It does not get much better than this. See the Outback USA Facebook Page for a few more photos while I find time to compose formal blog entries.
December 19th, 2022
Please check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this Wonderful Trip as well!
–The Mormon Handcart Pioneers
I have devoted an entire section to this part of our history. Please visit all the links and checkout the very high-resolution photo gallery.
“Let them come on foot with handcarts or wheelbarrows; let them gird up their loins and walk through and nothing shall hinder or stay them.” -Brigham Young
The toughest Pioneer Trail people of all were those of the Mormon Handcart Companies. Unlike the huge wagon trains of the general migration drawn by oxen, the Mormon’s pushed handcarts with all of their belongings aboard across the trail. Typically, a family would have at least two carts and every family member with the exception of infants and toddlers assisted with the push.
Click images to access the Hi-res Gallery.
Ten handcart companies would make the trek during the four years the plan was in operation. These migrations included some 3,000 Mormon converts from England, Wales, Scotland and Scandinavia in about 650 handcarts.
The carts were pulled from Iowa City, Iowa, a distance of 1,300 miles, or from Florence (Omaha), Nebraska which was 1,030 miles. Each cart carried 400 to 500 pounds of foodstuffs, bedding, clothing, and cooking utensils, and needed two able-bodied people to pull it. Five people were assigned to each cart. Adults could take only 17 pounds of baggage, and children were allowed 10 pounds each. Families with small children traveled in covered or family carts which had stronger axles made of iron.
The trek was disastrous for two of the companies of Willie and Martin, which both started their journey dangerously late and were caught by heavy snow and severe temperatures in central Wyoming. Despite a dramatic rescue effort, more than 210 of the 980 pioneers in these two companies would die along the way.
Hat Tip to Gene Van Shaar (facebook profile) for this reference of a firsthand account by Ephraim Hanks, of the suffering and sacrifice of the rescuers of the stranded handcart companies.
“The terrific storm which caused the immigrants so much suffering and loss overtook me near the South Pass, where I stopped about three days with Reddick N. Allred, who had come out with provisions for the immigrants. The storm during these three days was simply awful. In all my travels in the Rocky Mountains both before and afterwards, I have seen no worse. When at length the snow ceased falling, it lay on the ground so deep that for many days it was impossible to move wagons through it.“
Legends of America Article on the Willie and Martin Handcart Migration Tragedy
Official LDS Wilie Handcart Visitor’s Center Website
High Resolution Photo Gallery – Willie Handcart Visitor’s Center
High Resolution Photo Gallery – Martin’s Cove Handcart Visitor’s Center
–The Tom Sun Ranch
The Martin’s Cove Handcart Visitor Center is built upon the Tom Sun Ranch. The Oregon, Mormon, California and Pony Express trails passed directly through this area. During your visit, you’ll find Devil’s Gate to your east and Split Rock off to your west in addition to dozens of unmarked Pioneer Trail graves on the ranch property.
The ranch site was declared a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960. At the time of its nomination as a landmark it was one of the best preserved ranches from the cattle ranging period and was 4,160 acres (16.8 km2) in size. 60 years later much of this original ranch is preserved today with some of the best displays of era antiquities we witnessed on our entire Lincoln Highway trip.
High Resolution Photo Gallery – Tom Sun Ranch
Tom Sun Ranch – National Historic Landmark, State Website
Official LDS, Martin’s Cove Handcart Site
Thanks for finding Part 2 of this incredible trip. Please check out Part 1 and Part 3 as well!
Updated 20:53hrs December 13th, 2022
–In Lander, Wyoming
After deeply experiencing the great pioneer history of our country by standing in the middle of the trails that so many hardy, brave, and truly pioneering Americans passed through at Parting of The Ways we made our way to Lander, Wyoming for a multi-day stay and exploration of this central path of American progress.
Below are a few links to check out and always click on the high resolution photo gallery links Yes, the big photos take time to load but theses galleries will hopefully stand the test of time and will be around when such large files are displayed instantly.
