Archive for the ‘road surface’ Category

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 8, California

June 26, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Our cross-country travelers of 1919 approach the West Coast, as recounted in the book It Might Have Been Worse:

“Beyond Reno the ascent of the Sierra Nevada begins, and you pass Lake Tahoe, six thousand feet high, the most delightful summer-resort region in America. The Lincoln Highway joins the other routes here, and is really a highway, making a glorious finish in Lincoln Park, San Francisco. One of the finest views is the mighty canyon of the American River, with the  timbered gorge and the rushing stream two thousand feet below. You are held spellbound by the scenery, as you descend the western slope to Sacramento, the capital of California, 125 miles from San Francisco….

“With four hundred miles of navigable waterways, transportation facilities are exceptional, and it is small wonder these valleys of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin are the banner ‘growing section’ of the state. It was like driving through a private estate all the way to Oakland, where our first view of glorious San Francisco harbor greeted us. Oakland and Berkeley, ‘the bedrooms’ of San Francisco (as a prominent banker explained to us), are on the east shores of the bay. On the front of the City Hall in Oakland (which, by the  way, we were told is the tallest building in California) was the sign, typical of these open-hearted people, ‘Howdy, Boys!’ (to the returning soldiers) in place of the proverbial ‘Welcome.’…

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“Road near Oakland, California,” c. 1920. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc0022]

“We were landed at the ferry slip, and with a sensation never to be forgotten we drove off the wharf into San Francisco — ‘the city loved around the world’ — built upon hills overlooking the expanse of the Pacific, with a cosmopolitan throng of half a million people. We could not  have reached here at a more fortunate or auspicious time. San Francisco was en-fete in honor of the fleet. Every street and building was festooned with flags, banners, and garlands of flowers…. Bands were playing, auto-horns were tooting, and the air was alive with excitement — joyous, over-bubbling pleasure, that had to find a vent or blow up the place….

“The next day the Transcontinental Government Motor Convoy arrived, which added to the celebration that lasted a week. It had come over the Lincoln Highway, with every conceivable experience; the gallant young officer in command, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles McClure, told us at dinner the next evening that ‘Our worst experiences were in the desert. The sand was so  deep and the trucks were so heavy that at times we only made a mile an hour. When one got stuck, the men cut the sagebrush and filled the ruts, and then we were able to crawl.’ The city gave them an ovation, and “dined” them as well — and doubtless would have liked to have ‘Vined’ them also.”

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Driving in 1919 ~ part 7, from gumbo to dessert

June 22, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Our travelers left the Lincoln Highway soon after Pittsburgh for a more northerly route. In North Dakota, they bogged down in gumbo just like LH travelers did in Iowa. After waiting out a rain shower under a tree, they set out:

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LHA President Henry Joy struggles to navigate the group’s official Packard through the gumbo of Iowa in 1915 [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc1964]

“We noticed that the cars coming in were covered with mud and concluded that they had come over country roads. Surely not the National Parks Highway! So down went the top, and off we started in a wet atmosphere, but not really raining. The chains had not been disturbed since they were comfortably stowed away on leaving New York. One man advised us to put them on, but with a superior don’t-believe-we-will-need-them air we left our tree shelter. He called out after us, ‘Say, strangers, you don’t know what you all are getting into!’ We didn’t, but we jolly soon found out! In ten minutes we had met gumbo, and were sliding, swirling, floundering about in a sea of mud! I will try to describe it. A perfectly solid (apparently) clay road can become as soft as melted butter in an hour. Try to picture a narrow road, with deep ditches, and just one track of ruts, covered with flypaper, vaseline, wet soap, molasses candy (hot and underdone), mire, and any other soft, sticky, slippery, hellish mess that could be mixed — and even that would not be gumbo!”

After visiting Yellowstone, they still had a long way just to reach Nevada. Other tourists repeatedly told them to ship their car to Reno, which would put them back on the Lincoln Highway and near the California border. But they pressed onward across the barren landscape:

“The sand was deeper and the chuck-holes, even with the most careful driving, seemed to rack the car to pieces. If we had had an accident, the outlook would have been decidedly vague for us. Not a car or a telegraph pole in sight. By ten o’clock that morning the sun scorched our skin through our clothing. But we had one good laugh. Over a deep chuck-hole there had been built a stone bridge. On one end, in large black letters, was ‘San Francisco’ (the first sign we had seen with that welcome name) and on the other end was ‘New York’! The incongruity struck us as being so absurd that we roared with laughter.”

