Road Trip: The Lincoln Highway

A preserved section of the Lincoln Highway near Rochelle, Illinois, 2005. RL Fifield photo.

In May of 2005, my friend Mrs G. (back then, Miss C.) and I struck out on a road trip: seven days, seven states, and 2100 miles. Our goal was to do as much of the Lincoln Highway in the seven days we had. Our fixed plans were few. We drove west from New Jersey on I-80 and I-90 for a day and a half, at which point we turned around and worked our way back east on the Lincoln Highway. At a time when  traveling in the United States meant “by train,” the Lincoln Highway became the first motor route across the United States in 1913.  New York City’s Time Square to San Francisco’s Gold Gate Park were linked by miles of main streets and country roads. The project was led by Carl G. Fisher and other automobile industry magnates, to generate more motor traffic and more need for the products their companies manufactured.

The Lincoln Highway near Van Wert, Ohio, 2005. RL Fifield photo.

Mrs. G, a Brit whose mother served as a plotter for the RAF, served as our plotter, while I drove all 2100 miles in my 2003 Toyota Matrix. While the Lincoln Highway Association offers lots of resources for following the route today, Mrs. G. and I had to be more creative. Using a 1924 Lincoln Highway map and a modern street atlas, we worked to follow the original route as closely as possible.  Our Lincoln Highway trip began at Dixon, Illinois, home to the Dixon Arch and birthplace of Ronald Reagan and now home to a large chunk of the Berlin wall.

It took five days to work our way back to New York City, skipping the Philadelphia to NYC section due to other commitments. Except for some short trips to finish the route in New Jersey and a visit to the route’s terminus in San Francisco, I still have all approximately 2/3 of the route to finish. Until then, here’s some photos capturing the road itself.

Lincoln Highway East of Canton, OH, 2005. RL Fifield photo.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.