From Sea to Inland Sea Redux
I titled my Roadtrip-'62 ™ journey down US-23 “From Sea to Inland Sea” because that highway ran from the inland sea of the Great Lakes to the sea at an Atlantic Ocean harbor. Well, US-25 does the same thing! Or at least it did back in 1962. Many US-numbered routes were shortened because they duplicated the route of the new interstate freeways. For US-25, that meant the Michigan and Ohio portions were deleted in 1974, due to paralleling interstate routes I-75 and I-94. A short piece in Virginia was also later eliminated. The old route was 1151 miles whereas the new distance is only 750 miles, passing through six states instead of nine. Highway US-25 is also one of the routes that splits into two parts for a portion of its distance. In this case, US-25W travels the distance from Corbin, Kentucky to Newport, Tennessee, via Knoxville and Jellico, Tennessee and travels along with I-75. The US-25E portion covers this distance by heading southeast out of Kentucky and entering Tennessee through the Cumberland Gap.
The beginning of US-25 in 1962 was at Port Austin, Michigan and it traveled the scenic shore of Lake Huron for the next 85 miles. Though the road seldom is near the lake, there are numerous local parks and even Lakeport State Park on the shore, just off US-25. It’s a great place for a leisurely drive and a picnic with a view. After crossing from Lake Huron through some farmland, the road also traveled through downtown Detroit, Michigan providing big city contrast to the beginning of the trip. From there, it headed in an almost straight line into Ohio at Toledo, where it crossed our US-23 trip. There was also a US-25 Bypass around the north and west sides of Toledo, near the line of the present day I-475 freeway.
Our other cross continent roadtrip, down US-6, crosses US-25 in Bowling Green, Ohio, not far south of Toledo. From Toledo to Cincinnati, Ohio most of US-25 was already obsolete by 1962, as most of the I-75 freeway was complete. You could bypass Findlay and Lima, but not yet Dayton, Ohio. Cincinnati is a major junction point of the US-numbered routes, where US-25 meets US-22, US-27, US-42, US-50, and US-52. It’s also a major river port, handling barge traffic from the Mississippi River deep into the industrial heart of the country, all the way east to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When there, I recommend the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. It lies just few blocks west of old US-25, now US-42, in the middle of town. The zoo has been here since 1875, which makes it the second oldest zoo in the United States. My wife and I like to linger at the Gibbon Islands to watch the gibbons gliding along from branch to branch. A relatively small zoo, it nonetheless has nice displays of gorillas, giraffes, and hippos. Large and colorful floral plantings throughout the grounds round out the zoo nicely.
At Corbin, Kentucky, US-25 splits into two routes, US-25E and US-25W. The west leg goes through Corbin, mid-Tennessee including Knoxville, and rejoins US-25E at Newport, Tennessee. The east leg goes through the Cumberland Gap, which I will talk more of later. At Corbin, I often stop and have lunch at the original Harland Sanders Café, birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken! It’s a unique dining room with old-fashioned wooden kitchen tables and chairs, plank floors, and ceiling light fixtures like 1960s kitchen colonial revival style. Harland Sanders had a long career operating a gas station, café, and motel at this location, beginning in 1930. The current building dates to 1940 and is where he developed Kentucky Fried Chicken and its secret eleven herbs and spices coating and pressure cooking method. Colonel Sanders, as he became known, sold the café in 1956 and began selling franchises for his chicken. One franchisee operated here at the original café, so we could have had our chicken here in 1962. It closed in 1988 and the Harland Sanders Café was renovated and reopened in the fall of 1990 as a museum. The museum is still connected to a new KFC restaurant and I’ve eaten in the restored dining room. In addition to the dining room, the museum includes a lot of KFC memorabilia and displays including the original kitchen, a model motel room interior of Sanders’ motel, and the Colonel’s office. The memorabilia includes paperwork, advertising, kitchen utensils, and even "Bertha," his original chicken pressure cooker.
