The Highway Experience in America

John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle

The myth of the open road and the reality of the American driving experience


"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

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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."

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.

Published in association with the Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago

Page count: 288 pp.
Trim size: 6.0625 x 9.25


List price: $29.95

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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.