They finally gave up at Montello, Nevada, and put their car (and themselves) on a train for the final 400 miles to Reno:

“It cost $3.85 per hundred pounds and $5.73 war-tax to ship the car to Reno (or to San Francisco — no difference in the rate to either place). It weighed, including four spares and other equipment, 4960 pounds, and the bill was $196.69.”

 

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 6, smoky Pittsburgh

June 7, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Continuing our look at Beatrice Massey’s memoir of a cross-country trip, It Might Have Been Worse:

“We had come 442 miles, from New York to Pittsburgh, over fine roads and through beautiful country. Approaching Pittsburgh, we came in on a boulevard overlooking the river and ‘valley of smoke.’ Great stacks were belching out soot and smoke, obliterating the city and even the sky and sun. They may have a smoke ordinance, but no one has ever heard of it. We arrived at the William Penn Hotel, in the heart of the business center of the city, a first-class, fine hotel in every regard. We found the prices reasonable for the excellent service afforded, which was equal to that of any New York hotel. The dining-room, on the top of the house, was filled with well-dressed people, and we were glad that we had unpacked our dinner clothes, and appeared less like the usual tourist, in suits and blouses.

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Downtown Pittsburgh in 1919. [University of Pittsburgh, City Photographer Collection, 715.1924A.CP.]

“It was frightfully hot during our two days’ stay. You go out to drive feeling clean and immaculate, and come in with smuts and soot on your face and clothes, looking like a foundry hand. The office buildings are magnificent, and out a bit in the parks and boulevards the homes are attractive, and many are very handsome, especially in Sewickley. But aside from the dirty atmosphere one is impressed mostly by the evidences of the outlay of immense wealth. An enthusiastic brother living there took us through a number of the business blocks, and told us of the millions each cost and the almost unbelievable amount of business carried on. I can only describe Pittsburgh as the proudest city I’ve visited. Not so much of the actual wealth represented, but of what the billions had accomplished in great industries.

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Mills lined Pittsburgh’s rivers in 1919. Photo by Hugh C. Torrance. [Carnegie Museum of Art, 83.21.25.]

“We went out in the evening and stood on one of the bridges to look over the river lined with monster furnaces. The air was filled with sparks, jets of flame bursting through the smoke. All you could think of was Dante’s Inferno visualized. And what of the men who spend their lives in that lurid atmosphere, never knowing if the sun shone, nor what clean, pure air was like in their working hours ? I shall never look at a steel structure again without giving more credit to the men who spend their waking hours in those hells of heat and smoke than to the men whose millions have made it possible.”

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 5, yes, tarvia

June 5, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

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A 1920s postcard of Reel’s Corners, Pa., (now US 30 and PA 160), part of the famed “Seven Mile Stretch” on the Lincoln Highway east of Stoystown.

Onward through Western Pennsylvania with Beatrice Massey in her new Packard:

“It was with regret that we left the next morning for Pittsburgh. The day was clear and cool and the best part of the Lincoln Highway was before us; in fact, the first real thrill so far, and one of the high spots of the trip. This was a stretch of seven and a half miles of tarvia road on the top ridge of the Alleghany Mountains, as smooth as marble, as straight as the bee flies, looking like a strip of satin ribbon as far as the eye could see. On both sides were deep ravines,well wooded,and valleys green with abundant crops, and still higher mountains rising in a haze of blue and purple coloring, making a picture that would never be forgotten. The top was down and we stopped the car again and again, to drink it in, and, as one of us remarked, ‘We may see more grand and rugged scenery later on, but we shall not see anything more beautiful than this’ — and it proved true.”

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 4, Bedford PA

June 4, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Beatrice Larned Massey, her husband, and their two friends had stopped in Harrisburg, Pa., then headed to Chambersburg, where they joined the Lincoln Highway. Now they pointed their new Packard twin-six touring car towards Bedford:

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Unidentified tourists along the Juniata River east of Bedford, Pa. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2371.]

“Our third day was still a drizzle; we would no sooner have the top down than we would have to put it up again, and often the side curtains as well. Our objective point was the charmingly quaint town of Bedford, and the Bedford Arms. This part of Pennsylvania was more beautiful than what we had been through, and every mile of the day’s run was a pleasure.

“I have not spoken of our lunches, a most important item by one o’clock. We had brought a small English hamper, fitted with the usual porcelain dishes, cutlery, tin boxes, etc., for four people, and unless we were positive that a good place to eat was midway on the road, we prepared a lunch, or had the hotel put one up for us. This latter plan proved both expensive and unsatisfactory. Usually Toodles was sent foraging to the delicatessen shops for fresh rolls, cold meats and sandwiches, eggs, fruit, tomatoes, and bakery dainties, and the hotel filled our thermos bottles with hot coffee. We carried salt and pepper, mustard, sweet and sour pickles, or a relish, orange marmalade, or a fruit jam, in the hamper, and beyond that we took no staple supplies on the whole trip. We met so many people who carried with them a whole grocery-store, even to sacks of flour, that you would imagine there was not a place to get food from the Atlantic to the Pacific….

