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Explore the Early Days of California Road Trips

The first automobile arrived in the Golden State in 1895—establishing a car culture in California that continues to this day

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Posted 2 years agoby John Godfrey

Exploring California via road trip is not only a bucket list essential—it's also incredibly easy to do. With more than 50,000 miles of navigable highways and freeways in the Golden State, you can spend months traversing the state without seeing the same site twice. And thanks to navigation software—most of which was developed in Silicon Valley—you never have to worry about getting lost when pondering which fork in the road to choose. 

It wasn't always like this, mind you. In fact, car travel was downright treacherous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to unpaved roads, weather conditions that overwhelmed early autos, and even something called the "puncture vine."

If you're interested in taking a cruise down memory lane, check out California Road Trip: Motoring Through California's Past, a collaboration between Google and the California State Archives that shows the early days of car travel in the Golden State. This annotated slideshow chronicles how the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road became the state's first highway and goes on to showcase innovations that have helped establish Calfornia as the ultimate road trip destination.

"Within the first two decades of the twentieth century, the automobile went from a minor curiosity to a major transportation means for thousands of people," the gallery reads. "In 1910, only 36,000 automobiles were registered in the Golden State. By 1920, there were over 160,000 vehicles registered in Los Angeles County alone. Only 10 years later, in 1930, Los Angeles County boasted over 800,000 registered automobiles."

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