U.S. Highway 6 -- a national treasure

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Admit it. You were surprised when you heard that supporters of U.S. Highway 6 are in the midst of forming a nationwide tourist association.

What's that all about, anyway? For most of us, Highway 6 has been in existence for a lifetime, taking us from town-to-town on short east and west journeys. Both locally and regionally, we've taken Highway 6 for granted. It's a way to get to Arapahoe and Imperial, and the towns in between, for business trips and ball games. But, nationwide tourism? That sounds like a pipe dream, right?

Maybe so, but when you get to thinking about it, maybe it's not such a wild idea, after all. The appeal of the highway -- which stretches all the way from Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Long Beach, California -- is that it is a long, slow road which does not bypass -- but goes through the middle -- of most of the villages, towns and cities along the 3,652-mile route.

Take Nebraska for example. After going through Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S. Highway 6 enters Nebraska in Omaha, then dips south through Lincoln before heading west and eventually going through, or passing by, the area towns of Arapahoe, Holbrook, Cambridge, Bartley, Indianola, McCook, Culbertson, Palisade, Hamlet, Wauneta, Enders, Imperial and Lamar, before crossing over into Holyoke, Colorado.

As is so often the case, those of us who live along the route don't realize what a treasure we have. To us, trips east and west on 6 are routine ... a way to get where we're going. But nostalgic travelers see something greater than that. They see Highway 6 as a trip down memory lane ... a way to glimpse life in the slow lane. While millions have abandoned two-lane highways for the faster Interstate routes, a growing number of highway users are realizing that there's another side of America visible on the off roads -- of which U.S. Highway 6 is one of the most highly established and esteemed. Amazingly, the U.S. Route 6 Tourist Association idea was not born along the route. It originated, instead, in Port Orchard, Washington, as a high school Web site project. The idea came from Russ Lombard, a former Nebraskan who has become enchanted with "6" while traveling the route regularly from the 1950s to the present day.

Now, Nebraska is joining the effort. As a start towards cultural preservation and economic development of the towns along the highway, an advisory board is being formed for the Nebraska Route 6 Tourist Association. Those interested is serving may contact the executive director, Ashley J. Hofmann of Sutton. Ashley may be reached by telephone at (402) 984-5110, or by writing: Nebraska Route 6 Tourist Association, P.O. Box 323, Sutton, NE 68979.

We may not have realized it before, but U.S. Highway 6 is a nationwide treasure, highly valued by many nostalgic travelers. Soon, we may find ourselves lending our voices to the National Route 6 Tourist Association theme song, which is, "Long, Lonesome Highway."

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