harry trumans excellent adventure book review

Road Trip Book Review: Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure

by Michael on July 2, 2013

Ahh what a simpler time. When a recently minted ex-President could hop in the car with his wife and take a road trip, unescorted by any security, halfway across the country to visit his daughter and some friends.

Even though Harry Truman was the target of an assassination attempt while President, back then once you left the White House you truly were a private citizen and could move about unencumbered by security details and an entourage of personal assistants.

Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Mathew Algeo perfectly captures the 1950s, which was a time before ex-Presidents became money printing machines from speaking fees and board memberships.

In fact, Truman was rather poor. He hadn’t been in the Army long enough to claim a military pension and his Senate career was cut short to become Roosevelt’s Vice President so he missed out on that pension too. What a far cry from today when even a single term as a United States Senator guarantees a lobbying income for life.

harry truman driving car

The author retraced the trip himself, staying at some of the same hotels and eating at the same restaurants. He even met a few people who interacted with the Trumans along the way, including a police officer who stopped the couple for driving too slowly. Harry, who was a car buff and notorious speeder, had to agree to Bess’ rule that they obey the posted speed limit.

Although Truman left office with a 22% approval rating, people were eager to meet him and give him well wishes. He made a triumphant return to Washington where the press asked him for his impressions of the Eisenhower administration. Normally never one to mince words, Truman didn’t feel it was his place to judge the new president. Again, it was a simpler time.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Stan July 2, 2013 at 10:50 am

What a cool story. Hard to imagine that happening today.

Michael July 11, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Can you imagine a former president just hopping in a car for a road trip without a security detail?

Caroline July 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Sounds like a great story, would definitely love to read the book

Miles W. Rich July 21, 2015 at 11:09 pm

I read the book. Harry and Bess had a new 1953 Chrysler New Yorker with air conditioning. The car in that picture is a 1955 Dodge. It has nothing to do with his road trip. Notice the Powerflite gear selector on the dash. That was a 1955 model year feature only.

Michael July 23, 2015 at 1:43 pm

You sure know your cars!

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