Before There Were Interstates

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Before There Were Interstates

Postby Rick F. » Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:19 pm

For Christmas, the Intrepid Buzz gave me a box of very old maps of the Mid-Atlantic area. The idea was to use them to plan some routes using the older, original roads in the area. As it turned out, this was a pretty good idea. One of the maps, in particular, was a 1956 National Geographic map entitled "Round About the Nation's Capital (with Descriptive Notes)," and it proved to be a treasure trove.

As everyone knows, President Dwight D. Eisenhower championed the idea of creating a U.S. Interstate Highway System, in part based on his experience in driving cross-country on the Lincoln Highway in an Army convoy back in 1919. Legislation authorizing the Interstates was enacted in 1956—conveniently after the National Geographic map came out—and roughly a third of all vehicle miles are traveled on such highways these days. But I was looking for the earlier, pre-Interstate roads. I avidly read the map's Descriptive Notes, looking for places and happenings I'd not run across previously, and then I connected them using what had been the major (and not-so-major) thoroughfares of yore. The game was afoot!
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Prompted by the NatGeo map, I wanted to find several sites in Alexandria, VA. Despite living only 40 miles away, I'd never toured this historic city. The trusty BMW Z4 took me into Alexandria, and the not-always-so-trusty Zumo GP deposited me on Fairfax Street, near the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop. Except, despite hiking up and down the street, I couldn't find any sign of the shop. Maybe this 1956 map thing wasn't going to work out so well after all?


So I set my sights on the nearby Gadsby's Tavern, which comprises both the tavern on the left (from 1785) and the City Hotel in the center (1792). The tavern is now a museum and restaurant. As the museum brochure states, "Notable visitors, aside from yourselves, include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison & James Monroe." (They left out Andrew Jackson, the Marquis de Lafayette, and many others, but it was a short brochure…) The buildings were damaged by the August 23, 2011 earthquake, but repairs are nearly completed. For fans of ghost stories, in 1816 a young woman died in Room 8 of the hotel. After her death, her distraught husband made everyone caring for her swear never to reveal her name. She is buried in a nearby cemetery, with her gravestone marked "Female Stranger." Many have speculated about her identity, but my favorite story is that she was Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr who was accused of treason. Theodosia's disappearance has never been solved, but the Female Stranger has been seen regularly both at the cemetery and in Room 8.
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Carlyle House was built in 1752 by Scotsman John Carlyle in the Georgian Palladian style. On the day that he and his wife, Sarah, moved in, she gave birth to their first son. Carlyle House hosted a congress of five colonial governors in 1755, arranged by General Edward Braddock (who made the house his headquarters for 3 weeks). Following the event, John Carlyle wrote to his brother that Braddock was "too fond of his passions, women and wine…"
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As I was photographing the Carlyle House garden, a decent snowstorm sudden broke out. Ten minutes later, the sun was shining, and all was well.
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Even the alleyways in Alexandria were scenic. And, as I wended my way back to the Z4, I walked through the open-air farmers' market in the town square.
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I walked across the street to get a photo of the BMW in front of the neat old buildings—only to discover the word "Apothecary" in my viewfinder. Yep, I'd parked right in front of the shop without realizing it.
