Camino del Norte
How a Series of Watering Holes, Fords, and Dirt Trails Evolved into Interstate 35 in Texas
Texas History
6 x 9, 296 pp.
16 maps.
Pub Date: 01/17/2006
Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University
Price:        $29.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Camino del Norte

How a Series of Watering Holes, Fords, and Dirt Trails Evolved into Interstate 35 in Texas

By Howard J. Erlichman

Some five hundred miles of superhighway run between the Rio Grande and the Red River—present-day Interstate 35. This towering achievement of modern transportation engineering links a string of Texas metropolises and some 7.7 million people, and yet it all evolved from a series of humble little trails.

The I-35 Corridor that runs north-south through Texas connects Dallas and Fort Worth with Austin, San Antonio, and Laredo en route to ancient towns in Mexico. Along its path lie urban centers, technology parks, parking lots, strip malls, apartment complexes, and vast open spaces. In this fascinating popular history, based on extensive primary and secondary research, Howard J. Erlichman asks how and why the Camino del Norte (the Northern Road) developed as (and where) it did. He uncovers, dissects, prioritizes, and repackages layer upon layer of centuries-spanning history to, in his words, "solve the mystery of I-35."

His chronicle focuses less on the physical placement of I-35 than on the reasons it was created: the founding of posts and villages and the early development of towns. Along the way, he explores a number of circumstances that contributed to the location and development of the corridor: pre-Columbian cultures, Mexican silver mining, road and bridge building techniques, Indian tribes, railroad developments, military affairs, car culture, and pavement technology, to name a few.

Presently, a variety of new highway projects are underway to address the dramatic expansion of I-35 traffic generated by population growth and business enterprise. Those interested in the economic development of the state of Texas, in NAFTA links and their precursors, and in touring the Interstate itself will find this book informative and useful.

HOWARD J. ERLICHMAN is a business consultant in Austin, Texas. He holds master's degrees from Harvard University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

What Readers Are Saying:

“.. . compelling. Erlichman has done a nice job of luring readers into his story about the movement of human beings and their societies along the traces, paths, trails, rail tracks, and roads that in time would evolve into IH-35. The concept is intriguing, the accompanying maps are nicely done.”--Char Miller, Trinity University, editor of Urban Texas: Politics and Development

“. . . demonstrates this interstate highway’s importance while not shying away from its controversial nature.” --Richard Francaviglia, Professor of History and Geography, University of Texas

“Metaphorically, this book blazes a trail in its own right. It’s a major expansion of the relatively sparse bibliography of Texas transportation history. . . “Camino del Norte” is a must read.” --Mike Cox

"The book's copious detail is astonishing and quite brilliant...The book's subtitle, How a Series of Watering Holes, Fords, and Dirt Trails Evolved into Interstate 35 in Texas, is a promise well kept...The Camino is a broad river; every story he finds to include is a tributary of greater or lesser significance.” --Texas Books in Review

“While Texans bemoan the urban sprawl, continuous strip malls, empty warehouses, and the occasional pasture land with forlorn For Sale signs along the way, Erlichman celebrates the route and its inhabitants and the culture that has grown around it. Forget for a while that you are a scholar; pick up this book and get a new view of Texas” --Journal of Southern History

“Drawing particularly on descriptive secondary accounts, rather than interpretive works and primary sources, his well-focused overview looks broadly at the founding and development of places connected by I-35, outlining economic, cultural, and political contexts to make fuller sense of the how, the why, and the where . . . Readers with an interest grounded in familiarity with I-35 and its associated byways will enjoy the crisp prose of this clearly written and logically organized narrative. Erlichman makes it more engaging by interlarding the text with interesting details, occasionally stretching a point to make relevant some fact that could just as easily have become a distraction in the hands of a less capable writer . . . Erlichman has told a good story. It should find imitators, just as it should inspire further study.” --Ty Cashion


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