A definite lack of curves

According to urban — or maybe rural — legend, one mile in every five of the Interstate Highway System is perfectly straight, so it can be used as an emergency runway for aircraft. (The Federal Highway Administration begs to differ.) A one-mile straightaway is no big deal, though: it’s not enough to get hypercars like the various Bugatti Veyrons up to top speed, and, based on my own road-trip experience, it’s not enough to put you to sleep.

At the other end of the spectrum, on the other side of the world, there’s this:

Imagine a drive, a thousand miles long with no turns or bends, across a vast featureless plain with repetitive landscape, and hundreds of kilometers between towns and service stations. That’s Eyre Highway, the road that connects Western Australia to Southern Australia via the Nullarbor Plain, a flat and treeless, giant bed of limestone 200,000 square kilometres in area. With no hills or lakes to obstruct, the highway was laid down as a straight road that runs for 1,675 km from Port Augusta in the east to Norseman in the west, and includes what is said to be the longest straight stretch of road in the world: 145.6 kilometres, between the small roadhouse communities of Balladonia and Caiguna.

The very name “Nullarbor” tells you how many trees you can expect, give or take a few.

While in the East you still find some towns like Kimba, Wudinna and Ceduna, the western three quarters is almost devoid of life. This section lies almost entirely on the Nullarbor Plain. The typical view is that of a straight highway and practically unchanging flat saltbush-covered terrain, although some parts are located on ridges. Spread throughout the length of the highway at approximately 200 km to 300 km apart are roadhouses providing basic services such as fuel, food, refreshments, accommodation and repairs, but not all are open 24 hours.

About this time of year, the Nullarbor seems almost inviting, at least to me, partly because it’s still spring for the next few weeks, but mostly because there’s not much of a crowd.

Oh, and there’s this:

Because of its remoteness, some sections of the Highway serve as emergency airstrips for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. These airstrips are signposted and have runway “piano keys” painted on the road, and turnaround bays for small aircraft.

You definitely won’t see that on the likes of I-35.

(Via The Presurfer.)


  1. backwoods conservative »

    2 December 2014 · 9:43 am

    In the hilly country in the upstate of SC, it’s hard to find a mile of road anywhere that doesn’t have a curve. It was quite a shock to me when I drove to Florida earlier this year and encountered a stretch of Hwy 441 where it was possible to drive 15 or 20 miles without turning the steering wheel.

    I look at maps of the midwest and the roads are laid out like a checkerboard. It would take a hell of a lot of bulldozing to do that here.

  2. Tom »

    3 December 2014 · 7:28 am

    Actually, you CAN find this on I-35. I know the pilot, and I’ve seen the images taken of the airplane on the shoulder. http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=134166

  3. CGHill »

    3 December 2014 · 7:39 am

    As the sailors say, “Any port in a storm.”

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