Image Edward Stabler sold medicines to all of the famous people in the area, including Martha Washington, and the shop's "Hot Drops" (made of paprika and alcohol) were very popular for treating coughs.
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Having enjoyed seeing these old buildings, I went in pursuit of Christ Church, where both George Washington and Robert E. Lee had worshipped. Given its age (1773), I was expecting a small chapel of some sort—but what I found was this towering Episcopal church, which was built by our friend John Carlyle.
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Wait, that's not my Z4! In fact, it's a Z3 (and a very nice-looking one at that). There were quite a few 2- and 4-wheeled BMWs motoring around Alexandria on this morning.
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As I left the town, I happened across the Shiloh Baptist Church and got this photo (just for Cathy and Kim, don'tcha know). It was built by an African American congregation in 1893, following the destruction of their earlier wooden church by fire. That church had grown out of the worship services conducted by escaped slaves held prisoner on this land prior to and during the Civil War. (The 1956 National Geographic map didn't happen to mention this history…)
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Before the Interstate Highway System, the main way out of Washington to the west was either by Route 50 or Route 211. I chose the latter, which is more south-westerly—and which crosses the Blue Ridge Mountains in one of the most dramatic and exciting stretches of roads I've ever ridden/driven. I've read that this section of 211 is heavily patrolled, but I didn't see Officer Friendly anywhere. I did, however, catch up to this Corvette. Usually you expect to be held up by horse trailers or Harley Davidsons, not by Corvettes. But I wasn't held up for long. :)
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The old Estes gristmill is located near Sperryville. The water wheel used to be on the near side of the mill, as seen in the old photo. (Historic photo courtesy of MillPictures.com and Ted Hazen.)
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The NatGeo map showed "Lincoln's Homestead" and noted that "Thomas Lincoln, father of Abraham Lincoln, was born here about 1778." To my immense pleasure, I found that the home built in 1800 by Captain Jacob Lincoln (Abe's great uncle) was still standing and in very good condition. (The original home, built by "Virginia John" Lincoln in 1778 was destroyed many years ago.) The home and farm are privately held, but the Lincoln Society of Virginia was recently granted an option to buy the property if it comes up for sale.
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After a bit of searching, I also found the Lincoln Family Cemetery, up on top of a nearby hill. Virginia John, his wife Rebekah, and a number of other family members are buried here, along with the last two slaves held by the Virginia Lincolns, Uncle Ned and Queen.
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Interestingly, I spotted a headstone for Abraham Lincoln, with 1851 as the year of death. As best I can tell from subsequent reading, this was Honest Abe's second cousin. In fact, there are several "Abraham Lincolns" out there, including the President's grandfather. Our Abe would probably have been born right in this home if grandfather Abe hadn't been persuaded by a relative, one Daniel Boone, to head out west to Kentucky. There, Abraham's son Thomas met and married Nancy Hanks, Abraham the Younger was born in 1809, and the rest is history. (The historical pictures of Thomas and Nancy are courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Research Site.
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Did I mention that Thomas Lincoln, at the age of 6, saw his father Abraham shot and killed by an Indian? He was about to be killed himself (or carried off) when his brother Mordechai shot the Indian.

