The efforts to save our transportation heritage have been sort of scattershot, especially when it comes to automobile roads. We’re great at preserving Model Ts; the roads they drove on, not so much. As a result, it’s not always easy to find traces of some of the first transcontinental roads. But they’re there with a little looking, and if you find just the right road at just the right time of day, you can almost hear the putt-putting of Henry Ford’s homeless carriages as they dash across the highways at a scandalous 30 miles an hour.
Omigosh, we have it so much better now.
In case you missed last week’s post, here’s the continuation, spotlighting three more historic roads and how best to savor them.
The Jefferson Highway
History: The Jefferson Highway, the “Palm to Pine Highway,” was the brainchild of Better Homes & Gardens publisher Edwin Meredith and roughly followed the line of the Louisiana Purchase from New Orleans to Winnipeg. The highway went through a host of small farm towns but also passed through Kansas City, Des Moines, and Minneapolis.
Where to Drive It: Kill two birds with one stone: Drive the remnants of Route 66 out of Carthage, Mo., to Miami, Okla. It’s only about 50 miles, but it’s relatively scenic. You get a little Ozarks, some Oklahoma, and great bass fishing is in the neighborhood. Otherwise, the route from Natchitoches, La., to Shreveport closely follows the old Jefferson Highway and is recommended on historic grounds, if not exactly scenic ones.
Must-Stop: Yes, Arthur Bryant’s, especially for a burnt-ends sandwich. And Cochon Butcher. But if you’re looking for slow food in a funky neighborhood, it’s tough to beat a banh mi from Lu’s Sandwiches on Nicollet – Minneapolis’ “Eat Street.” Top it off with a trip to Target Field and a Twins game and life will indeed be treating you well.
The Dixie Highway
History: The Dixie Highway grew out of an earlier Miami-to-Montreal highway and was built from 1915-27 to connect the Midwest with the South. It was inspired by the Lincoln Highway and shared its booster – Carl Fisher.
The Dixie started in Chicago and split when it reached Indianapolis, reunited in Chattanooga, split again between Chattanooga and Atlanta, and split a third time between Atlanta and Macon. From Macon the road tacked south to Miami. Later additions brought the highway north to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and from there into Canada.
Where to Drive It: The three segments to drive are inconveniently spaced around the country, so pick one. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the highway follows Michigan 129 from Sault Ste. Marie to Pickford and then heads west on old U.S. 2. It then picks up the Mackinaw Trail, crossing the Straits of Mackinac before heading to Detroit on U.S. 23 and old U.S. 10.
On the other end of the road, you can approximate the old Dixie Highway by taking the A1A (immortalized by Jimmy Buffett) down the Florida coast to Miami.
Inbetween, U.S. 25 and 25W passes through Asheville, Greenville, and Augusta on its way to the eastern route and Savannah.
Must-Stop: Chattanooga is one of the new hot destinations in the New South for some great old reasons. Its art scene is only rivaled by Asheville in the southern Appalachians, the food and beer are great, and the setting borders on the spectacular. And how many other cities have their own font?
The Victory Highway
History: If the Yellowstone Trail was the northern transcontinental route and the Lincoln Highway the central route, the Victory Highway was the southern route. It ran through Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington on its way to St. Louis and Kansas City, and then from Kansas City to Denver, Salt Lake City, and finally San Francisco.
Where to Drive It: You can double up on the National Road route in Illinois and drive from Marshall to Vandalia on U.S. 40, or drive between Burlington and Perth Amboy, N.J., on U.S. 130 and County 615. Or just take the Staten Island Ferry. It’s part of the road, too.
Must-Stop: When in Kansas City, Arthur Bryant’s. (Did we mention we want a burnt-ends sandwich right now?) When on Staten Island, Lakruwana is the place to go for great Sri Lankan food in the New York metro area.