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“Barstow, Calif. 2,554.”


Sound familiar?


As a newcomer to Wilmington a year ago, I saw that mileage sign on the road to Raleigh and thought it was some kind of joke.

Residents know better, of course, especially if they’ve lived here since at least 1990—the year Interstate 40 was extended all the way to the East Coast. The highway changed Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach economically, logistically and culturally. (Some aren’t convinced for the better.)


But it also added a physical and spiritual connection between the Port City and the part of the continent that lay far to the west. It raised curiosities.


“Wonder if there’s also a sign out in California that says Wilmington, N.C.?” (There is.)


“Reckon it goes all the way to the Pacific?” (It doesn’t.)


“Sort of like Route 66 in a way.” (Yep. I-40 subsumed most of the old Route 66, which was decommissioned in 1985 when the original interstate route was completed.)


And I’m intrigued at how often people at this end of the road say things like, “Sure would be fun to get on that highway some time and just keep going all the way to California, wouldn’t it?”

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