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Month: March 2016

Horatio Nelson Jackson First Transcontinental Automobile Trip

By Carl Reese 


In 1903 Horatio Nelson Jackson accepted a $50.00 ($1500.00 in 2015) bar bet that he couldn’t drive an automobile across the country.   Amazing since he didn’t have any experience with a car, or much less own one.  With no driving experience or maps to follow Horatio set out to prove to everyone wrong. One man’s mission to show the world that the automobile was something more than just a passing fancy.


The first step was to find the car.  Jackson a physician by trade had no mechanical experience. He convinced a mechanic and chauffeur, Sewall K. Crocker, to be his co-driver. Crocker convinced Dr Jackson to purchase a Winton car, since Crocker had some prior experience with the Winton. He bought a used 20 hp two-cylinder Winton, which he affectionately called the Vermont.   And so it began, men would forever name their automobiles (an inanimate object) as if they were living thing such as a horse.  

No cell phone, no AAA.

On May 23rd, 1903 Jackson and Crocker set out to be the first “cannonballers” in history.  Though it didn’t start out as a race, it ended as one.  Shortly, after their departure two other teams set out to steal Horatio’s glory.

Despite many obstacles including a blown tire in the first fifteen minutes of the journey, he remained positive in his many letters to his wife.

Almost immediately they made necessary modifications to the car. One such modification included updating the carriage lights. This took place on the second evening, as they proved to be way too dim.  Outrunning your headlights it seems, was a problem for this first cannonball crew too.

Horatio's Route

Horatio’s Route


While traveling thru Idaho, Jackson picked up a second companion….a dog named Bud. Which he purchased for $15 (nearly 400.00 today).   Dr Jackson soon realized the dust was bothering the dog, and outfitted Bud with some goggles.

Bud Transcontinental dog

Bud the Transcontinental Dog

Having burned about 800 gallons in fuel. They arrived in New York City on July 26, 1903, sixty-three days, twelve hours, and thirty minutes after commencing their journey in San Francisco. Jackson and Crocker were the first men to successfully transit the North American continent in an automobile.

The second group to arrive two weeks later, beat Horatio’s time by 1.5 days.  Horatio was the first and the fastest for 2 weeks.  After that he was just the first.  Records were made to be broken, right?  The third team (also the last) to make it to New York, took 73 days total.  The team was driving a smaller cheaper car made by Oldsmobile.  Though arriving last, they drove their front tires into the water then claimed to be the “First sea to sea trip across America”.   So there you have it, controversy started with the very first cannonball.

Oldsmobile didn’t win.  In fact they were 11 days slower than the fastest team. However , it didn’t stop them from claiming a headline for Oldsmobile.

Dr.Jackson went on to be a War hero, one of the founders of the American Legion and successful business man whom was once ticketed in his home town for exceeding the 6 mph speed limit.   His car is on display a the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

  To learn more about Horatio Nelson Jackson check out the documentary “Horatio’s Drive” below.



Source#1: Horatio’s Drive Documentary


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107 Years before Carl Reese would set the EV Cannonball Record…

Carl Reese

Jacob M Murdock a wealthy business man from Johnstown PA and his family set out be the first family to drive coast to coast in a car.   I know many of you think Clark Griswold was the first, but actually Murdock gets credit for the very first family road trip in an automobile. On this trip he also officially secured the record as the longest journey by the same driver.

Jacob Murdock

Jacob Murdock

Murdock and his family would escape the cold winters of Pennsylvania and vacation in Southern California.   His second home was located in Pasadena Ca. The family would travel back and forth by train.

Inspired by a recent report of someone driving an automobile from Paris to Peking (Beijing today). Jacob decided to make other arrangements for getting back home to Pennsylvania in the spring of 1908.  Jacob purchased a used Packard with 5400 miles on it for $4200.00.

Even after reading about the arduous journey from Paris to Peking.  He was determined not to let difficulty stand in his way.  In his book he said “anything can be done, one way or another”.   When asked “Why he did he do it?”  Jacob felt he never had a satisfactory answer.  He claims “The idea of a transcontinental journey just built”.   In preparation he talked to western ranchers and others. They discouraged him from attempting it.  Surprisingly, when he talked to the family, they were “up for it”.

My favorite quote from Murdock….. “My mind got on the idea of a transcontinental journey until it became an obsession”  That statement embodies the American Spirit and the same reason records are broken today.  We as a human race will never be satisfied with the status quo.

Are you sure this is the road?

Are you sure this is the road?

Taking up six of the seven available seats in the car was his wife Anna, his three children Lillian, Alice and Milton, a mechanic and a friend.

