March 08, 2014
Travel Before the Wright Brothers Spoiled It

From Dan Jenkins’ 1988 novel Fast Copy, about a young woman who inherits a small-town Texas newspaper during the first Great Depression

“I can’t believe my school is going to the Rose Bowl,” she said to her daddy on the phone by way of telling him what she wanted for Christmas — a lower-berth single room with bath on the Burlington Zephyr to Los Angeles by way of San Francisco. The round-trip ticket was only $214.30, not including meals…

The trip from New York to Los Angeles only took five days on the Burlington Zephyr.

Betsy, Millie and Ted boarded the train at Pennsylvania Station on Christmas Eve. They exchanged presents in thle dining car. By prior arrangment, Betsy and Millie gave each other a carton of Luckies. Betsy gave Ted a sleeveless sweater. Ted gave Betsy a Columbia helmet for a desk ornament. Ted and Millie only exchanged funny cards. Ted’s to her said get well soon. Hers to him included an I.O.U. for a French job whenever Betsy would permit it. Afterwards they stayed up until dawn with other revelers in the club car, getting so gasolined they must have sung “It’s Only a Paper Moon” thirty times to the accompaniment of Wilbur de Paris and His Saratogans, the jazz band on board.

They slept most of Christmas Day and night. Chicago to Denver. During the seven-hour stopover in Denver Ted took the girls to dinner at the Brown Palace Hotel. The stopover in Salt Lake City came between midnight and five a.m., a disappointment to Millie. “Darn, no Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” she said, sipping from the flask she carried in a garter above her left knee…

The train ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles took ten hours. They arrived in L.A. at noon on December 30, two days before the game.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at March 08, 2014 01:34 PM
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And 80+ years later, it still takes 10 hours to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles by train, on a good day.

Posted by: Weldon Berger on March 8, 2014 2:38 PM

It wasn't those two characters that traveled to that thin strip of woodlands between Carolina and Virginia to test their invention. It was that Zeppelin guy.

Posted by: BP on March 9, 2014 2:40 PM
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