National Road Bicentennial Bells Caravan - May 5, 2011
There was a lot of noise made about the 200th anniversary of the 1806 authorization of the National Road but it was five years later, on May 8, 1811, that things actually got moving with the awarding of the first construction contract. That event's bicentennial is now being celebrated by a caravan of classic cars traveling from the road's end in Vandalia, Illinois, to its beginning in Cumberland, Maryland. Along the way, a set of bells, like those worn by horses and oxen pulling wagons over the old road, is being assembled. Each of the six states through which the road passes adds a bell. I was at the National Road/Zane Grey Museum when the caravan pulled in then I tagged along on the second of the caravan's two days in Ohio. Gary Kruger, the owner of that 1934 Buick in the first picture, carried the bells into the museum where a fine breakfast was accompanied by the tinkling of the bells, a little speechifying, and some local themed music from Sylvia Miller. After breakfast, Don McHendry led a tour through the National Road portion of the museum. That's Don with National Road Association of Illinois President Mary Truitt and Marcie Kruger, Gary's wife. There was quite a bit of media interest in the event. Past Ohio National Road Association president Cyndie Gerken is shown being interviewed by a local TV station.

Shortly after leaving the museum, the caravan turned off of US-40 for a bit to drive over a section of brick National Road that passes through Norwich. Then it was on to Cambridge where we parked beside the Guernsey County courthouse. Cambridge mayor Tom Orr made a few remarks and got an Illinois National Road pin from Mary. There was a group mug shot and local media interviewed several folks including Marian Vance, coordinator for the caravan's Ohio portion. The water pump on the Buick's straight-eight engine got a little attention, too.

The last stop in Ohio was at the Belmont County courthouse in Saint Clairsville but we paused for lunch on the way. I know I've stopped at the Deep Cut Tavern before but had never eaten their "Deep Fried Hamburger". It was all the talk at the Cambridge stop so many folks, including me, had to try it. Yep, it's breaded and deep fried and is pretty tasty if not particularly healthy. That's a small order of fries beside my 'burger and, despite help from at least three other people, it never got emptied. As you might have guessed, the tavern gets its name from some nearby pick & shovel National Road work. There was more local media and a locally owned Model A at St Clairsville. There's a better view of the Model A here. Jeremy Morris of the Wheeling National Heritage Association hooked up the fourth bell and carried them on to West Virginia.

The road that was begun in 1811 stopped at the Ohio River. The next phase of construction began with a groundbreaking ceremony in Saint Clairsville on July 4, 1825 as noted by a plaque on the relocated National Road mile marker at the courthouse. I guess we'll have reason to celebrate again in fourteen years but I'm going to need more help with the French fries.

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