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Great American Road Trips #5: The Lincoln Highway

Written by  Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:00

The Coffee Pot Lincoln HighwayImage by Jeff Kubina

There are few figures as important to American history as Abraham Lincoln. Yet the nation's first intercontinental road, built in 1913 and named in his honor, had all but slipped from public consciousness after the numbered highway system was introduced in 1926.

However, an estimated 80% of the 3,000 mile long road linking Times Square in New York with the Panama Pacific International in San Francisco still exists. And after the Highway's centenary anniversary in 2013, interest in the route and its abundance of roadside attractions has piqued once again.

So to help you see the best of what the road has to offer, we've provided a road trip guide to three of its most interesting sections.

York, Pennsylvania to Latrobe, Pennsylvania

This part of the Lincoln Highway totals around 170 miles and blends gorgeous rural scenery with poignant and eccentric pit stops. From York, take the U.S. Route 30 towards Gettysburg, the location of the most famous battlefield of the Civil War.

Continuing west along Route 30, you'll reach the Michaux State Forest. In the middle of the state forest lies one of the Lincoln Road's most curious attractions, Mister Ed's Elephant Museum. The museum is home to spectacular gardens, a home-made candy emporium and over 12,000 elephant figurines.

Once you have sated your sweet tooth and elephant lust, hop back into the car and carry on heading west, taking in the gorgeous view offered up by a drive over the Allegheny Mountains. By following your nose you will pass through Breezewood and on to Bedford. Here you will find The Coffee Pot, a restored roadside luncheonette in the shape of a coffee pot and the first of three Roadside Giants of the Lincoln Highway en route.

On the other side of Bedford, after continuing along Route 30 for around half an hour, you'll find sign posts to the Flight 93 National Memorial Museum. The museum is built on the crash site of United Airlines 93, and offers a poignant opportunity for you to pay your respects to those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The final stretch of this section of The Lincoln Highway – from Bedford to Latrobe – is just over an hour's drive and takes in a number of intriguing attractions along Route 30. This includes two more of the Highway's Roadside Giants, The Bicycle Built for Two and the 22' high Gas Pump. Whilst in Latrobe, you should also check out the Lincoln Highway Experience museum that resides in the city.

Wyoming/Colorado border to Rawlins, Wyoming

Terry Bison RanchImage by Jeffrey Beall

The Terry Bison Ranch is located close to the Wyoming/Colorado border, just south of Cheyenne, and presents a good spot to start this suggested road trip. The ranch is a western style resort that hosts a range of activities for the whole family, including horse rides, a mini-train ride for the very little ones, as well as herds of camels, emus and llamas.

From Cheyenne, jump onto the I-80 and head west until you reach Sherman Summit on the crest of the Laramie Mountains. This is the Lincoln Highway's highest point and presents a fantastic spot where you can get out your car, stretch your legs and drink in the magnificent vistas. A rest area nearby also features a monument dedicated to Lincoln, built by Wyoming's Parks Commission, to mark the former president's 150th birthday.

Continue west and onto Laramie, where you can stop off and visit the Territorial Prison, built in the 1870s. If you are visiting during the month of October, you may be lucky enough to catch a ghost tour of the city that starts at the prison.

Whether you return to your car suitably spooked or not, it's time to head north along route 287 towards Rock River and Como Bluff. The latter is home to a dinosaur graveyard, discovered in 1877, and a building built from prehistoric bones, which should pique the interest of any little boy along for the journey.

Drive further west along Route 287 and you'll pass through Medicine Bow, before heading through Hanna, Coyote Springs and Fort Steele on your way to Rawlins. This last stretch of the journey encompasses a drive through some truly breathtaking scenery, so make sure you remember to keep your eyes on the road at all times.

Tooele, Utah to Reno, Nevada

Bonneville Salt FlatsImage by Mark Hillary

Of the three drives featured this is the longest and is the one that perhaps provides an experience as close to what the Highway would have been like in 1913. From Tooele, head towards Interstate 80 (I-80). Once on the I-80, head west through the vast, barren yet beautiful landscape of the Great Salt Lake Desert and the Bonneville Salt Flats (where the land speed record has been broken many times) until you reach Wendover.

If you were to consider an overnight pit stop at this point, Wendover boasts a number of top-class hotels and casinos. From Westover, take the Route 93 Alternate and head south to Ely. Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge is well worth a visit, although you will need to take a significant detour off Route 93 and across dusty desert roads to get there.

Once you reach Ely, another overnight stop is recommended. Like Wendover, Ely is home to a great selection of casinos and hotels. But if you fancy indulging in something a little more cultured, you will also find Nevada Northern Railway Museum and Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park in or close to Ely.

After you have awoken, refreshed from the previous day's adventure, you should be ready to tackle 'the Loneliest Road in America' – Interstate U.S. 50. This part of the Lincoln Highway to Reno earns that name by intersecting over 317 miles of open country and several mountain passes that total over 7,500 feet. With fewer stops, it is important to make sure you are fully prepared for the road's spoils before embarking upon your journey.

Providing peace of mind

If you have an accident behind the wheel of your rental car – and you are not covered by your personal auto insurance or credit card – you may be liable for the full cost of damage. Depending on the extent of the damage, this could be thousands of dollars.

If your personal auto insurance or credit card won't provide you with cover when you're behind the wheel of a rental car though, you will need to purchase a CDW/LDW. A CDW/LDW works by providing cover for the entire cost of damage to a rental car in the event of an accident, minus a deductible. As such, your rental company will try and sell you CDW/LDW cover over the counter as you pick up your vehicle

However, buying a CDW/LDW from your rental company is usually a lot more expensive than purchasing similar cover from a standalone provider like Insuremyrentalcar.com before you set off on vacation. Click here for more information on buying CDW/LDW cover for as little as $5 a day, or $17.50 per trip.

If you have been inspired to take a road trip along The Lincoln Highway, please take the time to share this blog on your favorite social media.