The Canton Repository
CANTON — Rosemary Rubin talks romantically about the Lincoln Highway — the country’s first transcontinental road.
The nostalgia. The memories. The original brick remnants. The way the road can work as a time machine into the past.
That’s why Rubin and her husband, Bob Lichty, have headed the planning of the 2013 Lincoln Highway 100th Anniversary Tour from June 21-30.
Two sets of drivers will converge in downtown Kearney, Neb., on June 30 for a centennial celebration and July 1 at The Great Platte River Road Archway Museum. A centennial program also will take place at the museum July 1.
The 21st annual Lincoln Highway Association conference is July 1-5 at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Kearney.
Rubin, Lichty and about 10 other Stark County residents will drive either the East Coast or West Coast legs of the highway that traverses the country from San Francisco to New York City.
“We see where we came from,” Rubin said of her past travels along the Lincoln. “And of course we had fun — there’s nothing like a road trip in a beautiful convertible on a sunny afternoon.”
Rubin and Lichty, a classic car aficionado, also spearheaded the 2003 tour to mark the 90th anniversary. Lichty is the former national president of the Lincoln Highway Association and Rubin is the director of the Ohio chapter.
The association has about 1, 000 members.
“This is such a big year for the road,” Lichty enthused.
No disrespect to the iconic Route 66, but Lincoln Highway loyalists consider it the genesis of all major roads.
“It’s the road that started it all,” said Jim Cassler, another Stark County resident making the centennial road trip. “From the Lincoln Highway all other roads emerged — they were built to feed into it and to complement it.
“I like the nostalgia, and after a while, after you do it a number of times, it just gets to be so familiar it’s like going home,” he said.
This year more than 200 people are signed up for the expedition — either the western or eastern half, Rubin said.
However, other drivers will create their own routes during the tour, carving out a path through a region or state, or two or three. And outside of the 100th Anniversary Tour, other groups — including some Norwegians and motorcyclists — are taking to the treasured highway this year.
People from across the globe — including Russia, Germany and Canada — are participating, too.
Cassler, owner of the Lincoln Highway Trading Post, will sell Lincoln Highway-inspired merchandise on the anniversary tour in late June. He will handle the eastern leg and John Long, also of Stark County, will handle the western one.
“We did this 10 years ago in 2003,” Cassler said. “It went fantastic; it was just a great time, and we’re looking forward to doing it again this year.”
In 2003, the anniversary tour included the entire stretch. That event followed the 1926 alignment. This year it will adhere to the original 1913 alignment as closely as possible, Lichty said.
“That is a much more primitive route in some places,” he said.
Just like the scenery, and the blend of urban and rural vistas, the road surface also will differentiate — brick, asphalt, gravel and dirt.
Wyoming features about 300 miles of gravel, Lichty said. Dirt roads — the original surface in some spots — pop up in Utah and Nevada.
“Those stretches still exist in their purity,” he said.
The husband and wife combo — Lichty and Rubin — have devoted a chunk of their lives to preserving and celebrating the history of the Lincoln Highway.
“There’s a lot of nostalgia involved,” Rubin said. “Unfortunately, many of the sections that were there are gone — sometimes it’s preserved in a way that at least you can imagine it.”
“Unfortunately, sometimes it’s a little bittersweet because you see what’s not there,” she added.
The old can be new again on the Lincoln, Cassler said.
“People are always taking pieces like an old gas station or old restaurant that they’re restarting, and now it’s open.”