Camels, Boats, Trains, Planes, & The Internet

The best and worst is yet to come . . .

Never again will any city have the Power and Mystique of Old Cities, like Istanbul, Peking, Athens, Constantinople, Carthage, et al,  because the role they played is no longer necessary.

They were powerful and remained that way because they grew along the one and only highway there was.   That one  well-traveled, deep formless highway of our oceans, seas, and rivers.

It seems odd today, but up to about 250 years ago there were also Routes and Trails, but not a single City ever developed along even the long Routes across the Gobi or Sahara Deserts. Each back and forth trip, took men and camels  years to complete, yet not even one city developed  along those ways.

Deep waters were truly the only ‘highway’ and the trails were by Horse, Camel, or walking. Pleasure journeys were unknown.

But with time and exploration, New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans developed, but they too, are on deep waters and even Chicago became a City only after the Erie Canal connected the deep Great Lakes with the deep waters of New York and the Atlantic.

The next ‘highway’ was Railroads, and were the outgrowth of when England built small ‘rails’ into the coal mines, carrying back and forth both men and the coal they dug. England, in time saw RR’s possibilities, and began building large trains for passengers.

Within a twinkle of an eye, RRs were soon built all over the world, through forests, over mountains and rivers, across the Plains,spanning deserts, and in doing so, changed our maps and lives more than at any other time in history.  RRs, the world’s second ‘highway’, carried people and everything else needed to build cities anywhere. The deep water ‘highway’ is still used, but RRs did the utterly impossible fete of opening the vast empty inlands of every continent on earth.

In their heyday, Railroads were glorious beyond belief and we’ve yet to see their equal in sheer luxury.  Unbelievably expensive, for the Private Passenger Cars made today’s most expensive motor homes look like ‘shanties’.

There were servants, and thousands of Black Americans made their first step into jobs away from the South, on those RRs as waiters, cooks, maids and valets. So unbelievable that those luxury cars became the setting for Books, Movies, and ‘The Orient Express’, an ultra plush railroad going deep into Asia, became a synonym for luxury never before seen or since equaled.

Railroads, for a time, were truly the King of Travel and the world..

Murray, Utah, my hometown owes its existence to RRs. The Smelter (AS&R) could and would not have come into existence without it, and Murray City, like thousands of other cities around the world, was born as merely a Railroad stop.  Murray was once but a small sign saying Franklin.

Air Travel came next  and as Railroads could not compete with its speed, they quickly lost the luxury travelers and today’s RR’s now  carry only a small number of passengers, along with  Ore, Coal, Animals, large Equipment and merchandise,

But before anyone could settle down as to what went Air and what went by Rail, came Eisenhower’s Highways, bringing trucks that went beyond a train’s reach, and, with hardly time for a deep breath, came all kinds of busses and vans, which give us almost manufacturer-to-our-door service.

Large cities no longer depend upon deep water, and are built wherever wanted. And with Drones  in the offing, today’s cities are further and further away from old Rome, or Constantinople. Yes, much beauty has been lost along the way, but today, cities are no longer built to last forever, and outer beauty is not even considered.

People now travel as never before, but no longer go on Journeys. If we want to be in New York, all we need are a few hours to get there and back. There is no time, as there once was, to get acquainted with fellow travelers, or people along the way. Today, we scarcely have time to read a magazine before we’ve crossed the continent, kept our appointment, and returned.

Yes, transportation has made us One World, and is so far-reaching that it’s also changed our Wars.   Today’s war is not nation vs nation, but culture vs culture, and the ‘enemy’ can be right  ‘next door’ and yet,  with a click of a computer key can enter  the Internet Highway, and ‘rain down’ destruction upon some spot on another continent.

Boundaries, for good and bad, are things of the past. Utterly obsolete. We are one World and ‘battle’ lines are unmarked spots scattered helter-skelter, over the globe. Transportation, in its changing forms, has done it all, and hold your breath, for we are just catching glimpses of  the infancy of Drones, and the ‘best’ or ‘worst’ of their ultimate potential is yet to be realized.

One thought on “Camels, Boats, Trains, Planes, & The Internet

  1. every column you contribute has a meloncholy attached to it and this one of the best.
    In the movie “Inhereit the Wind”, the movie of the famous Scopes evolution trial, the Spencer Tracy character remarks during his defense that time marches on, that old things are not remembered OR valued. His quote was “you have your telephone, but you lose the charm of a letter.” We don’t write letters anymore, and if we do, it is a major undertaking. No one has monogrammed letter writing materials. It used to be a major gift for BDs, Christmas presents, graduations and so on. Now the loss of the telephone harbinges an 8 word message on a digital message telling of a new birth, someone has been released from the hospital or some such event.
    Schools no longer teach cursive and kids don’t keep a journal or diary, but make a note on facebook.
    All these have, instead of bringing us closer, put a social distance between loved ones. When asked if they have talked with loved ones, how is that question answered, I text them every day.
    We are back to the giant sailing ships when a trip to China takes between 6 months to a year, and then the traveller has to stay a year because it took that long to visit the things we travelled to China to see. Today we are there in 12 hours, see the sights in 10 days and are back before the lawn needs serious care. I’ve read journal accounts of immigrants coming to SLC in the 1880s that because of foul weather or lack of wind that took 4-6 months. Then the railroad travel would take another 2-3 weeks.
    It is said about Marco Polo that it took 2 years to travel the camel routes across Eastern Europe, Afganistan, northern India, Nepal, and to the upper high plains of China to Beijing, staying there a decade and sailing back to Venice around the Phillapines, Indo China, India, up the Red Sea, crossing the isthmus of the Holy Lands and again on the sea to Venice. He left a teenager and came back an old man of that era.
    I loved the way you talked about the roadless sea and the evolution of giant seaport cities as meeting a need, today we fly from Hawaii to Denver missing the shore by 1000 miles.
    So much for rambling about travel in the past. We grab on to the latest, the fastest, the most comfortable and sacrifice the old ways for speed and miss the charm of patience and conversation and aquaintance of new friends.
    A nice good column.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.