Motoring: The Highway Experience in America

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Motoring unmasks the forces that shape the American driving experience--commercial, aesthetic, cultural, mechanical--as it takes a timely look back at our historically unconditional love of motor travel. Focusing on recreational travel between 1900 and 1960, John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle cover dozens of topics related to drivers, cars, and highways and explain how they all converge to uphold that illusory notion of release and rejuvenation we call the "open road."

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Overview


Motoring unmasks the forces that shape the American driving experience--commercial, aesthetic, cultural, mechanical--as it takes a timely look back at our historically unconditional love of motor travel. Focusing on recreational travel between 1900 and 1960, John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle cover dozens of topics related to drivers, cars, and highways and explain how they all converge to uphold that illusory notion of release and rejuvenation we call the "open road."

Jakle and Sculle have collaborated on five previous books on the history, culture, and landscape of the American road. Here, with an emphasis on the driver's perspective, they discuss garages and gas stations, roadside tourist attractions, freeways and toll roads, truck stops, bus travel, the rise of the convenience store, and much more. All the while, the authors make us think about aspects of driving that are often taken for granted: how, for instance, the many lodging and food options along our highways reinforce the connection between driving and "freedom" and how, by enabling greater speeds, highway engineers helped to stoke motorists' "blessed fantasy of flight." Although driving originally celebrated freedom and touted a common experience, it has increasingly become a highly regulated, isolated activity. The motive behind America's first embrace of the automobile--individual prerogative--still substantially obscures this reality.

"Americans did not have the automobile imposed on them," say the authors. Jakle and Sculle ask why some of the early prophetic warnings about our car culture went unheeded and why the arguments of its promoters resonated so persuasively. Today, the automobile is implicated in any number of environmental, even social, problems. As the wisdom of our dependence on automobile travel has come into serious question, reassessment of how we first became that way is more important than ever.

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Editorial Reviews

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"Jakle and Sculle, the deans of the American roadside, shift their focus from the flanks of the highway to the driver's seat. Motoring transports the reader through the rough roads of early automobiling to the superhighways of today. It is an exquisite and informative journey."--Craig E. Colten, author of An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature

"A comprehensive panorama of the American highway from the first auto tourists to recent road rage. In between is a bit of business history, a pinch of psychology, a dose of technology, and a full account of the architectural forms that created the current freeway suburbia. Motoring should serve as a guidebook to the history of the open road in American culture, wonderfully illustrated with authentic photos and advertisements."--Arthur Krim, author of Route 66: Iconography of the American Highway

"In their sixth collaboration, John Jakle and Keith Sculle offer a wide-ranging and readable synthesis of 'motoring' in the United States. . . . As in their earlier works the authors deftly unpack the many symbols and themes that allowed 'the fantasy of the open road [to take] on a life of its own'. . . . Their book aids both scholars and general enthusiasts in defining and then addressing . . . important yet volatile civic values."--David Blanke, Journal of Illinois History

"A fascinating trip from the first auto tourists to road rage. . . . Solid scholarship and engaging storytelling combine to make this a book as important as it is interesting."--Dan Danbom, Time Out for Entertainment

"Highly recommended . . . The authors provide fascinating information about automobiles and American history and culture in an attractive, approachable volume that can serve as both a scholarly resource and pleasurable reading."--C. J. Myers, Choice

"To dig into the bedrock of history and assumptions our roads are built on, spend some time with John Jakle and Keith Sculle's Motoring. The promise of the road and its reality are very different, as Jakle and Sculle demonstrate in this well-researched book."--Joni Tevis, Rain Taxi

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Product Details

Meet the Author


John A. Jakle is an emeritus professor of geography and landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Keith A. Sculle is the head of research and education at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Jakle and Sculle are the coauthors of five books related to automobile culture in America, including Lots of Parking and Fast Food.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     xiii
Prologue     1
Motoring: An Introduction     7
America's Good Roads Search     33
Detour Ahead: Rebuilding America's Roads     55
Highways as Public Prerogative     71
Dealerships and Garages     86
The Tourist's Roadside     105
Rejecting the Roadside as Landscaped Landscape     127
Limited-Access Highways as Dream Fulfillment     146
Motoring by Truck     161
Motoring by Bus     183
Convenience in Store     204
The Highway Experience: A Conclusion     217
Notes     229
Index     263
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 22, 2009

    A reviewer

    Between 1994 and 2004, Jakle and Sculle coauthored five other books on the automobile and aspects of American culture. These were on gas stations, motels, roadside restaurants, parking as land usage, and roadside signs. In this newest book. they do not focus on a similar specific subject related to Americans attachment to automobiles. Rather, the theme of this work is the relatively amorphous highway experience they call 'motoring' a concept they 'define as that experience by which drivers, machines, and highways become integrally linked. Content such as roadside scenery and objects, design of highways as conducing to dream fulfillment, and the growth of ubiquitous convenience stores connected to gas stations with plentiful associated illustrations evince that the authors drew on their previous books--so that this is something of a synthesis of them, 'Motoring,' however, has a limited critical dimension not found in the earlier works. 'As the wisdom of America's passionate embrace of automobility has come into serious question' in light of urban sprawl, environmental deterioration, energy waste, and class and racial issues surfacing in recent years, 'reassessing how American became so dependent on automobiles seems more important than ever.' To the extent they engage in criticism, Jakle and Sculle mostly point out excesses and heedlessness and occasionally silliness rather than engage in a fundamental critique of the automobile in the culture. The book's eclectic content is also brought into the perspective of visual culture, a relatively new field which is being applied to many aspects of American culture. 'The pleasure trip, as with all forms of auto trip taking, also came to privilege human visuality.' Highways were planned so that at least in some parts they passed by scenic areas and about the mid 1900s, funds for roadside landscaping were included in many highway appropriations. In other places, however, roadsides inevitably became highly-commercialized with the great numbers of Americans and their families traveling by car. 'The commercial roadside evolved as a linear array of conveniently accessed places, positioned and designed specifically to entice.' No matter what the roadside sights, motoring changed the pace of the visual experience to 'a rapid kaleidoscope seeing of things overwhelming slower, more studied apprehension.' The changes in visual experience, psychology of boundaries, motives for involvement, social life, and expectations Jakle and Sculle link to the automobile compare with similar changes linked to the computer becoming central in the society. While the open road has not lost all of its romance, the notion that it offers an escape from the routines of daily life and a way to new horizons seems outdated, as the authors imply. Just ask anyone stuck in rush hour traffic.

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