By AASHTO Web Business Manager David Dubov-Flinn
In June of 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act and ushered in an unprecedented economic boom in the US. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this amazing achievement, AASHTO celebrated the event by staging a two-week cross-country convoy in 2006, tracing the route Eisenhower had traveled as a young Army lieutenant in 1919 – just five years after AASHO came into being.
Now, a cross-country convoy may not be the first thing you think of when you think of AASHTO. After all, we're a standards setting organization, driven by our mission of transportation advocacy and education, engineering, and policy formulation. All pretty dry, office-bound stuff.
But, we have our adventurers, too! When the idea was first conceived in 2004, we decided that an integral part of the celebration would be some sort of activity that could take advantage of the Interstate Highway system (of course) and that would involve all of AASHTO's members (the states.) A convoy was a natural, if long and arduous, fit.
But who was crazy enough to drive the 2,812 miles from San Francisco (which is where Eisenhower ended his trip in 1919) to the Zero Mile Marker in Washington, D.C. (where he started)? Me, of course!
So, I'm a web guy – usually at my desk at 7:30 a.m. working on AASHTO's web site until quitting time, five days a week. I mean, just look at me in the picture posted here! Not your first thought for a truck driving roadie, right?
Well, that's exactly what I was for two weeks in June 2006. Me (far left) and the other three gentlemen seen here (Jason Finneyfrock, Tate Jackson, and Wayde Powell) were the advance team that made sure each event along the route was set up with booth, audio, photos, handouts, cookies, and all manner of other details.
It was a long, grueling trip – we would often be up and out of our motel rooms at 5 a.m. every day so that we would be at the morning event a couple of hours ahead of the main group (who got to ride on a comfy bus – not that I'm bitter…), set up, take pictures during the event, and then break down all the materials and drive on to the next set up. Long 12-14 hour days. Little sleep. Bad food. Doing the same thing over and over.
But I loved every minute of it! From the early morning start at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, to the bleak expanse of the Great Salt Lake, to the wide open plains of Nebraska and Iowa, to the bustling thrill of Chicago, to the rainy hills of Pennsylvania, and the familiar monuments of D.C., it was amazing to drive this wonderful country from end to end and see its grandeur as it was meant to be seen.
Yet what made it truly warming were the people we encountered along the way: the state DOT folks who made each stop memorable and special; the members of the public who asked us questions and celebrated this major achievement along with us; the various police and highway patrol officers who made our lives easier and safer, and; the people of the convoy itself, who laughed, ached, bore up, and pushed through to make it all a resounding success.
Would I do it again, despite the long hours, aches, pains, lack of sleep, and heartburn?
How old will I be for the 100th anniversary?