Over the last couple of years, Monica and I have been recording our “Adventures in California History” where we share our love of history and travel. Often, we find ourselves driving on The Lincoln Highway, which often seems close at hand as we trace the old wagon roads and emigrant trails across the Sierra. It turns out The Lincoln Highway was America’s first Transcontinental Highway traveling from Times Square in New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. Since this was America’s first cross country highway, started in 1913, it would often take the same routes as the earlier travelers took over the Sierra Summit’s, patching together a road as it went.
Present day Highway 50, and Highway 80 roughly follow the Lincoln Highway over the summits and into Sacramento. California is the only one of 14 states The Lincoln crosses that has two designated routes one could follow. The Pioneer Route of The Lincoln crosses over Donner Pass, while The Highway 50, or “Scenic” route crosses over Johnson’s Pass, near Echo Summit. Both paths eventually came together in Sacramento where the old road continued to San Francisco, via The Altamont Pass.
We love exploring the Lincoln Highway as it takes you off the “beaten path” into a time when auto travel was at a much slower pace, 25 MPH was a typical speed limit. In our neck of the woods, the highway climbs up to some of the most spectacular vistas The State of California can offer. We discover relics from earlier times, as well as artifacts from the time after The Lincoln ended, and became Highway 40 over Donner while becoming Highway 50 where it crosses near Echo Summit.
Join Monica and I as we trace the California sections of The Lincoln Highway at its border with Nevada, all the way to the highway’s terminus at The Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. We will look at the road today as well as it’s history. Much of the fun of traveling The Lincoln is driving sections that take you back to an era of slower travel, when people stopped their car, got out and took in the beauty surrounding them. The trip, not just the destination, was a great adventure. We’ll see if we can recapture a bit of that and perhaps inspire you to hit the Lincoln Highway this year for a great experience.
If you would like to learn a bit more about the history of The Lincoln Highway, check out this 57-minute video by PBS.