Sunday, January 15, 2017

(4) Why the Lincoln Highway and Yellowstone Trail?

Entrance to "The Old Lincoln Highway", Old Highway Drive, Donner lake Ca.

We did not start out this trip intending to drive east across the continent on the Lincoln Highway  returning west on the Yellowstone Trail. This trip began merely to fulfill a dream of driving across the United States. (Of course we would also need to return home after completing the trip east.) We decided fairly early on that we wanted to stick to US and State highways and avoid interstates wherever practicable. As the principal driver I did not want to drive the "mind numbing and sleep inducing Interstate Highways". ( Although I realize that a lot of two-lane roads can also prove to be mind numbing and sleep inducing.) In other words we are planning to stick to the so-called "blue highways".

About 10 years ago I began to focus my daydreams. Coincidentally also about 10 years ago I purchased a 1959 Ranchero and began a multiyear restoration. Naturally I began to toy with the idea of taking a road trip in the Ranchero. The restoration was performed with long distance travel in mind. The dream was taking root.

Linda plans most of our vacation, but this time she left it to me. In the early stages I didn't even share all of my dreams and aspirations for the trip with Linda. She always knew that I wanted us to drive across the country, perhaps even several times, but I don't think she realized how seriously I was taking it.

One of the first things to settle would be which route to take across country. I am nostalgic for US Route 40 because it travels through Donner Lake, California. However, in many areas route 40 has been buried by Interstate 80 and is badly segmented through much of the West. I then looked at US 50 which is pretty much a continuous US Highway from Maryland to California. I was determined that we would come home on US 50.

For the trip east my initial plan was to travel across the northern tier of the country. I considered US Route 2, US Route 12 US Route 20 and US Route 26. As I was planning things I discovered the Internet site: "Road Trip USA" which can be found at: As this was all happening in 2012, I noticed an article in the newspaper concerning the Centennial of the Lincoln Highway. The article changed everything. I may return to "Road Trip USA" for planning in the future, but for this trip it was now all about the Lincoln Highway.

Whitney Hotel, Advertisement
"We invite inspection"
Donner Summit
I had heard about the Lincoln Highway as a boy, but I was not aware of its significance. I don't ever recall the Lincoln Highway being mentioned when I was young without the words "The Old" preceding the words "Lincoln Highway". To me it was an old road that even as a boy was little more than a jeep trail or a hiking trail near our cabin at Donner Lake. I had no idea that it was the first transcontinental road. While I feel a little embarrassed over my ignorance, I think that I may have stumbled onto a secret on the Lincoln's enduring popularity. It is both local and transcontinental. It is grand and inspiring, yet intimate and personal. It truly was "America's Main Street."

In looking at a map of the Lincoln Highway it appeared that it hit most of the places that we  wanted to see. I soon found the Lincoln Hwy., Association's website: ( which, to my great joy, included an interactive map. The map details the Lincoln Highway and where it is no longer possible to follow the old road also includes modern detours.

As I began to research the Lincoln Highway I came across references to the Yellowstone Trail. As I began to research the Yellowstone, I found that it would cover many of the same roads that I had originally planned to travel east when I was still looking at theRoad Trip USA and using it as my planning tool. Recently the Yellowstone Trail Association ( has also upgraded its website and includes extensive maps which are easy to use for planning and navigation.
As I began to immerse myself in the history of both of these old roads I became more and more intrigued. Linda, my family and many of my friends would say I became obsessed. I don't think it was that bad, but I won't argue very hard.

The Lincoln Highway will take us east to Times Square. The plan is to then drive north to Plymouth Massachusetts where the Yellowstone Trail commences west. It will be harder to follow the Yellowstone Trail than it is to follow the Lincoln. I will not be taking the car and trailer off of the pavement for either the trip east on the Lincoln or the trip west on the Yellowstone and many parts of the Yellowstone Trail are unpaved.

Planning this trip may be an obsession, but it is turned into a delightful obsession as it has combined my love of history with my love for cars and camping and road trips. I think I've died and gone to heaven!

Bronze Boundary Marker at California-Nevada
border, Dog Valley Route.


  1. I really love your blog and I intend to follow your progress. Be sure to post plenty of pictures. Safe travels!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thank you Gretchen. I plan to update at the 1st and 15th of every month until we start the trip at the end of May or early June. Then my goal will be to update daily or every other day. Bill