The Lincoln Highway
The main east-west route through Pennsylvania Dutch Country, US-30 is also one of the best-preserved stretches of the old Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first transcontinental route. Conceived in 1912 and named soon afterward, the Lincoln Highway linked New York City’s Times Square with the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, following over 3,000 miles of country road across 12 states. A thousand miles of the original “highway” were little more than muddy tracks, scarcely more visible on the ground than they were on the still-nonexistent road maps, but by the early 1930s the road was finally fully paved, following present-day US-30 as far as Wyoming, then bending south to follow what’s now US-50, “The Loneliest Road in America,” along the route of the Pony Express across Nevada and most of California.
Originally marked by telephone poles brightly painted with red, white, and blue stripes and a large letter L, in 1928 the Lincoln Highway was blazed by more discreet concrete mileposts carrying a small bust of Lincoln; 3,000 of these were placed, one every mile, by Boy Scout troops across the land, but only around a dozen still stand in the original locations. As with the later Route 66, the Lincoln Highway was replaced by the Interstates, but it does live on, in folk memory as well as the innumerable Lincoln Cafes and Lincoln Motels along its original route, much of which still bears the name Lincolnway. You can become a member of the Lincoln Highway Association (815/456-3030), which offers a top-quality quarterly magazine well worth the annual dues.