The National Road


America is a Nation on the Move.

We have always been a peripatetic people. We move where ever there are jobs. We move for climate or scenery. We travel to see the beauty of this vast nation. We move away from our places of birth; and we often go back for visits especially during holidays. We are always on the move it seems.

And our vast interstate system makes this desire for movement easy to achieve.

I remember the first interstate built in my home town of Dayton, Ohio: I-75. A lot of it followed the old state route 25. It was a massive undertaking. It took a ten years or more to build. The building began in the 1950’s. Sometimes it seems it has never stopped as improvements are often made.

Many people say that the federal government never does anything right. And sometimes it seems that way. But one thing they did get right is our nation’s interstate system. This system binds this huge nation together. It also made building cars one of the biggest industries in the nation. For years the American car industry was the engine that drove our economy.

A President’s Vision

If it hadn’t been for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vision the interstate system would never have been built.  And strangely enough, his vision of the interstate system was not so much for personal or recreational purposes. It was built for national security reasons.

During WWII it was very hard for American soldiers to get around Europe because the roads were so bad. Except for the big cities the roads were mostly dirt tracks only large enough to take a horse or donkey driven cart. They were a mess to travel when it rained.

When Eisenhower got home he wanted to ensure that the difficulties he encountered getting troops and supplies around Europe would never hinder America if we were attacked. And in those days of hula hoops, coon skin hats, and TV Superman America was on constant alert for a Russian attack.

The Very First National Road

But before the interstates crisscrossing the nation was even a glint in Eisenhower’s eyes there was a system of roads and Americans traveled them to get from one end of the growing nation to the other.

The National Road was one of the first major roads paid for by the federal government. It was authorized by that great man, President Thomas Jefferson in 1806. Construction began in Cumberland, Maryland on the Potomac River in 1811 when the United States was only 35 years old. The road crossed the Allegheny Mountains and entered Ohio at Wheeling, Virginia. Virginia  was not yet divided. That would come years later.                


Source Wikipedia


The original plan was to take the road all the way to Jefferson City, Missouri but the government ran out of money and they had to stop at Vandalia, Illinois in 1839.

 What’s That You Say? America Was Broke Before?

Shock!! Surprise!!!!  And in a word. Yes. We Americans are big dreamers too. And often our dreams are bigger than our pocketbook. We have been broke many times before. And yet somehow we always survive to see another day. That’s the good ‘ole American Spirit.

But I digress.

Much of the National Road still exists. Today it goes by the name, U.S. Highway 40, which still follows most of the original historic route. Some original toll houses still stand in Pennsylvania. And some of the old original bridges are still around in Maryland and now West Virginia.

I-75, as I wrote above, I watched being built as a child, crosses part of the Old National Road/U.S. Highway 40 in Vandalia, Ohio north of Dayton. The old and the new forever in a dance throughout the ages.

The Ohio National Road

According to the Ohio National Road Association, (ONRA), “The Ohio Department of Transportation designated the Historic National Road [in Ohio] as a state scenic byway and the road received All-American Road designation by the Federal Highway Administration.” All of the road has been so designated I believe.

I have driven much of it in Ohio and parts of it in Indiana. It is a lovely slow drive; a nice contrast to the hectic speeds of the interstates. I love to drive through the old cities and stop to visit antique shops.

                                                                                    Forest and farmlands contrast with the harsh cold concrete of the interstates.

Inns and Taverns

And then there are the inns and taverns along Highway 40.

And there we have it, dear friends. You all knew that eventually I would bring all of this around to food some how. It was never in doubt!!! Was it? Oh yee of little faith.

Since the road was heavily traveled many inns and taverns were built along the way to accommodate the needs of the travelers. According to ONRA inns and taverns, “were constructed approximately every ten miles along the Road because this was the distance a wagon or stagecoach could expect to travel in a day.”

Many of the original structures of these inns and taverns still exist. One of taverns is the Jacktown Pub in Jacksontown, Ohio in the middle of the state. If you double click the Wiki map above it will enlarge slightly. The tavern is located between Cambridge in the east and Columbus to the west.

When I know I am going to be in that area I plan on stopping in. It is the original structure with some modifications and of course modern amenities.

They serve great home cooked food for a decent price. I love their chicken wings, especially their garlic wings.

It took me a long time to get here. But here it is. Today’s Featured Recipe is my version of Jacktown Pub’s garlic chicken wings.

If you want to read more details about the National Road you can get a very complete overview with lots of links at Wikipedia.

Featured Recipe           Garlic Chicken Wings

This is the exact same recipe as last Friday’s. Only the sauce has changed. In fact, roasting wings this way works with any sauce you make or have.

This is what you will need for 3 people:

15-24 wing pieces

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the Sauce:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1-2 garlic cloves

Garlic salt to taste

Garlic powder optional

 This is what you do:

Put your oven rack in the upper middle position. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Set a large wire rack over a foil lined shallow pan. (If you don’t have one, roast on a foil lined cookie sheet or other pan. The wings will cook in the oil but it can be done and I have done it that way on occasion.)

Put wings in a large bowl and add the oil and sprinkle with a little garlic salt to taste. Do not use too much here as you will have other opportunities to add more salt. If using, add a little bit of garlic powder as well. Using your hands mix it all together so that all the wings are well coated.

Then arrange in a single layer on the rack. Sprinkle a little more salt on top of the wings.

Place in the oven and toast until golden brown about 40 minutes.

While the wings are roasting make the sauce. Melt the butter in a pan over very low heat.

Slice the garlic.

Sauté the garlic in the butter until fragrant. Take the pan off the heat, cover and let the garlic sit in the butter until the wings are cooked. It is hard to see the garlic in the butter, but it is in there.

When wings are golden brown remove them from the oven.

Using tongs place each wing on the garlic butter sauce and turn several times to coat.

Put back into the pan. Be careful that there are no pieces of garlic clinging to the wings. If there are they will burn. And burnt garlic is YUK!!!

Place the wings back into the roasting pan, and sprinkle with a bit more garlic salt. Spoon any remaining butter sans the garlic over the wings.

Then place back into the oven for 8-10 more minutes.

Hot out of the oven.

Place the wings in a bowl and serve hot. For contrast in the picture I placed some chopped parsley on the wings.

On my plate.

Bon Appetit!!!!


15-24 wing pieces                $6.11

2 tblspns vegetable oil          $0.09

For the Sauce:

6 tablespoons butter             $0.42

1-2 garlic cloves                   $0.08

Garlic salt to taste                $0.08*

Garlic powder optional          $0.09**

Total Cost =   $6.98
Cost per person = $2.32

* 1tablespoon

** 1 teaspoon

**NOTE: I do not measure. These are approximate guesses of how much I used.

Quote of the Day

The best inheritance you can leave your kids is to be a good example

Barry Spilchuk

Source Wikipedia
Print Friendly

3 comments to The National Road