The following is an excerpt from Tony Cappasso’s e-book America’s Highway: A Journey of Discovery Along US Route 1. In it Tony recounts his journey from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. You can learn more about Tony on his website America’s Highway US Route 1, his Facebook page, or in this video.
It was around two pm when I threaded the Duck through the narrow streets of Hampton and headed for interstate 95. I steered the Duck through the toll booth and pointed the nose north.
My plan was to take the interstate as far north as Houlton, Maine, where it ended. From there, I have to follow Maine state roads until I got to Fort Kent. That’s where the trip would really begin.
Traffic was light. The Duck had cruise control. I pegged the speedometer at 55 mph and enjoyed the scenery.
South of the Maine town of Freeport, I spotted a cemetery surrounded by a chain-link fence, just off the shoulder of the interstate. Why was a cemetery so close to the interstate?
Later, I stopped at a restaurant for lunch. I plugged in my computer and did a Google search. It turned out that when the interstate was widened from four lanes to six in the late 1980s, it encroached on the Hatch-Mitchell Cemetery. It contained the remains of members of those two families, reaching back to the 1700s.
During the roadway widening, engineers put a chain link fence around the cemetery to protect it and had winterized the headstones. The Hatch-Mitchell dead lay at peace as huge tractor-trailers roared past their resting place.
Driving north on I-95, I was amused to see frequent signs cautioning of the presence of moose. The signs featured the word “WARNING” in a red stripe at the top, a black photo of a moose in the middle, and a statement telling motorists how far up the road the risk of meeting one of these formidable creatures extended.
How did state authorities know where moose were likely to cross the interstate? Much later, I learned that the Maine Department of Transportation kept detailed records of collisions between moose and motorists and plotted them on a map of the state’s highways. From that they culled the areas where these meetings, fatal ones for motorists a disturbingly large percentage of the time, occurred with the greatest frequency. The warning signs went up in those spots.
Moose, it seemed, could almost have been designed by nature to cause serious injuries in collisions with automobiles. Their large, heavy bodies perch atop long, spindly legs. When motorcars hit a moose, the animal often as not flies over the car’s hood and crashes through the windshield.
As a fully-grown male moose can weigh in at more than a thousand pounds, the potential for catastrophe in these accidents is very high for the unfortunate human.
According to statistics, moose-car collisions in Maine average more than 600 per year, with peaks between April and June.