Nowadays, San Francisco and New York City are separated by a seemingly endless maze of roads that traverse the United States in many directions.
In ideal conditions, the shortest, fastest possible route would take approximately 48 hours of non-stop driving. The current record for the fastest transcontinental drive from New York to Redondo Beach, Los Angeles, was set in October 2013 by an automotive enthusiast named Ed Bolian: He managed to complete his drive in 28 hours, 50 minutes, and 26 seconds, which seems ridiculously fast even in today’s terms.
In the early years of the 20th century, when cars were still a rare and awe-inspiring sight on American streets, a continuous transcontinental drive seemed like an impossible stunt. Cars of the time were slow and extremely unreliable; there was only a small number of mechanics who were skilled enough in car anatomy to repair even the smallest malfunction, most of the roads were unpaved, and there were no gas stations or roadside garages. However, all this didn’t stop Horatio Nelson Jackson, a physician and automotive enthusiast, from choosing to embark on the journey and succeeding in becoming the first pioneer of transcontinental driving.
In the spring of 1903, at a time when many people thought that the automotive industry had no future and that cars were merely an invention aimed at fun, Jackson accepted a $50 bet to prove that it was possible to drive a car from San Francisco to New York City. Since he had no experience in car maintenance, he invited a young mechanic named Sewall Crocker to join him. They purchased a 1903 Winton touring car, which they named “Vermont,” and began their long and exhausting voyage, which was plagued by numerous accidents and setbacks.
One of the car’s tires popped after they had traveled only 15 miles, and they had to replace it with the only spare tire they had. Also, somewhere near Sacramento, their cooking gear fell off the car and the unfortunate men didn’t even notice that it was missing until some 50 miles later.