The US-25E leg, as mentioned, goes through the Cumberland Gap. It was somewhat easier but less scenic to visit the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in 1962, because US-25E actually traveled on or near the historic Wilderness Road through the gap. This even involved a short travel through Virginia. But in 2000, the road was rerouted through the new Cumberland Gap Tunnel. The tunnel replaces a dangerous, 2.3-mile stretch of US-25E, which had earned the unpleasant nickname of Massacre Mountain. That old alignment on the former roadbed has been restored by the National Park Service to its appearance as an early 19th-century wagon path. The park was established in 1940 and was formally dedicated in 1959 by then Vice President Richard Nixon. Besides walking the old wagon path, you can take tours of Gap Cave (formerly known as Cudjo's Cave) and the Hensley Settlement. The cave tours take you past stalagmites and flowstone cascades, and you may even see some of the bats that inhabit the cave. The Hensley Settlement Tours are at the top of Brush Mountain, and invite you into the blacksmith's shop, the springhouse, and the one-room schoolhouse. The settlement was established in 1904 and was actually still occupied until 1951, some years after the park was created. You can also visit the nearby small towns of to Cumberland Gap, Tennessee or Middlesboro, Kentucky. I think we bought our first set of china here many years ago. And if you like to hike over mountains, there are over 80 miles of trails in the park. I didn’t try these when I was last here, as most seemed very strenuous and involved steep terrain.
The two parts of US-25 join back up at Newport, Tennessee and head across the mountains to Asheville, North Carolina. Here, we meet our US-23 roadtrip again, where I discussed some sights of Asheville. From there, we head down to Augusta, Georgia, best known for hosting The Masters golf tournament during the first full week of April every year. Membership at Augusta National is widely considered to be the most exclusive in the sport of golf across the world.
The Masters had its start when amateur golf champion Bobby Jones and investment banker Clifford Roberts purchased a former plant nursery in 1930. Jones co-designed Augusta National with course architect Alister MacKenzie and the course opened in 1934. World War II interrupted the tournament for 3 years, during which the course was actually used to raise cattle and turkey for the war efforts! The Masters tournament is on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Japan Golf Tour and its famous green jacket has been awarded to the champion since 1949. Arnold Palmer won the 1962 game, his third win after 1958 and 1960. He won both of those tournaments by one stroke and the 1962 win was the first three-way playoff. Gary Player took 2nd place and Dow Finsterwald placed 3rd. The winning purse that year for Palmer was just $20,000; it was over $11 million in 2018! Spectator accommodations were still minimal in 1962, with the first spectator observation stand built that year. The game had only been on television since 1956, when CBS first broadcast it. In the early days, CBS used only six cameras and covered only the final four holes. Today, more than 50 cameras are used and the entire tournament is broadcast, with ESPN also airing the game. Considering the exclusivity of August National golf club, you and I will be watching the next tournament on TV, not out on the course.
If you’re looking for something truly different in Augusta, you could try pacing a freight train. A joint track of Norfork Southern and CSX Railroad runs right down the center of 6th Street and trains travel down it at about 5mph. This is not just a 2-3 car switching run for a local industry, but the real deal 20-50 car freight trains! Trains have been running along 6th Street since the horse-drawn days of the early 1860s.
Route US-25 ends in Brunswick, Georgia, the same as it did in 1962. The city is the lowest in the state of Georgia, with an elevation of only 10 to 14 feet (3.0 to 4.3 m) above sea level. As a consequence it was severely flooded by hurricanes in the 1890s. Brunswick is another famous Georgia golfing destination, combined with nearby Jekyll, St. Simons, and Sea islands, there are 252 holes of golf in the Brunswick area. These islands, known as the Golden Isles, feature white-sand public beaches and are popular destinations for tourists like us.
Jekyll Island was evacuated during World War II by order of the US government. In 1947 the state of Georgia acquired all the property, for security and preservation. For several years, improvements were made by the state through a convict labor system and the area was opened for tourism in 1954. In addition to its beaches, you can find lots of wildlife on the island’s inland marsh and guided tours of the Landmark Historic District are available. You can also view dolphins from the shore. Approximately in the center of the west coast of the island is the historic district containing the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, which is still open. The Jekyll Island Club began as an exclusive club for the wealthy in 1888. Thirty-three other buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries surround it. Some are the mansion-sized "cottages" built by the rich, while others have been adapted for use as museums, art galleries, or stores. This looks like an especially quiet, scenic, though perhaps pricey, place to end a journey. So I’m stopping here to plan the next Roadtrip-'62 ™ trip. See you then!
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