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On the Road Again !


On the Road Again

By Drew Bigelow, Library Aide, Kings Park Library

The road trip is as old as the car itself, with Bertha Benz completing the first official “road trip” on record in the late 1880’s. She travelled across Germany to show off her husband Karl's latest automobile model according to A Brief History of the Great American Road Trip available on

Across the Atlantic Ocean, Horatio Nelson Jackson became the first American road tripper in 1903. He drove across the entire country in 63 days, starting at San Francisco and ending in New York, according to news reports by

Road trips didn’t take off immediately, however. Cars were still new technology at the time, and relatively expensive for the average family. Not to mention, road conditions were abysmal, unsuited for long distance travel except for the truly adventurous, according to

Gathering Steam

As time went on, road trips began to gather steam, beginning with Henry Ford’s development of mass-produced automobiles. In an interview with Ashley Fetters of The Atlantic, author Richard Ratay discussed the factors that popularized road trips. By the end of World War II, more families were able to afford a car, and, coupled with extra money due to the post-war economic boom, travelled around the country at their leisure. The creation of the Interstate Highway System by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 helped this phenomenon, as mentioned by the blog A Speck in Time. By the 1960s, the road trip had become a staple of the American vacation.

These days, taking a road trip is rather easy. Just pack a suitcase, hop in a car, make sure there’s plenty of gas and you’re off. Maybe your goal is on the other side of the country, maybe it’s only a couple of states away. Either way, road trips are a great time to explore new places and see new sights.

How Mail Finds its Way

While you’re on the road, one of the things you could do is write a letter or postcard to friends and family back home. Tell them about everything you’ve experienced on your journey –that restaurant you ate at, the couple from Canada you spoke to, that random roadside attraction you saw with the two headed alligator, whatever highlights you remember. In order to send the letter, you’ll need the recipient’s address, a postage stamp and a series of five numbers known as a ZIP code.

The “ZIP” in ZIP code stands for Zone Improvement Plan and was developed to help deliver mail more efficiently, according to news reports. The idea originated in 1944, with a postal worker named Robert Moon suggesting a three-number coding system in order to keep the mail moving, according to This idea was picked up by the United States Postal Service, but with a two-digit number instead – the first for the city, the second for the state. Eventually, as the country’s population began to grow, the two-digit number became five. In a ZIP code, the first number represents the national area of the address, with the following two numbers representing the sectional area within the first one, and the last two representing the local post office delivery area. On July 1, 1963, according to news reports, the ZIP code system as we know it today was officially implemented.

National ZIP Code Day is July 1. So why not write a letter to celebrate the occasion? Whether you’re at home or traveling about, you’ll know that your letter will make its way to its destination thanks to those five little digits.

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