US 20: Life on a major highway (1#)

Written by David Green.


Sometimes it gets quiet in downtown Fayette, but you might have to pay attention or it could take you by surprise.

Every now and then it happens. There’s not a truck in sight, neither from the east nor the west. Not a single car is making its way down Main Street. Nothing is heading toward the stoplight along Fayette Street.

Furrow the brow a little and strain your ear, turning this way and that. It’s absolutely quiet. It’s a village of 1,340 people. It sounds like a small town in rural America.

And then it’s gone. Once again it’s back to normal, back to life on a major cross-country highway.

truck-2.cropped US 20 stretches from Boston, Mass., on the Atlantic coast all across America to Newport, Ore., at the edge of the Pacific. The highway lays a path across 11 states, traveling through the Berkshires of Massachusetts, across the Finger Lakes of New York, through Cleveland and the suburbs of Chicago and on across the Mississippi.

The road passes through the fossil beds and grasslands of Nebraska, leading into the plateaus of Wyoming before jogging north to lead the way through Yellowstone and on to Idaho’s Craters of the Moon. Finally, the dry desert of Oregon appears, before climbing the Cascade Mountains and rushing down through hilly farmland to the ocean.

There’s a flow of life along this road that brings an enormous amount of traffic through every village on its path. About a third of the way west in the rich farm country of northwestern Ohio lies Fayette, and heavy traffic that seldom lets up is an everyday fact of life.

An average day brings eight vehicles a minute through the intersection of US 20 and State Route 66. During daylight hours, about 480 cars and trucks pass by every 60 minutes.

At that pace, there are 80,000 in a week, four million in a year—but wait, the flow slows at night.

Maybe there are only two vehicles a minute at 2 a.m. Perhaps the 24-hour average slips to five a minute, and the daily average shrinks to 7,200. An accurate count might show closer to 2.6 million cars, trucks and motorcycles through the course of a year.

No matter how you look at it, US 20 provides a distinct color to life for those living along its edges. It’s noisy, it’s a little dirty, and it can be fascinating to watch what passes by.

- Feb. 25, 2004 
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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