Lincoln Highway

A Lincoln Highway artifact discovered!

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Monica and I decided to take a Lincoln Highway road trip from Placerville to Altamont Pass. We tried to follow the "first generation" Lincoln as much as possible. Traveling through the town of Galt we stopped to see a rock monument to The Lincoln Highway. It features an actual piece of the concrete stamped with the contractor's name.

Lincoln Highway monument, Galt, CA. Notice the piece of Lincoln Highway concrete with the contractors name and date on the bottom.

Lincoln Highway monument, Galt, CA. Notice the piece of Lincoln Highway concrete with the contractors name and date on the bottom.

Fast forward to the small town of Lathrop, situated along Interstate 5, California’s modern day north south expressway. We stopped to take in a monument to the Lincoln Highway, and The Wiggins Trading Post, which served travelers on The Lincoln and roads from 1924 to 1967. Nice looking monument! Only thing missing would be a piece of Lincoln Highway Concrete like the one in Galt features.

Monica checking out the monument at Wiggins Trading Post site, Lathrop, CA.

Monica checking out the monument at Wiggins Trading Post site, Lathrop, CA.

Just after we started driving west from the monument, we watched the Lincoln Highway Map which we keep handy in the car. It shows the old routes, along with the recent driving routes. We watched the map as it showed the old Lincoln Highway weaving in and out of the present day road. You would never know the old highway traveled this way without the map, and the occasional Lincoln Highway signs mounted on street poles. Monica and I have become pretty good at spotting pieces and paths of the old route. It was less than a quarter mile from the monument to The Wiggins Trading Post that we saw something interesting by the side of the road.

Monica checking out the piece of Lincoln Highway concrete that caught our eye.

Monica checking out the piece of Lincoln Highway concrete that caught our eye.

We parked on the other side of the road, as I approached it was not only looking more and more like a section of Lincoln Highway concrete poking out of the dirt. Once I got close enough, I called Monica to come and check it out. It was stamped with the contractor's name and the date June (?) 1928! It was a piece of the old highway! It wasn't on the official Lincoln Highway map, which generally lists all the historic highway features by the side of the road. No mention of this original section of road. We took photos, a video, and made a note of its location on our map. As soon as we got back home, we started to do some research.

We contacted the good people of The Lincoln Highway Association and asked if they had knowledge of this artifact. No, they had not! We figure that when it comes to anything Lincoln Highway, they would know. So now it's getting exciting, as it may be a previously unknown section of the highway we discovered. This week I'll contact the San Joaquin County historical society to see if they have any knowledge of this piece of history. The Lincoln Highway Association wants to preserve this, and it's quite exciting to think that this lovely piece of history, laying by the side of the busy interstate may one day have its very own monument!

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We are quite excited about our find. It goes to show that there is still plenty to be discovered and rediscovered concerning California history. They key? Get out there, keep your eyes open, and don't be afraid to take the road less traveled.

A lost section of Highway 40 at Eagle Lakes Road.

Monday took us to the high country for one last chance to enjoy it before the first snow of the season, maybe on Thursday. Monica and I had On Yesterday, Monday, we had intended to visit Yesterday, Monday, we had intended to visit Prosser Reservoir, just north of Truckee, to follow the old Emigrant Trail. We never made it! We usually pick some destination as a goal, but if we find something else along the way that interests us, we will change plans, and that's what happened Monday.

Eagle Lakes exit on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 80.

Eagle Lakes exit on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 80.

On the way, we had decided to visit Eagle Lakes Road, just of Highway 80. If you turn right after exiting the freeway, you have access to the original Lincoln Highway. There is a T marker there indicating it was also the Truckee Trail Emigrant route. We had made that visit a couple of weeks ago but now wanted to turn left and cross under the freeway as we had seen some homes there, between the two expressways. The area is so narrow and surrounded by cliffs that Interstate 80 has two routes over this place. One is the eastbound lanes and the other the westbound lanes, separated by about a quarter mile. Between these two expressways, the south fork of The Yuba River passes, with a few cabins built along the river. Just as we were passing across the river, we noticed another road, which I assumed to be a lost section of Highway 40, the highway that predated Interstate 80.

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Highway 40 was built in 1926 and operated as an Interstate highway system until the present Interstate 80 was constructed in 1956. Highway 40, in many cases, followed the old Lincoln Highway, which was America’s first transcontinental automobile road. In this area of The Sierras Highway 40 followed the Yuba River, while The Lincoln Highway and the emigrant trail avoided the steep, narrow canyon and followed a route on a ridge top.

On this map you can see the amazing number of trail and routes through this narrow gap in the mountains. The red line is the lost section of Highway 40 we walked. The blue line in the Emigrant Trail and the original alignment of The Lincoln Highway. The yellow line is The Union Pacific Railway, and the white lines are the two sections, eastbound and westbound of Interstate 80. What’s no shown is the oil pipeline and cable lines that also transverse this spot. Amazing place!

On this map you can see the amazing number of trail and routes through this narrow gap in the mountains. The red line is the lost section of Highway 40 we walked. The blue line in the Emigrant Trail and the original alignment of The Lincoln Highway. The yellow line is The Union Pacific Railway, and the white lines are the two sections, eastbound and westbound of Interstate 80. What’s no shown is the oil pipeline and cable lines that also transverse this spot. Amazing place!

