The GPS has absolutely demolished my already poor sense of direction. Hour long trip? GPS. Don’t know where that store is? GPS. Remember having to print out MapQuest directions? Remember MapQuest?
I can only assume that before the Internet and GPS, taking a cross country roadtrip was just like a real life Oregon Trail and everyone died of dysentery in Oklahoma. But as it turns out there was a time when all you had to do was follow the giant arrows. Like some sort of real life Mario Kart.
All over the country, 70-foot concrete arrows can be found in remote locations. Follow them, and they’ll point you out of the desert.
They come courtesy of the US Postal Service’s Air Force and will point you all the way across the continental United States.
They were constructed in 1924 to guide postal planes in the right direction as they carried mail from coast to coast.
These old planes couldn’t rely on radio as much at the time, so they used these arrows, along with beacon towers, to navigate.
The arrows and beacons bisect the United States from San Francisco to New York City.
The towers were 50 feet tall and fixed with gas lights that could be seen from 10 miles away, in order to help lost pilots find their way. This is a model of the arrows and towers in their heyday.
World War II brought new advances in radio technology that effectively made the towers and arrows system obsolete. The towers were mostly dismantled.
There has been an effort to restore and preserve some of them, however. Like this one in New Mexico complete with its generator shack.
Where should we go?
This is a pretty cool piece of history, even if it was short lived. To think of those early postal pilots navigating like this from coast to coast is mind blowing. Road trip, anyone?
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