In those days gas stations didn’t exist.  Murdock had to write letters to shop keepers along his planed route in advance to “order” gas from local hardware stores.  These stores would sell sealed containers of gas for machinery, little did they know that they would be the first “service/gas stations”.

Jacob Murdock Route

Jacob Murdock Route

In the early morning of April 24th 1908 Murdock loaded up his family and set out from Pasadena, CA on his way to New York City.  Driving only during daylight hours, Jacob took a leisurely pace.  Much like David Simpson, Jacob insisted on doing all the driving himself.  He took Sundays off and the family rested.  Once they reached their primary home in Johnstown, PA the family freshened up and took two days off to rest. After a two day pit stop they continued the final leg into New York.  With all that Jacob still managed to set a time of 32 days 5 hours and 22 minutes.   The family ended their trip at Central Park on May 26th 1906.  An overzealous police officer interrupted the interviews with reporters and told him to get his muddy car out of Central Park.  Thus starting the love hate relationship that continues on today.

Jacob Murdock secured two records:

  1.  First family to drive coast to coast.
  2. The longest automobile journey by a single driver.

You may think this is slow compared to Ed Bolian’s and Dave Black’s time in 2013 of 28 hours and 50 minutes.  You would be correct.  However, The majority of Jacob’s 3674 mile trip was across open country side, following railroad tracks and not any paved highways.  Whereas Bolian and Black put the petal to the metal on nicely paved freeways.

Jacob was driving an “Packard 30″ with a whopping 30 horses.  Ed and Dave on the other hand had a few more ponies under the hood.

Countermeasures included a Winchester 30-30 for his son Milton whom kept an ” Unavailing warfare on the coyotes”

Rolling road block

Rolling road block

The transcontinental runs will get shorter and shorter over time.  Perhaps Jacob didn’t understand the significance of his record.  But the human race wouldn’t exist as we know it if we were not compelled to do better.  It’s why the past and present records are important.  It’s in our DNA to improve on every aspect of life.  The bottom line is, men like Elon Musk will invent better technology to not only drive cars faster and more efficient, but into space as well.    One day our great, great, great grandchildren will be racing each other to the Mars colony if Elon has his way.


Source: “A Family tour Ocean to Ocean”  by J.M. Murdock

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AAA Sponsored the Very First Automobile Cross Country Rally

by Carl Reese

Long before Brock Yates and Richard Doherty organized coast to coast automobile events in the 1970’s and 80’s.  Col. Augustus Post and the American Automobile Association  (AAA) was testing the limits of man and machine.

Augusta Post

Augusta Post 1874-1952

The Summer of 1904

A little more than one year after Horatio Jackson won a bar bet; by becoming the first person to drive across the United States in an automobile.  Augustus Post and the AAA organized what may have been the first automotive road rally.  Who is Augustus Post?  And why has the transcontinental community nearly forgotten him? He is someone that is connected to some very interesting corners of transportation history.  Post and his band of buddies were organizing many events, forming clubs and setting several records during the turn of the century.

One of Post’s landmark events was a rally that took place on July 25, 1904.  Seventy-one vehicles took part in competitive run from New York to St. Louis.  Their destination was the “St. Louis World’s Fair” to commemorate the centennial of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase Treaty.

It was a time when the American spirit was unapologetic and manufactures were not overly controlled by attorneys. The press of that era covered events like this from start to finish. Manufactures were eager to sponsor such events and take out full page ads to prove that “Made in America” was something to be proud of.  This sponsored event and ones like it drew crowds far and wide.


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At  8:30 am on a mild summer Monday morning the crowds and press witnessed 16 of those 71 automobiles set out from 5th Ave and East 59th Street.  For anyone that is curious, as I was, this is the south-east corner of Central Park.  Which just so happens to be the same place Jacob Murdock chose to end his record-setting journey just two years later.

Getting There is Half the Fun

With nothing more than some hand-drawn maps, these men traveled to St. Louis by way of Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo. Picking up other automobile owners along the way.   A time when roads were nothing more that unmarked dirt trails.

Halfway through the journey Charles J. Glidden offered a trophy to the outstanding car completing the run. Roughly forty miles outside St. Louis they ran into rain that slowed their progress considerably.  Many broke down along the way, and other drivers would pitch in to help. Those that didn’t break an axle from the ruts got bogged down in the mud.

Seventeen days after they started the teams trickled in to St. Louis.  The first to arrive was Percy Pierce in his Pierce-Arrow, the official winner of the first ever “Glidden Trophy.”   Charles Glidden, a competitor that offered up a that trophy. Glidden went on to organize six of his own events known as the “Glidden Tours”.  This was no holiday tour.  Each year they progressively got longer and harder. You can see video of the first Glidden Tour here.