Lander was previously known as Pushroot, Old Camp Brown and Fort Augur. Its present name was chosen in 1875 in reference to General Frederick W. Lander, a transcontinental explorer who surveyed the Oregon Trail’s Lander Cutoff.
Immigrant Trails in Wyoming – Wikipedia
The Lander Trail – WyoHistroy.org
Lander, Wyoming – Wikipedia
Pioneer Village, Museum of the American West and The Fremont County Pioneer Museum are both great stops in your pioneer trail exploration.
Checkout the High Resolution Photo Gallery of the Museums.
— Along the Trail between Lander and Casper, Wyoming,
Before we get into the superb history and detail of some of the major points of interest along our route, I share with you these images that depict the natural beauty and old yet, evolving history of rural Wyoming.
– The town that was once named “Home on the Range“. A semi-modern era ghost town. What happened here???
The town still has a few habitants and a stream of cross-country cyclists every summer as it is along the ACA Trans America Cyclist Route. We witnessed a few hearty souls riding hard against the Wyoming Wind, in the solace of their being with nature.
– Independence Rock is one of the most famous landmarks along the trail and indeed it remains so today with the trails and facilities well worn from the folks that stop for a break along a major rural, Wyoming Highway.
– Down the road and around the corner, here and there and over yonder, you will stumble upon the superb simplicity and beauty of the rural, Wyoming lifestyle. Here are a few, with more in the High-Resolution photo gallery.
The Shepherd’s Wagon – built better than most RV’s today!
A truly beautiful stone barn along the highway.
–South Pass City, Wyoming
This is a MUST VISIT. South Pass City Historic Site is a superbly restored pioneer and mining center that sits directly in the Continental Divide. Plan on spending at least a half of a day exploring the wonderful buildings and the Carissa Mine, when it is open. The gift shop is also excellent
In August 1861, 25-year-old Samuel Clemens (later Mark Twain) passed through South Pass City via stagecoach with his brother Orion, newly appointed as Secretary of Nevada Territory. Mark Twain later wrote about the experience in Roughing It, first published in 1872: “. . . we hove in sight of South Pass City. The hotelkeeper, the postmaster, the blacksmith, the mayor, the constable, the city marshal and the principal citizen and property holder, all came out and greeted us cheerily, and we gave him good day. He gave us a little Indian news, and a little Rocky Mountain news, and we gave him some Plains information in return. He then retired to his lonely grandeur and we climbed on up among the bristling peaks and the ragged clouds. South Pass City consisted of four log cabins, one of which was unfinished, and the gentleman with all those offices and titles was the chiefest of the ten citizens of the place. Think of hotelkeeper, postmaster, blacksmith, mayor, constable, city marshal and principal citizen all condensed into one person and crammed into one skin.
The South Pass Hotel was my favorite with every room restored to era perfection.
The Carissa Mine is open for tours in the summer.
–Atlantic City, Wyoming
On every trip, you find a spot that you want to return to. Atlantic City, Wyoming made this list. Like South Pass City, Atlantic City is also on the Continental Divide which includes the epic Tour Divide MTB Race every summer.
Soon — I will sip a cold beer on the porch of the Atlantic City Mercantile as the riders pass by and, stop for a rest and a some trail talk. And BTW, the proprietor of the Mercantile is a talented Picker, displaying awesome antiques throughout the establishment.
This guy sets the vibes in Atlantic City.
And how about this bar!
Updated 2014hrs August 22nd, 2022
Overview – What an outstanding trip – 27 days, 16 camps, 4600 miles of backroad bliss on The Lincoln Highway and immense emersion in the tremendous history of the 19th Century Western Pioneers of the USA.
There is so very much to cover here that I will be making dozens of blog post updates to this one to do justice to the various aspects of the trip that we experienced.
As a guide, here are the Google Maps references in image and link form. Please note, that I broke these up due to the limitations and inflexibility of Google Maps which attempts to force us to stay on the Interstate.
