Written by Donald Albert Hansen
riding home on the
We left Brayton, Iowa a half hour before noon on Oct. 3 (Saturday.) A lot of the people were down at the filling station to see us off. My brother Lyle and I were to go in the Pontiac, which was loaded so heavy that the fenders were next to the tires, while mom and dad were to go in the Chevrolet pulling the trailer with a load of about 1200 pounds on little 3 ˝” tires. When we got to Atlantic, my father decided that he would rather drive the Pontiac for the rest of the journey; so we exchanged places. On the way to Omaha, we found that the old car could not go over 45 miles per hour without overtaxing the motor. Also, the size of the tires on the trailer made it impossible to go over fifty miles per hour without taking a risk. West of Omaha we found that highway number 30 was a four-lane highway for quite a distance. We passed through the towns of Elk Horn, Waterloo, Dexter and Ames; all in Nebraska. Along the way many fine farms were passed. Every few minutes, a train would come alongside; this was the great Union Pacific Railroad, which had a train on its tracks every fifteen minutes. One wonders if the tracks did not become hot from all the friction caused by so many wheels. It was on this first day, that we saw the Zephyr Streamliner. That night we stayed in a Conoco tourist camp at Central City, Nebraska. It was here that I first noticed a very large red place forming on my arm which turned into a very painful boil. Later every member of the family was to have one, and according to Seattleites, this was the “bad Iowa stuff” coming out of us caused by a change of climate.
The next day, following the Platte River most of the way, the nature of the country began to take on a different aspect. One could tell that it was drier here; long rolling hills began to appear. That night we stayed in a dumpy little cottage camp near Kimball Nebraska but after getting the stove going and the radio hooked up, things were more homelike. We were still able to get Kay Kaiser’s Orchestra from WGN in Chicago.
The next day, Monday, going to Cheyenne, Wyoming, there were many pine bluffs and buttes. One mile out of Cheyenne, we passed a one-armed hitchhiker whom we were to pass several times every day for the rest of the journey as far as Pendleton, Oregon. He was able to make time just as fast as we were, and recognized us every time we passed him. If he was riding with someone and they happened to pass us, he would usually have them honk.
The weather became raw and blustery with big black clouds enshrouding the tops of the rocky foothills. Stopping at Granite Canyon, the filling station attendant, a girl, informed us that it was snowing heavily some miles further on. We encounter a lot of wind-swept mountains partially covered with a few scraggly pine trees. A little further on, after going through a heavy pine forest and down a steep winding road for about twenty-five miles, we entered into a big valley nestling the beautiful city of Laramie. While eating dinner, we saw college girls, long lanky cowboys, and dirty old sheepherders wearing long beards over their tough tanned faces. We also saw a large mountain (Elk Mountain) covered with snow and clouds off to our west. We spent the entire day getting around that giant natural landmark. I will state here, before I forget it, that throughout the entire state of Wyoming, the wind was forever blowing a terrific gale. Upon nearing the Great Continental Divide between the Atlantic and the Pacific, we saw many concrete snow sheds covering the railroad tracks for miles. We met a car with two deer slung over the front fenders and then we arrived at a museum filled with dinosaurs and such, excavated by the geological survey.
After leaving this place, the land became as level as a table top, not a shack in sight; nothing but sage clear to the horizon in all directions, with the road disappearing ahead, off in the distance. We drove sometimes for an hour without seeing a thing that might break up the monotony of just sagebrush! Toward dusk it began to sleep and snow. We were still driving after it had become dark, and let me tell you that in that lonesome gale, it was some thrill to be able to get the Phillips 66 news reporter from Des Moines by means of the car radio. About eight o’clock, we came to a little place named Wamsutter, and was it ever cold! We finally secured a cabin and piled fuel in the stove. I proceeded to hook up that little radio of mine, but it would light up only with a faint glow. I was to find out later that there was no high line but just 32 volts direct current furnished by a wind charger on top of one of the cabins. This was the only occasion where we found it necessary to drain the cars.
The next morning we got up while there was yet a faint glow in the eastern sky and found our cars covered with a thick layer of ice and frost. That forenoon progress was very slow due to conditions of the road which was being repaired. This continued for about twenty miles into Rock Springs and we were forced to drive in the bottom of a canyon most of the way which was full of soft mud and chuck holes. At one place, a trailer with a broken axle and California license plates had been pushed over to the side in the mud and abandoned. We reach Lyman, Wyoming near old Fort Bridger, for dinner, and on the way we passed a Whippet from Spencer, Iowa. To see this car going along looked very peculiar for the front end of the body had slid over to one side of the front axle. The body of the car went ahead sideways, the front wheels a little to the left and the back wheels way over on the right side of the road. The driver was just a fat faced, happy-go-lucky sort. He stopped for dinner the same place we did. It was easy to see that he had a few drinks. He said he was having the time of his life driving by himself. He was going to San Bernardino in California to find work that winter.