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Once we left the car and started walking down the old roadbed, we were greeted by this fantastic rock retaining wall. They had to do this as there was no other way to support a road in this narrow canyon. It appears that after highway 40 the people who built Highway 80 decided to split the expressway and avoid this tight place. The old roadbed runs about a quarter mile to an old bridge crossing which has had the bridge removed. The remains of the bridge were used to make a retaining wall for the new Interstate 80.

Old site of Highway 40 bridge, with present day Interstate 80 bridge, westbound lanes behind.

Old site of Highway 40 bridge, with present day Interstate 80 bridge, westbound lanes behind.

What a fantastic find for us. I imagine very few people have seen this as most are speeding by on Interstate 80, and there are no services at The Eagle Lakes exit. It's fun to explore these old sections of road as you can hear the present travelers speeding by on the Interstate, oblivious to the history around them. This spot is an example of why we "slow down and take the road less traveled".

Here is a short video of our Eagle Lake Roads adventure.

Verdi, travelling through history

Recently Monica and I visited Verdi, Nevada, looking for the east end of The Lincoln Highway in California. The Lincoln Highway was America's first transcontinental road, running from New York and ending at Lands End, San Francisco. Construction began in 1913 and tied together various roads and pathways into one traversable route. Before that, if you wanted to cross the country, you were on your own.

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Here in California, there were two routes over The Sierra. One traveled from Reno through South Lake Tahoe and down the present Highway 50, while the other passed north of Tahoe through Truckee and down roughly where the present day Highway 80 runs. Eventually, the Lincoln Highway was taken over by more modern numbered highways, and soon many sections of the old road were abandoned.

It’s these old sections of road that appeal to us. Often they pass through places that were once centers of activity, and now are bypassed and forgotten. Verdi Nevada is one such place. It’s where the Lincoln Highway leaves California and enters Nevada at the Von Schmidt Borderline on Dog Valley Road.

Most people driving on Interstate 80 quickly pass through Verdi on the way to Reno, just a few miles away. Those of us interested in California history feel the pull of this old town and its history. A place that was for over 70 years was a center of traveling activity, with The Central Pacific Railroad passing through, as well as The Truckee route of the famous Overland Emigrant Trail, and of course The Lincoln Highway and the later Highway 40. Once Interstate 80 was built by the old town in the 1950's it's fate for the next 70 + years was sealed. The city seems to be growing again, with transplants fleeing the higher living prices in California.

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We arrived in at Vedi, Nevada in October to find the mountains and landscape awash in color. Having grown hungry, we found a picnic table at Crystal Peak Park right on The Truckee River. Turns out that right across from the table was a Trails West "T" Marker! We were picnicking on the old Truckee Trails famous 27th crossing! Right in front of us 170 years prior the first emigrants traveling across the country passed this way. The Donner-Murphy party, as well as thousands of others, made the last crossing of the river right here. Talk about a history buffs dream picnic table!

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A couple of miles from Crystal Peak Park we found the California Nevada borderline on the old Henness Pass trail. Now known as Dog Valley Road, at one time it was teeming with thousands of travelers headed to a new life in California, or a few years later headed from California into Nevada for the great Silver rush of the Comstock Mines. Now it's a lonely spot missed by most people. Our kind of place!

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The Von Schmidt borderline is a fascinating place. California and Nevada had been going back and forth about where the actual border between the states was. In 1872 a San Francisco civil engineer named Allexey W. Von Schmidt was retained to find the boundary and mark it with metal obelisks, one-mile apart. The project was never completed as Von Schmidt ran out of funds and the state wouldn't cough up any more. Here is a link to more info concerning The Von Schmidt Borderline. http://bit.ly/2NZmUVi If you read the article link some photos look to be taken not that long ago showing the obelisk behind a chain link fence, having been rammed by a pickup truck. Not sure when it was done, but the new protective barrier and cage are very well done. Someone has taken the time to put this very historic spot back into shape. Now it can remind others just how important this place was.

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We headed up Dog Valley Road a bit, but it's so bumpy, and our time was running short, that we decided to turn around before the summit and head back down to the borderline. Keep your eyes open as we spotted a Trails West "T" Marker which can be found on our map. Both Monica and I have great fun trying to spot these "T" markers, as they are generally right on the old trails, which often don't run right where the present day road is. Great fun is reading the quotes printed on the signs, generally from a traveler passing this way over 150 years ago.

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Be sure to check out the "center" of the old Verdi. The Verdi Historic Museum is there and bit the first generation, and later incarnations of the Lincoln Highway pass through here. The first person to cross the country by Motorcycle, George Wayman, traveled here in 1906 on his way from San Francisco to New York. They have a sign there commemorating the feat.

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We will be going back to Verdi one of these days. There is so much to explore there, and we want to drive from Verdi up and over Henness Pass to Truckee on the old road so we can complete our ongoing history map showing the route of The Lincoln from Auburn to Verdi and The Von Schmidt Borderline.