Road Trips

I stopped at McDonald’s on my trip down Ohio’s National Road

As we drive around on America’s highways today we encounter the usual fast-food franchises over and over again. McDonald’s is everywhere!

In the early 20th century, a McDonald’s sprouted up at the corner of US 40 and US 127, about 10 miles east of the Indiana state line. This was long before the first McDonald’s restaurant, of course. This was an entirely different McDonald’s.

Auto camps were sort of a precursor to the motel. In the 1910s and 1920s there were few services for drivers on the road. Cities had hotels and restaurants, of course. But sometimes the distance between two cities was more than could be traveled in a day, and some travelers wished to avoid hotel costs. So it was common to carry camping gear on road trips and just camp along the roadside. Sometimes a friendly farmer would let a traveler camp in his field. Sometimes a farmer recognized a revenue opportunity and charged for the privilege. Dedicated auto camps were created, and some built small, basic cabins and rented them at nominal rates. That had to be very welcome on a rainy night! McDonald’s Camp offered several cabins for rent.

A Marathon station stands on the corner of US 40 and US 127 today. But if you peek behind the station, McDonald’s cabins still stand. They appear to be rented out long term as sleeping rooms today.

McDonald's Camp

I would liked to have moved in closer, but people were loitering around the cabins and I didn’t want to attract their attention.

West of the Dayton metro, US 40 is just a two-lane road. The first McDonald’s Camp photo above shows the road paved in concrete. I found one very short old alignment just east of the Indiana line where a little of that concrete still exists.

Old alignment

With that, my three-day trek along Ohio’s National Road came to an end.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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Road Trips

An abandoned road in the woods: US 127 in central Tennessee

In a big way, you can drive all over the country on the Interstates and never really get to know America. They are good for covering a lot of ground in a hurry, but they tell so little about the land and the people who live on it. I drive the two-lane highways because they give me fuller experiences of the places I visit.

I admit to spending some time on I-65 and I-40 on our recent spring break trip to Tennessee, but we spent much more time off them. I loved driving through rural Kentucky and Tennessee on state and US highways as they wound through every small town. I love to follow the old alignments – paths roads used to follow before they were improved. I saw many as we drove and wanted to explore them all, but I resisted as I wanted to arrive at our destination before dinner.

One sunny afternoon we hiked ten miles through Cumberland Mountain State Park. My abandoned-alignment thirst was serendipitously slaked when the trail suddenly exited the woods and met asphalt.

Abandoned US 127

This used to be US 127. It once meandered a bit through this part of Tennessee, but has since been leveled and straightened considerably.

Abandoned US 127

Here’s the scene from the air, thanks to Google Maps. US 127 used to follow what is now “Old Hwy Cir” and curved into Byrds Creek Lane. Two segments of the road are not marked on the map – one past the south end of Old Hwy Cir and one past the south end of Byrds Creek Lane.

Both abandoned section involve creeks and, I’m sure, a local government that didn’t want to pay to maintain the bridges that spanned them. I’m pretty sure we were on the more southerly of the two abandoned segments. The bridge over Byrd Creek there is in dreadful shape, as this photo shows.

Abandoned US 127

From the old bridge, here’s a view of the current US 127 bridge.

Abandoned US 127

This abandoned road doesn’t last for long before it fades off into the woods. The hiking trail stays on it only long enough to use the derelict bridge.

Abandoned US 127

A couple years ago an old bridge near my home was demolished. I visited often with my camera. Check out the photos in part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

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