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Wagon train stirs excitement

May 18, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

While the passing cars and trucks that whiz over the utility-lined blacktop of U.S. 40 are usually ignored by residents along the busy road, a historic wagon train complete with Conestogas and carriages was welcomed Saturday with smiles.

Richard and Sandra Cunningham, who live on U.S. 40 just before it reaches Hagerstown heading east, waved and admired the long wagon train as it passed their home.

"This is a fun thing. They ought to make more room for this kind of thing," said Richard Cunningham, 61.

Unlike the "hot rods flying up and down the road acting like they're nuts, this is what it's all about," he said.

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"Oh, these horses are gorgeous!" said Sandra Cunningham, 58.

They were eying folks such as Allen Eckstine and his wife, Rachel, and their friend, Mike Dowe, who had clambered into a horse-drawn wagon for a slow ride between Clear Spring and Boonsboro.

Part of the 15th annual National Pike Festival, the ride began Friday evening and was scheduled to end this afternoon with about 30 horse-drawn wagons and 70 more riders on horseback.

The event was staged by Washington County and the James Shaull Wagon Train Foundation Inc. as a celebration of the historic road.

Allen Eckstine, 52, of Hagerstown, said he got into the wagon train because he's always been around horses. He also inherited a few old carriages from his family.

He said he has two buggies and one surrey with a fringe on top. He said he also owns three horses.

Dowe was driving Saturday, and even though the ride wasn't motor-powered, it wasn't bad, Rachel Eckstine said. The seats had cushions, and leaf springs cushioned the ride - a useful modification since the wooden wheels had only metal strips between them and the asphalt.

As their wagon rose over the bridge over Interstate 81, Allen Eckstine pointed below to the passing trucks.

"Yeah, those are the modern-day Conestogas," he said.

Rachel Eckstine said there's a relaxing quality to taking a horse-drawn ride along the route.

"It's just kind of fun to watch; sit, relax and watch everything go by," Rachel Eckstine said.

Looking around, she said the blacktop on the road, the utility poles and the homes that have popped up along the road have drastically changed the view since the first travelers used the road.

"But the one thing that would be about the same is people come out and greet you," she said.

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