Cross-Country U.S. Route 6, The Beginning

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Did you know that the Route 6 on Cape Cod goes all the way to California, and was once the longest highway in the USA, running 3,652 miles to Long Beach before California renumbered its roads? Now, with its terminus in Bishop, CA and at 3,205 miles, U.S. Route 6 is still the longest contiguous highway in the nation, jutting through fourteen states on its way to the Left Coast.

Last year, I took six months to research, and six weeks to drive the entire route, blogging each day. Then I wrote the travel guide: Stay On Route 6 – Your Guide To All 3,652 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6.

Known alternately as the Grand Army of the Republic (Memorial) Highway, U.S. Route 6 begins in Provincetown, MA, and though the Mid-Cape Highway carries the official Route 6 designation, I advise readers to follow the more scenic and original 1926 alignment, Route 6A. But first, snap a picture of the sign that states, “6 West: Bishop, CA 3205 Miles.” It’s at the very start of US. Route 6.

Route 6A on Cape Cod offers unrivaled ocean, dune and salt marsh views. In Provincetown, climb the Pilgrim Monument, www.pilgrim-monument.org – the tallest all-granite structure in the United States, completed in 1910 to commemorate the Mayflower’s 102 passengers who took solace on these shores, or take an entertaining and engaging tour of the dunes and beach with Art’s Dune Tours for perspective, knock-out panoramas, and bracing sea air.

Moving westward on Route 6A, you’ll navigate through Truro (pick up a trademarked lighthouse-shaped bottle of wine at Truro Vineyards Of Cape Cod), Wellfleet, and Eastham. In Eastham, be sure to stop at the Salt Pond Visitor Center at the Cape Cod National Seashore. Walk through the door to an inspired view of Salt Pond, the most magnificent expanse of salt marsh, inlets and attendant wildlife on the Cape.

Should you feel the need to overnight in all this grandeur, there are numerous local lodging options nearby, but located within the National Seashore itself you’ll find the charming Fort Hill B&B, one block off busy Route 6 in the Historic Fort Hill District, and in its own universe. Say hi to owners Jean and Gordon Avery, drop off your bags, then walk a minute up the road to the trailhead of the popular Fort Hill Trail and Nauset Marsh. Sandbars and marsh grass lend texture to the Atlantic Ocean waterscape below where a mile-long path dips down into a cat-tailed rimmed shoreline. Don’t miss a hushed sunset stroll before heading out to dinner.

There’s lots to do and see in Brewster, Yarmouth Port, Barnstable and Sandwich, though you can’t leave the Cape without stopping for a taste of homemade jam at Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen (Thornton Burgess), a still-operating, old-fashioned jam kitchen. This place has been delighting Cape Cod vacationers since 1903, when savvy Ida Putnam began selling her jams and jellies to travelers on “the only highway that went all the way to the end of the Cape,” which became U.S. Route 6 in 1926.  Preserves are still cooked in Ida’s kettles over original burners.

Off the Cape, U.S. Route 6 travels through Wareham, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Fall River and Seekonk before crossing the border into Rhode Island and beyond. If you’ve ever been curious about what lies ever westward on U.S. Route 6, I’m here to tell you, it is marvelous.

Connecticut-based travel writer, Malerie Yolen-Cohen is author of Stay On Route 6: Your Guide to All 3,652 Miles of Transcontinental U.S. Route 6, and publisher of www.stayonroute6.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter @MalerieYolen.

Photos courtesy of Malerie Yolen-Cohen.

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