Trip Peek #52
Trip #43
The National Road at 200

This picture is from my 2006 The National Road at 200 trip. In 1806 Thomas Jefferson signed legislation authorizing the first piece of what became known as the National Road. My personal celebration of the 200th anniversary of that event consisted of driving the Historic National Road Byway from Baltimore to Saint Louis. Preceding that was a two day drive from home to Washington, DC, and the celebration of the USA’s 230th birthday in the nation’s capital. The Historic National Road Byway is something of an expanded version of the National Road as was, in some sense, the National Old Trails Road. When named auto trails were replaced by numbered highways, the NOTR was commemorated with a Madonna of the Trail statue in each of the twelve states it passed through. Maryland’s Madonna was erected in Bethesda on a spur of the NOTR. When I stopped to visit it on the way to DC, I was shocked to find it absent. A water line break had undermined the statue and threatened to topple it. It had been moved for safety and to allow repairs. After continuing on to DC, I learned where the Madonna was stored and drove to see her early on the Fourth of July. The statue and base had been disassembled and the Madonna was standing directly on the ground so that I could get a photo standing next to her. It’s a picture that will forever be one of my favorites.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Eleven Eleven

nov11Friday’s date was eleven eleven. I spent the day at the 2016 Los Angeles Route 66 Festival where the ninetieth anniversary of Route 66 was celebrated. November 11, 1926, was when the United States Numbered Highway System was officially approved so US 66 did indeed come into being on that date but so did another 188 routes. I’ve always thought the big deal some folks make of Sixty-Six’s “birthday” to be somewhere between silly and chauvinistic. Sort of like New Hampshire celebrating its independence — and only its own independence — on the Fourth of July.

I try not to let it bother me. Route 66 has become the most famous member of that class of ’26 and it’s rather doubtful that a birthday party held for any of the others would draw much of a crowd. That doesn’t mean they should be totally ignored, however. For my part, I wished some of my homies, like US 22 and US 36, a happy 90th too. They were “born” the same day as US 66 and are among those that still survive ninety years later. Officially US 66 does not. It didn’t quite make it to fifty-nine. A date that US 66 has all to itself is June 27, 1985, the day it was decommissioned.

nov11bThere is no question that November 11, 1926, is an important day for road fans. It really is a sort of “The king is dead. Long live the king.” moment as the birth of the US Numbered Highways meant the death of named auto trails. They did not instantly vanish, of course. Some of their support organizations continued on for a few years and the Lincoln Highway and National Old Trails Road associations managed to erect long lasting roadside monuments well after the numbered highways took over. Establishing the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 on June 29 was a somewhat similar event but a significant difference is that, while the act authorized construction of limited-access interstate highways that were more efficient than the existing US Numbered Highways, it didn’t replace the existing system or directly eliminate any of the routes. November 11, 1926, is a unique delimiter in US transportation history that is as notable for what it ended as for what it started.

nov11aBut November 11 was an actual national holiday well ahead of the creation of the United States Numbered Highway System and it marked something more meaningful than identifying one nation’s roads. When I started to school in 1953, November 11 was known as Armistice Day. During the next year, the name was officially changed to Veterans Day although people around me didn’t start using the new name immediately. Nor did they immediately embrace the new definition. Armistice Day marked the anniversary of the end of The Great War on November 11, 1918. It began in England but soon spread to virtually all the allied nations. Two minutes of silence — one minute to remember the 20 million who died in the war and a second minute to remember those left behind — at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month was an important part of the day. Things started changing when the world had another “great war” and had to start numbering them. England and many other nations changed the name to Remembrance Day to include those lost in both conflicts and, as I mentioned, the United States changed the name to Veterans Day. This may be when we began observing a single minute of silence on the day or maybe it was always that way in the US. We observed one minute of silence at the festival.

Veterans Day really is different from Remembrance Day. The US already had a day for honoring those killed by war. The country’s Civil War had given rise to Decoration Day which was eventually renamed Memorial Day and became a day to honor all persons who died while in the military. Many people seem to have great difficulty understanding or at least remembering the difference in these two holidays. It’s not terribly harmful, I suppose, but running around on Memorial Day and thanking the living for their service does show a lack of understanding and detracts from the sacrifices the day is intended to honor. So does using the day to recognize all of our dead regardless of whether they even served in the military let alone if they died in that service.


