In a few more weeks, my husband and I will be leaving our home of ten years here in northern Virginia and moving to Lexington, Kentucky. My in-laws live there, and my youngest son goes to UK (University of Kentucky). We’re stoked! We’re also putting all our belongings in a “pod.” Have you seen those onsite storage containers? I don’t mean to do an advertisement here, but the company we’re using is “Personal On Demand Storage,” aka PODS. You’ve probably seen them.
This thing is huge. We’re also in the middle of renovating our house. It’s a mess, so we joked about living in the Pod. A couple of cots and we’d be set . . . which got me thinking about pioneers, covered wagons, leaving home, and deciding what to do take.
I thought it would be fun to do a few comparisons. Not all covered wagons were Conestogas, but the Conestogas were the biggest. Just how big was a Conestoga wagon? How much could it hold?
Our Pod dimensions are 16 x 8 x 8, for a total of 6,785 cubic feet. We got the biggest one. Conestogas came in different sizes, but the average one was nowhere close to the Pod size. The wagon beds were 16 feet long, 4 feet deep and 4 feet wide and shaped like a boat. That’s about 256 cubic feet of space. By the way, Wikipedia gives much bigger dimensions for the Conestoga. (24 x 11 x 4). That has to be measuring from the ground up, and the length of the conveyance with the harness.
In their heyday Conestogas were referred to as “the inland ship of commerce.” They were like semi-trucks back in the early nineteenth century. Each wagon had a tool box for repairs, which were frequent with the rutted roads and rough terrain. We picture them in long lines headed west, but they were first used in the mid 18th century in the Appalachia Valley.
Another interesting link to modern times is the left-sided drive design. Drivers walked or rode on the left side of the wagon. They’d use their right hand to steer with the reins, and operate the brake with their left hand. Have you ever wondered why American cars have left sided steering and European cars don’t? It goes back to the Conestoga.
Conestoga isn’t a generic term for “covered wagon.” Conestogas have a specific design, i.e., the boat shape, and they were first made in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and used to haul produce to Philadelphia. The earliest reference to a “Conestoga” was in 1711.
How did it gets name? The wagons got their name from the Conestoga Valley in Pennysylvia where they originated.
How much could a Conestoga hold in terms of weight? A lot! Wikipedia says it could hold 12,000 lbs. and was pulled by six horses. I couldn’t find the weigh limit for PODS, but this is a picture of the device used to lift it on to the truck. “Podzilla” fits, don’t you think.
My husband guess-timates he loaded 4,000 lbs. of stuff. I jokingly said, “I bet 500 lbs. of that was books.” He gave me a rather dry look and said it was more like a thousand pounds. Bless his good heart and strong back! He didn’t complain once about the 20 boxes of paperbacks, research books and back list titles.
Your turn! Have you moved using a POD? Maybe you’ve rented a U-Haul and done the toting and lugging yourself. Any military folks who’ve moved every two years?
What possessions do you take extra care of when you wrap and pack? And if you had to pack a Conestoga instead of a Pod, what would you take and what would you leave behind?
America is a mobile society and it has been from the very beginning. We’ve gone from Conestogas to Pods, but the spirit of adventure is the same.