The Original RV – The Covered Wagon

 The Original RV – The Covered Wagon

Ever wonder what the original RV was? Wonder no more. You know the answer. It was a Covered Wagon.

We RVers have our heritage and it really starts on Interstate 80 in Nebraska, America’s heartland.

That's probably the main east-west route most RVers take when they head west to visit the National parks.

I-80 was the main route for the Original RV travelers, too

Historically, that's where the Great Platte River Trail became the Oregon Trail…The California Trail… the 49ers Trail…the Mormon Trail.

This was the pioneer route that linked east to west.

image of the original rv - a covered wagon
This is a shot from the Archway of a Covered Wagon – the original RV

And today,  spanning the interstate near the mid-Nebraska town of Kearney is a must stop for tourists and especially RVers…the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument

The Archway Monument is well worth your stop

Of all the places we've been to, this is one of the most amazing and fascinating historic displays we've seen anywhere.

Admission is $12 and a bargain at that price.

The monument is built literally across the interstate, spanning north the west and eastbound lanes.

Visitors walk above and across the interstate inside a covered archway, watching an interactive multimedia display that documents the first RV – the covered wagon which opened up the country.

It’s hard to believe how difficult this migration must have been, or how big it was.

See this video we did on the Original RV

(NOTE: Check out the T-Shirt I'm wearing in the closing stand-up. I bought it at the Archway. It depicts a “Nebraska RV”)

But  From 1843 to 1869, the archway folks tell us, nearly half a million men, women, and children rode and walked the trails to the West Coast.

The distance was vast, the prairie endless, the sky overwhelming and the mountains and wildlife were unlike anything they had ever seen.

As the early settlers established their homesteads, following roughly their same route came the railroads, and then automobiles on the Lincoln Highway, America’s first transcontinental road; I-80, the nation’s first interstate.

Markdown the archway as a must-visit as you visit in a different sort of covered wagon… the original RV.

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

4 Comments

  • Nice job, Mike. I always wanted to visit that arch when we headed west the last couple years but never did. We’ll definitely do so the next time. Very interesting how that interstate follows the same route of those covered wagon pioneers. Wonder what they’d think of our “covered wagons” today!

    • We enjoyed the Arch 9 years ago and would go again.

      • I lol your website but I don’t like your photos over the artrticles you write if I want to look at your advertisements put them at the beach or the end

  • Mike, this is on my bucket to stop by on trip out west this summer.

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