The sport of motoring was hazardous and exciting as well as costly in the first decade of the 20th century. A long course of instruction was necessary to learn how to drive, the schools providing preliminary practice in gear-shifting and steering behind dummy wheels before the pupil was allowed to venture on the road. He was also taught something about the engine, how to make the necessary repairs and replace parts. Many car-owners became adept at tinkering with the engine, but this phase of motoring was not always considered fun. "The nerve strain of working over those jarring parts, if you have no mechanical instinct," wrote one harassed motorist, "would take away all the pleasure of ownership." One of the most popular automobile jokes was that of the car-owner's ward in the insane asylum. A visitor one day was surprised to find it apparently empty. The physician in charge explained that the patients were all under the cots fixing the slats.
Vast preparations had to be made for a day's run, let alone for the vacation tours which were becoming popular as the automobile very gradually became a more reliable vehicle. Among the items of extra equipment necessary were a full set of tools, elaborate tire-changing apparatus, a pail of water for overheated brakes, extra spark-plugs, tire chains for muddy roads, and a "rear basket with concealed extra gasoline supply." Clothes also were important. In this period the cars were all open, many of them without tops or even wind-shields, and the roads were incredibly dusty. The motorist had to be prepared for all contingencies, laden down with dusters, raincoats, umbrellas, and goggles. A single-breasted duster with eton collar and three patch pockets was recommended for mild weather, but men were further advised to have wind cuffs to be attached to their coat sleeves, caps with visors and adjustable goggles, and leggings for repair work.
For women the problem of the proper motoring clothes was even more important. One had to be fashionable, but everyday styles were hardly adapted to exposure to sun, wind, and dust. Bell-shaped ruffled skirts trailed the ground, and large picture hats were fastened upon imposing pompadours with a multitude of gleaming hat-pins. To motor, all this fine array had to be carefully protected. Long linen dusters were worn, lap-robes tucked securely about the legs, and hats tied down with long veils knotted tightly under the chin.
In 1907 a hundred miles was considered an excellent day's run. There had to be a lot of "sprinting at thirty miles an hour" to get over such a long distance. The average speed was a good deal lower, but fast driving had already become a problem. "The effect of speedy motoring," commented one automobilist, "is that of drinking several cups of strong coffee," and the pre-war generation appears to have had a strong urge to experience this intoxicating sensation. To control these maddened motorists, who frightened horses, upset carriages, and more and more frequently maimed and killed other users of the roads while they escaped uninjured, strict speeding regulations were adopted in a number of states. The law in New York provided a maximum of ten miles an hour in congested areas, fifteen miles an hour in the outlying sections of cities and towns, and twenty miles an hour in the open country.