Lincoln Highway will celebrate centennial in 2013

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After a century of automobile travel, cars and the highways have seen huge changes.

Automotive travel began with cars that had no roof or steering wheel. Roads were not safe to drive upon outside city limits.

Today's motorists have it much easier as they travel to "grandma's house." They now have great roads, climate-controlled cars, GPS systems and much more. The automotive culture has evolved in the last 100 years, and those changes will be celebrated this summer, as the 100th year of the Lincoln Highway is marked.

The national Lincoln Highway Association and the Ohio Lincoln Highway Historic Byway, along with other state's official Lincoln Highway By-Way organizations, are coming together. They will celebrate the dream of three industrialists, who in 1913, proclaimed the "straightest and safest rock highway," from New York to San Francisco, "navigable by anyone with a motorcar."

This June, two auto tours will leave simultaneously from San Francisco and New York City and head out along the 1913 route of the Lincoln Highway, America's first coast-to-coast road.

They will meet at the midpoint in Kearney, Neb., on the "Lincoln." This area was originally 3,389 miles of barely "paved" road that traversed the dusty, muddy, rocky and rolling United States of America.

"In 1900 there was virtually no paved road outside a town, and there were no road maps or motels or filling stations. Gasoline was equivalent to $50 a gallon in today's money, and you packed wrenches and screwdrivers and food and water for a trip," said Mike Hocker, Ohio's historic byway director.

Hocker went on to explain that travelers camped in someone's field by a stream. However, the Lincoln Highway slowly began to change with the advent of tourist "cabins and one-stops" (a combo filling station, garage, restaurant and sometimes sleeping rooms).

This year a centennial tour will travel the 1913 route, which will include historic vehicles.

Areas of the Lincoln to be traveled in Ohio will be East Liverpool, Lisbon, Hanoverton, Minerva, Canton, Massillon, Dalton, Wooster, New Pittsburgh, Rowsburg, Ashland, Mansfield, Ontario, Galion, Nevada, Kirby, Forest, Patterson, Dunkirk, Ada, Lima, and Elida, Delphos, Van Wert and more.

Residents of those area will witness a throng of engaged celebrants driving through, beginning the morning of June 25. They will stay overnight in Mansfield and then continue, on June 26, to Van Wert for a luncheon, before leaving the state.

Hocker says many communities are planning welcoming bands, flag-waving groups and well wishers who can greet the caravan without slowing down their tight schedules.

Organizers anticipate as many as 75 cars coming from New York and traveling to Nebraska for the centennial on June 30.

In Kearney, Neb., two events will happen. The first will be the grand entrance of the combined east and west car tours into the city on Sunday, June 30. This will be followed by a car show of huge proportions, with other celebratory activities in the downtown streets.

On Monday, July 1, the official centennial will be celebrated at the Great Platte River Road Archway and other locations around Kearney. It will kick off the week-long, 21st national Lincoln Highway Conference.

This gathering of interested history and road enthusiasts will feature interpretive sessions, motorcoach trips, museum visits, sightseeing and shopping, as well as banquets and celebrations, through Friday, July 5.

For more information, see www.lincolnhighwayassociation.org or www.visitkearney.org.

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