Exactly. I can’t tell you how many times I have driven from southwest CO going Hwy 50 through CO, UT, and NV or the southern route on Hwy 40. For the first 8 years in Telluride I took the California Zephyr, Greyhound, and hitched hiked before I finally moved from HI to CO permanently and brought my rusted out 86 Honda. I bought that car for $500 and paid $700 to ship it to SF. It was my baby but when I had kids my driving beater car days were over.
For the benefit of your readers who find themselves on Highway 20 and aren’t familiar with California history, the route to Nevada City from present-day I-80 where the sign is posted, is essentially the pioneer Nevada City Road, or Nevada City Route ––a branch of the Emigrant Trail. If you were headed to Nevada City via the Emigrant Trail after 1848 and made it across the Forty-Mile Desert, you would have connected with the Truckee Trail, then dropped down to the Bear River and on to Nevada City on a course closely followed by Highway 20.
If people look to their left and right as they drive along the straight stretch beginning at the 5-Mile House and heading east, they will see remnants of the old wagon road as it crisscrosses the highway. If you park safely off Hwy 20, you can literally walk in the ruts left by the wagons that brought men, women and children to Nevada City during the Gold Rush and beyond.
The paved 25-mile stretch of Highway 20 from Nevada City over Harmony Ridge and through Bear Valley, was approved by the State Legislature in 1918. Construction began in earnest in 1921 and was completed in the fall of 1934 when, on November 18, Governor Frank Merriam stood at a spot not far from where the sign now stands, and in a driving snow storm dedicated the new road.
The final four miles of the 1934 asphalt roadbed through Bear Valley to then-Highway 40, cost $200,000 –– an unheard of $50K-per-mile. I’ll leave it to someone else to figure out what $200,000 in 1934 would equate to in 2012.
(As a footnote, Gov. Merriam’s Lt. Gov. was former Nevada City resident George Hatfield, who attended local schools before moving on to college and an impressive political career).
That dry history report aside, it is indeed a welcoming sign. Glad you posted the photo. Can’t wait to see the sign again.
A few years back I sat down with John Personini for a at least a couple of hours and listen to his stories about that stretch of “road” among other things. His pictures were incredible 20 feet of snow and crew of guys on a flatbed with what looked liked regular old spaded shovels. I love this stuff and can read all day long or even better yet listen to stories about it.
Thanks for the brief history lesson, Steve. I for one appreciatelearning more of the local lore. Having also traversed this continent on more than one occassion in my VW bug and other vehicles, and made many trips from Aspen back to the East coast, feelings upon seeing the welcoming signs that one is almost there are probably a universal constant.
BTW, w/o snow to slow the drive, is it quicker to reach Reno via 20, or use 174 to 80? Thanks
Thanks for the tip and reply. I prefer the scenic to the mundane, so the next time I’m ordered to report to the Reno VA, I’ll take 20, enjoy the ride, before yet another battle begins with whatever clueless VA rep is my opponent. This undeclared war was beautifully described in a Bee editorial yesterday. Even I didn’t realize the disaster that our regional VA office in Oakland, is. Absolutely criminal!!!!!!!!!!