Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Lincoln Highway

We’ve been traveling The Lincoln Highway much of this trip. I knew of it, but there is a lot I didn’t know about it until I began to read about it. It was the first road across the entire United States of America. It was conceived in 1912, dedicated October 31, 1913, and was the first national memorial to President Lincoln, predating the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. by nine years. Initially it was 3,389 miles long, going through 13 states, stretching from Times Square, New York  City, to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, CA. It was created by using existing roadways, many of which were unimproved; only over time did it become a paved highway coast to coast. To a great extent it was initially a public relations triumph more than an actual roadway, but it did create a route that could be followed from coast to coast, and almost immediately, many intrepid travelers sought to follow it. When federal highways were given numbers in the 1920s, much of the Lincoln Highway was given the number U.S. 30, from Philadelphia, PA to Granger, WY. The eastern and western ends have other route numbers (U.S. 1 in the east accounts for much of it, and U.S. 40 in the west). Our travels on the Lincoln Highway have been primarily in Nebraska and Wyoming, but also in Indiana.

As one can imagine, the existence of this highway was an economic boon to the hundreds of little towns through which it passed. It encouraged the creation of other national highways and eventually is thought to have been, in part at least, an inspiration of the Interstate Highway System of the 1960s; one of the earliest travelers of the Lincoln Highway was a youthful Dwight Eisenhower, who as President championed the Interstate Highway.  Unfortunately, the Interstate System, rather than being a boon to small towns, has proved in many instances to be the death of them because it has bypassed them, and sucked development away from Main Street to the exit ramp. We have seen a multitude of instances of this in our travels.

A great deal of history and lore is attached to the Lincoln highway, a National Lincoln Highway Association supports and promotes it, events are held along it periodically to celebrate anniversaries.; devoted followers can trace virtually every foot of it (though much of it is now I-80). If you want to know more, check out Wikipedia and other articles on line. I acknowledge my dependence on the Wikipedia article.

Yesterday as we were going along I-80 between Cheyenne and Rock Springs, WY (where I am writing this in an Econolodge), we passed this monument, which marks the high point of the Lincoln Highway east of Laramie:

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