One hundred years ago, a road trip across the continental United States was almost unimaginable. Yet that’s exactly what took place in 1919 when a convoy of about 300 military personnel and more than 80 heavy vehicles set out from the heart of Washington, D.C. An author with a love of travel chronicles that experience as well as his own on the same roadway in a new book released by Dog Ear Publishing.In After Ike: On the Trail of the Century-Old Journey That Changed America (Dog Ear) author Michael Owen provides an almost step-by-step retelling of the historic journey of that first transcontinental motor convoy on Lincoln Highway from Washington, D.C., to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, 3,200 miles away. Led by Lt. Col. Charles McClure, the convoy included none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower, at the time a lieutenant colonel, who would go on to provide the driving force behind the construction of interstate highways.
The convoy’s trip gripped the nation, and thousands of people turned out to watch the vehicles as they progressed across the country, sometimes traveling on little more than a thin dirt track. Drawing on the convoy’s official log and other sources, Owen faithfully retraced the convoy’s trail, describing his own journey a century later in elaborate detail on the highway named after a beloved U.S. president.
The convoy was led by Henry Ostermann, field secretary of the Lincoln Highway Association, who had driven the route before. His experience would prove invaluable because there was no map for the 3,251-mile route, which took the group more than two months to complete. It was the convoy’s legacy that eventually led to reliable roads across the country.
Part travelogue and part history lesson, “After Ike” takes readers on an unforgettable journey of exploration as first the convoy and then the author head west, taking in sights and creating memories along the way. He showcases the little-known museums – along with their more famous counterparts – and quaint towns on the journey, showing the richness of automobile travel with a slower pace.
This is the first full-length book for Owen, who has published short stories in literary journals. The retired U.S. ambassador spent 30 years as a Foreign Service officer, working in countries across Asia and Africa. He now enjoys traveling in the United States and has enjoyed the route along Lincoln Highway several times. He and his wife, Annerieke, live in Reston, Virginia. ◊