Text Options for the Visually Impaired Font Size: a- A+ Color: A A A Revert 
Close vision bar
Open vision bar
"SNOW DAY" Lesson (6th and 7th Grade)

Please read the selection below and then answer the questions that follow.

The Best of America is on the Blue Highways

Sure, the interstate will get you there faster. I would never argue that it won’t. But here’s the thing: when you drive the two-lane highways it does not matter how much time it takes. In fact, you might even want to keep on driving and driving and driving because you are having so much fun. I have known this for a long time, but it came back to me fresh this summer.

I live in Kansas City, Missouri, and my family lives in St. Louis. I normally take the train when I visit. This summer, though, I had to drive because I was helping with a move. One weekend in June, I picked up my rented van and slid onto Interstate 70 (I-70), which plows through the state, four lanes or six lanes straight across. The speed limit is 75, people routinely drive 85, and the huge 18-wheelers loom over you as if to say, “Is that a car or a tiny little bug that I could squish if I wanted to?” Four-and-a-half miserable hours later, I dragged myself into my sister’s house. I was worn out.

I am not one of those people who think that driving is a chore. I love to drive. I love road trips. In my 20s, I drove clunky old cars that probably should not have been allowed to leave the neighborhood all over the U.S. But for me, the interstate takes the fun out of driving. Instead of enjoying the journey, a person is trying to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. The road is flat and straight and all of the interesting stuff is up the exit ramp, a long way away. Where is the joy in that?

So this summer, I bailed on I-70 and drove Highway 50 back and forth across Missouri. It took an hour longer but it felt like no time at all because around every corner there was something new and different and interesting. The highway roughly follows the Missouri River, which winds across the length of the state. From Kansas City it is divided highway east through medium-sized cities like Warrensburg and Sedalia and on into Jefferson City, the state capital, which sits right on the river. After that, it’s twisty two-lane roads that wind through the hills and in to West St. Louis County. It is one gorgeous vista after another.

Highway 50 is what is called a blue highway. A writer named William Least-Heat Moon coined the term to refer to those smaller, out-of-the-way roads that were drawn in blue on the old road atlases. Blue highways connect small cities and rural areas that may once have had dreams of becoming big cities before being bypassed by the interstate. With many of these smaller places, though, you get the sense that they are exactly what they always wanted to be: warm and human-sized, comfortable places to live.

Driving on blue highways pulls you back in time. You look around, and it is America in the 1940s or 1950s. There is the town square, with small shops and a courthouse in the place of honor. Most of the businesses are owned by the people who live there; the corporate headquarters is in the back room. On Highway 50, for example, you can find the best ever creamy frozen custard at a little shack on a gravel lot outside Tipton, and the best ever fried catfish in a wee town called Rosebud an hour west of St. Louis. I could drive for days and never find anything else just like that because it’s only made in that small town by those particular people.

Right before you get into West St. Louis County, you run into that most famous of historic highways – Route 66. Americans drove Route 66 from Chicago to the Santa Monica, California, way back in the 1920s up until it was officially removed from the highway system in 1985. It was THE road for people headed for the West Coast of America.

I was born in a hospital in Rolla, Missouri, right on Route 66, and Route 66 is where I most feel that I belong. Route 66, to me, represents America before we had the same stores at every mall and the same restaurants along every Main Street. It represents an America where people could open a diner or a tourist attraction or a store on the town square and do something unique and interesting and make a living at it. Today, the stretch of Route 66 from Highway 50 to old Highway 100 in west St. Louis County is a shadow of what it once was, but it is a shadow that still speaks to me in a way that the interstate never, ever will.


This task has more than one (1) part. Read each part carefully and respond. Part A The author appeals to the emotions of the reader by using precise and descriptive language. How does the author make interstate travel sound like a negative experience? List at least three examples from the article. Part B Write a paragraph that explains how the author used language to compare the travel experiences by using positive language about the blue highways. Use at least three examples from the article to support your response.

Be sure to complete ALL parts of the task.


Below is a generic rubric. To view a detailed item-specific rubric for scoring this item, click 'View Sample Paper' above. You will also see annotated student responses.

Score Designation Description:

4 Thoroughly Demonstrated The student demonstrates a thorough understanding of the standards assessed.

3 Clearly Demonstrated The student demonstrates a clear understanding of the standards assessed.

2 Basically Demonstrated The student demonstrates a basic understanding of the standards assessed.

1 Minimally Demonstrated The student demonstrates a minimal understanding of the standards assessed.

0 Incorrect or Irrelevant The response is incorrect or irrelevant.

Contact Us
Polk School District 612 South College St.
Cedartown, GA 30125
View Map & Directions
Phone: 770-748-3821
Fax: 770-748-5131
Google-Translate-Chinese (Simplified) BETA Google-Translate-English to French Google-Translate-English to German Google-Translate-English to Italian Google-Translate-English to Japanese BETA Google-Translate-English to Korean BETA Google-Translate-English to Russian BETA Google-Translate-English to Spanish Google-Translate-English to Tagalog Google-Translate-English to Portuguese Google-Translate-English to Vietnamese