Preserving the history of 'The Plank Road,' original road from San Diego to Phoenix

PHOENIX - If you've taken a road trip to San Diego, you've probably whizzed down Interstate 8 at 75 miles an hour. You probably fly right through the Imperial Sand Dunes and not think much of it, but imagine going over the rough sand without a road.

"Somebody had the ingenuity to lay down wood across the dunes," said Jessica Han.

Han is an archeologist with the Bureau of Land Management. It is her job to preserve history like the plank road built in 1915.

It stretched across the Imperial Sand Dunes, making the trip from Phoenix to San Diego possible. It's also the last wooden road still standing in the United States.

"Here it sits, 100 years later out in the desert," said Han.

The one lane, narrow road used to stretch 6.5 miles. You would have to drive it to get from Phoenix to San Diego. All that's left today, 1,500 feet that sits in the shadow of its replacement, Interstate 8.

The mastermind behind the plank road was Ed Fletcher, San Diego's first road commissioner.

"He was Mr. San Diego, totally," said Carolyn Benson, Fletcher's granddaughter.

She remembers his love for San Diego; when he was challenged by folks in Los Angeles to see who could drive to Phoenix faster, he quickly accepted the challenge.

"He just couldn't understand why people weren't coming here," said Benson. "But it was mainly because they didn't have decent road systems along the southern route. All the monies were going to LA."

Fletcher drove to Phoenix in 19 hours, and won the bet.

"He was the promoter. He said we can do it, and he found the players and he had the car," said Benson.

The path made getting from Phoenix to San Diego possible. And although the trip might look different today, just know steps away is the last road standing.

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