In the spring of 1908, Jake Murdock and his family set out from California for a little drive in their Packard Thirty touring car.Thirty-two days later, they arrived in New York City, attracting national attention for their record-setting cross-country odyssey. They were literally the first family to make it from coast to coast in an automobile. Reflecting on the trip, Murdock commented that, “When I look back at each one of the thousands of hard-earned miles through which I clutched at that steering wheel from Los Angeles to New York, I wonder how long it will be before a real national pike extends from coast to coast and allows for easy touring, whereby other motorists may enjoy the beauty of our great western country…”
Mr. Murdock recounts the details of their journey in a fascinating example of content marketing sponsored by Packard Motors. Unfortunately, we do not hear from Mrs. Murdock, who was also along for the ride, along with Jake Jr, and their two young daughters. I would’ve liked to have heard from Mrs. Murdock, because it would be very interesting to know how she kept the kids occupied for all those miles!
As we set out for our own interstate journey this summer—more than 100 years after the Murdock family—the roads have indeed improved, and Mom and Dad shared the driving. (Apparently Mrs. Murdock did not do any of the driving back in the day).
While the Murdocks were busy embracing the first wave of mobile technology in their Packard, we were busy embracing the next phase of mobile technology in our Honda Pilot. The jury is still out, but the one thing I do know is that because of mobile technology, my two children—ages 4.5 years and 1 year—made it to Minnesota (a relatively measly 19-hour drive) in one day (without screaming, crying, fighting, or generally being unbearable).
When we first started planning our journey, the kids of course were our #1 concern. I took the approach, “When I was young, we didn’t have DVD players or iPads, and my brother and I traveled from MN to NJ every summer just fine. We don’t need that for our kids. They’ll be great.” My husband, or as I refer to him, “The Realist,” quickly opened the discussion with PROs and CONS to having an amazing device or two along for the ride. After some convincing, I decided to go along with his wishes; after all, it’s never bad to have a backup.
Like most parents that are driving young children across half the country, we left in the wee hours of Friday morning (1AM). The thinking behind this move—well, the kids would sleep, of course. Boy, were we wrong. Not a wink…not a wink for 19 hours. We had packed snacks, games, toys, blankets, pillows, favorite stuffed animals, an iPad, a Kindle, and the key accessory, a portable DVD player (with 2 screens) with enough Disney movies to get us to South America and back.We were all set; nothing could stop us now!
Since the kids foiled our “sleeping-through-the-first-leg-of-the-ride plan,” my husband and I weren’t eager to pull out the heavy artillery to keep them occupied. So, I fed them grapes and tried to get them to settle their excitement—I mean after all, it was after midnight and they were intentionally awakened by us and put into a car—what’s more exciting than that?!? However, at long last (after probably 5 hours) we pulled out the DVD player, and the rest was history. My 2 little girls talked to us for food, drink, and potty—that’s it. Tim and I drove the entire 19 hours in one day, arriving at Grandma’s house that evening.
Although they did draw, “read,” and sing…none of this was done without a movie playing in the background. I still believe that once they’re older we may have the opportunity to do a long car ride without the use of modern technology. No iPads, Kindles, or DVD players. Just good ol’ fashioned MadLibs and “Eye Spy” games…or maybe I’m delusional. That being said, with or without our modern tools of distraction, could we survive 32 days on the road like the Murdocks? I’m not really sure! But—ready or not, we are already planning a two-week journey to visit the great American West from Mount Rushmore to the Grand Canyon, and beyond! I’m sure the Murdocks would be proud!
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