Transcontinental Travel

I have a deep interest in maps and in transportation - I think finding a way to combine those two into an interesting visualization would be cool!

My thought is that I would chart out the different ways to get across the United States at certain points in history - maybe it's a horse (or on foot, a la Lewis and Clark?) in the 18th century, a wagon on the Oregon trail in the early 19th century, a train in the late 19th century, short airplane trips in the early 20th century, and then a car and one airplane trip for the late 20th century/21st century? 

Ideally, I would, to the best of my ability, have the diagram actually follow the exact routes of the different trips - which is where my current research stands.

What I'm struggling with right now is how to best demonstrate the variable amount of time each of these different methods would take. While each different route would be colored differently, should different weights be used to describe lengths of time? Should I have a separate chart underneath a map of the United States? EDIT: My immediate thought is a series of maps, each mapping their own mode of transportation in their own time period, scaled for how long the journey would take.

I would love any and all feedback!

UPDATE: 4/16/14

I've started to find a couple of good maps that could act as source material: Lewis and Clark, The Oregon Trail, and Early Air Travel. I'm working now on coming up with a scale that will work for the different maps to at least approximate the different time scales - and on plotting a good cross country drive (Maybe I'll call AAA?).

UPDATE: 4/17/14

Research (mostly) complete!

Here's what I've learned: it's going to be very difficult to visualization what I think is the most interesting data point: the change in time of the different forms of travel. I originally thought of doing scaled maps, but there's no scale that wouldn't have either Lewis and Clark be gigantic or the current forms of travel be too small to use. 

UPDATE: 4/19/14

A couple of drafts:

Still not sure how to represent the difference in time, though.

UPDATE: 5/14/14

Well, here's where I am now. I found it was easier to start polishing as I was finishing my design up - it helped me narrow down what I wanted to demonstrate, and I think it was valuable for me to pick some visual cues that I knew I wanted and then build around those. My big concern right now is that because so many of the routes follow similar paths, it's hard to see. But I'm feeling pretty close to done right now!

(I know it's especially hard to see in the small version - viewing it enlarged should help - especially opening it in a new tab, you'll get the huge version!)


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