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Crossing the U.S.

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On: Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 4:49PM | By: Karen Cook


Crossing the U.S.

With all the travelers on the roads for the holiday, I wondered just how long it would take, if I lived on one side of the country and my dinner was on the other, to make it in time to eat. The easy answer is about 48 hours. This assumes that I have someone else to share driving duties and we stop only for gas. Not the best trip, if you ask me. If I want to sleep in motels, I could do it in four or five days as long as I drive 12 hours a day. Still not ideal. But if the journey is to be part of the fun, I have to allow seven to 10 days before I can sit down to my turkey and dressing.

Then I thought, this takes such a long time! I should maybe fly. Still, it’s much easier now than it would have been a century ago.

In 1903 cars were just beginning to be thought of as a dependable means of travel. In order to prove this (and to be the first to do so), H. Nelson Jackson, a physician and businessman from Vermont, and his friend, Sewall K Crocker, a mechanic, decided to drive across the country in a Winston touring car which they dubbed the “Vermont”. When the roads ran out, they followed trails, rivers, mountain passes, alkali flats, and the Union Pacific railroad. They suffered washouts and used a block and tackle to get the car out of mud holes. When the car broke down, they telegraphed the factory for parts and then had to wait for them to be delivered by railroad.

But they made it. It took 63 days and $8000 but they drove from California to New York in a little more than two months. The money went for things like hotel rooms, gasoline, tires, parts, food, and the cost of the car. And a pair of goggles. The car had no windshield and the “roads” in the West were rather dusty. In Idaho they picked up Bud, who traveled the rest of the way with them. He was a bulldog and he showed up frequently in publicity photos. Presumably the $8000 covered his food too.

Two other parties left California shortly after this pair in an effort to grab the glory for themselves, but they never caught up with the original couple.

In 1909 Alice Huyler Ramsey also made the trip in the other direction. She drove a Maxwell touring car and was accompanied by two other women. They suffered the same perils as the men since the roads were not improved in the interim. She was the first women to make the transcontinental trip and it took her only 59 days.

Hmmm. 10 days doesn’t sound so bad.

11-15 arm


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