Meanwhile, here I was on top of the hill, trying to remember where I'd left the Z4…
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As I was driving back to New Market, to pick up historic Route 11, I decided to investigate the hamlet of Plains Mills. It proved to have a number of old farms on the banks of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, several interesting houses, a lumber mill, and one near-mansion. Yet another fun place to discover (even if it wasn't shown on the National Geographic map). (But at least the map correctly identified the river as the North Fork; Google Maps thinks it's the South Fork. [-X )
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Access to this Shenandoah-side treehouse is by a sagging, dilapidated piece of particle board. (After you, Claude!)
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Although the temperature never went above 40 degrees, it was an otherwise very pretty day. Such settings obviously require top-down motoring.
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As I drove through New Market, once the scene of a significant Civil War battle, I spotted this stately mansion. I believe it's now an assisted-living residence—but I'm curious whether the chimney of the building on the right was taken out by one of Stonewall Jackson's cannon?
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Long before there was Interstate 81, everyone traveling in this area used Highway 11. The road goes right through one historic old town after another, which makes it quite a nuisance if you're trying to get someplace quickly but quite a marvel if you're searching for scenic and historical sights. The Union Church in Mt. Jackson, VA was one of my favorites. It was built in about 1825 through the efforts of one Elizabeth Steenbergen, and during the Civil War it was occupied by both Northern and Southern troops at various times. (Their writings can still be found on the walls.)
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There were a number of stately old mansions along Highway 11, including the monumental Belle Grove Plantation. But who wouldn't love to live in this whimsical home, with its wrap-around porch?
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I'd seen the Woodstock Courthouse before, but at least this time the sun was still up and it wasn't raining. It was designed by Thomas Jefferson and built in 1795. With its continuous use since construction, it is one of the oldest such courthouses in the country (and apparently the oldest, west of the Blue Ridge Mountains).
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Elsewhere in Woodstock, this Lutheran church was the site of a classic declaration, when, on the even of the Revolutionary War, Pastor John Peter Gabriel Muhlenburg delivered a moving sermon and ended by saying "There is a time for prayer, and a time for war!" He then threw back his clerical robe, revealing a Continental Army uniform beneath. He raised a regiment of soldiers and marched off to serve General George Washington throughout the Revolution. He was later elected as a Pennsylvania Congressman and then Senator.
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This abandoned school in Toms Brook is making a comeback as an apartment building. It has a long way to go…
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George Bowman settled on the banks of Cedar Creek, northeast of what is now Strasburg, VA, in the early 1730s. He built a "fortified house," known as Fort Bowman, in 1752 or 1753. (Such "forts" could be used in case of Indian attack by holing up in the basement.) The home was rumored to still exist, although its location was unclear. The Library of Congress had pictures from many years ago, but little other information.
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As recounted in Battle of Cedar Creek, one of the most climactic battles of the Civil War took place in and around this area. As part of one of the most brilliant military moves of the war, three divisions of General Jubal Early's Confederate forces, under the command of General John Gordon, marched at night right by Fort Bowman on their way to a surprise flanking of the Union Army. This move was extraordinarily successful, but its effect was reversed later in the day by the famous "Sheridan's Ride," when General Phil Sheridan marshaled his troops and rode his horse directly in front of their line to boost their spirits. His actions led to an overall Union victory and the end of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign for the South.
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Based on a highway marker database and some Google Map searching, I had a rough idea of where the mansion might be. After a considerable distance on a winding, hilly, deep-gravel road, and with the help of a passing teenager, I managed to find it! It looks a lot better now than it did in the Library of Congress photos. Long may it stand. (And my apologies to the current owners of Fort Bowman; I didn't notice the "No Treaspassing" sign until I was leaving the area. Honest! :emb: )
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Just south of Middletown, still on Highway 11, I spotted this stunning mansion. Unfortunately, I couldn't learn a thing about it—who built it, when, whether it's now privately owned, etc. But I decided that I want to live there!
