The 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy — Take a 28 year old future U.S. President on a two month long, 3,251 mile, transcontinental road trip (where relatively few have gone before). Wait while he shoulders a little responsibility, add some autobahn^ envy, and 37 years later he signs into law over 40,000 miles of the National Defense Highway System (later renamed: it recently passed 50 years of growth.) About his favorite domestic program, Ike said, "More than any single action by the government since the end of the war, this one would change the face of America. ...Its impact on the American economy - the jobs it would produce in manufacturing and construction, the rural areas it would open up - was beyond calculation." More documents, logs, and first-hand reports from the 1919 convoy here.
"We can run our car over any road that a man can take a team of horses and a wagon, providing we can get traction."In 1903, to settle a $50 bet, Horatio Nelson Jackson became the first person to drive (and push) a car (a used Winton touring car, which had no roof or windshield) across the United States, accompanied by mechanic Sewall Crocker and Bud the bulldog. There were no gas stations, and there was less than 150 miles of paved road in the country. They blew a tire 15 miles into the trip and replaced it with their only spare.
Jackson's trip inspired others. In 1909, Alice Ramsey, accompanied by three female passengers, became the first woman to drive (and pull, and push) a car across the country. In 1915, Anita King, "The Paramount Girl," became the first woman to drive across the country solo. "Her only companions will be a rifle and a six shooter." And in 2003, Peter Kesling repeated Jackson's trip, in a 1903 Winton.