[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

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6 June 2006: Bishop to Benton (continued), CA
 

2 June 2006: Welcome to the Summer of 6!

Officially open for business finally -- thanks to all the testers who patiently helped me out and offered suggestions while the content management system for Summerof6.com was being put together.

Until I get on the road 1 July, I'll be making twice-weekly posts here to catch up on US 6 so far (photographed out to Coaldale, NV and the US 95 junction). But first, the itinerary eastbound, numbered by day:

  1. (San Diego, CA to Bishop, CA to Coaldale Jct, NV to) Ely, NV
  2. Provo, UT
  3. Fruita, CO
  4. (Fort Carson, CO visiting my sister and her family)
  5. McCook, NE
  6. Omaha, NE
  7. Coralville, IA
  8. Portage, IN
  9. Sandusky, OH
  10. (Columbus, OH visiting my foster aunt and uncle and their family)
  11. (Columbus)
  12. (Columbus)
  13. Warren, PA
  14. Pittston, PA
  15. Putnam, CT
  16. THE END! -- Provincetown, MA

Based on my previous trip along US 395 in the West, I've assigned myself a hard cap of 300 miles daily in order to make sure that I have enough daylight hours for photography.

Next week, I'll post my itinerary for the south and westbound legs, which will be along various Eastern Interstates, and then home along I-20, I-10 and I-8.

Just like my twice weekly posts until the drive actually begins, each daily or every-other-daily post while I'm off will show highlights of the road along with mini-writeups, starting with this entry here. To get this started off "right," I'll do a bonus of four from Inyo county and the beginning of modern US 6 at US 395 in Bishop, CA along the eastern Sierra Nevada. When the final writeups are done, lots more photographs will be added along with full travelogues; for now, please enjoy the "quick picks."

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The western terminus of the mighty 3,205 mile US Highway 6 at US Highway 395 in Bishop, CA, a friendly town in the eastern Sierra Nevada. I have a little more about the history and scenery of Bishop in the US 395 photoessay parts 5 and 6, since US 395 is the main street of town. This is getting up towards the northern city limits; US 395 diverges west and north towards Mammoth and Mono Lake. We will veer right at the traffic light ahead (not visible here).

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Looking back at Bishop and the terminating traffic light, and the famous US 6 END sign (you've already seen an enlargement of this very well-known marker on the main page). The main city drag is visible in the distance.

This marker was obviously posted after 1964, as former US 6 continued on along with US 395 to Inyokern, CA and then southwest along what is now CA 14 into Los Angeles until California's Great Renumbering of state routes that year. A full travelogue on "old US 6" (both surface and freeway alignments) will be done as part of the future exhibit, for all you highway historians out there.

New highway dweebs will note that California still uses cutout shields for its US highway signs instead of the boring, yucky square blanks that every other state has (some cutouts survive mostly in Virginia, but California is the only state to still specify them). I think that these venerable highways deserve a more ornate marker than most states give them, and I'll be very irritated if California starts using those crummy square blanks too. Fortunately, we're very contrary out here in the far West ...

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One last look back, with advance signage for US 395 and the Bishop city limit sign faintly visible. There was still snow on the mountains even now in late May.

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Another famous sign, which you have also already seen an enlargement of on the main page. This is an accurate mileage count to US 6's very last mile, on the tip of Massachusetts' Cape Cod. The white marker next to it is for the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, which is US 6's formal name in most localities. The GAR Highway is applied to anything that does or once did carry a US 6 shield, so it also applies to US 395 south to Inyokern and CA 14 (and there is a GAR Highway sign on US 395 south of Bishop which we show in Part 5), the Sierra Highway alignment of current and former CA 14 (and CA 14U "Unrelinquished"), parts of modern Interstate 5, and parts of modern Interstate 110 in Los Angeles.

The Grand Army of the Republic name first appeared in 1934, suggested by Army Maj. Wm. L. Anderson, Jr. and promulgated by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War in honour of the Union army. Because US 6 is a transcontinental route and AASHTO presented the request for name change separately to each state it crossed, the process took over a decade and US 6 was not formally dedicated as such until 3 May 1953 in Long Beach, where a marker remains to this day on Ocean Avenue (see our CA 110 exhibit for what happened to US 6 in Los Angeles). Before this, there were all sorts of names for various portions of the highway, but this stretch in California was the former Midland Trail, established in the 1920s as a southern route into the famous Lincoln Highway (now US 50 in this region; see US 395, Part 11).

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Exiting town, US 6 takes an S-swish on the north end over the Bishop Creek and the Owens River. The east-to-north turn swings by Laws, an old mining town now decrepit and marked by the famous Railway Museum about four miles outside of Bishop. In the 1880s, people settled where the water was, which meant Bishop and its eponymous creek, but the railroad went where the mining was, which meant Laws and the mountains. (Even by wagon, the terrain was unpleasant and took about an hour's commute. There was an attempt to make a light rail line between the two ca. 1910 but the company went bust without ever laying any track.) The railroad through Laws, established as the Carson & Colorado on a three-foot gauge, first appeared in the Owens Valley in 1883 and remained in operation between Nevada and as far south as Keeler, CA as part of the Southern Pacific until the end of the narrow gauge railroads in 1960. It was donated intact by Southern Pacific to the county of Inyo, including the original 1883 depot, turntable and agent house. It also has an intact section of narrow gauge track; here is a picture of one of the railcars.

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Turning towards Chalfant, a few miles up the road, and the Mono county line is this first US 6 shield, a bizarre one that's too big and fat. Still plenty of snow.

Next Tuesday: US 6 through Mono county, CA, and the southbound leg on the East Coast!

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31 May 2006: Last "Shim" Test
 
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6 June 2006: Bishop to Benton (continued), CA
 


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