Lincoln Highway Centennial Paves the Way for Ultimate Summer Road Trip

The Lincoln Highway is the country's first transcontinental highway.

ByABC News
June 21, 2013, 12:29 PM

June 23, 2013 — -- It's the ultimate summer road trip on the country's first transcontinental highway that literally paved the way for coast to coast travel.

The route is the Lincoln Highway and this year is its 100th birthday.

In celebration, this weekend 270 people will hit the road in 140 vehicles that range from 1913 Stoddard Daytons to 2013 rental cars. The participants are from 28 states and several countries, including Russia and Australia.

"Back in the early 20th century, most roads were local. They went around town but if you were going from town to town, you took the train," Lincoln Highway Association member John Peters, 66, told "[The Lincoln Highway] opened the country to people from either coast to go the other way."

The original road spanned from New York to San Francisco, so part of the group will begin on the East Coast and the other half on the West Coast. They will meet in the middle in Kearney, Neb., on June 30 for a two-day centennial celebration.

There are parts of the road that have since been covered or absorbed into other highways, but the group is going to follow the original route as much as possible.

"The tours will travel the original alignments of the Lincoln Highway covering many miles of two-lane history, four-lane progress, and even gravel scenic beauty from America's urban centers, through pastoral farm lands, over breathtaking mountains and rolling prairies," the association said in a news release.

The road was the first national memorial to Abraham Lincoln and was formally dedicated on Oct. 31, 1913. It cuts through 13 contiguous states -- New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California.

The idea for the road came from Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Carl Fisher who teamed up with Frank Seiberling of Goodyear and Henry Joy of Packard to make it a reality. It was funded through private enterprise and local governments since it came to be more than a decade before the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1925.

The Act established a system of numbered routes like the more famous Route 66--a touchy subject with Lincoln Highway enthusiasts who admit a rivalry between supporters of the two groups.

The earliest roads are the ones without numbers, including the Dixie Highway, the Yellowstone Trail and the Old Spanish trail, in addition to the Lincoln.

Rosemary Rubin, 63, and her husband Bob Lichty, 66, are from Canton, Ohio, and flying to San Francisco to travel the road from the west. She is one of the tour organizers and he is an automotive historian who has long been interested in the road.

"I love American history and this piece of American history is not just about the old road, it's also about connecting cities and people," Rubin told "Transportation history is how our country grew up, how commerce developed. Towns grew up where there were rivers and breaks in the mountains and railroads and canals. Those were the centers of commerce so they became where people lived and things happened."

The tour participants are looking forward to all of the stops on the tour, large and small.

One of the participants on the East Coast leg is Denny Gibson, 66, who has driven the entire route before in chunks, but this will be his first time doing it all at once. He is most looking forward to Bedford, Pa., a town of less than 3,000 that boasts a still operating 1940s gas station, a motel from the 1940s and the world's largest coffee pot "all within a few miles of each other," Gibson said.

Check back on Monday and throughout the week for daily dispatches from the road.