The Army typically does not allow the public to see the old road, but made an exception for the Lincoln Highway Association, whose annual convention is in Utah this week. The first stop on the tour was a wooden bridge wide enough for one car crossing a creek bed. As the highway enthusiasts snapped photographs, an Army Gray Eagle drone conducting test flights flew overhead.
The Lincoln Highway was installed at the start of the 20th century and stretched from New York to San Francisco. Interstate 80 roughly follows the route of the Lincoln Highway, except where the old highway crosses the Proving Ground.
Map courtesy of www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org
Duane Carling, president of the Utah Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association, said the highway represented an attempt to enhance commerce and encourage people to buy cars. Car manufactures and other people with a financial interest in automobiles helped construct the highway.
"People wanted to buy cars, but there were no freaking roads," Carling said.
The Good Year Cutoff, constructed by the famous tire company, probably provided the road infrastructure and a reason the Army chose to construct Dugway Proving Ground there in 1942, said the proving ground's archeologist, Rachel Quist.
The wooden bridge is one of the last on the Lincoln Highway. The rest of the cutoff is thought to provide some of the most well-preserved stretches of the original highway.
Command Sgt. Maj. Alma Zeladaparedes greeted the visitors at the bridge. She said the civilians who constructed the bridge and the highway were "warriors" embodying American values.
"We look at every nail, every piece of wood and we see it was placed there by a warrior," Zeladaparedes said.
Carling said Dwight Eisenhower drove over the bridge in 1919 as part of a military convoy. The convoy was testing whether the highway could support the moving military vehicles and supplies across the country. In some places, the convoy collapsed bridges, though it's not known if the wooden bridge on the Good Year Cutoff held.
Themla Riehle, 66, of Edgerton, Ohio, was among the Lincoln Highway Association visitors Wednesday. She tried to imagine driving the flat, desolate desert highway a century ago.
"Even now, if you don't have a gas station you'd be pretty stuck," Riehle said.