Military Convoy Trip
by Bob Jacoby
I have mentioned briefly before my incredible trip with the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) on their cross country auto tour commemorating the centennial of the 1919 Army Convoy across the Lincoln Highway. The original convoy, in my opinion, was one of the tremendous achievements in American history as it provided key insights into the military’s ability to transport vehicles over long distances that required crossing hundreds of bridges. (The convoy included a young officer named Dwight Eisenhowtyer.) Many of these bridges had to be strengthened or a new bridge built to accom.modate military vehicles. Needless to say, this knowledge came in very handy some years later doing World War II.
During the first two weeks (16 days) in September the LHA notebook containing 173 pages of route instructions! The book also contained other information, including lunch stops, location of photo opps, and other historical sites. I was very impressed with the level of detail, including historical detail, in this information. The LHA also provided an experienced support team consisting of a Tour Director to handle all of the arrangements, a Mapping Coordinator to prepare the turn-by-turn instructions, and a sweep truck to provide assistance in case of any mechanical problems.
I have many memories of this trip and the best way to share them is briefly talk about the route each day and some of the key experiences I had. Below is the day-by-day rundown of this conducted an auto tour retracing the path of the original convoy. To celebrate the history of the event people were encouraged to drive vintage vehicles on the trip. I had the opportunity to navigate for my friend Brian Suen who is the proud owner of a 1958 Studebaker Hawk. Having the privilege of riding in this vehicle made the trip even a more special experience.
The LHA did a tremendous job of planning the trip. Meals, attractions and lodging were pre-arranged and the group gathered together for a group dinner, sometimes with a speaker, at each overnight stop. Several days before the trip began we received a spiral bound extraordinary event.
Day 1 (Saturday Aug. 31) - Washington, D.C. to Gettysburg, PA.
The formal trip began on the morning of Saturday, August 31 near the White House at the Zero Milestone Marker. (This is exactly where the original convoy began. )
The first day consisted of driving on mainly back roads from Washington to historic Gettysburg Pennsylvania where we picked up the Lincoln Highway for the first time. This 98 mile route on primarily back roads passed through rural Maryland and Pennsylvania as we headed toward Gettysburg. We arrived in Gettysburg with plenty of time to see the Visitor Center and tour the Eisenhower Farm. This is just the beginning of things to do in this wonderful historical town. If you have never been there before, allocate at least two or three days to see everything. Our resting place for the night was the Holiday Inn in Gettysburg and we had a fabulous meal at the historic Dobbin House Tavern.
Day 2 (Sunday September 1) – Gettysburg, PA to Greensburg, PA. On this warm day we covered a total of 92 miles as we headed east on mainly the Lincoln Highway towards the Pittsburgh area. If you think that Pennsylvania is flat, dull and boring, you have another thing coming. On this route we passed over the surprisingly rugged and forested Alleghany Mountains. The old road goes over one after another steep pass in an area that, believe it or not, is somewhat reminiscent of the Basin and Range country in Nevada. The difference is that these mountains are heavily forested. This area also has numerous dirt roads that looked oh so interesting!
Along the route we made a very important stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial outside of Stoystown, PA. This is the location where Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001. It is now a National Park Site with excellent interpretation as it pays tribute to the heroic people on that flight. This is a must stop if you are even close to this area.
After visiting a number of attractions along the way, we started to hit the outskirts of Pittsburgh and were glad to get to Greensburg after a long and interesting day. After these first two days we still had 14 more days to go and I hope to share those experiences in the next few months in this newsletter. ~ Bob
Military Convoy Trip – Part II
I would like to continue to share with everyone the amazing sixteen day trip I participated in with the Lincoln Highway Association on their cross country auto tour. This tour commemorated the centennial of the 1919 Army Convoy across the Lincoln Highway from coast to coast. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to navigate the trip for my friend Brian Suen who is the proud owner of a 1958 Studebaker Hawk.
Last month I summarized the first two days of the trip ending in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. This time I will share Day Three thru Day Nine of the trip which amounted to a fascinating tour of the rural Midwest.
Day Three (Monday Sept. 2) - Greensburg, Pennsylvania to Canton, Ohio. Our route on the Lincoln Highway took us through a most underrated place, the City of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a beautiful and very interesting city and is located at the intersection of the Alleghany and the Mongo Hela Rivers. That is where the Ohio River begins. We were able to speak with a representative from the Pittsburgh Historical Society who provided us with very interesting background information on the role of Pittsburgh in American History.
