“After Durham the sun came out and shone heavily down upon the worst roads in the world….If you can imagine an endless rocky gully, rising frequently in the form of unnavigable mounds to a slope of sixty degrees, a gully covered with from an inch to a foot of grey water mixed with solemn soggy clay of about the consistency of cold cream and the adhesiveness of triple glue; if you drove an ambulance over shelled roads in France and can conceive of all the imperfections of all those roads placed with forty miles — then you have a faint conception of the roads of upper North Carolina….”
— From “The Cruise of the Rolling Junk” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a somewhat fictionalized account of a road trip the Fitzgeralds took from Westport, Conn., to Montgomery, Ala., in 1920. Serialized in Motor magazine (March-May 1924)
Although the Good Roads Association began pushing for improvements early in the century, it was the 1920s before the state wrested control of highway construction from the counties and began authorizing unprecedentedly large bond issues and gasoline tax increases to finance its ambitions.
By the end of the decade Scott Fitzgerald would have encountered considerably fewer challenges motoring through the “Good Roads State.”
“About the time we crossed the white chalk line which divides Virginia from North Carolina, we became aware that some sort of dispute was taking place in the interior of the car….When we reached a town of some size we sought out the largest garage and demanded an inspection….
“[The mechanic] glanced in at the knickerbocker-clad Zelda, seated in nonchalant gravity in the front seat….
” ‘It’s a pity that a nice girl like you should be let to wear those clothes.’
“It was fifty years of provincialism speaking; it was the negative morality of the poor white — and yet it filled me with helpless and inarticulate rage…..
“We got ourselves eventually from the garage…but we could not erase it from our minds that, so long as Zelda wore her white knickerbockers, the surrounding yokelry regarded us with cold, priggish superiority, as ‘sports.’ We were in Carolina, and we had not conducted ourselves sartorially as the Carolinians….
“At twilight we came into Greensboro, which offered the O. Henry Hotel, an elaborate hostelry, at sight of which Zelda decided to slip on a skirt over her knickerbockers….”
— From “The Cruise of the Rolling Junk” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a somewhat fictionalized account of a trip the Fitzgeralds took from Westport, Conn., to Montgomery, Ala., in 1920. Serialized in Motor magazine (March-May 1924)