Outbound – Home to Gothenberg, NE –
Return Trip – Gothenberg, NE to Pine Bluffs, WY – https://goo.gl/maps/ff4vZqme26CZRnDc8
Return Trip – Pine Bluffs, WY to Home – https://goo.gl/maps/ZPDqavUMaYdH9tct9
I also urge you to visit and become acquainted with the Lincoln Highway Association website and their splendid, interactive map that allows you to choose and follow the Lincoln Highway and see the various Points of Interest in your trip planning – all while you are driving.
Website Link – https://lincolnhighwayassoc.org/
Interactive Map – https://lincolnhighwayassoc.org/map/
—Home to Goldfield, NV
Passing through Beatty, NV on the way to Goldfield, our first overnight destination, we stopped for an impromptu interview one of the prospective weather burros for KGFN – Radio Goldfield. Like the rest of his brethren, he mostly interested in beer! We did not have any .. yet.
In Goldfield, NV we visited our good friends, Carl and Pattie Brownfield, the mainstay behind Radio Goldfield. We also visited the International Car Forest of the Last Church | Open Air Gallery | Nevada Art (travelnevada.com) as well as some of the other historic sites in town.
See the GOLDFIELD NV GALLERY for High-Resolution photos.
– Overall, the comedy and good vibes of Goldfield can be summed up in this roadside sign. This is real – a good, Goldfield local was actually selling snakes.
‘During my morning walk in Goldfield – this old station is loaded with stuff from the day it closed, many decades ago.
The International Car Forest of The Last Church.
— In Virginia City, NV
One of the most historic towns in Nevada and very near the original Lincoln Highway, is Virginia City, NV – the home of the Great Comstock Lode, one of the most prosperous mining districts in the history of the United States.
On this trip, we stopped in for 3 days to visit family and to attend the Chili on the Comstock, ICS Chili Cookoff event.
The following links cover more info on this great town and the cookoff.
Chili on the Comstock, ICS Chili Cookoff
Virginia City, Nevada History
Virginia City, Nevada – Wikipedia
Virginia City, Nevada Mining History
See the VIRGINIA CITY, NV GALLERY for High-Resolution photos.
— Virginia City to Austin, NV
The next leg took us very deep into the “Nevada Outback USA”, traversing The Loneliest Highway – US50, the Old Lincoln Highway. Here are a few entries from along the way.
Middlegate Station. Walk right into history by entering this old Pony Express and Overland Stage Station. The bar building itself is built with the remnants from the old Statge building from 1859. The food is great and the super friendly staff make it even better.
Middlegate Station Home Website
Middlegate Station @ Travel Nevada
See the VIRGINIA CITY TO AUSTIN, NV GALLERY for High-Resolution Photos.
Cold Springs Transcontinental Telegraph Repeater Station. The demise of the Pony Express happened quickly as the first Transcontinental Telegraph Line was completed between Omaha, NE and Carson City, NV on October 24th, 1861. This first line followed the original Pony Express route very closely. There were numerous, manned repeater stations complete with accommodations, batteries and repair equipment to keep the traffic going. The ruins of the Cold Springs, NV station is within walking distance of the Pony Express Station and can still be visited to this day. A side note: The “repeater function” was 100% manual, each message was decoded and repeated by human beings.
Another important mining town in Nevada history is Austin NV, deep in the outback – 111 miles to the nearest Wal(zombie)mart. There are numerous historic buildings in Austin, starting with Stokes Castle, which was built for some spoiled rich kids back in the day that inhabited it just once.
The spoiled clowns didn’t even like this view.
Another more meaningful experience in history is the Gridley Store.
On our way into Austin, we noticed that the roadway was starting to turn brown and it seemed to be moving… Mormon Crickets – millions of them, everywhere! The darkest colored area of the roadway were the crickets crushed by the vehicles that then became a midday meal for their brethren. Hmmm.. was this where the Donner Reed Party learned their most ominous survival skills? More on them in a future post.
Links to visit:
Austin, Nevada Chamber of Commerce Website
Stokes Castle on Atlas Obscura
Austin, Nevada Mining History
Mormon Crickets – Wikipedia
See the AUSTIN, NV GALLERY for High-Resolution Photos.
