Carty: Go the Distance
From the June 2021 issue of Car and Driver.
Like many great adventure stories, the first successful American cross-country car trip began with a bet. After listening to a bunch of stuffy elites in a San Francisco clubhouse declare automobiles a passing fad and that they were good only for local trips, Horatio Nelson Jackson bet a man $50 that he could get to New York City in 90 days. This was in 1903, when we as a society still weren’t sure what to call drivers. Chauffeurs? Automobilists? Motorneers?
Four days later, Jackson set off on the first epic American road trip. He’d hired a mechanic named Sewall K. Crocker to come along for the ride, purchased all the provisions he thought he’d need, and took off. The car blew a tire just 15 miles outside Oakland. Many more roadside repairs would follow.
If you are someone who likes taking off on adventures in your car, Ken Burns’s 2003 documentary, Horatio’s Drive, is worth the $2 rental charge from Amazon Prime. The trip is well documented; Jackson brought a camera and wrote long, detailed letters to his wife back home. He, Crocker, and Bud, a pit bull they picked up in Idaho, became media sensations as they rolled into tiny towns across the West and the Midwest.
Their biggest challenge was the dirt roads, which punctured tires, sent important survival items flying off the car, and left their vehicle stuck in streams and buffalo wallows. Even on smoother terrain, the Winton touring car that Jackson had bought for the trip tended to break down in spectacular fashion, resulting in a few long stops in small towns as the team waited for new parts to arrive by stagecoach or train.
The June issue of Car and Driver was dedicated to adventures, the kind you find by putting some distance between yourself and your home. We spend a lot of time celebrating the machines that move us, but it’s worth taking a moment or two to appreciate where those vehicles bring us. It’s so much easier to get out and experience the world today than it was for Jackson, and as that world opens back up, it’s a good time to go see it.
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