|Vehicles aren't allowed, but you can hike a one-mile section|
of the 1917 Pershing Highway. (Photo credit: Gerri Bauer)
I never considered highways as testaments to the oversizing of our culture. Yet one close look at the 1917 Pershing Highway archaeological site makes me think otherwise. What a narrow strip of a road. Certain 21st century vehicles would hang off its edges. The tiny-car movement I noticed in recent years seems to have dwindled, no pun intended. In my region, at least, I see far more large pickups and SUVs than I do small cars.
Automobiles were basically one size when Florida inmates built the Pershing Highway, part of which is now an interpretive trail between DeLand and Daytona Beach. Using the bench in the first photo for scale, you can see how narrow the brick roadway is. In its heyday, the highway was a marvel and technical achievement that served as the main route between the two cities. Before the road connected them, a trip from one to the other could take an entire day. Even though we call it a highway today, in its time it was simply known as either the DeLand Road or the Daytona Road, depending on which way you were traveling.
|A sign at the trailhead explains the history of the road once|
known as Pershing Highway. (Photo credit: Gerri Bauer)
The road that appears so desolate to me was a sign of progress in the early days. So much so, that it was featured on Volusia County's 1917 license plates, according to author Ronald Williamson in his excellent book, Volusia County's West Side: Steamboats & Sandhills (History Press, 2008). The book is a collection of history-focused columns Williamson wrote as a journalist. In the article about Pershing Highway, he says the old road was uncovered when wildfires burned through the region in 1998. Before that, vegetation had swallowed and hid this vestige of an earlier time. Today, you can hike a one-mile section known as the Pershing Highway Interpretive Trail. The trail is part of what is now Tiger Bay State Forest.
|The old highway was abandoned when U.S. 92, seen behind|
the sign, opened in the 1940s. (Photo credit: Gerri Bauer)