Glidden and Post

Glidden and Post

Why its important to remember Augustus Post

To say Post was a car enthusiast wouldn’t do him justice.  He owned the first automobile in New York City (electric model),  built the first public garages for automobiles. A true visionary of American transportation. Think about it, without men like Post, would there even be a Red Ball Garage?

Not impressed?  What if I told you he hung out with geniuses like Alexander Gram Bell, and Wilber Wright. He was also the 13th man to fly an airplane in the United States.  Post and Glidden teamed up again to organize the Aero Club of America.  The ACA issued the first pilot’s license in the United States. Together with ACA they formally organized aeronautics and verified records.

Alexander Gram Bell and Augustus Post

Alexander Graham Bell and Augustus Post

Post and the Infancy of Air Travel

As the country was exploring the limits of the automobile.  Augustus was exploring the viability of air travel, and competing in several balloon events also.  Post and his team set a endurance record in a balloon, an attempt from St. Louis to New York.  Their time of 48 hours 26 minutes was made official by the Board of Governors of the ACA.

On a separate balloon journey Post crashed a balloon in the Canadian wilderness and it took him 5 days to hike out on foot.


Ten Ballons Preparing To Start in the Fifth International Race For The Gordon Bennet Cup

Later in Post’s life he organized Automobile Old Timers Association an automotive pioneers/record holders club of sorts. You can bet those were some great meetings.

3 Lessons Post and others have taught us

Determined men like Augustus Post, Jacob Murdock, Charles Glidden, and Horatio Jackson changed the course of our great country in three ways. One, they showed Americans that the automobile was here to stay. Two, they demonstrated that infrastructure was desperately needed.  Third they helped automobile industry improve manufacturing by helping them understand the shortcomings of the automobile.

Past or Present Automotive Records will always be apart of American history

Automobile records of the past shaped America transportation landscape.  Transcontinental automobile records showed the country that horse and buggy was no longer needed.  Just as EV records  of today prove that foreign oil is no longer needed.  Men like Post and Horatio opened our eyes of the possibilities for our future as a country.  Aero-records of this time period paved the way for modern aviation.  The first record attempts literally set the stage for all modern air transportation as we know it.

The American Spirit is not Dead

Eleven new cross country records were set in 2015 . Among them the very first Autonomous coast to coast record, and a Guinness Book Record for EV Coast to Coast travel.  Current generations of Americans have picked up the torch and now are testing the tech of our time.

Guinness World Record Team " UberQik" Setting EV Record in April 2015

Guinness World Record Team ” UberQik” Setting EV Record in April 2015.  Team UberQik consisted of Rod Hawk, Deena Mastracci and Carl Reese.  The trio set the Cannonball record for Electric Vehicle from Los Angeles City Hall to New York City Hall.  The team was supported by Anthony Alvarado, Johnnie Oberg, and Matt Nordenstrom.

Each new record set the stage to showcase auto manufactures and the future of transportation. Some publications now days refuse to cover these stories are forgetting American’s long lasting obsession with such events.   Major news outlets including Fox News, and the Today Show are undaunted and have no issue with reporting these amazing feats.

In my opinion the problem is the attorneys and the editors that demand journalist only write “fluff” pieces.  Fearful their own shadows, and litigation.   In the wake, the Amercian public is left with endless number of favorable Youtube reviews of “press” cars.   I believe Post, Jackson, and Cannonball Baker would spit on the boots of such cowardice.

Brock Yates on the other hand embodied Post’s automotive spirit.  Yates wrote for Car and Driver magazine and shared the stories of the records set during the  “Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Runs”.   Yates brought a resurgence of organized record breaking events during the 1970’s.   Richard Doherty picked up the torch in the 1980’s with the running of U.S. Express.  These transcontinental pioneers should never be forgotten.


How the Press, Post and Glidden Improved The Roads

How the press chooses to cover these stories into the future remains unclear.  We need to be grateful of the press coverage during the “Glidden Tours”.  That coverage brought forth embarrassment for local, state and government officials regarding the deplorable road conditions.  That onslaught of press eventually brought forth better roads.  For that we should all be grateful.  I think history shows us that record setting men, the press and manufactures have made transportation better for all Americans !

1948 Press Photo Augustus Post with Madelyn Dillon

1948 Augustus Post with Madelyn Dillon Photograph from Photo Reese Collection

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First Women to Complete Dual Transcontinental on Motorcycle

by Carl Reese

On May 2, 1915, the mother-daughter team of Avis and Effie Hotchkiss left Brooklyn, New York on a Harley-Davidson® three-speed V-Twin with a sidecar. Their destination? San Fransisco California and then back to New York.

