A few years ago TJ and Graham headed west on US Route 2 on a road trip to Montana, and I was jealous. Driving the entire 2,571-mile highway is on my To Do list, but I’d settle for seeing as much of it as they did.
US-2 is called “The Highline” because it’s the northernmost cross-country route in the Lower 48 states. It’s a two-part road system: the eastern segment begins in Houlton, Maine, and ends in Rouses Point, New York. The western segment picks up in St. Ignace, at the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and ends in Everett, Washington.
US-2 dates to 1926 and the earliest days of the Federal Highway System. Parts of the road are mapped along the route used by the Anishinabe, the First People, hundreds of years ago. A roadside sign about a mile west of St. Ignace calls it an “Ancient Anishinabe Path,” and describes its history in both the English and Indian languages.
The section between St. Ignace and Wakefield was part of the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway, a 4,000-mile route between Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon named for the President after his death in 1919. The name faded by the 1930s when most of the highway system was renamed with numbers.
There have been some modifications, but today’s US-2 is very close to the roadway that was completed in 1938.
I call it our Route 66 because it retains so much of the character of the Golden Days of automobile travel.
Although the two-lane roadway has been widened in many areas to accommodate passing lanes, the speed limit is still 55 mph. It’s still dotted with classic roadside attractions, diners, and mom and pop motels—though not nearly as many as there once were—and there are casinos now, and the occasional internet cafe. (Okay, I only know of one dedicated internet cafe, the Anchor In Naubinway, but I haven’t traveled the entire 305-mile stretch lately.)
All across the U.P. the speed limit is 55 mph and that’s fine–all the better to enjoy views of Lake Michigan and its beaches, a couple of National Forests, picnic spots, farmland, and towns too small for a blinker light.
If only someone had written a song about it.
All stories and photos copyright Kath Usitalo unless otherwise noted