*Note: This audio essay first aired on KRCC (Colorado Springs’ NPR affiliate, 91.5 FM) on July 15, 2021. The link to the program is here; the audio file and the text from the essay are below.

U.S. Route 85 is a nearly 1,500-mile-long highway that runs through El Paso, Texas, to New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and through Fortuna, North Dakota, on into Canada. 

It’s the ultimate up-down, and not the typical side-to-side cross-country roadtrip route…but there are some pretty epic road stories in America’s rear-view mirror.

In 1903, a doctor named Horatio Nelson Jackson took a $50 bet to prove he could drive a car across the country. He had no car at the time, no experience driving, no maps and very few roads. He signed up a mechanic buddy to come along, left San Francisco on May 23, and just over two months later pulled in to New York City. 

In 1919, then-Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower led an 81-vehicle convoy across the US from Washington, DC to California in 62 days.

Around here, in 1914, as a way of driving tourism, some locals dreamed up the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway to get some cross-country traffic to come through Colorado Springs.

With these early experiments in road-tripping, by 1926 the United States built the Numbered Highway System. In general, even numbers go east-west (think Highway 24), and odd numbers go north-south.

Like U.S. Route 85. It mostly runs with I-25, but, if you’ve been on Nevada Avenue between Uintah and Fillmore in Colorado Springs, those are miles 647 and 648 of the CanAm Highway. So if you’re heading north on Nevada, when you cross Fillmore, keep going, and you’ll be in Canada in a mere 830 miles. 

It can be hard to see the destination from the road. But try to remember we’re always part of a much larger and much longer road. So enjoy the ride!

Until our next mountainside chat—be good, be well, and no matter what, climb on.

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