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Born to run.

Effie had a reputation of being a lead foot.  She got her first citation when she was caught cruising on her motorcycle at 35 mph on Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway.  She later told the story she had given the officer “My machine really doesn’t run well unless it makes over 30,” she sheepishly explained. He had no sympathy, she got a ticket.

Where we are going we don’t need roads!

Without proper roads such endeavors were often discouraged. Effie said the more dangers people told her about (e.g. indians, atrocious roads,mountain passes, deserts with no water), the more it convinced her to go. She wasn’t about to miss an adventure of this magnitude.

It was difficult just going from one town to the next, much less crossing the country.  Mud ruts and dusty unmarked trails, getting there was questionable at best. Most that attempted it, turned back with the first sign of difficulty. These gals were the exception.  Without GPS, cellphones or proper roadsigns, they along with any other lunatic that attempted it…. were basically on their own.

Effies motorcycle stuck in the mud

Effies motorcycle stuck in the mud

Seeing America was the first priority, not the record.

The two never intended on setting any records. Effie was quoted saying “We merely wanted to see America”. The trip to California was a leisurely pace, compared to Edwin “Cannon Ball” Baker’s time of 11 days around the same time period.

What boys can do, girls can do better.

The trip was not easy. Having exhausted their inner tube supply, did they give up? No! The ladies cut a blanket into a strip and rolled it up in the shape of a doughnut.  They stuffed it into the tire cavity to limp the motorcycle into Santa Fe, New Mexico where they replenished their supply of tubes.

Their route included traveling through the San Marcos pass near Santa Barbara California. Not exactly a direct route to San Fransisco. Witness said the temp was 120ºF that day.

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By August the mother and daughter reached San Fransisco. They dipped the front wheel into the ocean. The two rode into the history books as the first woman to cross coast to coast on motorcycle.  

Effie N. Hotchkiss and mother Avis

Effie N. Hotchkiss and mother Avis

Like many, they didn’t stop there – they turned the bike around and drove home to New York.   The duo arrived back in New York in Oct 1915, setting yet another record….the ultimate transcontinental record of them all, the grueling…”Double Transcontinental Motorcycle Record”.

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss in Salt Lake City UT

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss in Salt Lake City UT

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The Ultimate U.S. Road Trip

By Carl Reese

Randal Olson, a data expert and self proclaimed geek, was more than up for the challenge of computing the optimal road trip. Tracy Staedter, of Discovery News, and Randy collaborated some ground rules for the trip.

1. There must be at least one stop in each of the 48 contiguous states.
2. Stops would fall into one of the following categories: National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks or National Monuments.

Tracy came up with 50 stops and Randy got to work on devising the route with the least amount of driving. The entire trip racks up 13,699 miles and a little over 9 days of driving time.

Map by Randal Olson

Map by Randal Olson

The stops include:

1. Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
3. Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
5. Pikes Peak, CO
6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
7. The Alamo, TX
8. The Platt Historic District, OK
9. Toltec Mounds, AR
10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
12. French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
13. USS Alabama, AL
14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
17. Lost World Caverns, WV
18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
19. Mount Vernon, VA
20. White House, Washington, DC
21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
22. New Castle Historic District, Delaware
23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
24. Liberty Bell, PA
25. Statue of Liberty, NY
26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
27. The Breakers, RI
28. USS Constitution, MA
29. Acadia National Park, ME
30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
31. Shelburne Farms, VT
32. Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
37. Gateway Arch, MO
38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
40. Taliesin, WI
41. Fort Snelling, MN
42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
43. Mount Rushmore, SD
44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
45. Glacier National Park, MT
46. Hanford Site, WA
47. Columbia River Highway, OR
48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
49. San Andreas Fault, CA
50. Hoover Dam, NV

Though the drive time is only 9+ days the road trip would take far longer when you take the time to enjoy each stop. The trip can be a bit more to bite off than most can chew so Randy posted a link using his algorithm for others to plug in their own stops and it formulates the most efficient route to take. In the wise words of Randy “Every major journey begins with a plan.”



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Peterson Automotive Museum Interviews Guinness World Record Holders Deena Mastracci and Carl Reese

By Carl Reese

When Carl Reese set out to claim his place in automotive history, he did not choose the normal breed of German super sedan or coupe that Alex Roy and Ed Bolian had opted for. He bought a Tesla. In addition to saving over $900/mo on gas, he has set several transcontinental records in the car this year. He sits down with Car Stories at Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles to discuss that idea and how he has made ambitious cross country driving a way of life.