— In and around Eureka, NV.
My first of a few “Then and Know” photos of historic settings. The large building is the Eureka County courthouse in the late 19th century and now, in June of 2022.
With a population of 480, Eureka is the largest community in Eureka County. and a long ways from where your trip likely started and will end on any given day so, take a break and check out a few of the attractions.
We visited the Sentinel Museum which covers many aspects of early life in this town.
Also, the restored Eureka Opera House.
Checkout this old bar room of the Owl Club. If the walls could speak!
Onward and down the road to Ely, NV. It is somewhere out there.
Links to visit:
Eureka, Nevada Official Website
Eureka Sentinel Museum
Eureka, Nevada Mining History
The Owl Club
See the EUREKA, NV GALLERY for High-Resolution Photos.
— In Ely, Nevada
Ely is a remote Nevada town where history, art and outdoor adventure thrive. Ely was founded in the 1870s as a stagecoach stop and trading post called Murray Station, but it would become one of the country’s major copper mining regions.
The major attractions are the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, Depot and Machine Shop which I will dedicate a separate post and gallery to and the incredible Art Murals adorning various structures in town. Here are two of my interest to view. Truly excellent! Please CLICK on the images to see the High-resolution gallery.
Links to visit:
Ely, Nevada Mural Tour
Ely, Nevada Mining History
See the ELY, NV GALLERY for High-Resolution Photos.
— Nevada Northern Railway Museum
This place is a MUST VISIT! I have toured many railroad-railway museums and nothing compares to the access you have at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. There is a lot to see, a lot to do and there is a great gift shop. My favorite was the Walking Tour of the Main Yard (nnry.com). I chose to lag behind and tour more of the incredible old machine shop and forge area in the Engine House. I even crossed paths with DIRT the Nevada Railway Cat. Please check out the High-Resolution NEVADA NORTHERN RAILWAY GALLERY.
Links to visit:
Nevada Northern Railway Museum Official Website
DIRT The Cat @ The Nevada Northern Railway
High-Resolution NEVADA NORTHERN RAILWAY GALLERY
–The Donner-Reed Museum in Grantsville, Utah
Just about everyone has heard of the tragedy of the Donner Party. What most do not know are the details of this fateful trip and the numerous mistakes from day one that created such sad history. One of those fateful steps was taking too much too late and being delayed further when their unnecessarily oversized wagons were mired on the Great Salt Lake Mud Flats.
The Donner-Reed Museum in Grantsville, Utah covers this episode well. The museum is small, available by appointment and is rich in artifacts and details about the Donner-Reed failures.
Links to Visit:
Donner-Reed Museum (donner-reed-museum.org)
The Tragedy of the Donner Party Began in Utah
High-Resolution Donner-Reed Museum Photo Gallery
–ON THE TRAIL!
Our first day to experience immense history! We are right in the middle of the diversity of the Pioneer trails at Parting Of The Ways.
I stood on the trail. It is still here. I felt history under my feet.
So much happened here. The first overland route to the west, the Pony Express, the first Telegraph route and so much more.
BTW, here is how we roll. A 15 year old, LBZ Duramax truck and 2019 Airstream. Easy-peasy, inexpensive to drive and super reliable.
Head east! We did! What a great trip this was. Our primary focus was to spend a week in Round Top, Texas for the bi-annual Antique Fair, likely the biggest of it’s kind in the world and definitely the biggest in the USA.
We avoided the Interstate on the trip out with great success, sticking to country backroads and state highways. See our route here on Google Maps. As the driver, those backroads are my home. So dang relaxing for me.
Our first stop of mention was in Pie Town, New Mexico, very near the Very large Array which is always a great visit. This time, I needed a few geeky t-shirts to replace the one my GR Dog shredded as a pup and to bolster my supply just in-case he did it again. Alas, the VLA was closed for the Plandemic. No bigee, we will be back .. soon!
