Americans are restless people, always on the move and eager to get where they are going as quickly and convenient as possible. It was not until well after the Revolution, however, with the need for opening up the lands to the West, that the Nation began to develop an integrated system for transporting people and goods.
For most of the first century settlement, westward travel was limited to the winding Indian trails, which in a few places were widened to make primitive roads. Only the venturesome hunters and trappers pushed into the heavily forested mountains.
On the water it was a different story: the rivers, inlets and bays provided the easiest and the safest means of transportation. Farmers floated their produce – wheat, corn, salted pork, logs, cotton and tobacco – downriver to market on flatboats and rafts. Small boats and log canoes carried people to church and on visits to neighbours or to market. Many new Englanders gave up cultivating their rocky lands and turned to the sea in sturdy fishing boats to harvest the haddock. Merchants, traders and passengers traveled between Boston, New York and Baltimore by boat.
Land travel increased slowly in the early 1700s. A horseback trip from New York to Boston took at least 7 days. As more Indian trails were widened into rough dirty roads, vehicles began to appear. By the mid-1700s four- and six-horse carriages with coachmen were common among prosperous Virginia plantators.
The concept of using Federal funds to build interregional roads was established in1806 under President Jefferson, and the so called National Road, which eventually linked Maryland with Illinois, began in 1811. The transcontinental railroad, finished in 1869, linked the two oceans and unified the continent. So, by the late 1890s, it was already possible to travel from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast by rail.
Although Americans did not invent that mechanical marvel, the automobile, they made it their own by finding ways to build it, improve it, mass-produce it, and sell it. Speed and movement soon became national obsessions.
The Wright brothers made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, some 5 years before Henry Ford built his first “ Model T “ in 1908, but it took World Wars I and II to accelerate the evolution of the airplane.
When all technical challengers of travel on and around the Earth had been met, a new breed of traveler shoe for the Moon, and made it. Since the first Apollo Moon landing on July 20, 1969, Americans have sent men to the Moon five times. And scientists, no longer earth-bound, have lived and worked for weeks aboard American Skylabs orbiting high above the Earth.
But though time and distance have been conquered, solutions to the more difficult problems of safe, clean, comfortable travel still lie ahead.
b) Now you are experts in the history of traveling. Discuss in small groups the future development of transport technology. Use the vocabulary of the text. Think of the following problems:
* Exploring space
* Modern and future means of transport
* Transport and ecology
X 41. Listen to the information which illustrates the popularity of various types of transport that people use to commute. Decide which means is the most popular transport and why, what is less popular.