Tuesday, February 26, 2008

US 20 in Ohio: Geneva

US 20 intersects the small city of Geneva, Ohio, which is only a few miles from the shores of Lake Erie. The city sits almost right between the much larger cities of Cleveland, Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania, both between 45-50 miles away in each direction. The area is surrounded by vineyards and wineries, the area having a climate ideal for growing grapes.

According to the Visit Geneva OH website, it is believed that Bob Dylan “almost certainly” hitchhiked on US 20 (called Main Street) on his 1961 trip from Minnesota to New York City to visit the ailing Woody Guthrie. (No one can say that they really saw Bob, though.)

Geneva State Park

What is most interesting to visitors to US 20 in Geneva is not what is directly in Geneva, but just about 2 miles to the north of US 20, in Geneva-on-the-Lake. There you will find the relatively new Lodge at Geneva State Park, which sits right on the shores of Lake Erie. But, just around the corner is the famous – maybe infamous – Strip of Geneva-on-the-Lake. It is like a place frozen in time, looking like something out of the 1940s and 1950s, filled with small arcades and attractions, along with small cottages. In years past, it was a family vacation place, many people coming west from Cleveland and east from Erie on Route 20 to enjoy the beaches and the games. In fact, my parents may have honeymooned there in the 40s.

The Strip in Geneva-on-the-Lake (from city-data.com)

With the advent of more freeways – I-90 is very close by - many families passed up US 20 and Geneva-on-the-Lake for places a little farther away and faster to access. For a time in the 1970s Geneva-on-the-Lake became a rough place, being invaded by some not so nice bikers. However, over the years things have settled down. It is still a favorite hangout for bikers, but now everyone has respect for the varied crowd that the area brings. In fact, the 2nd Annual Thunder on the Strip is being planned for September 5-7, 2008.

So if you’re traveling in eastern Ohio this summer, check this place out and take a step back in time.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

US 20 in New York: Albany

In New York, at 372 miles, US Route 20 is the longest road in the state. On the western edge, it begins at the Pennsylvania/New York state line, and ends on the eastern side as it crosses into Massachusetts in the Berkshire Mountains.

But, in this long trek through New York state, it passes through the suburbs of some large cities, but only passes directly through one large city – the state capital of Albany. There, it is called Western Avenue. It also appears that as the road joins and runs with Route 9, it is then named Madison Avenue. Here, near the Hudson River, Route 20 begins its second-longest concurrency with US 9, the state's longest north-south US route.

Long ago, Albany was a Native American settlement called Penpotawotnot. Later, the Dutch East India Company built Fort Nassau and later Fort Orange in this area, and also had the surrounding community of Beverwyck. In 1665, this area was acquired by the English from the Dutch. The English renamed it Albany, as a tribute to James II, Duke of Albany. According to Wikipedia, “A 1686 document issued by Thomas Dongan granted Albany its official charter. This date makes Albany the second oldest city in the nation in terms of its date of incorporation, after New Amsterdam.” (New Amsterdam later became New York City.)

After trying to find out the origins of the road in Albany, I found an obscure web site (here) talking about Albany City Streets, which said, "LYDIUS STREET: Named for Dominie Johannes Lydius, it ran west from the Hudson River along the route of today's Madison Avenue. Later, this wagon road became the "Great Western Turnpike" - today's US Route 20. By the early 1800s, houses appeared along Lydius Street forming several blocks below South Pearl Street. " Further looking into the Great Western Turnpike, an entry in Wikipedia says, "The First Great Western Turnpike was started in 1799 in Albany where the present Western Avenue is located, and it extended west to Cherry Valley in Otsego County, New York, along a path similar to today's U.S. Route 20." So it looks like US Route 20 in Albany has been around in some shape or form for quite some time.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

US 20 in Ohio: The Euclid Corridor Project

In Cleveland, US 20, called Euclid Avenue, is getting a much needed facelift. It isn’t just a simple repaving of the street and new sidewalks. The project will mean the addition of a BRT – Bus Rapid Transit – with dedicated lanes. These new vehicles will have exclusive lanes with a traffic control system, and the vehicles themselves will be environmentally friendly, using clean-burning fuels and batteries. There will be new methods for collecting fares that will make boarding much more efficient, and all platforms will be level and be ADA accessible. The surrounding “streetscape” will be completely redone, with beautiful sidewalks, landscaping, and passenger stations.

