This might be the most epic American highway you’ve never heard of.
It’s not Route 66, but comparisons with the “Mother Road” are inevitable.
Like 66, it’s a winding patchwork of Main Streets, state and county arteries, and other side roads, combined together to link east to west more than a generation before U.S. interstates came along.
Like 66, it was once advertised as an innovative way to criss-cross the nation, launched in the days when the notion of traveling any great distance in an automobile was still new, an exciting and novel undertaking with the promise of adventure and a decent share of risk.
Like 66, it’s no longer an official, maintained route, but groups of historical enthusiasts are working to preserve and restore its circuitous byways for posterity and the admiration of future generations.
And like Route 66, this highway is also often described in “parental” terms, as the “Father Road” of America.
That transcontinental highway forbear is the Lincoln Highway: the oldest cross-country highway in the United States. Established in 1913, it predated Route 66 by 13 years, and unlike 66 (which, as Nat King Cole once sang, “winds from Chicago to L.A.”), the Lincoln takes you all the way from coast to coast: from New York City’s Times Square to San Francisco’s aptly named Lincoln Park.
In the summer of 2012, I set out to traverse a portion of the Lincoln Highway, from Chicago westward. It’s a trip I’ll never forget, a journey of wide open spaces, cornfields and mountains, ghost towns and resort towns, giant skies and lonely desert byways (including America’s “Loneliest Road,” Route 50 in Nevada). The trip was bracketed by time two of the country’s most energizing cities — Chicago and San Francisco — but the focus here is on the long, often-stunning road in-between, traversing the Upper Midwest, Great Plains, and high desert of the West.
They call Montana “Big Sky Country,” but Wyoming is no slouch in the big-sky department.
Most of my trip on the Lincoln Highway in Nevada was spent on Route 50, America’s “Loneliest Road,” for which a separate photo gallery is coming soon!
For more on Chicago and San Francisco, see those separate galleries (coming soon). All photos taken with a Canon 5D Mark II.