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Column: When getting on the road again, know you've come a long way

WORTHINGTON — How are you getting along with the trio of U.S. 59-Minnesota 60 roundabouts on Worthington’s east side? You think traffic is moving faster, moving easier, than it did before?

0 Talk about it

I will confess. The first time I made a return trip through the roundabouts on my way back from Blue Line. I ended up going under the new railroad bridge and on around Worthington’s south side.

In truth, I think we missed a boat lately, or a celebration. The completion of those round-abouts links Minnesota’s Twin Cities on a four-lane route with Kansas City — with San Francisco. This is fulfillment of a costly, decades-long effort by people living and people now gone. A lot of people. It is one of the biggest efforts ever pursued by Worthington-area residents, by the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce.

What we should have done:

We should have set up lights and a merry-go-round and a Ferris wheel near the railroad bridge, and then we should have come together on Clifton Avenue looking down on the newly completed highways. We could have watched while the route below was closed 10 minutes or so, and Jon Loy and the Spirit of Worthington Marching Band performed an “On the Road Again” routine. We could have summoned the spirit of Willie Nelson:

“The life I love is making music with my friends, And I can’t wait to get on the road again”

There once was a series of cigarette commercials many people rightly found to be an offense but which nonetheless expresses the travel achievement we have seen here: “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.”

In the beginning, you know, we had just the railroad. What would be called highways were dirt and gravel, weed-bordered tracks with shallow ditches linking farm to farm and then farms to towns. It was daunting to think of all that had to be done to develop paved roads across southwest Minnesota of the kind which we knew much of the rest of the nation had developed.

Do you remember the coming of I-90, one part of a dream of President Eisenhower? Do you remember rolling from Worthington along a four-lane interstate to Sioux Falls for the first time? That was an exciting day.

I remember a Sunday afternoon when my parents and I visited Aunt Maggie and Uncle Bert on their farm north of Wilmont. I am talking dirt and gravel roads now. Maggie set about creating a dinner for unexpected guests; Aunt Maggie did this kind of thing better than almost anyone I ever knew. Maggie was a cook — she fried pork chops and did hash browns for Uncle Bert’s breakfasts every morning.

We sat down to eat at the dining room table with two kerosene lanterns, one at the center of the table and one in front of a buffet mirror. The reflection from that buffet mirror enhanced the light in the room.

Through the afternoon and all the while we were eating it rained. Great tubs of water were being tipped from the clouds. It was dark by the time we were set to leave for home. We ran across the yard to our car, a vintage Chevrolet. My dad got us down the driveway to the township road, which had become a mire. The Chevy was in mud nearly to the axles.

Uncle Bert had been watching and he was on the scene almost immediately with his favored team of horses. Uncle Bert and my dad, in his Sunday suit with vest and dress shoes with spats, hitched the team to the front bumper. Then, with rain still pouring out, Uncle Bert walked the horses down the road ditch, wading in water and pulling the Chevrolet to the intersection with the county road. You must assume I was not very old, but clearly this was a day and an event which is memorable.

Well —

That’s where we began. That was a familiar kind of incident in road travel in Nobles County. Now we have four concrete lanes to get us to Minneapolis. Four concrete lanes to get us to Sioux City. Sound barriers and a trio of roundabouts.

We should have celebrated. Indeed, indeed. “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby …”

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.