Even more important than the new look of Euclid Avenue will be the ability to move people through this traditionally busy area. The Euclid Corridor Project web site says, “The Rapid Transit System will connect the central business district (the region's largest employment center) with the University Circle area (the second largest employment center) and major cultural, medical and educational districts. The idea of the Rapid Transit System is to provide the quality of rail transit, while benefiting from the flexibility of buses.”

I was at Cleveland's Public Square in November and took a walk out to look at the work being done on US 20 right near the square. Construction was still going on. I’d have to say that it was a mess and quite difficult to navigate on foot, and looked even more impossible by car. However, I could see some of the materials set out for the new sidewalk area and I think it will be beautiful when it’s completed. I can understand, though, that many businesses have been hurt badly by this project while work goes on. But in the long run, this will be a huge improvement for the city and will make traveling down Euclid Avenue much easier. This should translate to improved business conditions, better than before construction began. By the way, this project was funded by tax dollars – federal, state, and city.

The Euclid Corridor Project web site has project news and updates, several pictures of the progress, and a video download of the project overview. Since the video is available for direct download, I’ve embedded it below for your viewing. If you want to download the video directly to your computer, you can find it the Euclid Corridor Project web site,here.

Project Overview

If you want more information on Cleveland, visit my blog
All Things Cleveland.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

US 20 in Illinois: Bypass Reconstruction

Driving out west several years ago, we had to go through Rockford. All I remember about the area is that after we left the Rockford area, there was nothing but open lands after we passed the city. I didn’t realize that I was in US Route 20 territory.

Apparently there are problems with the Rockford US 20 bypass that may require a re-working of the interchange. An article (below) from BusinessRockford.com and rrstar.com describes the situation.

“Improvements in store for U.S. 20 bypass
Jan 28, 2008 @ 03:21 PM
By Thomas V. Bona

Greg Peet gets on the U.S. 20 bypass, but he doesn’t like it.

He uses the interchange at Illinois 2, which still has a cloverleaf design that forces traffic to merge on the highway while avoiding exiting traffic.

“My feeling is that style of interchange is unsafe,” said Peet, branch manager of nearby construction-equipment dealer Patten Industries. “I have had a number of instances where certainly people were coming off faster than I came on.”

State officials agree and, as early as 2010, they’ll be replacing the cloverleaf with a simpler diamond interchange that will cut the conflicts by merging traffic.

“It accommodates higher traffic volumes at a safer level of service,” said Jay Howell, studies and plan engineer for IDOT’s Dixon office. “The diamond interchange has been the preferred interchange for a number of years. We haven’t been able to replace them until money has become available.”

It’s part of an $11 million reconstruction of the bypass around Illinois 2. The bridges, which were built in 1962, need to be replaced anyway, Howell said. Not only are they old, but they’re only 14 feet above the ground where 16 feet is the standard.

The state is planning on pouring a lot of money into the bypass in the next few years.

The decks of the bridges over Illinois 251 and Simpson Road, as well as the Montague Road bridge over the bypass, will be replaced this year. The Meridian Road bridge over the bypass will be replaced in the next few years.

Next year, the state will finish a study of how to add a third lane in each direction to the bypass between the Cherry Valley interchange and the Interstate 39 exit. After that, the state will consider a similar expansion between I-39 and Illinois 2.

“We look at long-range traffic projections,” Howell said. “U.S. 20 is increasing all the time.”

The bypass has about 33,400 vehicles a day in the area between Illinois 251 and Illinois 2, according to the most recent data available by IDOT. In 20 years, that’s expected to increase to 60,000 vehicles a day, Howell said.

Trucks make up about 12 percent of the traffic on that stretch of the bypass, according to IDOT. Truck traffic will particularly grow, he said, with the addition of the Lowe’s distribution center nearby and plans to add businesses at Chicago Rockford International Airport. “

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

US 20 in Massachusetts: In The Beginning

Sign at US 20 Eastern Terminus (left)
US Route 20 begins its long journey westward in Boston Massachusetts in Kenmore Square. It joins up with Massachusetts Route 2, and parallels I-90.

What is Kenmore Square? It’s a busy, bustling convergence of three main roadways - Commonwealth Avenue, Beacon Street, and Brookline Avenue, mixed with a heavy dose of shops, restaurants, hotels, clubs, and educational institutions. Boston University is only a block away. Also very close by is Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. It is also part of the last leg of the annual Boston Marathon.

