Complaining about potholes, rough pavement, and other highway hazards is a frequent subject for Speak Out callers.
We've become so spoiled during the last century. Motorists in the 1920s had to use roads -- if you could even call them roads -- that were often choked in mud and impassible during the slightest rainfall.
I found two humorous articles from the Southeast Missourian archives that reveal the appalling state of road conditions in the early 1920s.
The first story describes a roadtrip from Cape Girardeau to Florda during the winter of 1922. Here's an excerpt:
An Auto Trip To Florida
If these peculiar times, with their many perplexities, have made you want to get away from your business for a vacation, let us suggest an auto trip over the Dixie Highway to Florida.
We'll guarantee that you'll forget your business and all the troubles you imagine you had at home.
When we got the touring bee in our bonnets we began asking others if such a trip could be made in February -- the rainy month.
"Sure it can be made," said Carleton Robb, the Automobile Club secretary. "Follow the Dixie Highway as near as possible and ask lots of questions while en route and you'll have a fine trip," he said.
"My advice to you is to go by train," said Walter D. Black, vateran automobile man, who has made several pilgramages into the South. "You'll strike the worst road in the world in the mountains just before you get to Chattanooga," he said. "Don't try it and you'll be happy," he concluded.
When you don't know what to do, go to some man you have confidence in and ask him for his best judgment. Then you will do just the opposite -- which we did.
We left Cape Girardeau in the rain and plowed through deep mud much of the way from Fayville to Cairo. Then we ployed through much more mud between Cairo and Paducah. But when it comes to mud -- deep, soft, fathomless mud -- one must drive from Paducah to the Cumberland River in a downpour of rain to actually experience it. This we did. Eighteen miles in a stretch and when the Cumberland was reached we wondered how we could get the car back home without driving it. The ferryman at the Cumberland said the road to Hopkinsville, where the Dixie Highway strikes, was as fine as a fiddle, and it was. With the exception of one short stretch it was paved.
And in this short stretch, which was only moderately bad, as compared to the long stretch just experienced, we came to grief. The car slipped into a gully and after a few hours a farmer came up and said, "Well I see you are from Missouri and will have to be shown. I have a pair of mules that came from St. Louis and I am sure they can show you." They did, and after that we found no need at all for the services of Missouri's most famous asset.
Here's All About Mud in Missouri
This second story originally ran in the "Baltimore News" and was reprinted by the Southeast Missourian on Oct. 30, 1924:
Tourists who have driven from California to New York claim that there are 500 miles of bad road. One mile is in Iowa and the rest are in Missouri.
Ony guy has been seven years trying to get from St. Louis to Kansas City.
He says the mud is so deep that even pigs are making detours.
One fellow's machine sunk seven feet in the mud the other day. It would have gone further only it settled on top of a Ford.
Another guy started digging in the mud and found the covered wagon.
Nearby states are beginning to complain. Tourists get mud on their shoes in Missouri and wipe their feet in Illinois.
Men and women both walk home from automobile rides in Missouri.
Most of the roads are dirt, and if it doesn't rain they send a sprinkling wagon out over it.
Tourists from California never need a map to tell when they're in Missouri. All they have to do is look at the highway.
But the roads aren't dangerous, because when you can't move you can't hit anything.
In most states tourists read the sign posts to keep on the highway, but in Missouri they read the signs to keep off of it.
One little kid asked if father if they were on the right road to St. Louis. The father said: "Yes, son I'm afraid we are."
Just then the machine began sinking and 10 minutes later he in the highway up to his neck.
He hollered to his wife to keep her mouth shut so that she wouldn't choke on the road.
When they go to St. Louis they all agreed that Missouri had the worst roads they had ever tasted.
They spent three days at a hotel picking the highway out of their teeth and scraping it off their shoes.
In spite of these terrible roads the Chamber of Commerce says that thousands of tourists are settling between St. Louis and Kansas City every year. This is certainly the truth, because most of them get stuck in the mud in Missouri and can't get back.