Saturday, July 23, 2022

U.S. 41

I adore U.S. 60, U.S. 1 and a zillion other roads, but--#hottake--U.S. 41 is my favorite. 

This map of U.S. 41 is from 1929. So much personal history layered on this road for me. Written in my cells, I imagine.

My dad was 4 when the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (or whatever it was called then) published this map. He was living in Madisonville, on U.S. 41, then with his parents and older sister.

My mom was 1 when the map was published. She and her family lived in Evansville, Indiana, and they frequently were down and up U.S. 41 on Sunday afternoons because her dad's parents lived in Earlington.

In 1941, Dad and his family were living in Henderson, on U.S. 41, when, on their walk downtown to church, they got the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. (They canceled worship that morning, and everybody just walked back to their homes, he remembered.)

In 1947, my mom's parents sold their grocery in Evansville, Indiana, and took Mom and her best friend on a giant road trip that started down U.S. 41 and eventually went to Atlanta, New Orleans, Mexico City, the Painted Desert, etc. They spent so much money that my grandfather, who had delivered milk to the grocery before he bought it, went back to delivering milk to the grocery after he sold it.

Hopkinsville, on U.S. 41, is what brought you guys as little boys to Kentucky.

The first place I lived after college was in Henderson. I hated it. It wasn't Henderson's fault. It's a great town that extended warm hospitality to me in every way, but my being there was too engineered in the confines of my head, with little input from my heart. Under a tree on the downtown square (on concrete sidewalks my dad's construction company poured 40 years before), I decided to blow up my first career and move out of town.

My car broke down in Tennessee the night of one of my birthdays in my late 20s, and I ended up riding a Greyhound bus up U.S. 41 to Evansville to visit my mom, who had moved back there after Dad died. The bus took an extended break at a ratty former Holiday Inn at Madisonville, and I stood on the parking lot with everyone who had gotten off to smoke. I remember I kept hearing John Facenda narrating the stark (but not awful) scene in my head: "A good, hard look."

I ended up getting married in Madisonville (to a younger woman who was still living with her parents about two miles from that bus stop when I was there on my birthday), and our honeymoon started with a trip down U.S. 41 until its intersection with U.S. 68/Ky. 80 (another fantastic road that I adore) at Hopkinsville.

In 2011, I had probably the favorite pizza of my whole life at Crofton, on U.S. 41. 

I play basketball at the church on Thursday nights with several people who work for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and a few of them now attend the Sunday-school class I lead. (#TWISS: Acts 2!) I sure appreciate their work. Gosh, I love to drive, and I love to look at maps of roads I might drive or have driven. 

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