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Moving along toward Winchester, I finally left Highway 11 to take the back way in. "Rose Hill" was the home of Col. William Wood Glass, who fought with Stonewall Jackson in the Civil War. As it happened, Rose Hill was in the very center of the 1862 Battle of Kernstown, where (based on faulty intelligence) Jackson attacked Union troops that substantially outnumbered his men. It was the only battle that Stonewall Jackson ever lost, but it diverted thousands of Union soldiers from the attack on Richmond. Subsequently, through a series of daring and rapid moves, Jackson went on to decisively beat the Union Army at McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic, despite being outnumbered three to one. It was the end of the Union's attempt to capture Richmond.
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The tiny village of Opequon was well worth the slight detour. The 1815 Glass Mill was easy to find…
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…as was the 1939 Second Presbyterian Church of Opequon.
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This looked to be an ideal spot "where sheep may safely graze."
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The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is located on the outskirts of Winchester. The museum itself was an impressive-looking modern structure, but it was scheduled to close in 15 minutes when I arrived. Besides, I was interested in "Glen Burnie," the estate of Winchester's founder, James Wood, who surveyed this area in the early 1700s. As (bad) luck would have it, the gardens and Glen Burnie were closed for repairs, and I was told that there was no access to anywhere close to the mansion. Yes, those sounded like fighting words to any natural-born explorer! Here is the front of the mansion. It was protected only by a flock of Killer Geese, whereas the back approach was guarded by an electric fence(!) Fortunately, there was some confusion among the geese, and I was merely assaulted by loud honks. (Okay, you try holding a camera steady when someone is honking at your elbow!)
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Glen Burnie was built in in the late 1700s by James' son Robert. The Wood and Glass families intermarried, with the property passing down to various descendants. This was the carriage house.
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This large pool appeared to be fed by an underground spring, with water bubbling up in the center.
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The Pink Pavilion was guarded by this fellow. Socrates? Plato? Christian Pavlopoulos??
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With the sun threatening to set, I hurried on into downtown Winchester. With thoughts of Kim and Cathy, I naturally got a photo of the First Baptist Church.
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The entrance to the church offered a nice vantage point for this photo of a diminutive BMW Z4 in front of a large townhouse. In contrast, notice that the red truck on the right is actually longer than the narrow brick townhouse behind it!
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According to the NatGeo map, Winchester changed hands more than 70 times during the Civil War, including a reported 13 times in a single day! Stonewall Jackson used this house as his headquarters during the winter of 1861-1862. It was offered to him for this use by its owner, Lt. Colonel William T. Moore of the Fourth Virginia Volunteers. It's now a museum, with a substantial collection of Jackson memorabilia.
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The ever-informative NatGeo map had indicated that the tomb of Lord Fairfax was located in Christ Church in Winchester. Based on my longtime acquaintance with Thomas Lord Fairfax (see Ghost Towns of the Upper Potomac), this was a must-find. However, my planning efforts became Confused, and I mixed up Christ Church with the Old Stone Church on East Picadilly Street. Fortunately, the latter, which was a Presbyterian meeting house in the late 1780s, was also of interest. Not only that, but local Revolutionary War hero, Daniel Morgan, was buried there. (Or used to be, anyway.) Hey, late in the day, I take what I can get! General Morgan was a veteran of the French and Indian Wars and formed one of the first 10 Rifle Companies for George Washington at the start of the Revolutionary War. He was instrumental in defeating the British at the Battle of the Cowpens in South Carolina, although he had defied orders to do so.
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My final stop in Winchester was Abram's Delight, considered the oldest house in the city. From the Abram's Delight Museum website: "Abraham Hollingsworth, a Quaker, was an early settler in the Winchester area. He found the Shawnee Indians camped beside a bountiful spring and declared the property, "A Delight to Behold." He claimed 582 acres and paid the Indians a cow, a calf, and a piece of red cloth. He built a log home and mill beside the spring and brought his family from Cecil County, Maryland." Such a deal… His son Isaac built the stone mansion in 1754.
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With the sunlight fading, it was time to press on to my final couple of destinations from the NatGeo map. First was "The Old Stone Chapel" near Berryville. Built in 1792, it was a beautiful setting.
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Continuing on to Berryville, I was hoping to find Soldier's Rest before the light gave out. But at least it set up some nice sunset photos:
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Berryville formed around the intersection of Winchester Pike and Charles Town Road (now Highways 7 and 340, respectively—and both are proper pre-Interstate routes). The intersection was known for some time as "Battletown," in large part because our friend Daniel Morgan would hang around there challenging any passers-by to fight. (Well, it was before video games came along…) He kept a pile of rocks nearby just in case.