And just one more thing, ‘leven ‘leven, as she learned to say very early, is also my daughter’s birthday. It’s a date she shares with Demi Moore and Leonardo DiCaprio among others. I know Meg doesn’t want to appear the least bit presumptuous so if Leo or Demi want some help with the candles next year, I’m pretty sure she’d be willing.

Trip Peek #38
Trip #100
Hail, Hail Rock w/o Rail

This picture is from my 2011 Hail, Hail Rock w/o Rail trip. Yes, that’s a pretty goofy name but I can explain. In May of 2011, I went to Saint Louis, Missouri, to see Chuck Berry and called the trip, Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll. My original plans for this trip were to ride a train to Washington, DC, to see two concerts. Calling it Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Rail seemed quite clever. But, less than two days before the scheduled departure, the train was canceled. I saved the trip by driving but, in the flurry of rearrangements, the best I could do for the title was replace “‘n'” with “w/o” which isn’t very clever at all. I saw Dirk Hamilton (pictured) and Josh Hisle (opening for Stephen Stills) in concert plus Fort McHenry, Ocean City, museums, diners, and colorful fall foliage. As I said in a trip postlude. “…everything was perfect for a train ride except the train.”

The trip was my 100th so I did a blog post to mark the occasion and reflect a bit on previous journeys. This Trip Peek is being posted following trip 135.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Trip Peek #35
Trip #61
Sweetheart Cruise ’08

pv44This picture is from my 2008 Sweetheart Cruise trip. This was my first time joining the annual (weather and other stuff permitting) cruise organized by a small group of Missouri road fans. The name comes from its proximity to Valentines Day and the fact that it usually includes sweethearts Kent and Mary Sue Sanderson. This particular cruise ran north along the Mississippi River from St. Louis to Hannibal then crossed over and returned through Illinois at some distance from the river. There were lots of bald eagles and pelicans to be seen on the way to Hannibal with the area around Lock 25 near Winfield, MO, where the picture was taken, being one of the hot spots. The second day featured some Sanderson childhood memories including a look (from the outside) at the Lustron house that Mary Sue remembered her father assembling after it arrived on a truck. Weather was fine for the two days of the actual cruise but I did encounter snow on the way home which prompted me to move from two-lane to expressway much sooner than planned.

Two aspects of this trip, one good and one bad, were photo related. On the good side was the move to posting 800 x 600 pixel photos after more than eight years of sticking with 640 x 480. On the bad side was the failure of a memory card containing lots of snowy National Road pictures on the third day. I’m sure they would have looked marvelous in the new larger format.


Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Book Review
Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio
Cyndie L. Gerken

mtmatnrto_cvrThat’s a pretty long book title. There’s a subtitle, too, which makes the whole thing Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio: A Survey of Old Stone Mile Markers on Ohio’s National Road. It’s long because it, just like the book it identifies, is accurate and precise. The book accurately and precisely locates the 175 mile markers originally set, as accurately and precisely as early nineteenth century technology and local politicians would allow, beside the Ohio portion of the very first federal highway. With all that accuracy and precision you might think this volume would be completely dry and boring but that’s not the case. Stories about the road, the countryside, and even the markers themselves lighten and soften things considerably. Color photos and maps make the book attractive.

Marking the Miles… opens with the full complement of preface, foreword, and introduction. The preface is written by Dean Ringle who, in addition to contributing much to this book, is a past president of the Ohio National Road Association (ONRA) and the current — and very active — chairman of its Mile Marker Committee. The foreword speaks of the book’s purpose and organization. The introduction is where, as wagon masters may have once said, the hoof meets the road.

The introduction is fifty pages long. It talks about mile markers in general, National Road markers in other states, and the Ohio markers as a group. It talks about differences in engraving styles and it points out some errors made when erasing a mistake might mean chiseling it out of the solid rock to create a clean surface. It provides a “where are they now” summary and discusses recent replacement programs. It tells of the incorporation of actual mile markers in a near future National Road exhibit at a Dayton Museum. And it covers much more in providing a solid background for looking at individual markers.

mtmatnrto_int1Seven of the ten Ohio counties through which the National Road passed are covered in individual chapters following the introduction. No markers were ever placed in the three westernmost counties on the route as federal funding ended near Springfield in Clark County. Each of these chapters begins with an overview of the county that includes a summary of how many original markers there were, how many remain at their original location, how many exist elsewhere, and how many are lost. Each marker is then addressed individually. With few exceptions there is at least one picture. If a given marker survives, a current photo is included and one or more historical photos are usually presented regardless of whether or not the marker is still around. Understandably, markings on many of the older stones are not exactly legible. Not to worry. Appendix B contains crisp drawings of the inscription of every marker. Markers can often be seen, accidentally perhaps, in old postcards and other photos and many of these appear in the book. Each marker’s history is given and stories about the marker or the area around it frequently add a little fun and background. Placed among the individual marker descriptions are sections of US Geological Survey 7.5 minute topographical maps showing the location of the markers three at a time. Other National Road related landmarks are often shown on the maps as well.

