This Ken Burns documentary is a vivid celebration of pioneering "automobilist" Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson. In 1903, Jackson accepted a 50-dollar bet to drive from San Francisco to New York City in his 20-horsepower Winton touring car, the Vermont. With only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire country, virtually no worthwhile terrain maps and absolutely no filling stations, Nelson and his co-driver, Sewall K. Crocker, literally had their work cut out for them. Accompanied by their pet bulldog, Bud (fitted out in goggles and duster like his human companions), Nelson and Crocker embarked upon America's first transcontinental motor trip at a rate of 20 miles per hour -- and before their 63 1/2 day odyssey was over, they found themselves in the middle of a "race to the finish," thanks to the last-minute maneuverings of two competing automobile firms, Packard and Oldsmobile. Producers Burns and Dayton Duncan recreated Jackson's historical journey under many of the same condition, with a special camera mounted on their own car to simulate Jackson's point-of-view; and in typical Burns fashion, the two-hour documentary is rounded out with vintage still photos and recitations of Jackson's personal letters (with Tom Hanks providing the good doctor's voice). Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip was originally telecast by (who else?) PBS.
by Hal Erickson synopsis