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Frank Gray

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File | The Journal Gazette
The Lincoln Highway goes through Fort Wayne.

Tour shows off our part of old Lincoln Highway

At one time or another you’ve probably seen a photograph of what it was like to travel by car in the early 20th century. The pictures – there are plenty of them – show an old Model T mired in mud up to its axels.

Photos like that, says Todd Zeiger of Indiana Landmarks, were actually used in a campaign to get the country to build the first highway across the country so that, now that they had cars, people could actually go somewhere.

The highway campaign, if you haven’t noticed, was a success. The first cross-country highway, called the Lincoln Highway, was built in 1913, and in 1928 there was a national campaign to build a straighter route across the country.

Few people bother to travel the old Lincoln Highway except for local trips, but segments are still there, along with many of the landmarks that were there 85 years ago.

Now Indiana Landmarks is sponsoring a program to let people step back in time, travel part of the route that drivers used when people were still dancing the Charleston.

Indiana Landmarks has been putting together rides for three years now, highlighting portions of the Lincoln Highway.

This year it is focusing on the portion that travels through northeast Indiana, starting at Besancon, which is near the Ohio line, through New Haven, Whitley County and Kosciusko County before ending in Plymouth.

People interested in taking part can make reservations at Participants will gather at Besancon at 8 a.m. July 20, where they will get a map of the old highway and information about landmarks along the way.

Travelers will also be able to take part in a scavenger hunt and shop in historic settings, Zeiger said.

“Once you open your eyes you can find some of the old gas stations” and other places that people would have seen early in the last century, Zeiger said.

The actual route can be driven in a couple of hours, but the point is to slow down and look around, Zeiger said.

One other goal of the tour is to get people to travel though little towns that they might never see otherwise.

Though the highway is marked in some areas, you do need a guide to follow the actual route of the old Lincoln Highway, which is why people who want to take part have to go online and make reservations. The fee is $25 per car for the basic tour.

A special Lincoln Highway Adventure and Traveling Feast is available, which includes breakfast, dessert, lunch and dinner, for $45 per person.

People can travel the route alone, but participants can also form a small caravan if they want, Zeiger said.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.