austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Over two thousand miles all the way

Don't be mistaken: I would be delighted to get a new job in Singapore and would move back there in roughly the time it takes to buy a plane ticket online if I could. However, I will admit there are things I like about the United States in comparison. One of them is that there are so many more of the History Channel/Discovery Channel/Learning Channel-class shows, so that I have a much better chance of any time, day or night, turning on the TV and finding a documentary about the construction of some elaborate project I didn't previously know enough about. Like, last night, when I might have been going to sleep, I found a Modern Marvels about the Mackinac Bridge, the only suspension bridge providing a direct link between the upper peninsula of Michigan and the borough of Brooklyn. And I found it enlightening and an inspiration to odd thoughts, such as the discovery that at its opening in 1957 the toll was $3.25. Three and a quarter dollars back then is enough purchasing power in today's terms to buy an iPod. Or were they just gouging the governor?

Also mentioned was that they estimate the need to replace completely the road surface about every fifty years. That combines with another inspirational fact gained from, I think, a Modern Marvels about the Interstate system, which stated that 90 percent of the asphalt used for roads can be recycled and put into new asphalt for repaired or renovated roads. This implies -- follow me closely here -- that ten percent of road asphalt is not turned back into new road asphalt. Therefore, with a period of roughly the time it takes to completely resurface all the roads in the United States, there's somebody getting enough used asphalt to build a one-tenth scale model of the United States's road system.

That model, if it were just to cover the contiguous states, would reach something like 300 miles from eastern to western point and around 200 from northern to southern, or, roughly, be about the size of Pennsylvania. But I know Pennsylvania isn't given over entirely to this sort of project; therefore, it has to be somewhere else. All right, there must be room in the United States somewhere west of the scary, impenetrable Appalachian Mountains to hide a project the size of Pennsylvania, but then who's got it? And what is it for? Bear in mind, there's going to be a fresh tenth-scale road system ready every time the resurfacing interval comes due, and some of these roads need to be resurfaced a lot. There's places around here where by the time they're done resurfacing they go back and start all over from the first mile marker again.

This is why I probably shouldn't watch too much of Modern Marvels in a row.

Trivia: A ferry from Manhattan to Brooklyn was running in the early 1640s; on the Brooklyn side it arrived on the farmland of Cornelis Hooglandt. Source: The Island at the Centre of the World, Russell Shorto.

Currently Reading: Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation, Peter L Bernstein.

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