Decades after Steinbeck, Joshua Dudley Greer also hit the road with his pooch, an English bulldog named Echo. But unlike Steinbeck, Greer stuck as close to the interstates as he could, making photographs with a Toyo large format camera that appear in his new book Somewhere Along the Line. “These highways don’t have a lot of mystique or romance to them,” he says, “but they are such an essential part of our landscape and economy that they deserve to be pictured.”
Greer has a point: The Interstate Highway System stretches 46,876 miles, twice the length of the equator; though aging, it’s still among the best road networks in the world. Before President Dwight D. Eisenhower funded it in 1956, taking a trip to see your Aunt Leona meant a long, uncomfortable ride down mostly irregular two-lane roads. Eisenhower, (inspired by Germany’s autobahn), envisioned more uniform and efficient four-lane highways connecting all major American cities, making driving faster and safer, improving the economy, and helping defend the country “should an atomic war come.” Building it was a gargantuan undertaking; one report predicted it would require moving enough dirt to bury a small state. Now, an ungodly tonnage of explosives and more than $128 billion later, you can no longer blame potholes for staying home.