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Putting It All In Perspective

(September 1999)

Lately, it seems we are inundated with stories about the latest incidents regarding air rage, airline complaints, travel safety, and tourism overcrowding, just to name a few. Has travel become the burden that the media would have us believe, or have we just lost our perspective?

Perspective can be hard to come by, however, sometimes is it's all too obvious to ignore. In June while visiting Virginia City, Nevada, one of the original Gold Rush towns, the reality hit me. While walking along the historic boardwalks and streets, a vision of life in the 1800's unfolded - a life of toughness and unspoiled humanity.

To get to Virginia City in the 1800's was no easy task. One had to travel by horse, covered wagon, or stagecoach. In 1861 a young man named Samuel Clemens paid $150 for stage fare and set out from Missouri to Virginia City. He described the 1700-mile journey as long and tedious, with no stops except for meals and to change the team of horses.

The journey in all took 19 days. Upon his arrival in Virginia City, Clemens worked as a journalist for the town's newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. While there, he refined his writing skills and went on to become one of America's most beloved writers, better known to us all as Mark Twain.

While pondering about travel travails of the 1800's I looked out upon the magnificent Sierra Nevada range and noticed numerous contrails from airliners flying overhead. We have come so far since the days of early transportation. To be able to 'jet off' on a whim and be there within hours is amazing. What's even more fascinating is the $150 dollar stage fare that Mark Twain paid from Missouri 138 years ago isn't much less than today's airfare from St. Louis to Reno, which costs $198 on Southwest or America West. Add to the fact that in 1861 $150 was a substantial amount of money equivalent to $2659.00 in today's dollars.

With today's fast paced lifestyle it's easy to take many things for granted, including travel. Sometimes we need to look at our past history to put today's events in perspective. We are lucky to be able to experience the wonderful world or travel in a fashion that is faster, safer, and more affordable then ever.

Resources For This Article:

About.com Mark Twain Guide Jim Zwick offers the best web resources on Mark Twain's life and times.

Virginia City Convention and Tourism Information History, lodging, travel information, contacts and links.

Virginia City, Nevada History of the city and the Comstock Lode

The Inflation Calculator See how much yesterday's dollar is worth in today's world.

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