Similar, but Different

In 1910, Floyd Clymer, then age 14, and his younger brother, Bill (age 11), attempted to drive from Denver to Spokane by themselves in a Flanders 20.   They followed rough, rocky roads through the open prairies and high desert, sleeping out in the open beside clumps of sagebrush.  Now much of their route (between Laramie and Walcott, WY) can be driven on I-80.  When they broke down west of Laramie, they found the railroad tracks heading west and walked to the nearest flagging station where they sent a telegram home asking for spare parts.

The youngest of the five us are also ages 14 and 11.



Vehicle Maintenance

Obviously, when considering driving an old car across the country, one thinks a lot about vehicle maintenance.  Coincidentally, lots of people ask us how hard it is to do maintenance on the car.

Fortunately, there plenty of resources out there to help us keep the cars running in tip-top shape.  Here, for example, is the Ford Manual:


After reading through this booklet, it became evident to us that we really didn’t need to be too concerned with maintenance because it appears to be pretty straight forward.  Here, for example, are the instructions on removing a connecting rod (a fairly important component of the engine):


Of course, this “knocking in the engine” assumes the engine has been started and is actually running.  Let’s see what the manual says about starting the car.  (One of our cars has a starter and one of them does not):


So for those asking how hard it is to maintain the car…let’s just get them started first.

Which Way Do We Go?

For Route Planning, Pretend You’re a Bicycle

These days, driving across the country is almost as easy as saying you’re going to drive across the country, and almost as unremarkable.  Find the nearest on-ramp of an interstate highway and off you go.

But when your car’s top speed is about 35 mph on level ground, highways aren’t an option.  And, as most of us know, seeing the country from the highways isn’t really “seeing the country”.  So knowing your starting point and desired destination for the day, how are we planning our routes?

In the early 1900’s there were few motoring maps, and those that were published were often referred to as “guidebooks”.  Most of the guidebooks available for motorists were descriptive in nature, and not really maps (detailed maps, anyway).  This webpage describes what the first road trips were like using guidebooks for direction, with instructions such as these:

8.8         5.4         End of road; turn right with travel. Cross bridge over Platte River and RR.


3.4         1.7         End of road, turn right; curving left just beyond. Pass school on left 4.4. Turn right with road 5.0. Cross concrete bridge 5.2.

with the first number being the total distance (miles) from the start of the trip, and the second number being the distance between the last step and the next landmark.

Today we have incredible resources at our fingertips to plan our trips and, once on the road, to know our precise location anywhere on earth to within just a few feet.  So, like everyone else these days, we sat down with Google Maps to start our planning.  But resources like Google Maps are designed to get people to their desired destinations as quickly as possible, which means highways and other major roads.  But as mentioned above, those roads are neither usable nor desired for our cross-country trip.  So, we started doing a lot of hand-manipulation of the suggested Google Maps route between a starting point and the desired end point (for those of you familiar, we did a lot of ‘dragging and dropping’ of the suggested blue route line) but we quickly started hitting the 10 way-point limitation Google built into Google Maps.  This meant that unless we could build a daily route on the map in 10 way-points or less, we’d have to plan a series of shorter routes and then sum them up to get our total distances, stops, etc.  Then along came the bicycle.

Share the Road

After complaining about this “feature” to some coworkers, it was brought to our attention that you can force Google Maps to get you off the main roads by selecting the bicycle icon as the mode of transportation.  This greatly simplified our route planning, with the caveat that we had to make sure the route wasn’t taking us through a public gardens or on a ‘rails to trails’ bike path in some small town.  Now we could plan an entire day’s route, with step-by-step directions, in one sitting.  Of course, we still ‘forced’ Google Maps to roads we thought we might prefer, but most of the hard work about keeping us off the busy main roads was done for us.

We had to double-check (or at least spot-check) the Google-proposed route, but once again modern technology made this easy.  Almost every road in the United States has been visited by the funny-looking Google street-view car, so by simply using Google Map’s “Street View” we could virtually drop down onto the roads in our route and spot check them for size, condition, estimated traffic, and even turn points.  In fact, by the time we were done mapping our first several days’ worth of travel, it was commented that we no longer needed to go since we’d already ‘seen’ everything!

This is probably not a road we’d prefer to travel on….

Bad Road

But this one looks more promising!

Good Road