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

Written by David Green.

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.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • 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.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.

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