In the Eye of the Beholder

I often wonder what it that attracts people to Kaua`i, what makes them vacation here and then want to move here. Of course it’s exotic, but what is hiding behind that word? Kaua`i is tropical, not cold, very different from the mainland, and I think that difference is the natural beauty of the landscape. Not that that the mainland is not beautiful, but I think it’s fair to say that Kaua`i is one of the more spectacular places with the least human intrusion (in the US) that you can get to on a commercial flight.

But is the landscape only beautiful to me? I tend to think it is a universal trait of humans to see beauty in nature, but maybe it is only in the urbanized ones, and in the end not really all of them.

So, can a freeway be beautiful?

Sign saying 'Junipero Serra, the world's most beautiful freeway'

That’s the I-280 Freeway leaving San Francisco. The sign is located just after the Highway-1 exit. Here’s an almost artistic photo of the same area. It has elegant lines, a pleasing curvature, some nice lines leading to the vanishing point, could it be beautiful?

Off-ramp exit of I-280 in San Francisco

Or is it just the concrete intestine of a giant asphalt hemorrhage in a place where natural beauty gave up the fight long ago?

Except for a few stretches with passing lanes, there are no 4-lane highways on Kaua`i, and I’m sure that makes a difference in the overall balance of beauty.

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  1. Mike Marschall says:

    I’m guess you’ve never driven down I-280. The photo and your comments are seem to focus on the freeway’s structural aesthetics. While the bridge and road in the picture are more beautiful than average, they are not why the 280 is undoubtedly the worlds most beautiful freeway. Rather, it is the scenery that surrounds the 280 that left me stunned the first time I was able to experience it.

  2. Russell Blank says:

    It’s only the most beautiful freeway at the moment… Once we pour ten lanes of asphalt across Yosemite, I-280 will become the second most beautiful swath of land covered over for cars.

  3. Andy says:

    Which reminds me, I haven’t seen the sign in the photo the last time I was in the Bay Area. I wonder if it was hit during an accident, or if they (Caltrans) realized how stupid the sign was and removed it.


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