The family and I are on our way to visit family near Washington, DC, for Christmas. Today we traveled from Nashville to Knoxville, Tennessee, a distance of about 160-180 miles, which took about 3 hours on Interstate 40. As we were speeding along, I couldn't keep from thinking about my historical novel Dancing in the Checkered Shade (to be published next year by EMZ-Piney Publishing). In the novel, a young pioneer couple travels roughly the same distance in the opposite direction, from Campbell County to Nashville. However, since it's 1823, they are on foot and leading a horse carrying all their worldly possessions, and progress is definitely slower. Given those conditions, I estimated that the couple would be able to travel about 11-12 miles per day. That means it would take them about two weeks to make the same trip we made in a morning!
I think in our mobile and super-connected society we forget what our forefathers and foremothers faced when they had to travel any distance. I'm not talking about a trip to see nearby family or to a local trading post; I'm thinking about those trips when a farmer might be taking a load of produce to market in New Orleans or when, as happens in my book, a family decided to strike out for land in a different part of the country. They might travel by wagon, or by flatboat if their destination was downstream, or if they had little means, on foot. Regardless of what method they took, more than likely traveling meant they were losing contact with their family for an extended period of time - at least until mail routes were established in the area they were traveling to. What a far cry from picking up the cell phone or shooting off an email to let everyone you care about know you've reached your destination safely.