On the Road


Did you ever wonder what a road trip was like 150 years ago?  Assuming there was a road to where you wanted to go.  You probably wouldn’t be on vacation, but more likely going to town, to visit someone, or to a new place to find a home.

Railroad companies were still laying track cross country.  If you lived in the east you might be able to buy a train ticket.  But most people walked or traveled with oxen or horses.


Were covered wagons on wooden wheels the SUVs of the day?  People carried their furniture, fortunes and family with them going west.  The time it took to travel by horse-drawn vehicle was considerable.  They camped under the stars, cooked with what they’d brought with them, and hunted game along the way.  No McDonald’s for a quick Big Mac then.

If you were already in the west, which could mean anywhere from Illinois to the Pacific Ocean, traveling by stagecoach was popular.  I doubt if it was as fun as movies have made it seem.  The ride would be rough and dusty.

Hotels were available in towns.  No running water, of course, but it seems like a pitcher of water and a bowl would be as good an opportunity as any to wash up.  Hopefully you didn’t have to share a bed with someone you weren’t acquainted with.

Do you suppose there were occasions of road rage?  A light buggy driver cutting in front of a farm wagon?  “GIddap!  I’ll show him!”  And the wife would say, “Honey, is it worth it?”

Or maybe, “I want to make it to the next county.  We can stop for water and feed for Bessie then.”

Or, “Pa, I have to go NOW!”

“Well, there are some bushes.  Jump off and when you’re done, run and catch up with us.”

Swifter, more direct fare by river or canal was available, and passengers were able to sleep on board.  Some beds were shelves turned down from the walls at night.

Like today, people took trips to homes of their relatives.  They just didn’t get to see each other that often.  Maybe letters informing them their kin was coming didn’t make it there before the people did.  But it’s always been good to see familiar faces.

We’ll leave a lantern lit for ya.

i         i         i

This was composed in Minne”soota” at a rest stop along I-94. while the driver was taking a nap.

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