…I Wonder About

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I’ve been thinking lately (surprised, right!?!?!) and I have questions…lots of questions!!!!  Most of these questions come from things I’ve seen relatively recently and I doubt I’ll be able to sleep until I get ANSWERS!

Things I wonder about…

When a squirrel comes down the side of a tree head first, does their head fill with blood and hurt like ours do if we are upside down?

When a squirrel climbs up a tree head first, does all the blood rush to its tail, making it feel light-headed?

Do turtles ever feel claustrophobic?

What do turtles do if they eat a dead, rotting fish and their belly bloats up?  How does that work when you’re encased in a tight shell?

Do fish ever worry about drowning?

Do birds ever have dare-devil contests to see how close they can fly to a tree branch without crashing?

Do birds ever really fly overhead and “target” people or objects on the ground?

When frogs die, do they really croak?

Do gargoyles ever suffer from acrophobia?

What do animals eat that makes them “stuffed”?

How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck COULD chuck wood?

My inquiring mind wants to know!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1876, a mere 83 hours after leaving New York City, the Transcontinental Express train arrived in San Francisco.

That any human being could travel across the entire nation in less than four days was inconceivable to previous generations of Americans. When Thomas Jefferson first dreamed of an American nation stretching from “sea to shining sea,” it took the president 10 days to travel the 225 miles from Monticello to Philadelphia via carriage. Even with frequent changing of horses, the 100-mile journey from New York to Philadelphia demanded two days hard travel in a light stagecoach. At such speeds, the coasts of the continent-wide American nation were months apart.

As early as 1802, Jefferson had a glimmer of an answer. “The introduction of so powerful an agent as steam,” he predicted, “[to a carriage on wheels] will make a great change in the situation of man.” Though Jefferson never saw a train in his lifetime. Within half a century, America would have more railroads than any other nation in the world. By 1869, the first transcontinental line linking the coasts was completed.

Five days after the transcontinental railroad was completed, daily passenger service over the rails began. The speed and comfort was so astonishing that many Americans could scarcely believe it, and popular magazines wrote glowing accounts of the amazing journey. For the wealthy, a trip on the transcontinental railroad was a luxurious experience, riding in beautifully appointed cars with plush velvet seats that converted into snug sleeping berths. The amenities included steam heat, fresh linen daily, and gracious porters. For an extra $4 a day, the wealthy traveler could opt to take the weekly Pacific Hotel Express, which offered first-class dining on board. As one happy passenger wrote, “The rarest and richest of all my journeying through life is this three-thousand miles by rail.”

The trip was a good deal less speedy and comfortable for passengers unwilling or unable to pay the premium fares. Most of the first-class passengers traveled the transcontinental line for business or pleasure, while third-class occupants were usually emigrants hoping to make a new start in the West. A third-class ticket could be purchased for only $40–less than half the price of the first-class fare. At this, the traveler received no luxuries. Their cars, fitted with rows of wooden benches, were congested, noisy, and uncomfortable. The railroad often attached the coach cars to freight cars that were constantly shunted aside to make way for the express trains. Consequently, the third-class traveler’s journey west might take 10 or more days. Even then, few travelers complained. Even 10 days spent sitting on a hard bench seat was preferable to six months walking alongside a Conestoga wagon on the Oregon Trail.

Railroad promotions naturally focused on the express trains. The arrival of the Transcontinental Express train in San Francisco on this day in 1876 was celebrated in the newspapers and magazines of the day. With this express service, a businessman could leave New York City on Monday morning, spend 83 hours in relaxing comfort, and arrive refreshed and ready for work in San Francisco by Thursday evening.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Records for locomotives include the heaviest (1,200,000 pounds, i.e,. 600 tons); longest with its tender 132’9″; most powerful 176,600 lpf.

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