Anyway, I found Soldier's Rest near a modern development. It was built in 1780 and later owned and expanded by General Morgan. When he wasn't at home, ol' Daniel was one of the more quarrelsome customers at the Battle Town Tavern—in his sixties! Note that a tree had recently fallen onto this historic home; fortunately, the damage seemed minor.
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Did I mention the sunset?
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My final stop was to see Stones Chapel, near my old stomping grounds the Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. After having sat vacant and unused for many years, I'm pleased to report that the chapel is now being restored.
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From there, it was an easy 80-mile drive back home, for a roundtrip distance of about 364 miles, a total time of almost 12 hours, and a moving average speed of 40.1 mph. The Z4 ran flawlessly throughout, and it was a joy to bend around the corners crossing the Blue Ridge and elsewhere. But the next time it's below 40 and I have the top down, I'm taking my Gerbings heated jacket liner!

As it all turned out, I found nearly every place that I'd planned, based on the 1956 National Geographic map. Thanks, Buzz—I'm looking forward to many more such excursions on the (pre-Interstate) "roads less traveled."

Rick F.
Last edited by Rick F. on Wed Sep 16, 2015 3:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Rick F. » Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:23 am

Whoa, hold your horses, Rick. Don't be so sure that everyone knows that Eisenhower was behind the idea of the U.S. interstate highway system.
But thanks for the history lesson. Love, your wife Nancy
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby RJP3579 » Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:46 am

Image
That is what I want in front of my house. Very cool, as usual. Rick!!!
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Unity » Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:30 pm

Image

I was surprised to learn that Jefferson designed the court house!

National Geographic guided you well.

--John
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Rick F. » Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:53 pm

Nancy F. wrote:Whoa, hold your horses, Rick. Don't be so sure that everyone knows that Eisenhower was behind the idea of the U.S. interstate highway system.
But thanks for the history lesson. Love, your wife Nancy


O Rare and Beautiful Nancy, :purdy:

Okay, now everyone knows!

Love,

Your husband Rick

PS: Ooh, I'm in trouble now! :augie:
Last edited by Rick F. on Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Rick F. » Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:57 pm

RJP3579 wrote:Image
That is what I want in front of my house. Very cool, as usual. Rick!!!


Rick P.,

Hey, now that you mention it, I'd like one of those, too!

Rick F.
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Rick F. » Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:13 pm

Unity wrote:Image

I was surprised to learn that Jefferson designed the court house!

National Geographic guided you well.

--John


John,

That's okay, I was surprised to learn that my wife had posted a response to my trip report! Maybe I can get her to be a full-fledged member of BMWBMW. As proof that she qualifies, consider this photo from a few years back:
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Anyway, it looks like T.J. did his usual fine job of designing things.

Rick
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby JimVonBaden » Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:06 am

Great photo journal as always Rick. I love your blend of history and current photos and events.

Jim :brow
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Rick F. » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:06 pm

JimVonBaden wrote:Great photo journal as always Rick. I love your blend of history and current photos and events.

Jim :brow

Jim,

Thanks, mon ami!

Are you getting a chance to ride much these days? Or are you too busy building the Taj Garage?

Rick
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Slider » Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:14 pm

whats an interstate?
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Rick F. » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:59 pm

Slider wrote:whats an interstate?


Slider,

Good question!

Back in the early days of railroading, if an engineer would fall behind schedule he would try to "make time"--that is, go faster than normal to add time back into the schedule. That's where the expression came from.

Anyway, interstates are for making time, and that's about all.

Rick
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby JimVonBaden » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:13 pm

Rick F. wrote:
JimVonBaden wrote:Great photo journal as always Rick. I love your blend of history and current photos and events.

Jim :brow

Jim,

Thanks, mon ami!

Are you getting a chance to ride much these days? Or are you too busy building the Taj Garage?

Rick

Taj Garage, but the days are coming again!

How about you my friend? Back to riding soon?

Jim :brow
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Slider » Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:56 pm

Rick F. wrote:
Slider wrote:whats an interstate?

Gosh, do you remember the olde days? where there dirt roads & steam trains? :flask:
Slider,

Good question!

Back in the early days of railroading, if an engineer would fall behind schedule he would try to "make time"--that is, go faster than normal to add time back into the schedule. That's where the expression came from.

Anyway, interstates are for making time, and that's about all.

Rick
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Rick F. » Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:13 pm

JimVonBaden wrote:
Rick F. wrote:
JimVonBaden wrote:Great photo journal as always Rick. I love your blend of history and current photos and events.

Jim :brow

Jim,

Thanks, mon ami!

Are you getting a chance to ride much these days? Or are you too busy building the Taj Garage?

Rick

Taj Garage, but the days are coming again!

How about you my friend? Back to riding soon?

Jim :brow

JVB,

Well, I'm making progress on my osteoporosis, but I still have a ways to go. I keep hoping!

Rick
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Re: Before There Were Interstates

Postby Rick F. » Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:17 pm

Slider wrote:Gosh, do you remember the olde days? where there dirt roads & steam trains? :flask:


Slider,

Hmmm, actually I do remember steam trains--but only just! As for dirt roads, I remember them well (but that's because there are still so many of them, and I've been on them a lot).

I remember the pre-Interstate days a bit from my youth. It took a long time to get anywhere, but there was a lot more to see. Come to think of it, it's still that way when you skip the 'states! =D>

Rick
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