Our travels are worth it: Part 2

Kurt Wolter

This is part two of a column that ran in the Sunday, July 24 edition of the Rochelle News-Leader.

Land and water transportation changed drastically with the invention of the wheel and axle, the steam and internal combustion engine, and computers. Sleds evolved into carts, wagons and bicycles, which evolved into motor cars, locomotive trains and motorcycles.

A little-known fact is that the first successful gas engine built in the United States was created by Charles Duryea in 1893. He was born in Canton, Illinois. America’s first automobile race took place in Chicago in 1895. Later, the development of roadways lead to the routes such as the King’s Highway, the National Road and the Lincoln Highway which still runs right through our city. Imagine the excitement, surprise, anger and discouragement when the first automobiles came rumbling through Rochelle! I’m guessing some people were all about owning one of these new inventions and feeling the hope that it brought for the future, while others were thinking that the noise-polluting contraption was just an annoying mistake, would only serve to scare the horses and that society was continuing on its way down the toilet. Emily Post, the famous columnist for the New Yorker magazine, would make her way along the Lincoln Highway and write about her adventures while staying right here in Rochelle. Imagine how many readers were inspired to go out and experience the freedom of the open road after reading her reports, while others probably wished she’d go away.

Cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, bicycles, trains and pipelines have all developed into highly-sophisticated and safe, yet sensitive and fragile systems. Interstate highways now support legal travel speeds of 70 miles per hour (and higher) while passenger and freight trains travel at higher speeds and more regularity than ever before. Sailing ships evolved into steamships, which evolved into diesel engine powered merchant and whaling ships, tankers, passenger ships, military vessels and personal pleasure crafts.

Air transportation was the next frontier. As time marched forward, hot air balloons allowed people to transport through the air. A brand new perspective of the world was observed as we moved into the sky. Bicycles builders the Wright Brothers invented motorized airplane flight. Later people and cargo could fly across oceans and traverse the entire globe in a matter of hours. Humans invented space transportation.

The quest for higher, further, and faster led humans into space. Although the Chinese invented gun powder hundreds of years ago, the first liquid propelled rocket was test by Robert Goddard in 1926. This enabled travel further and further away from earth. Imagine that – travel into space! Russia was the first to launch and orbit a satellite around the Earth with Sputnik in 1957, and they followed with putting a person into orbit in 1961. The United States followed up with putting a person into orbit and then, in 1969, landing people on the moon. The perspective we gained on our beautiful blue planet forever changed us. Rocket propulsion has evolved into more and more powerful engines that can now transport humans and cargo into space and then fall back to earth to be re-used for another blast off. Commercial passenger service into space is now a reality. And we have just witnessed space telescope images of light from our universe that is 13.6 billion years old. Drop the microphone… It is really more than a mere mortal can understand, but it is sure fun to try!

Wow, I’ve said enough! Stay tuned more about transportation technology and its more important effects on our daily lives and decisions.

Kurt Wolter has studied and taught technology, including production, transportation, energy, and communication, for over 30 years. He enjoys trying to relate technology’s past, present, and future while also attempting journalism. He can be reached at [email protected].