“We have been told so often that one has to develop an ‘open-air’ spirit to really enjoy a long motor trip! Quite true! I can’t imagine what the fun can be of touring in a closed limousine, and yet we have met that particularly exclusive party more than once. On the whole, an absence of flies, ants, mosquitoes, and sand and dust in one’s bed and food does not detract from the pleasure of the trip. It may be all right to endure such annoyances for a few days in the woods, to fish or hunt but weeks and more weeks of it….!

“But I have digressed, and left you at the Bedford Arms, one of the most artistic, attractive inns that we found. The little touches showed a woman’s hand. Flowers everywhere, dainty cretonnes, willow furniture, and pretty, fine china; in appearance, courtesy, and efficiency, the maids in the dining room might have come from a private dwelling.

“Will someone tell me why there are not more such charming places to stop at on our much-traveled main highways. Why must hotel men buy all the heavy, hideous furniture, the everlasting red or green carpets and impossible wall-paper, to make night hideous for their guests—to say nothing of the pictures on their walls? It is a wonder one can sleep.

“There is much of interest to see in Bedford—really old, artistic houses, not spoiled by modern gewgaws, set in lovely gardens of old-fashioned flowers, neatly trimmed hedges, and red brick walks. There were few early Victorian eyesores to mar the general beauty of the town. As we were walking down the main street about sunset, we heard a great chattering and chirping, as if a thousand birds were holding a jubilee. Looking up, we found, on a projecting balcony running along the front of all the buildings for two blocks, hundreds of martins discussing the League of Nations and Peace Treaty quite as vigorously as were their senatorial friends in Washington. They were fluttering about and making a very pretty picture. It sounded like the bird market in Paris on a Sunday morning, which, in passing, is an interesting sight that few tourists ever see.”

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 3: good roads

May 23, 2018

Beatrice wrote that they followed the Lincoln Highway to Pittsburgh — making it sound like they’d been on it since NYC —  but they didn’t pick up the LH until Chambersburg, Pa., on the way to their third overnight stop in Bedford, Pa.

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“One of the all-absorbing pleasures in contemplating a long trip is to map out your route. You hear how all your friends have gone, or their friends, then you load up with maps and folders, especially those published by all the auto firms and tire companies, you pore over the Blue Book of the current year, and generally end by going the way you want to go, through the cities where you have friends or special interests. This is exactly what we did.

“As the trip was to be taken in mid-summer, we concluded to take a northern route from Chicago, via Milwaukee, St. Paul, Fargo, Billings, Yellowstone Park, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Reno, Sacramento, to San Francisco (see map), and, strange to relate, we followed out the tour as we had planned it. With the exception of a few hot days in the larger cities and on the plains, and, of course, in the desert, we justified our decision. As I have stated, we drove 4154 miles, through sixteen states and the Yellowstone Park, in thirty-three running days, and the trip took just seven weeks to the day, including seventeen days spent in various cities, where we rested and enjoyed the sights….

“We followed the Lincoln Highway to Pittsburgh, and have only praise to offer for the condition of the road and the beauty of the small towns through which we went. Of all the states that we crossed, Pennsylvania stands out par excellence in good roads, clean, attractive towns, beautiful farming country and fruit belts, and well-built, up-to-date farm buildings. In other states we found many such farms, but in Pennsylvania it was exceptional to find a poor, tumble-down farmhouse or barn. The whole state had an air of thrift and prosperity, and every little home was surrounded by fine trees, flowers, and a well-kept vegetable garden.

“Our objective point was the charmingly quaint town of Bedford, and the Bedford Arms. This part of Pennsylvania was more beautiful than what we had been through, and every mile of the day’s run was a pleasure.”

 

Iowa Gumbo Snared Lincoln Highway Travelers

January 16, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Early motorists writing of cross-country journeys had little to say east of the Mississippi; once on Iowa’s dirt roads, they couldn’t stop. Iowa was notorious for “gumbo” mud, a result of the land between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers once having been submerged. Superb for crops, that same rich soil stymied cars when wet.