When the federal funding and mile marker placement stopped at Springfield, locally financed turnpikes filled the gap to the Indiana border. Known as the Dayton Cutoff, these turnpikes dipped south through Dayton and Eaton while the unimproved straight-line National Road languished. Mile markers on the eastern portion of the Cutoff mimicked those on the National Road to give the impression that the federal route went right through Dayton. Gerken includes a chapter on this and even provides location and other information about the markers.

Hard facts are without question the backbone of this book and numbers representing miles, dates, percentages and the like are plentiful. There are even several tables filled with numbers and bare facts which might justifiably be called dry. Some might also call them boring but not I. And not anyone else with a serious interest in the history of the National Road. At its most basic level, Marking the Miles… is a cataloging of every marker’s inscription, location, and fate. This is invaluable information not available anywhere else. Its usefulness to researchers is obvious but it is also of use to someone wondering about that old stone they drive by each day or the one they used to see near Granddad’s farm but which disappeared sometime in the past. Incidentally, some of those vanished markers are reappearing thanks to a grant program administered by that ONRA Mile Marker Committee I mentioned earlier.

mtmatnrto_int2Bringing all of this information together is clearly a major accomplishment but Gerken, a past ONRA president herself, says the information is only a portion of what she has collected on the National Road in Ohio. A well deserved breather follows wrapping up Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio. Nothing is currently scheduled or promised but the future could see a Gerken penned treatise on bridges or taverns or toll houses or something else. I certainly hope so. I like accuracy and precision and I also like anecdotes and insight. Marking the Miles… provides a pretty good mix.

Marking the Miles Along the National Road Through Ohio: A Survey of Old Stone Mile Markers on Ohio’s National Road, Cyndie L. Gerken, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, November 4, 2015, 11 x 8.5 inches, 338 pages, ISBN 978-1517317034

On the Roadside

onrm01This is the elsewhere I was referring to when mentioning that I couldn’t be On the Waterfront Wednesday. The Ohio National Road Association unveiled three new interpretive panels this week but this it the only one of the events I was able to attend. That was lucky in one sense as both an interpretive panel and a new mile marker were unveiled in Reynoldsburg on Wednesday. By the time the speeches began, the crowd had grown to about twice the size of the group in the photo.

onrm02That’s Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society Vice President Dick Barrett speaking in the photo at left. Mike Peppe, on Dick’s right, and Dean Ringle, on his left, had already delivered short speeches as had Reynoldburg Mayor Brad McCloud. Mike is Chairman of the Ohio National Road Association Signage Committee and Dean heads up the ONRA’s Mile Marker Project. Dean is also a former president of the ONRA.

onrm04onrm03Mayor McCloud assisted Dean in lifting the cover from the new mile marker then helped Mike unwrap the new panel. This is the sixth of ten new mile markers being installed where the originals are missing or too much deteriorated to be repaired. The ONRA’s website lists twenty-five interpretive panels but the most recently listed is over a year old. I believe Mike stated this was the sixty-third.

onrm05onrm2014The original National Road mile markers in Ohio were made of sandstone, limestone, or even an early form of concrete. The new ones are white granite. The new markers duplicate the originals in terms of size, shape, and the information on their face. To distinguish the new from the old, the new markers have the year 2014 carved low on their backs.

onrm272onrm271onrm267While chatting with Dean after the unveiling, I realized that it would be possible to pass all of the other five granite markers without going terribly out of my way as I drove home. I set out to do just that but got off to a horrible start. The first I would pass was also the first installed. Mile marker 260 had been put in place in December. I already knew that and had halfheartedly looked for it on a previous visit to Columbus. I had not found it but wasn’t very confident that I was looking in the right place so wasn’t at all concerned. This time I was pretty sure I was looking in the right place but still did not see it. I even, despite the rush hour traffic, made two passes. The next one, 264, I spotted but got no photograph. Now the traffic convinced me save a retry for another day. As you can see, I had better luck with the remaining three. In reality, it probably wasn’t luck at all but the fact that reduced traffic allowed me to actually look.

