the sophisticated and civilized East, Twain traveled by stagecoach to San
Francisco on the Overland Trail. His account of his trip in his book
Roughing It makes 21st Century travel on Interstate Highways
"One cannot make a heavy traveling trunk stand for
25 pounds of luggage," recounted Twain. "We had to make our
selections in a hurry, putting our lawful 25 pounds in one valise. When
everything was ready, we jumped into the stage, the driver cracked the whip,
and we bolted away and left "the States" behind us."
When Mark Twain
traversed the Trail, most of the land west of the Mississippi was wild
territory. Civilization lay far behind. The Rocky Mountains was a paradise
of outlaws and desperados. Violence was the rule. Force was the only
recognized authority. Men settled common misunderstandings on the spot with
a revolver or a knife.
From St. Joe to Sacramento by stage was nearly 1,900 miles. The trip
usually took 15 days, but the time specified in mail contracts was 18 or 19
days to allow for winter storms and snows.
"We changed horses every ten miles, all day long, and fairly flew
over the hard level road," wrote Twain. "The stage whirled along
at a spanking gait, the breeze flapping its curtains and suspended coats in
a most exhilarating way. ...We stretched our cramped legs full length on the
mail sacks and gazed out through the windows across the wide wastes of green
plains clad in a cool, powdery mist."
On his way through Rawlins, Wyoming, he noted, "The town reposed
among low hills and prairie flats, and nothing in its setting would ever
lift the stock of Eastman Kodak." Unfortunately, not much has changed
in Rawlins since Twain’s visit.