Making matters worse, Iowa’s roads were improved at the county level, where voters preferred minor overall improvements over diverting more funds to the Lincoln Highway. LHA president Henry Joy took the state legislature to task in a scathing article for Collier’s in 1916: “Not a wheel turns outside the paved streets of her cities during or for sometime after the frequent heavy rains…. Millions of dollars worth of wheeled vehicles become, for the time being, worthless.”

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Henry Joy in gumbo near La Mouille, Iowa, June 1915. [UM 1964]

That article followed a 1915 trip that Joy made with LHA secretary Austin Bement and Packard mechanic Ernie Eisenhut in a new Packard 1-35 Twin Six, the first 12-cylinder production car. His photo album, with hundreds of snapshots from the muddy 2,885-mile journey, can be found at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Library. The captions themselves are often entertaining:

“Nearing Tama, Iowa, our rear wheels threw gumbo higher than the telephone poles.”

“The natives took reserved seats to watch us work their roads.”

“Three hours were spent in this mud hole near Tama.”

“Four hours were needed to dislodge us from the Lincoln Highway east of Marshaltown.”

“He pulled us out for $3.00 and a drink of whiskey.”

In By Motor to the Golden Gate (1916), future etiquette writer Emily Post wrote, “Illinois mud is slippery and slyly eager to push unstable tourists into the ditch, but in Iowa it lurks in unfathomable treachery, loath to let anything ever get out again that once ventures into it. Our progress through it became hideously like that of a fly crawling through yellow flypaper…. Our wheels, even with chains on, had no more hold than revolving cakes of soap might have on slanting wet marble.”

By 1920, with more than 430,000 registered vehicles, Iowa still had only 25 miles of paved roads outside of cities. The 1924 LHA guide warned, “It is folly to try to drive on Iowa dirt roads, during or immediately after a heavy rain.”

Dry spells brought horrible clouds of dust but it was the gumbo that was forever remembered. George Schuster said it best in his recollection of Ogden, Iowa, during the 1908 New York–to–Paris race: “It rained all day, the mud is nearly hub deep. We slid from one side of the road to the other. We covered more miles sidewise than ahead.”

The Lincoln Highway in Basin and Range

August 14, 2012

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
I’ve been meaning for more than half a year to post about an impressive, engaging, and informative blog. Grover Cleveland, via his “Camera and Pencil in the Mountains,” has been regaling us with detailed trips along “The Lincoln Highway in Basin and Range, ” that is, across Utah and Nevada. sierratraveler.wordpress.com

The latest trips cover Fish Springs, the John Thomas Ranch, and what Grover calls Black Point, above, a few miles west of Fish Springs. I really appreciated the link to the 1859 report of Captain James Simpson, who explored the major wagon and Pony Express route throughout Nevada.

PA Roads: From the Lincoln to Eisenhower

February 27, 2012

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
The Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor will present “Pennsylvania’s Roads: From the Lincoln to Eisenhower” at 2 pm, March 11, at the Lincoln Highway Experience, 3435 Route 30 East, near Kingston Dam in Latrobe. Presenter Jeffrey Kitsko will explore the history of the Lincoln Highway, the PA Turnpike, and the Interstate Highway System as envisioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Jeff  will also discuss roadway construction from the time of the named auto routes and the importance of preserving the Lincoln Highway. He brings his expertise on the history of Pennsylvania’s roadways particularly as the webmaster of the award-winning site www.pahighways.com.

Advance reservations are required. Visit www.LHHC.org to make reservations through PayPal or call (724) 879-4241. A fee charged per person will include light refreshments.

Blogging the Lincoln Highway in NV and UT

November 17, 2011

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
I’ve been following a fantastic blog for a couple weeks. Grover Cleveland — his real name — writes “Camera and Pencil in the Mountains” that details his travels in the Sierra Nevada range. Last year he bought a 1919 Model T Ford roadster and converted it into a pickup truck. He’s hoping to follow a good portion for the Lincoln Highway centennial in 2013.

He told me, “I just completed a 1,500-mile trip in Nevada and western Utah. I covered as much of the 1913 alignment as could be found from Verdi, Nevada to Tooele, Utah.” He writes online that he wants to help fellow travelers: “To provide travel notes, recommendations, and some serious safety information. I got in trouble because I didn’t heed some professional advice — you shouldn’t have to.”

For this trip, he loaded his dog Beasley into a 1989 Tiger van: “A conversion on an Astrovan chassis, nicely equipped with kitchen, bathroom, a pop-top, and oodles of radio gear (I’m a ham radio operator – K7TP).”

Click the images here to see Grover’s large originals. Then follow his adventures at sierratraveler.wordpress.com/.

Order Lincoln Highway Companion from Amazon – click HERE