Thoughts and Musings from Interstate 69

Interstate 69 runs through the middle of many Michigan cities, including Flint. (Photo credit: Alex Nitzman)

Interstate 69 runs through the middle of many Michigan cities, including Flint. (Photo credit: Alex Nitzman)

by Jeremy Eccles

Car seats may save lives, but they are annoying. I’ve literally put hundreds of thousands of miles on my Toyota in the last five years with my son, Nathan, in the back seat. He lives in Port Huron, technically Fort Gratiot, with his mom during the week, and with me in Perry on weekdays and summers. Of course, this does not include the innumerable trips involving academics, athletics, and medical appointments. In short, I refuse to be a long distance dad, either in space or emotion.

Okay, enough about my heroics and superhuman accomplishments. Back to the car seats; they are significant conversation barriers, especially to a boy who insists on showing you pictures he sketches and baseball statistics he calculates. It’s not that they don’t interest me, but it’s problematic when I attempt to drive. Fortunately, he is old enough now for the front seat, and our communication is much simpler. I pity all parents who must occasionally remove and clean a car seat and what it masks. For those childless, I will spare you the dreadful images.

An unexpected benefit of my years of passengerless front seat travel has been the opportunity to observe the delights and eccentricities of a 100 mile stretch of Interstate 69.  I know something about every exit on this path and thought I would share a few highlights.

First, I live in Perry. The town is fine; adjacent to the interstate, and we must have more gasoline stations per capita than almost anywhere else. Hence, if you run out of gas here, you are either broke or clueless.

After Perry, I hop on the interstate. One of the first things that come to mind is that when I initially began this drive, I use to be slowed by various construction projects. Alas, they are much less frequent now. The roads are certainly no better, but we have decided it’s more fun to dodge potholes and the bumpy roads help make the state seem less flat.

There are a couple of rest areas on the way to Port Huron and one on the return. I know some folks don’t like rest areas and are a bit creeped out by the clientele. Not me. This always cuts the boredom. I’ve seen mates ditch their partners at the stop (after a spat), dogs the size of Buicks frighten newbies, an entire family with a cooler of Busch Light and Boone’s Farm thoroughly enjoy a cookout while listening to NASCAR on the radio, and a tired trucker enter  and use the facilities completely nude. (I still can’t vanquish this mental picture…)

Interstate 69 takes Michigan drivers as far south as the Indiana border and as far east as the Blue Water Bridge into Ontario. (Photo credit:

Interstate 69 takes Michigan drivers as far south as the Indiana border and as far east as the Blue Water Bridge into Ontario. (Photo credit:

Okay, back on I-69. Considering Flint’s industrial and residential decline, I am surprised it still has so many exit ramps. I believe there are 11 exits on a 17 mile stretch between Swartz Creek and Davison.  In addition, Flint seems to have kept its same volume of streetlights.

In fact, I thought it would be intriguing to provide a thoughtful analysis of how declining metropolitan areas adjusted or others adjusted for them,  such traffic features. Of course, besides being intriguing and thoughtful, I also discovered that this type of analysis would require sustained, rigorous research, and as you can see, I am quite busy. So, my informal, peer-reviewed (some of my family agreed with me) confirmed that 41.72 percent of cities, states, and transportation authorities altered their number of exit ramps and streetlights, while the remaining 58.28 percent installed cameras to laugh at angry drivers cursing over these silly, burdensome safety measures (Eccles, 2014).

Seriously, Flint is worth a trip for a variety of reasons. It’s real, gritty, and an essential center for any thoughtful scholars on American labor and industrial history. Still, I have a long drive ahead of me. I finally made it to Lapeer . Furthermore, if you thought the drive from Perry through the Flint area was fun-filled, you better secure those belts for the remaining 50 miles. Of course, I’m fatigued now and perhaps will continue this existential traffic log another day.










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