Lucky to arrive on Sunday, we shared in a great community dinner at the Pie-o-neer restaurant. It is truly “the gathering place” in this part of the Deep Outback USA. See the photo gallery which also includes a few pictures of the Toaster House which is a free boarding spot for hikers and cyclists traveling the Continental Divide.
Over the next few days we traversed through more of the New Mexico Outback, staying in Roswell and then treaveling east into Texas on US Highway 390, a truly fantastic road and route with little traffic and excellent road conditions and beautiful countryside. We stopped and stretched our legs in various small towns (Plains, Brownfield and Post), all inhabited by friendly, courteous people, without exception. We landed in Sweetwater, Texas at the Bar-J Hitchin’ Post RV Park. I mention this park because it was the nicest that we stayed in on this entire trip.
From a few miles of Interstate through Sweetwater we were back on the country roads of Texas – Highway 70 and 153, as the countryside blossomed more and more every mile. Passing through Winters and Coleman, Texas where we picked up US Highway 283, then US 84 taking us through to Waco, Texas – our first big destination of the trip.
In Waco, we spent a day at Magnolia Silos and traipsed around the area visiting local farm and ranch stores, antique shops, country butcher shops and more. The “absolute find” was the Homestead Heritage / Craft Village. What a wonderful place of soul stirring heritage, outstanding food and absolute top quality – Made in USA crafts and products. Enjoy this photo gallery and make sure you visit this great community when you are near by.
We also visited the Branch Davidian Massacre site to fully realize what a corrupt, abusive American government can and will do to its citizens. The last picture in the photo gallery sums up The Evil. This must never, ever happen again.
In parting, Waco is a beautiful old town on the Brazos River and “the place” of my favorite photo on this trip as seen at the top of this Blog post. See more of this in the photo gallery of my morning wanderings.
Our next stop was The BIG SHOW in and around Round Top, TX. The bi-annual Antique Fair mentioned in the first paragraph. We blocked off 5 days to take in as much as we could and I think we were able to cover about 20-25% of all that was there to see. Click —> photo and video gallery and enjoy the diversity of the stuff to see.
As a break from being on our feet, we took many side trips in the comfort of our old Church Truck, exploring the nearby country side. This wonderful old Country Store in Shelby, Texas (above) caught my eye enough to bring out the Big DSLR camera to capture it properly for high-resolution and clarity suitable for large format framing. Again, a full gallery awaits your interest. Please be patient as each photo loads in this gallery and when they do, Zoom way in and see the wonderful details.
Heading home, we took a more southerly route through Lockhart, TX to visit Black’s BBQ for Beef Brisket that is so dang good, it has inspired me to refine my skills at the pit. Next, we drove the Church Truck and Lucy Trailer across the Devil’s Backbone in the heart of Texas Hill country as we diverted to a wonderful stop in Luckenbach, Texas. Make sure you see the wonderful videos and photos in the associated gallery.
We were off and through Fredricksburg, TX which will absolutely be a longer stop on the next trip and then onto the Interstate which was not so bad ’till it merged with I-20 and it turned into a much more busy and rough route.
One little gem we stumbled on for a nice dinner was the Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn, TX. See the gallery to entice your stop if nearby. Another accidental find along a diversion to the old highway now bypassed by the Interstate is Fort Lancaster, Texas. Lot’s of history that you can feel at this old fort. See the gallery and enjoy.
Rounding up the trip, we headed north off of the crazy Interstate at Lordsburg, NM and drove through Globe, Arizona to our overnight camp at Apache Junction to visit “Super Hunky” Rick Sieman and his wonderful wife Tina. Then it was home on highway 93, which by far was the very worst road we were on the entire trip. It is so bad, that the only way they will fix it is to shut it down and rebuild the entire surface between Wickenerg and the I-40 from scratch.
Anywaze .. God Bless Texas! .. A beautiful, great state with awesome people. We will definitely be back.
Other links to mention on this trip.
