Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway, ever heard of it? I had never heard of it until just recently, so imagine my surprise when I found out that I have lived in several towns on this highway for most of my life. Born and raised in Belleville, Kansas, this highway came right through town on Highway 36. I have also lived in Colorado Springs and Buena Vista, Colorado, both of which were boosters of the highway.
The conception of this highway began in Colorado Springs, in the shadows of Pikes Peak, in 1912. It ran from New York City to Los Angeles, avoiding or skirting around most large cities. Towns along the route agreed to sponsor their portion of the highway with advertising and road improvements. Keep in mind, this was during a time in American history that most roads were not paved and traveling more than 10 miles was a great adventure.
Once the route was laid out, it was identified by the “icon” (a 21st century term) PP-OO, which could be found on trees, telephone poles and even rocks such as the image below.
The highway has fallen into obscurity, most likely unknown to most of the residents of the cities and towns along the route, however, if you were to retrace the route today, you might find yourself traveling through the countryside and through towns which were largely unaffected by the commercialization that occurs when a major interstate or highway intersects a municipality.
The best parts of America can be found by following a narrow rolling road into north central Missouri, a winding mountain road in Pennsylvania, an arrow-straight two-lane through the cornfields of central Illinois, or an abandoned portion of road in western Kansas. This highway will also take you through the hills of the northeast, farming heartland, back country mountains and the desert west.