FROM: Allan Ferguson
TO: Friends of Route 36 – Please share this to all who may be interested
“Begin at the Beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop,” said the King to the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland—and that’s what I’m doing with The Story of Route 36: America’s Heartland Highway.
I’m back from several weeks in the Midwest, starting this trip at the beginning—at Uhrichsville, Ohio, where Route 36 starts its east-west journey just 50 miles from Wheeling WV.
A main “takeaway” from this trip: Few people in Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois, are aware that US Highway 36 extends some 1400+ miles from Uhrichsville to Rocky Mountain National Park and is the historic mid-section of what was once known as the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean transcontinental highway. Perhaps my guidebook can help change that situation.
Beautiful Ohio. Traversing Ohio, although I encountered unseasonably cold and wet weather in April, I had no doubt that in the fullness of summer and the crisp air of autumn, no place on Earth could be more beautiful than rural Ohio. Route 36 mostly meanders from the foothills of the Appalachians through river valleys and picturesque towns between Uhrichsville and Delaware (above Columbus) and then flattens out a bit in central Ohio as it rolls on through rich farm land to Greenville and Indianapolis.
Our Native American Heritage (and National Shame). A highway like Route 36 exposes us to Native American history in a way no Interstate highway can. Just think of the town names along Route 36 in Ohio: Newcomerstown, Coshocton, Delaware, Piqua; then several of the states traversed by Route 36: Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas—all derived from Native American tribes and languages. At Gnadenhutten near Uhrichsville we learn of one of the most egregious massacres (in 1782) of innocent men, women, and children in the history of our country. At Greenville we learn of the Treaty of 1795 that opened Ohio to Euro-American settlement. At Piqua we can visit the Johnston Farm (www.johnstonfarmohio.com) where John Johnston served as Indian Agent to western Ohio and where dedicated staff have assembled an educational presentation focused on the intersection of Native American and Ohio histories. Near Mankato, Kansas, the Pawnee culture comes alive at the Pawnee Indian Museum (www.kshs.org).
The Serendipity of Slow Travel. When I unfolded the foil wrapper on a piece of chocolate recently, printed on the inside of the wrapper was the admonition, “Get Lost on Purpose.” That’s my approach to slow travel on a highway like Route 36. I have a plan but I’m after the surprise, the serendipity of discovery. I like to wander down a rural road or just drive the residential streets of a small town. To quote Forrest Gump, slow travel is “Like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” When you leave the beaten path you find all kinds of surprises. Here are a few of those surprise “chocolates” I found on this trip:
- Ancestral roots. At the Tuscarawas Genealogical Society in Dennison, Ohio, I found a land deed of one of my ancestors who moved from Virginia to Ohio in 1836.
My guidebook will not be cataloging the ever-changing restaurant and lodging scene—tracked most effectively on the internet. But I can’t resist mentioning some great watering holes I’ve found along the way. If you are ever within striking distance of any one of them, you’ll enjoy a satisfying stop.
In closing we say “so long and thanks” to Beth Carmichael of the St. Joseph Chamber and Visitors Bureau—gone from the US36 Alliance in Missouri but newly appointed to the directorship of the CVB in Trumble County, Ohio. Beth has been instrumental in promoting the “Genius Highway” (Route 36) in Missouri.
Until next time—happy travels on Route 36,
The Story of US Highway 36
1743 S. Marion St.
Denver CO 80210