writing

Travel: Then and Now

As I’m driving along a nice, smooth, fast interstate, I know I will be thinking about what travel was like not that very long ago. Less than 200 years ago, it would have been near impossible for me to make this journey. And had I insisted (because the then-me would likely have been as stubborn as the now-me) it would have been a trip of weeks, if not months, and fraught with Perils.

I’m reminded of Celia Hayes’ excellent book To Truckee’s Trail, which I read last year. It’s a retelling of the voyage from East Coast to Clifornia via wagon train, which I have read many times over the years in different books, but this one is nicely researched and told well enough to be lively rather than dry.

When I moved to the Ohio River Valley over a year ago, I was reminded of the tales I’d read of the settling of this area, in old Western novels. I know I’d read about Dan’l Boone, and was delighted to find a tiny trapper cabin while visiting Kentucky that claimed to have housed him and friends during one rough winter in about 1789. I find there are a number of books available in public domain on that indomitable pioneer, I just picked one, I’ll let you find which is best…

Horses, wagons, mules, all very different from my four-wheeled gasoline-engined mount today. I can motor along in comfort, not worried about the muddy rutted roads featured in the beginning of Norman Borlaug’s biography as recent as the 1930’s that made travel treacherous and slow. I may get bored as I whiz along at ratesthey wouldn’t ahve dreamed of, but I have the radio, and my music gadget, and I can always set up my little bluetooth headset and call a friend to chat. Or simply pull over and nap, without worry of my animal wandering off.

My Great-Grandma Lily, born in 1893, saw the advent of motorcars, the interstate system, planes, and before she was gone, she rode the supersonic Concorde from one continent to another in a mere few hours. I don’t expect transport to zoom ahead so fast in my own lifetime  – in 30-odd years there has not been that much change at all – but perhaps we will be able to make that leap off the Earth into the solar system, and beyond. In my children’s time, if not mine. Humanity needs room for adventure.

Renfro Valley
Old-Time Kentucky farmhouse
Mud daub cabin
Standing in front of the ca 1789 trapper’s cabin where it is claimed Dan’l Boone himself wintered.
bullet in wall
One of the many bullets still embedded in the walls of the trapper’s cabin.