Car Buffs Mark Centennial of First Cross-U.S. Road Trips

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They've been zooming across the Plains this week to meet Packard owners driving from the East. The twain will meet today in Jefferson, Ohio, near the town of Warren, the birthplace of the Packard, for a centennial celebration.

Race for First

The first people to cross the U.S. by car were Horatio Nelson Jackson and his mechanic, Sewall Crocker. The pair arrived in New York City on July 26, 1903, after a two-month drive from San Francisco.

In a world where nobody remembers the guy who finishes second, Fetch and Martin have mixed feelings about being number two. Fetch believes gaps in reporting about Jackson's and Crocker's drive are among several factors that calls the duo's record-breaking claim into question. (See related story.)

Martin isn't concerned with the distinction. "It's just like the Olympics when you come in second," he says. "You [still] accomplished something that no one else has done."

Just like old times, the two are not the only motorists to honor the centennial of the first U.S. cross-continental road trip this summer.

Peter Kesling, a retired dentist from Laporte, Indiana, has nearly finished retracing the route Jackson and Crocker blazed in their 1903 Winton. Driving a 1903 Winton of his own, Kesling plans to arrive in New York on July 26, exactly as Jackson and Crocker did 100 years ago.

Kesling took some satisfaction in the fact that the Packard aficionados are not driving their classic car along the entire 1903 route.

"They're cheating," he said.

For him the trip is pure sport. "It's my giant golf game, to get from one motel to the next in one shot. And I've made it so far without missing a hole."

Editor's note: New York-based writer Nicole Davis is retracing the 1903 Packard route with photographer Kristen McClarty. The pair are driving a low-emission vehicle loaned by Ford Motor Company. Read the sidebar at right to learn more about their journey.

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