
The North Carolina Motor Speedway, "The Rock," is located on U.S. 1 in Rockingham, N.C.
The Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Swamp are located on U.S. 1 in South Carolina and Georgia, respectively.
St. Augustine, Fla., America's oldest city, can be found on U.S. 1.
In Florida, U.S. 1 is home to the headquarters of Hawaiian Tropic (Ormond Beach) and the National Enquirer (Lantana).
Florida City, America's southernmost mainland city, is on U.S. 1.
The Dolphin Research Center, home of Flipper, is found on U.S. 1 in Grassy Key, Fla.From the Inside Flap:
On What highway can you find the headquarters of the FBI, Dow Jones Interactive, and the National Enquirer? What road is home to the Bronx Zoo, the Okefenokee Swamp, and Flipper? Peter Genovese found them all, along with about a million other fascinating and bizarre attractions, on U.S. 1. Joine him for the road trip of a lifetime in The Great Amercian Road Trip: U.S. 1, Maine to Florida.
U.S. 1 runs through Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Miami, in addition to Caribou, Maine; Quonochontaug, Rode Island; and Alma, Georgia. It zig-zags along the wild and beautiful Maine coast and soars over the Atlantic Ocean as the Overseas Highway, one of the most spectacular stretches of road anywhere. US 1 is Main Street and the Miracle Mile, two-lane blacktop and six-lane expressway, straight as an arrow in some places and twistier than a Philadelphia soft pretzel in others.
Genovese spent two years on US 1, talking to everyone from doughnut makers, dolphin trainers, and swamp guides to real Miami vice cops and the keeper of the National Parasite Collection. With his unerring eye for detail, sense of humor, and understanding of human nature, Genovese takes readers on a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always illuminating 2,450-mile journey from Fort Kent, Maine, to Key West, Florida.
Ride along with Genovese and grab a drink at the Last Resort Bar, then pick up a paperback at the Banned Bookstore. Visit Oscar, the gibbest gator in the Okefenokee Swamp, have dinner at Hog Heaven, and take in a Portland Seadogs baseball game. If it is culture you sekk, the highway boasts dozen of museums. While you may have heard of the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and the National Museum of American Art, how about the Tragedy in the United States Museum and the Mushroom Museum? There's something for everyone on US 1, and Genovese has written about it all in The Great American Road Trip.
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