- Eckermann’s Meat Market where we loaded up the cooler and Airstream fridge with all the beef and links we could fit. Since arriving home, I grilled one of the bone-in rib-eye steaks from Eckermann’s at about $9 a pound and it was absolutely outstanding.
- JWS Village Market in Carmine, TX and their outstanding breakfast tacos!
RV Parks where we stayed.
- J&H RV Park – Flagstaff, AZ – A well kept, park with great staff but overpriced at $83 per night for a 50amp back-in site.
- Pie Town RV Park – Pie Town, NM – A great place for overnight stop on the deep part of the American outback. Clean, level, easy in and out. About $30 a night for a 50amp pull-through.
- Trailer Village RV Park – Roswell, NM – Easy in and out, clean older facilities and $43 a night for a 50amp pull through site.
- Bar Hitchin’ Post RV Park – Sweetwater, TX – The nicest park we stayed in the entire trip. About $40 for a nice pull through site with 50amps.
- Patriot RV Park – Waco, TX – An older park with brand new owners. Great staff, easy in and out but older facilities that need expansion and upgrades. @ $30 a night for a 50amp site.
- Round top – Carmine RV Park – Carmine, TX – An older park in a wonderful setting. The facilities were clean but need an upgrade. It was expensive during the Big event weekend at @ $65 a night.
- Elite RV Park – Sonora, TX – Brand new park with super easy access and nice facilities. About $xx a night for 50amp pull through.
- Wild West RV Park – Van Horn, TX – A decent park with good facilities, in town and walking distance to the Hotel El Capitan and Love’s Travel Stop. About $32 a night for 50amps.
- Deming Roadrunner RV Park – Deming, NM – So sad, this was once a family’s pride and joy and now it is very run down now and filthy. The pluses were a roomy, pull through site for about $25 a night with 50amps.
- Apache Junction KOA – Apache Junction, AZ – A very clean camp with clean facilities. $57 a night with pull through and 50amps.
While following the Union Pacific, Steam Locomotives #844 and #4014 “Big Boy”, on their way back from “The Great Race to Ogden”, I found myself on a path of incredible history, known as The Lincoln Highway.
“The Lincoln Highway was one of the earliest transcontinental highways for automobiles across the United States of America. Conceived in 1912 by Indiana entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher, and formally dedicated October 31, 1913, the Lincoln Highway ran coast-to-coast from Times Square in New York City west to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, originally through 13 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California.”
My goal was to catch the train in Granger, Wyoming which is due north of Interstate 80 west of Green River, Wyoming. About 20 miles from my exit off of the Interstate, I spied a county road #233 that was a definite shortcut. I took the next exit, county road #237 and was soon on what was a nice packed dirt and dried mud road when I crossed a very old, steel and iron truss bridge over the Blacks Fork river. The bridge looked like it was a 100+ years old but built sturdy and still in good condition.
I set out down this road, passing numerous telecom cable signs, repeater huts, ranches, and oil rigs. It became clear to me that I was on a special road. I knew the Lincoln Highway was over-ridden and bypassed by the Interstate in this locale. My quick web search showed I was smack dab on a piece of history. Under my wheels was the original, 1913 era Lincoln Highway, the Mormon Immigrant, Wagon Trail, the same for the California and Oregon Trail of the same purpose. It was also the path of the Pony Express, very near the first Transcontinental Railroad, the first Transcontinental Telegraph Route and later, the first Bell System, Transcontinental, Long Distance Telephone Route.
WOW! on this very same piece of earth lay fiber optic cables near my feet moving terabytes of data. The same route where just 160 years ago – wiry young men rode galloping horses carrying a few hundred postal letters to the west coast and back. That’s “some contrast”. Yes!
I was experiencing true, intense American History, in the middle of nowhere – The OutbackUSA!
I am now a “Rookie, Lincoln Highway Fan”. I could type more about this experience but, it would be best to experience and learn much more before I do. With that, I leave you some images along the way. There will be much more to come.
Update: 10/20/2020 – Follow this LINK to the Lincoln Highway Association and this LINK to the interactive map of all Lincoln Highway routes.