Roads of a bygone era

I’m a self-described road enthusiast.

I appreciate the classic cars – from the Model T to the Thunderbird – and it’s something I’ve passed to my son through collecting Hot Wheels. He can spot a Buick or a Chevy or a Honda or a Ford from the symbols on the car, he knows his models and if he doesn’t he asks. And I don’t know, we go look it up.

I’ve also been a long-time road enthusiast. I don’t go so far as to say that the interstates are all bad and it’s the worst. Rather, I appreciate the roads less traveled and personally rediscovering those bygone roads.

I’d say the roots of these thoughts centers on Dixie Highway. Living for a time in north Oakland County in Michigan, and specifically near Davison, our home was just off of the Dixie Highway. Over the years and through research (at that link and others), the Dixie Highway was a motor route that predates all of our numbered highway systems. And the Dixie Highway continues to be posted in one part or another in Michigan.

My research and looks into the matter showed how many of the motor routes and even old U.S. routes, Route 66 included, came to pass. And it helped to confirm some of the questions I had on why U.S. 10’s one ending went from downtown Detroit through Clarkston and the Lodge Freeway to its intersection with Bay City; why U.S. 24 took its place.

These changes happened in the late 1980s as I was making the move to the South, but my thoughts on the U.S. highway system, and its interstates, continued as U.S. 25, 76 and 131 were numbers I saw the most. The summers continued to be 10 and 24.

Once the Internet was hatched, and websites dedicated to the roads were created, it led to more research and more appreciation. From the spoked streets emanating from Detroit like Gratiot, Woodward, Michigan and Grand River to other U.S., Michigan and Wisconsin signed routes. The history of old Michigan-signed routes like M-76 from Standish, U.S. 27 in Mount Pleasant, and M-78 near Lansing.

When I took my wife and daughter from Chicago to the Field of Dreams in Iowa, we took U.S. 20, a fun road, and one with its share of history. When we lived in Wisconsin, we found ourselves along the banks of the Mississippi River and checking out both sides of the Great River Road.

And the Yellowstone Trail, with signs and painted rocks maintained by private groups even through our small town of Chippewa Falls, was one of great interest. What I loved about the Yellowstone Trail is that it didn’t exactly share a paved path the entire way – just take the route between Stanley and Thorp sometime.

A Yellowstone Trail signpost along County Highway X near Lake Wissota in Wisconsin.

I’ve long said I would love nothing more than to drive Route 66 from end to end or rediscover, for me anyway, some of those old-time routes.

And I have one just a short distance away to explore. It seems long before U.S. 31 was here near Ludington there was something called the West Michigan Pike – a western leg of the Dixie Highway system. If you click the West Michigan Pike, the site discusses and shows a pdf of a pamphlet of the actual route – much of which is U.S. 31 and M-22.

And I look forward to continue to drive some portions of the Pike on U.S. 10/31 and perhaps some of the forgotten stretches along this shore of Lake Michigan.

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