Check it out here.

Listen to the podcast here.
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Empty Cars to Enter Cannonball 2018

By Carl Reese

In the near future the coast to coast record will be set by a completely empty cars.  Thats right.  You heard correct, no pilot, no passengers.   Let’s catch up for just a moment.   Saturday Tesla owners got 7.1 update to their cars. This update comes with the much awaited  “summon” feature.  With a push of your FOB allows you to summon your car from the garage.  You can summon for your car up to 39′ away.  Cool right? Well not exactly, the update also neuters the Autopilot to 5 mph over the posted speed limit.  This will diminish anyones hope of beating the EV autonomous record. Read my article to stop the update.

Photo Credit Deena Mastracci

Today on a call with the press Elon Musk dropped another bombshell.  He said in 2-3 years, the Tesla “summoning” feature range will increase from todays range of 39 ft, to a mind blowing distance from Los Angeles to New York! Holy Cow Batman!  This is a drop kick to the transportation industry.  Literally your car can be in New York and you are in Los Angeles, you’ll be able to open your iPhone app and ask the car to drive to you.  Without anyone in the car, it will note your location and start driving to you.  What about charging?  They got that covered too, Tesla is working on the automatic plug-in supercharging stations.

The car will simply know where and when along the route to pull into the charging station.  The charger will connect on it’s own.  When finished it will unplug itself and continue on its way to you.  You can drop yourself at work and send the car home to charge. When your ready to leave work, summon the car to pick you up. Think about the money you can save on parking.

Musk and his team regularly do the impossible.

Don’t believe he can do it? Don’t be so quick to dismiss Musk’s capabilities. May I remind you this Musk just launched a rocket into space last month, and was the first to recover the first stage by landing it vertically back onto the launch pad (go to 32:40 to see the landing).  Previously all first stages landed in the ocean and were unusable.


It’s not rocket science, electric power is renewable.

So this summoning thing coast to coast isn’t going to be a terribly big deal for Musk and his team.  He has already produced a car that can run 300 miles on yesterday’s sunshine. Talk about disruption to the industry.  If you have about 10 solar panels on your home, congratulations you have your own fueling station. Say goodbye to foreign oil and gas stations, your fuel will come from the free fussion plant in the sky.

Of course the big three automakers still don’t get it, they are still struggling with outdated “infotainment”.     Meanwhile, Telsa has released autopilot in October of 2015.

  The good ol’days.

Ed Bolian and Dave Black names may go down in history as the last to set the gasoline New York to Los Angeles cannonball record.  As the future brings newer technologies.

Say What?

Think about it, not just an autopilot coast to coast record.   No occupants whatsoever.  Empty cars traveling from New York RedBall Garage to Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach for the first ever Pilot-less Cannonball run.  I’m talking the the real future of Cannonball.  Perhaps as soon as 2018 teams will cannonball their empty Teslas coast to coast.  Watching the cars progress across country, on the screens of their smartphones, while enjoying dinner in Baleen Restaurant at Redondo Beach. 

Which begs the question, who will get the ticket if the car doesn’t have any occupants?

Sir do you know why I pulled you over…………. uh?

I predict that a Tesla will be the first car coast to coast with no driver.   If you see an empty Tesla pull out of the Red Ball Garage at 9pm heading west, on some fall evening in 2018……. you know where to find me.   You’ll likely find me in the corner of Baleen, with my iPhone in my hand.  Shall I make a reservation for anyone else?

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Man sets first Electric Motorcycle record from San Diego, CA to Jacksonville, FL

By Carl Reese

In 2013 Terry Hershner became the the first man to drive coast to coast on an electric motorcycle. He rode a 2012 Zero S ZF9 electric motorcycle. Terry studied Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at North Carolina State University.  This knowledge came in handy as he made serious modifications to the Zero Motorcycle.

Terry’s solo trip from San Diego, CA to Jacksonville, FL in five days, or 135 hours.  He came in 36 hours before another team that was also out to set the record.

Terry did have some trouble along the way. One charging station was locked up and he managed to use a 240 outlet at a nearby welding shop.  He also had to swap out the motor due to a loose sprocket.  The mechanical problems were only compounded by the sleep deprivation.

During his trip used the existing charging network infrastructure that was available to the public to complete his run.  Terry did not a support vehicle for his run.

Terry lowered the coefficient by installing a Vetter Streamliner fairing, and installing two charging ports to increase charging time. Talk about hacking skills!  You can keep track of “Electric Terry” on Facebook

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