National Pike Wagon Train Head 'em up, move 'em out

May 20, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

Polly Miles of Clear Spring said she always loves watching the National Pike Festival and Wagon Train travel by her house, but this year she noticed something odd: A wagon driver was talking on a cell phone.

"That was not authentic," she said Saturday.

A relative of Miles noticed that in the back of another wagon was a Playmate cooler.

Other than noting those historical discrepancies, members of Miles' family praised the 14th annual event.

The weekend event, covering nearly 40 miles, commemorates an important time in America's history - the opening of the young nation's western territory.

Some members of the caravan bring cell phones and walkie-talkies for safety reasons, said Laura Parris, who coordinates the weekend event. The equipment lets people at the front of the caravan talk to members in back.


It also gives caravan members an easy way to get emergency help if it is needed, she said.

Every year, members of Polly Miles' family gather on the front lawn of her home in the 13000 block of National Pike to watch the caravan go by. This year, 12 family members watched as the caravan, which included 17 wagons and about 35 outriders - people on horseback escorting the wagons during the excursion - passed.

Miles said she enjoys the horses, the riders and the route's historical importance.

"I just like it all," she said.

Miles' sister, Lolita Divelbiss, said other members of her family play a role in the event. Two sons, two daughters and three grandchildren ride in the caravan on horseback.

"They love to do it," Divelbiss said. "They think it is a great honor."

The festival, which began in Washington County on Friday with an overnight encampment in Clear Spring, travels along National Pike (U.S. 40), drawing onlookers along the way.

One of those was Paul McCarty of Greencastle, Pa., who watched from a spot near Clear Spring.

"It's fantastic," he said. "It is going back into how it used to be. It is great."

He said he could imagine traveling slowly by covered wagon, noting he is an "outdoorsy type."

"I would just as soon take my time rather than be stuck on (Interstate) 270," he said.

He watched the caravan go by with his grandchildren, Elizabeth, 3, and Emily, 2, both of Hancock. They liked the horses, he said.

Nearby, Donna Bear of Chambersburg, Pa., watched the caravan for the first time.

"I liked it," she said.

Did she have a favorite part?

"All of it,' she said.

There were stops at several points in Washington County and Hagerstown before the caravan moved on to Funkstown Saturday night. It was scheduled to travel to Boonsboro today.

Local communities celebrated along the way with music, food, flea markets and yard sales.

One of the stops was at City Park. There, Barry Lescalleet of State Line, Pa., who rides horseback in the caravan, let people pet his 14-year-old horse, Peppy.

Lescalleet said he has been riding in the caravan for 10 to 12 years. He does it, he said, "to help out and to have fun. It is a blast."

There is a great deal of camaraderie among the riders, he said.

Christian Kinney, 5, of Hagers-town, pet Peppy and asked Lescalleet if he was a cowboy and carried weapons, said his father, Ed Kinney.

Parrish said she thought there were fewer spectators than usual this year because of the weather, which was unseasonably cool with overcast skies.

In 1797, Baltimore bankers and businessmen pushed for extending the Baltimore-National Pike, also known in Washington County as Bank Road, to Cumberland, Md. In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson authorized spending the money to extend the road from Cumberland to Ohio.

The Washington County weekend is part of a 300-mile event in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio over several weekends.

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