Le Grand Détour

Highway 1

12 July 2017

You may think I have been very critical of US infrastructure, and while there is plenty to be critical of, there are things I like. For starters, I like the route number assignment system. Routes with odd numbers run North-South and routes with even numbers run West-East.

I also like that signs are pretty clear on when you are reaching a new route (there will be so-called junction signs) and the signs will show you which direction on that route you are heading (North or South, or West or East). Indeed, speaking of signs indicating roads or streets are great. It is very easy to spot which road you are meeting at any junction.


Some beach along the West Coast.

So why are there both a highway 1 and a highway 101? Well, the former of these two is a California route while the latter is a US route. But even though the routes are on two different levels, [1] they avoid giving the routes the same number when in close proximity. And in the US, they are not shy of re-numbering routes (the famous Route 66 no longer has the number 66).

From highway 101, you can switch to highway 1, which I assume is the older route, and parts of highway 101 used to be 1. Highway 1 is a lot more winding than 101, most of which is dual carriageway.


I met an MG near Eureka. And I also met its owner.

I stopped in Eureka along the 1, where I met two others interested in classic cars including Citroëns. Even though the Xantia is not yet a classic, it gets quite a bit of attention amongst these people. Perhaps primarily because it has made its way so far, but also the suspension spike people's interest. Not on the roads, mind you - they would not know - where I do get a lot of looks from other motorists.


The Carson Mansion in Eureka.

Another thing I like about US roads is that their exits are numbered according to the distance from the beginning of the route. The only unfortunate aspect is that distance is measured in miles, but the principle is good. This means that long distances between exits can yield quite a number of missing numbers amongst the exit numbers.

But it also means that you can use the exit numbers alone to know the distance to your exit, if you know on which exit you are leaving. Now if only someone knew what a mile was, it would be incredibly useful.


Rocks along the West Coast.

I particularly enjoyed highway 1 compared to highway 101, because of its far more challenging roads. Not as challenging as roads I have driven in Europe, because Americans' lower threshold for a hairpin turn is a lot softer than Europeans.


Just one rock. Ignore the other rocks.

Of course, the views continue to impress. And also gets me feeling a bit nervous at times, because crash barriers are not that common in the US as they are back in Europe. You better be awake on these roads.


Swirving roads along 1.

It has been a lot of fun driving along these roads. And while I do have a dashcam in my car, recording my driving along these fun roads, I must admit that reviewing these videos, they do not look as impressive as it was driving on these roads. Always disappointing getting told by your own evidence.


[1]There are four route levels in the US: County, state, national and Interstate.