Dandy Trail

pic08bEver wonder what it would be like to drive to a city a hundred miles away, drive half a circle around the city for breakfast, then drive the other half circle and go home? If so, you’re kind of weird but I can answer that question for you. On Sunday, I drove to Indianapolis, followed the circular Dandy Trail around the city, and met friends for breakfast in a west side suburb.

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to hold any and all comments

Trip Peek #28
Trip #76
Memorial Weekend 2009

pv58This picture is from my 2009 Memorial Weekend trip. The purpose of the trip was to research a magazine article on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. That made the journal a little strange since I didn’t want to include photos or other items intended for the article. As the article was never published, the fact that the journal contains so little about the trip’s primary target may seem even stranger now than when it was posted. The photo was taken inside the Princess Restaurant in Frostburg, Maryland. The restaurant was celebrating its 70th anniversary then which means it is turning 76 this year.


Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.

Slipped on Down to the Oasis

oasis01The Oasis Diner is back. It isn’t a “high place” in either price range or pretensions but neither is it a “low place”. I want to make that last point crystal clear because I met some friends there Saturday and I’m guessing it would be easy for Garth Brooks fans to get the wrong idea. These are classy friends and the Oasis is a classy place.

oasis02Created in 1954 at the Mountain View Diners Company in New Jersey, the diner immediately traveled west to spend the next sixty years on the north side of US 40, a.k.a. the National Road, in Plainfield, Indiana. There were good and not so good times and a temporary closure or two. In 2009, structural and health department issues resulted in it being closed “permanently”. Permanently, that is, for that location. Earlier this year, the original factory built part of the restaurant was moved across the road and about four miles further west where major effort went into getting it ready to reopen in November. The “DINER” and coffee cup were restored. The entire “OASIS” panel was fabricated anew to duplicate the long lost original.

oasiscoasisaMy first experience with the diner was in 2005 when I met friends Pat and Jennifer Bremer there for breakfast. At that point the Oasis sign had been gone for years and it was known as simply “The Diner” or “The US 40 Diner”. The interior picture is from a 2008 stop with Pat. That’s when I got to try the famous tenderloin sandwich.

oasis03oasis04oasis05When a firm and imminent opening date was announced, I made an online comment about a visit. The comment targeted the Bremers and a couple of other fans of old roads and the stuff beside them. Within a day or two, plans were in place for a gathering at the Oasis and on Saturday it happened. From left to right we are Damion, Garret, & Jim Grey, me, Dean Kennedy, and Pat & Jennifer Bremer. We had all heard mixed reviews that included some downright negative reports on service. The young wait staff is admittedly unpolished but we experienced no problems at all and we all gave the food (Yes, that’s a pork tenderloin next to those fresh-cut fries.) a big thumbs up. The school aged kids waiting tables and the unfavorable comments some customers have made about them made me think of the Rock Cafe on Route 66. Wait staff there is often young (some family members, some not) and their lack of poise and polish has been mentioned negatively in a few reviews. I think it’s great that they’re getting some work experience without wearing a corporate uniform.

oasis07oasis06It certainly looks like Plainfield is happy to have its diner back. It has reportedly been at least as busy as when we were there since it opened. In fact, after just a few days, the owners announced they would be closing between 2:00 and 4:00 each day to recover from the lunch crowd before the dinner crowd hit. There can be little doubt that the sometimes overwhelming crowds have contributed to the service issues some have reported. Of course, this is exactly the sort of place that the group I was with looks for and it would be fair to say that we might be more inclined than others to overlook missteps in a place like this and probably more inclined to overlook them in a diner setting than elsewhere. But the truth is, we really didn’t have any to overlook. I’m happy that the Oasis is back and I’m extra happy to see the palm trees and the big OASIS fronting the place again. I’ll be back and look forward to washing down breakfast with a cup of that coffee advertised atop the building in neon.

Trip Peek #22
Trip #86
Ohio NR Bus Tour

FOLK movie premierThis picture is from my 2010 Ohio NR Bus Tour day trip along the western half of Ohio’s portion of the National Road. Doug Smith, coauthor of A Traveler’s Guide to the Historic National Road in Ohio, acted as guide and provided much information when we stopped at several landmarks and as we rolled by others. The pictured stop is along the Ohio River to get a look at the 1849 Wheeling Suspension Bridge.


Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.