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Twin Cities to Glacier National Park

The Automobile Association of America, today known as AAA, was established in 1902 to encourage automotive travel. As part of the organizations efforts, they published maps in 1905, followed by a hotel guide in 1917. In 1920 they added a driver safety program.

The AAA regularly sponsored road trips to advertise the joys of automobile travel. On this date in 1913, the Williston Graphic reported that drivers on a AAA tour had arrived the night before, “covered with dust and grease, hot and tired but happy.” The drivers and their passengers were on the way from St. Paul to Glacier National Park. They began arriving in Williston at 4:30 in the afternoon, with most making it by 6, though a few who suffered from mechanical breakdowns or flat tires straggled in later.

As the cars pulled into town, they parked in the square in front of the Great Northern passenger depot. Drivers checked in with the event organizers, then got busy making adjustments to their vehicles in preparation for the next day’s drive. Some were traveling the entire distance and competing for prizes. Others had joined the adventure at stops along the way, including Devils Lake and Minot. In all, thirty cars pulled into Williston.

At that time, there were very few convenient roadside motels, something modern drivers take for granted. The AAA had devised a way to deal with that problem. A special train arrived in Williston about the same time as the cars. The train pulled onto a siding, where it offered dinner in the dining car and nine sleeping cars as lodging. The train included railway president Louis W. Hill’s private railcar. He spent time in Williston visiting with the drivers, and the onlookers who had assembled to view the large gathering of automobiles. Hill also had a car entered in the competition.

The travelers resumed their journey early the next morning after a hearty breakfast. They intended to maintain what the newspaper called a “hot pace,” driving 154 miles per day.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher.


Williston Graphic. “Tourists Spent Night Here.” Williston ND. 1O7 July 1913. Page 1


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