I have become very interested in bridges and bridge construction and particularly enjoyed the multitude of bridges in the Pittsburgh area. One of the highlights was seeing the Jacks Run Bridge which was built in 1924. It is a multispan 320’ long bridge that is absolutely spectacular. This was just one of many interesting bridges we saw in the Pittsburgh area.
After lunch in the Pittsburgh area we headed off into more rural Pennsylvania and before we knew it the farm roads had delivered us into Ohio and our destination for the night, the historic McKinley Grand Hotel in Canton, Ohio.
Day Four (Tuesday Sept. 3) - Canton, Ohio to Delphos, Ohio Day Four consisted of an interesting trip thru rural western Ohio. Much of the corn out here had already been harvested but it was obvious that corn and soybeans rule here. The Lincoln Highway through this area basically follows old U.S 30 all the way across the state. The most interesting stop on this pleasant excursion was at the site of the old Mansfield State Prison in Mansfield, Ohio. It turns out this is the venue where much of the film, The Shawshank Redemption, was filmed.
Day Five (Wednesday Sept. 4) - Delphos, Ohio to Valparaiso, Indiana
This day brought more of the rural Midwest as we spent a good portion of the day traversing the Lincoln Highway through rural Indiana. We also drove through the very surprisingly large town of Fort Wayne, Indiana. One of the highlights of the day was a stop at one of the last remaining sections of the brick paved Lincoln Highway in Indiana. We spent the night in the college town of Valparaiso and had a great dinner stop at a most unusual place, the Industrial Revolution Eatery.
Day Six (Thursday Sept. 5) – Valparaiso, Indiana to Rock Falls, Illinois Today was one of the more unusual days as we consistently encountered significant traffic while traversing the endless Chicago suburbs. We did stop at a historic grist mill as well as an interesting museum. However, the most memorable stretch was three blocks in Plainfield, Illinois in which the Lincoln Highway and Route 66 are conjoined. To my knowledge this is the only place where these two famous routes coincide. At the end of the day we finally escaped the Chicago suburbs and bedded down in the small town of Rock Falls, Illinois.
Day Seven (Friday Sept. 6) - Rock Falls, Illinois to Marshalltown, Iowa
This day consisted of over 200 miles of back roads into the state of Iowa. We crossed the Mississippi at the small town of Fulton, Illinois and entered the city of Clinton, Iowa. Before crossing the majestic Mississippi we stopped at the historic Fulton Windmill. This windmill stands over 200 feet tall and was designed and built by Dutch Craftsman. The Windmill is a major landmark and has a very informative accompanying museum.
When we crossed the river and drove through Clinton the landscape started to change significantly. As we followed Route 30 West, it was obvious that we were now on the Western prairie. We had an outstanding catered dinner that night at the Tremont on Main Restaurant in Marshalltown.
Day Eight (Saturday Sept. 7) – Marshalltown, Iowa to Council Bluffs, Iowa Very surprisingly, this day trip across almost the entire state of Iowa proved to be the worst day of the trip. First of all, the weather didn’t cooperate and we had moderate to heavy rain for much of the day. The rain was tolerable even though it obscured our view of the Iowa countryside. However, what was not tolerable was a fuel pump and fuel line issue on the Studebaker. Even I could diagnose this problem as the engine just plain quit, even though we had several gallons in the tank. It was certainly no fun breaking down on a back road in the rain. However, the trip sweep vehicle was not far behind and we were able to get a tow into the next town where a new fuel pump was available.
After a several hour delay we were to resume our trip and headed for the overnight stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa at the Missouri River on the Iowa/Nebraska border. We were certain there were better days ahead.
Day Nine (Sunday Sept. 8) – Council Bluffs, Iowa to Kearney, Nebraska After the breakdown on the previous day in Iowa, Day Nine was really outstanding. The reason for this was not only the beautiful Nebraska countryside but also the opportunity to drive one of the longest remaining stretches of brick pavement on the Lincoln Highway. This brick pavement had two sections totaling nearly two and one half miles. Along this rural stretch just outside the city of Omaha, there were several Lincoln Highway signs as well as many other monuments. Indeed, this turned out to be a Lincoln Highway monument trail!
