“Heading West” – a relative concept

Just as all the work focused on gathering and preparing food in Little House in the Big Woods made me thankful for things like electricity, appliances and supermarkets, moving to the prairie with the Ingalls family makes me thankful for traveling conveniences.  Like roads.  Bridges.  Closed, heated vehicles.

And it’s interesting to think of their move as “heading West.”  The trip from Pepin, Wisconsin to Independence, Kansas is 618 miles, according to Google maps, mostly in a southerly direction.  Their actual westward trip was only about 233 miles (based on my no-doubt-less-than-accurate estimation from looking at the map, moving north from Independence in a straight line up to  about the same latitude as Pepin).

When we moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles it was 2,700 miles – now that’s moving West.

But I guess 233 miles West is quite far enough when you’re traveling by covered wagon.  Google maps says the trip from Wisconsin to Kansas would take about 10 hours, 23 minutes.  If you’re traveling with three young children, for everyone’s comfort and sanity, you’d probably break the trip up into two days.

But that’s with well-maintained highways, cars that go 60 mph, bridges, rest stops, portable DVD players, gas stations, Starbucks, and of course, Google map directions.  Covered wagons, from what I gather from a quick internet search, traveled about 2 mph.  And you would only travel as long as the horses/mules/oxen could hold out.  Figure you don’t work them too crazy hard and you travel about 8 hours – let’s call it 15 miles per day.

For 618 miles.   That’s 41.2 days of travel, minimum – if you include probable interruptions and extended stays, it would take at least a couple of months for the trip.  Yikes.

Then of course, there is the interesting fact that when the Ingalls moved to Kansas, Laura was only 2 years old!  That move actually took place before the events of Little House in the Big Woods.  But I guess Pa was such a good storyteller, that Laura could reconstruct the experience as though she could really remember it.  Then again, it is a novel, but it’s easy to forget that when you know the story is based on the life of a real person.

At any rate, as much as I like camping, I’m pretty sure I prefer modern transportation.


2 responses to ““Heading West” – a relative concept

  1. Hi – I just gave you a Liebster Award because I love your blog! Zip over here to my blog and check it out: http://sproutsbookshelf.blogspot.com/2012/02/liebster-blog-award.html.

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