Happy 4th of July everyone!
So it’s been about a week since I last wrote, and my brain is still swimming from all of the things I learned at the Lincoln Highway Association conference. I did not come directly home after the conference, because of some other traveling I had to do. Now that I am home, I now have the time to write about all of my impressions of my first Lincoln Highway Association conference (you can read highlights of it all here on their website). I have photo highlights of Tuesday and Wednesday on this website in previous posts if you would like to see more photos.
Monday’s welcome dinner was quite a welcoming. The guest speaker was McAvoy Layne, who is “The Ghost of Twain”. He regaled us with Mark Twain’s first view of Lake Tahoe and the mishaps that ensued upon arrival. As a performer myself, I very much enjoyed how he engaged the crowd, but was genuine in his performance. For a first-time attendee like me (it was noted on my lanyard/name badge), the dinner also gave me a chance to meet new people and learn more about the association and the conference.
Tuesday’s tour of California was impressive. I’ve only been to San Francisco for a quick weekend trip, so I’ve never really explored the state. We started at our hotel in Stateline, Nevada taking the southern route of the highway along what would have been the pioneer route with stops along the way to Clarksville, CA. The view from Echo Summit was breathtaking. The paved road underneath my feet had been there to serve pioneers and motorists for a very long time, and it was humbling to think that people negotiated this road in worse conditions not very long ago.
The highlight of Tuesday for me was when the Hangtown A’s out of Placerville, CA treated us to a drive on the original Lincoln Highway roads in Model A cars through the ghost town of Clarkesville, CA. Here the road was only 14 feet wide in some places, and the texture of the road was not the smooth tarmac we are all used to. It was a conglomerate of stone and concrete. It is believed that Folsom prisoners laid this part of the Lincoln Highway. Driving along these roads in the heat of day (it was around 100 degrees), the speed of the car and sound of the horn all took you back in time instantly. Our driver Ernie was pretty “zen” with his 1927 Model A. It takes a delicate sensibility to know when to shift gears and when not to.
As we were part way along our drive, the car turned and we were on part of the road that had been updated and now paralleled Highway 50, the new alignment of the Lincoln Highway. Ernie commented on this, and I remarked about why they didn’t incorporate the old road in with the new road. Why did they build the new road right next to it? Ernie then said, “It was much easier to build a new road next to the old one. That way people could still get to where they were going without stopping traffic.”
This echoed some of the comments made on the tour that morning. There were still a couple of these old Lincoln Highway roads that could still be used if US 50 had to be shut down due to inclement weather. These older roads still provided a temporary safe pass through the Sierras.
For some reason, this thought hasn’t left me in the last week. Maybe this shows what generation or locale that I grew up in, but that never happens now. No one cares if you’re stuck on construction laden roads, that’s just the way life is. It was quite a “Kodak” moment to be moving along on the old road while watching the traffic and construction on the new road.
Wednesday’s tour of the Nevada side proved to be just as memorable. Starting off at the Carson City museum, we were able to have a special tour of Coin Press #1 which was in use for many years all over the country. Being part of the conference, we were given a unique coin memento which was made from this very machine. This museum is a great museum with plenty of exhibits. We had two hours there, but I’m sure we could have spent the whole day there if we wanted to.
Next, we were off to Dayton, Nevada, which was settled around 1863. The Dayton Historical Society really pulled out the stops for us as we ate lunch and were able to walk the old part of the town freely for the afternoon. They were truly wonderful people. We were able to get a tour of the old firehouse/jail, and see the museum (which is in the old schoolhouse). The museum houses hundreds of items from the community and is definitely worth a stop if you are in the area. One neat hidden part of the town is actually off main street. There is a rock wall next to the Union Hotel building, which is the remnants of an Overland Stagecoach Station, and was a Pony Express stop.
Thursday was seminar day and all of the speakers were wonderful. The two speakers that stood out for me and my upcoming travels the most were Bob Chase’s talk on his motorbike ride across the Lincoln Highway in a Piaggio MP3 in 2008, and the keynote speech by Craig MacDonald. Craig spoke about the evolution of US 50 historically, going back over 150+ years to talk about pioneers and stagecoach drivers including the infamous Charley Parkhurst (a female stagecoach driver who was the first woman to vote in the US). We surprised everyone when I came up on stage at the end to sing and lead everyone in an anthem fit for Charley. I have video of me singing, and it will be posted at a later date.
There are so many memories of this week, I could write a book on it. For a first time conference goer, it was a fantastic experience. Many thanks to the California and Nevada Lincoln Highway Chapters for their organization of such an awesome week. I also want to thank all of the other members who went out of their way to help me, give advice on my project, and just make me feel welcome to the organization overall. I look forward to communicating with all of you in the future.