The bricks are well preserved as they had been covered with asphalt for many years. This section was eventually restored with original bricks that were laid in 1920. Also, vehicles weighing 6 tons or more have now been banned from this stretch of road. Driving this section was a high point of the entire trip!
That is it for this month. The final chapter of this journey was a trip through the American West on the old Lincoln Highway. This included well over a 100 miles of dirt roads. More on that next time. ~ Bob
Military Convoy Trip – Part IIl
It is time to share with everyone the final chapter of the amazing 17 day trip I participated on with the Lincoln Highway Association. The trip commemorated the centennial of the 1919 Army Convoy across the Lincoln Highway from coast to coast. As I have mentioned previously, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to navigate the trip for my friend Brian Suen who owns a 1958 Studebaker Hawk.
So far I have discussed the first nine days of the trip from Washington D.C. to Kearney, Nebraska. I will now be highlighting the last week of the trip all the way to the terminus in San Francisco.
Day 10 (Monday Sept. 9) – Kearney, Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming This day was one of the longest on the trip as we had about 355 miles to drive across the rest of western Nebraska and into Wyoming to Cheyenne. One of the most interesting things about this route was the “Stair Stepping” of the Lincoln Highway. The road follows the section lines around farms. As we were basically heading west, we encountered a seemingly endless number of turns as we traversed extremely remote western Nebraska. These stair step turns make travel through this area very interesting and unique.
Another key highlight of this day was a visit to the Pony Express Station and Museum in Gothenburg, Nebraska. This is a great place to stop if you have any interest at all in the Pony Express. The Museum has excellent interpretation and offers a very interesting and complete overview of the Pony Express. They also have some great souvenirs.
After a full day of driving, we finally stopped for the night in one of my favorite towns in the West, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Day 11 (Tuesday Sept. 10) – Cheyenne, Wyoming to Rock Springs, Wyoming If you are interested in the wide open spaces of the West, this was the day for you. We traveled nearly 300 miles across southern Wyoming all the way to Rock Springs on the western side of the state. The trip began with a visit to the Cheyenne Union Pacific Depot Museum. This is a must stop for any railroad buff. The depot was constructed in 1887. This building is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
The other highlight of a busy day of driving was a stop at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Monument at the Summit Rest Area just east of Laramie, Wyoming. This bust of Lincoln is on a 30 foot tall granite pedestal and is spectacular to view. It is just off of I-80 and is a must stop.
We spent much of the day on I-80 across Wyoming as we headed for our overnight stop in Rock Springs. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to visit the White Mountain Petroglyphs which are north of Rock Springs. However, the locals informed us that this is one of the best rock art sites in Wyoming.
Day 12 (Wednesday Sept. 11) – Rock Springs, Wyoming to Ogden, Utah Today’s 191 mile route included a stop at one of my favorite spots in the West, Ft. Bridger, Wyoming. Ft. Bridger was originally a 19th Century trading post established in 1842 by mountain man, Jim Bridger. It became a vital resupply line for wagon trains on the Oregon and California Trail. Ft. Bridger was also a key Pony Express station.
On the site, also, are black and white cabins that served the Lincoln Highway travelers. These cabins are one of the best examples of the historic tourist camps along the Lincoln Highway. All in all, Ft. Bridger is a very significant historical spot and is a must place to visit.
The rest of the day we spent heading west down the mountain pass into Utah. Even though most of this stretch was on interstate highways, it was very scenic and included a great vista of the Devil’s Slide rock formation which is quite a site to see. Our stop for the evening was at Comfort Inn in Ogden.
Day 13 (Thursday Sept. 12) – Ogden, Utah to Tooele, Utah Today consisted of a relatively short day mileage wise. We started the day by following the route of the Military Convoy from downtown Ogdon to downtown Salt Lake City. On this stretch we stopped at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Ogden. This very spacious and interesting place is part of the Hill Air Force Base and if you are into aviation history, it is not to be missed.
From there we continued south to Salt Lake City with its many attractions including the Mormon Tabernacle and the Salt Lake Temple. There are a myriad of things to see in Salt Lake and they warrant a separate vacation trip. Unfortunately, we had limited time so after lunch we headed west following the Lincoln Highway. Along the way we came within view of the Saltair Complex which consists of several buildings on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake about 15 miles from Salt Lake City. This interesting facility is currently being used as a major music and concert venue. From there it was onto Tooele for the evening.