While waiting for some food, I talked to a good-looking fellow who was from Mason City, Iowa. I found out that he was the one who owned the Ford V-8 Sport Roadster that had been passing us every day along about eleven a.m. since we left Omaha. He was going to Los Angeles. Going across the Wyoming-Utah line was like going out of no man’s land into a garden. There were giant mountains covered with green haystacks in the valleys, thousands of sheep here and there. The appearance was that of Norway or Switzerland in summer. Several times we had to wait about 20 minutes for sheepherders with great flocks of sheet on the road. Then we passed a large reservoir Echo Lake, with a large dam at the lower end. The mountains became gigantic and the canyon road deeper than ever, also more winding and steep. Of all things, in the steepest part and in the most impossible place in the world, was the Union Pacific Railroad again running alongside the road down this steep and narrow, winding canyon. Believe it or not, they hauled long freight up this place that was more than a mile long! We stopped while one was going up. There were two engines, one pulling up front and a pusher down at the bottom. Each one had a double set of pistons! Such a loud puffing up that narrow place! It looked and sounded just like those locomotives might blow up at any minute. It was here that we saw a long train of tank cars that appeared to be hauling gasoline, but upon a closer inspection it was found to be a trainload of wine from California. The Salt Lake paper stated the next morning that it was bound for New York City. I thing that the Wasatch mountains contain some of the best scenery in the country, if not in the whole world. Emerging down out of the canyon, we looked down on the gold Salt Lake City with the lake and the desert to the west.
The next day, Wednesday, the 7th of October, we headed toward Ogden and Brigham. Following #30 northeast from Brigham, we were driving at about our usual speed in some sand hill country when I heard a thud followed by a terrific vibration, which seemed to be throwing the car out of control. I managed to stop before leaving the road. I thought that it might be a flat, but when I got to the back of the car I saw the weight of the front end of the trailer had been so great that it had snapped off the main bolt holding the right end of the bumper and the trailer-hitch so that the tongue and hitch of the trailer, as well as the bumper were boring down into the hard surface of the road. Father and Lyle had gone about two miles before discovering that we were no longer behind them. When they got back we found that we had to unload our trailer in order to get at the tool chest, which was at the bottom. Being unable to find any bolts, we found a short piece of barbed wire, which would help us until we could get to Snowville. This we thought we could accomplish if we took a little caution in our driving and such proved to be the case. From Snowville to Cedar Creek the road runs straight as the crow flies for a distance of about sixty miles. It looked like two miles to me when we started across, but after driving for about twenty minutes, the road ahead looked just as far as ever. It was the ideal place for some of the boys back in the Midwest who liked to see how fast their cars would go. Turning north, we crossed the line into Idaho and at Malta we were stopped by the State Police Patrol to register our entering etc. That night we had an unusually nice cabin at Twin Falls Idaho.
A little ways out of Twin Falls was the noted valley of a Thousand Springs. Water was pouring out of the rocks in all directions, while here and there were patches of poplar trees of a new species that were full of leaves of all colors. At the most unexpected places were cute little farms nestling among the trees, a very beautiful little valley in which to live. At Mountain Home, we stopped to eat some watermelons that were purchased a few miles back. We passed through Boise, the state capitol, and came into the fertile farming district surround Nampa. Here the bolt snapped that held the front of the trailer box onto the tongue. The car was on the right side of the road while the trailer was over on the left side running sideways. At Caldwell, we took time out to repair it. Going on, we crossed the Snake River, tributary of the mighty Columbia. Arriving in some rolling mountains of the wild horse country, we found that we were to stay in a little town down in the canyon, Huntington Oregon. The dust was so thick that you could hardly breath. It seemed as though there had been no moisture for a thousand years. For this reason we spent a rather restless night.
The next day we journeyed on through the nice little city of Baker, also La Grande. Some distance out of La Grand we went up over the summit of the Blue Mountains, a beautiful scenic park made by nature. At Emigrant Hill we had a beautiful view of Oregon and part of Washington far below. Going down brought us to the city of the great annual roundup in Pendleton. At Irrigon we had a very thrilling experience. We had the opportunity of crossing the Columbia on a ferry. It as a giant raft affair manned by a single man in a small tug chained to the side. It is referred to by tourist as the Paterson Ferry. For the next 28 miles progress was very slow due to the roughness of the road. The air was filled with dust and we saw about two farms the whole way. Very suddenly we wound our way deep down into Prosser, Washington. Back to civilization, so to speak. This was our last stop overnight on our journey.
The next morning, passing through Yakima, the center of the apple industry, we drove up the Naches Valley. This brought us into the first real forested area for which the state is so famous. This was only the beginning, however, as we were to pass through a lot of big timber before reaching our destination. Finally we reached Chinook pass, which gave us our first glimpse of Mt. Rainier. We recalled reading about this in grade school. For the rest of the journey, the surrounding country took on a brighter aspect. Upon reaching the city limits of Seattle, we saluted one another by a couple dozen blasts from our air trumpets. From then on we were so taken up with all the new things, which were too numerous to mention, that little more needs to be said. We felt very much at ease due to the fact that our journey was now ended and we were more than satisfied with the appearance of Seattle and the surrounding territory.
We traveled exactly 2000 miles with two cars and a trailer on about fifty dollars worth of gasoline and oil in exactly seven days. We were pioneers who had trekked westward the modern way, via the automobile. Our goal was a country where the climate does not go to extremes and where there abounds a wide variety of recreational activities and scenery. A place that is one in which a person loves to live. This is Seattle, the New York City of the Pacific Northwest. We love it!