It was on January 24, 1776:
In the cold, nearly colorless light of a New England winter, two men on horseback traveled the coast road below Boston, heading north. A foot or more of snow covered the landscape, the remnants of a Christmas storm that had blanketed Massachusetts from one end of the province to the other. Beneath the snow, after weeks of severe cold, the ground was frozen solid to a depth of two feet. Packed ice in the road, ruts as hard as iron, made the going hazardous, and the riders, mindful of the horses, kept at a walk.
— John Adams, by David McCullough – opening paragraph of the book. See my review here.
When John Adams embarked on a journey from Boston to Philadelphia in the winter of 1776, he faced over two months of travel on horseback. He had to leave in the bitter winter to be there in the spring for the session of the Continental Congress that year. He could make such a journey only once a year at best, and while he was gone, his wife and children at home had to fend for themselves.
Along the journey he had to find shelter every night in an inn or private home. Not only did he need to find room and board every night for himself, but he also needed to take care of stabling for his horse. The expenses for such a trip were enormous, and the physical hardship of being on horseback outside, in the winter, in all weather, on terrible “roads” must have been crushing. But John Adams did it, and certainly thousands of other travelers along the route did too.
This morning at about 6:30am I boarded a flight from Boston to Philadelphia. Once airborne, the flight took one hour and four minutes.
If I could have told John Adams that I would, some 240 years hence, enter an aluminum tube with about a hundred other passengers, which would travel at close to the speed of sound at 30,000 feet of elevation, high above the clouds, he would not have been able to believe me. Yet, here I am, writing this blog post, with a hot cup of coffee next to me. I am warm, comfortable, and even a little sleepy.
To John Adams, this would have been indistinguishable from magic.