Day 14 (Thursday Sept. 13) – Tooele, Utah to Ely, Nevada On this Thursday morning everyone had to make a decision. The original route that was followed by the Military Convoy still consists of an over 100 mile dirt road from the Dugway Proving Grounds to near our destination of Ely, Nevada. The route follows generally the path of the old Pony Express Trail across Utah. There is another route, but unfortunately it is primarily on I-80. Many folks, including Brian, understandably did not want to take their vehicles on the dirt trail even though it was fairly easy by DE standards.
I, fortunately, was able to bum a ride with the sweep vehicle and was able to experience the historic dirt route. There was a lot of history on the trail, not to mention a lot of dust. Among other attractions we stopped at was the Fish springs National Wildlife Refuge. We also had a fantastic catered lunch at the Anderson Ranch in Callao, Utah and received a very interesting tour of the ranch headquarters.
Unfortunately we were running out of time and had to continue heading west on the dusty dirt roads until we came to Paved Highway 93 which led us to beautiful downtown Ely, Nevada. We met up with our colleagues there who took the paved road. This was a long, but exciting and interesting day that I will not forget.
Day 15 (Friday Sept. 14) – Ely, Nevada to Fallon, Nevada Our route west out of Ely was on what is now US 50 otherwise known as “The Loneliest Route in America.” The route got this name from an article in Time Magazine in 1968. I suspect many of you have been over this route and probably pretty much agree with this description. It is a gorgeous trip through the Basin and Range country of Nevada.
Our first stop was at the Eureka Opera House in the tiny mountain town of Eureka, Nevada. The Opera House was built in 1880 and has been partially restored. We also had the opportunity to see many of the other old structures in the very interesting town of Eureka.
From Eureka we continued west through the mountains and valleys to the town of Austin, Nevada. Austin is also the home of several historic buildings and on the edge of town up a steep dirt road is Stokes Castle. This is a very interesting three story stone tower that was built in 1897 and is quite a site in the middle of rural Nevada.
After leaving Austin, we sped through the high desert to our evening destination of Fallon, Nevada where we had a catered dinner at the excellent Churchill County Museum.
Day 16 (Saturday Sept. 15) – Fallon, NV to Folsom, CA As we headed west out of Fallon it wasn’t long before the massive Sierra Nevada came into view in the distance. Before we knew it, we were in Carson City, the capital of Nevada and headed for a stop at the Nevada State Museum. This was one of the best museums on the trip and really provided a great overview of Nevada history with special emphasis on Native American History.
From Carson City, we went up the mountain and followed the shore of Lake Tahoe. We then picked up the historical and fairly rugged Johnson Pass Road to the summit where we once come out on US 50 at Echo Summit. We stopped at the historic Strawberry Lodge and also viewed Bridal Veil Falls as we started heading downhill toward the Sacramento Valley to Folsom. It was Folsom where we had our final ceremonial dinner at Mohanna’s Event Center. It was hard to believe the trip was almost over.
Day 17 (Sunday Sept. 16) – Folsom, California to San Francisco, California It was sad realizing that was the last day of the trip and it was largely through urban areas. The highlight for me was a lunch stop at the Livermore, California Heritage Guild’s Duarte Garage and Lincoln Highway Museum. The garage and museum has a very significant collection of great, artifacts regarding traversing the Lincoln Highway in California. We had a great lunch on the grounds of the historical garage.
This was the last meal we had together as a group as many people decided to head for home from here. It was sad to say goodbye to folks, but I also realized that I had made numerous new friends to keep in contact with.
Mr. Suen and I did make the trip over bridge to San Francisco to prove that we had gone “coast to coast.” We officially ended the trip at the Lincoln Highway Western Terminus Plaza and Fountain in the courthouse of the Palace Legion of Honor right near the Golden Gate Bridge.
My reflection on these 17 days is simply that it was the trip of a lifetime. If you love roads and love history this is impossible to top. It was expensive, but worth every penny. It is also a reflection of the quality of the excursions with the Lincoln Highway Association. They are planning more trips in the future and I can hardily wait! ~ Bob