It sounds like a fitting place for the country’s longest road to start!

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

US 20 Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park

While driving to Yellowstone National Park a few years ago, we stopped off at a little restaurant in Greybull, Wyoming. We looked at a street sign close by, and saw that we were a stone’s throw away from Route 20. We hadn’t fully realized that if we simply left our home in Ohio, and just kept heading east on Rt. 20, that we would have made it directly to Yellowstone. As the National Parks don’t number their roads, this is probably the only “break” in the road being marked as US 20.

Yellowstone National Park is probably the most amazing place on US 20. Designated as a National Park on March 1, 1872, the park contains spectacular geothermal features, the most famous being Old Faithful Geyser.

The park sits over Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano in North America. While it is considered an active volcano, the only obvious evidence it is even there are the many geothermal features such as geysers, mud volcanoes, steam vents, hot and mineral springs, etc. Yellowstone Lake, which is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America, sits directly over the caldera. There are also waterfalls, rivers, beautiful valleys, and fields of grasses and wildflowers. Yellowstone is also a great place to see wildlife, such as bison, elk, grizzly bears, wolves, and bald eagles.

If you haven’t been to Yellowstone, you can take a quick trip via the video below, which has some great shots of Old Faithful, The Old Faithful Inn, The Upper and Lower Falls, and various geysers and pools. But if you are looking for a place to visit on US Rouse 20 that will take your breath away, take the drive to Yellowston. It’s well worth it.

Video: Yellowstone National Park

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

US 20 Mentor, Ohio: Home of a President

Lawnfield - The Front Porch

I thought I’d start my journey on US Route 20 at a place very near to my own home. It is fitting that the longest road in the United States (numbered 20) also be the location of the home of 20th President of The United States, James A. Garfield.

When Garfield was a Congressman, he purchased what was known as the Dickey Farm, which included a nine-room home that sat on 16o acres. Since the house was not large enough for his family, Garfield had additions built on to the original structure, bringing the size of the house to 20 rooms.

In 1880, Garfield became a candidate for the presidency. He used the front porch of his Mentor home for speeches. The name of the house – Lawnfield – was what all the visiting reporters named it because of the wide grassy lawn around the home. After Garfield’s assassination in 1881, his widow Lucretia added on the first presidential library and vault in the county, starting the trend of presidential libraries for subsequent presidents. The family stayed in the home until 1936, at which time the family gave the house and all its contents to the Western Reserve Historical Society. The house operated as a museum, and was designated as a National Historic Site in December 28, 1980. It is also part of the National Park System.

The home was given a $12.5 million restoration in the 1990s, at which time the home was restored to its original state colors of gray and scarlet. The interior of the home is filled with antique Victorian furniture, 80% of which belonged to the Garfield family. Wallpapers were also reproduced where photographs or samples were available.

One interesting structure on the grounds is a large windmill, constructed to replace an earlier windmill that was needed to pump and store water from a well. Lucretia was very involved in this project. The windmill had been taken down in 1936 due to wind damage. According to the Western Reserve Historical Society, “The structure was rebuilt after a generous and anonymous gift was donated for its reconstruction in 1998 and is standing once again in all its glory today.”

Lawnfield is located at 8095 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio. The house interior is closed from November to April with the exception of limited hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekdays, during the winter months, there appears to be access to walk the grounds if the front gate is open. The house is open May 1 to October 31, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

US Route 20: The Longest Road in the United States

This blog will focus on US Route 20, at 3,365 miles (5,415 km), the longest road in the United States. It is an east-west road, beginning in the east in Boston Massachusetts at Kenmore Square at the junction of Route 2, and ending in the west in Newport, Oregon, at the junction of US 101, only one mile from the Pacific Ocean. While it travels through the country, it encounters National Parks, landmarks and sights, huge cities, and rural emptiness.

I live less than one half mile from Ohio US 20, in Mentor, which is on the shores of Lake Erie and about 25 miles east of Cleveland. Here, US 20 is called Mentor Avenue. I’ve always wanted to traverse the entire length of US 20, but only had the opportunity to visit a few places. Since it’s not practical for me now to make the complete road trip, I’m going to share my personal travels with some of the locations, plus highlight other interesting places that are on, and along, this long roadway.

I hope you’ll enjoy the trip!

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Are you interested in all the places to see and things to do that are located on, or around, US Route 20? If so, stayed tuned.

This blog is under construction!