Saturday, May 12, 2018

Go West, Young Man

     I first became interested in the Oregon Trail about 15 years ago when I wrote some materials for a children's project at work. The unit was on great American rivers, and the section I was involved with focused on the Columbia River. We covered the geography, the geology and the environment; but the majority of interest seemed to be on the history surrounding the river, beginning with the Native Americans, then following with Lewis & Clark and the great migration of Americans that started in the 1830s and continued on until . . . well, today.

     I remember reading about Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa, who crossed the mountains in 1836 along what was to become the Oregon Trail. Narcissa was one of the first women of European descent to settle in the Northwest. She gave birth to a daughter, who unfortunately drowned at age two in the Walla Walla River.

     The Whitman couple built a mission that became a major stopping off point on the Oregon Trail, but they met a tragic end in 1847 when they were blamed for a measles outbreak that killed several hundred Cayuse Indians. The Indians attacked the mission and killed 13 people, including Marcus and Narcissa. The massacre led to the Cayuse War which only ended after several Cayuse were tried and hanged for murder and the tribes were defeated by the American military.

     I also (I must confess) recall playing The Oregon Trail video game, which was a favorite in our house in the 1990s. But that's a different story.

     Anyway, I came up with an idea for a trip about a month or so ago. I read a book called The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck, who followed the original Oregon Trail by mule-drawn wagon a few years ago.

     The three-year lease on my car is up in June. I'd signed up for 15,000 miles per year, and so by now should be up close to 45,000 miles. But I've only driven about 34,000 miles. My idea? Drive from the East Coast to Seattle, following in the footsteps, as much as practicable, of Rinker Buck and those early American pioneers (and The Oregon Trail video game).

     Then, after taking about a month to go 3000+ miles by land, I'll turn in my leased car in Seattle and fly home. I'll pick up my new car -- and still get credit for some unused miles, which means I'll pay for a new lease at the 10,000 mile rate, but have an allowance of about 12,500 miles, which I figure is about how many miles I'll be driving in the next three years.

    When I mentioned this scheme to B, she looked at me askance and said, "So you're going to take a month and spend -- what is this going to cost, probably $6,000 or $7,000? -- just to use up a few extra miles on your car?"

     I thought about that for a moment. "Well . . . yeah," I finally said, "I guess that's kind of ass backwards." I paused, then brightened. "But it's cheaper than vacationing in Europe or Hawaii. Will you come with me?"

     "Sure," she said, "It'll be fun. Can we make a few side trips to see a national park or stay on a ranch along the way?"

     "Absolutely," said I, "as long as it doesn't involve too much extra driving. I'm sure we'll be sick of driving before this is all over."

     B has also been wanting to go visit her grandson in Charleston, SC, who just started walking last week. So the plan is: She'll fly to to Charleston for a few days, while I make the drive to Independence, MO, where the Oregon Trail begins. I'll pick her up at the Kansas City airport and we'll begin our trip.

     Wish us luck. I hope we'll see a bit of the country that we've never seen before. (I've been to Portland and Seattle, but never to Nebraska, Wyoming or Idaho.) And I trust B and I will still be on speaking terms after having spent a month on the road together. At least, I'm sure, we'll fare better than Marcus and Narcissa Whitman.

15 comments:

Celia said...

Wow! Good for you. My family is in Walla Walla (wine and history) less than 10 miles from the Whitman Mission grounds. I take my grandkids there to run around. There is an actual stretch of the Oregon trail there. It's a National Park so those Golden Age passes (or whatever they are called now) will let you in for free there and many other places as well.

Janette said...

We are driving out to Wyoming for fun in September. I have a some old college friends with a ranch on the Trail (SunRanch) with cabins and hope to spend a bit of time there. You might check them out. http://www.sunranchcabins.com
You can hit both the Truman and Eisenhower libraries between MO and KS.
You might want to add a few miles and drive through Yellowstone.....
I so miss the West.I hope you have a great trip.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a plan. It will be even better if she drives part of the way, too.

DJan said...

Sounds like fun to me. When I lived in Boulder, Colorado, we would make a car trip every year, at least once and sometimes more often) to Arizona, passing through Wyoming. I've never stayed there, but it sure has lots of wind and open spaces. I hope you have a GREAT time and take some pictures to share with us. :-0

christina neumann said...

That's exciting. We've driven across the country 3 different times, although not recently. There is a lot of open space and that does a heart good to see.

Meryl Baer said...

Wow. Once I got past all the math sounds like a great trip. Enjoy! And keep us posted...

Donna said...

I loved that book! What an adventure awaits you. I just retired six months ago, and I've been thinking about training for some sort of long distance walk. We'll see if the knees hold up.

Tom Sightings said...

Yes, the knees. Gotta be careful when I'm walking around in the prairie ... and also, when I'm in the car, to stop and get out and stretch now and then.

Jono said...

Sounds like a great vacation! I also used to play Oregon Trail. It is about the only game I actually ever bought.

Barbara said...

This sounds like the most fun. Can't wait to hear about the new and interesting things you see. And I also think this period of exploration was so interesting - minus the Indian attacks which we probably deserved most of the time.

Pupuk Penyubur Tanaman Cengkeh said...

good luck, man
I wish your wish come true

Wendy Pender said...

So excited to see you here out West! And thanks for getting my sister out on the road - wahoo!! :-) Safe journeys and lots of adventurous tales to share!

Rebecca Olkowski said...

It sounds like a wonderful trip and you will love the countryside along the way. America is beautiful.

Mary ~ Reflections Around the Campfire said...

Tom, this sounds like an absolutely wonderful, exciting and fun-filled adventure! I am just thrilled about it and I'm not even going! When my husband and I were in Oregon on personal business last year, we were able to visit several Oregon Trail interpretive areas - they truly were fascinating. Sadly, one that we really wanted to see was closed for the season. I was ready to climb over the locked gate but my husband convinced me not to. Looking back now, I think I should have waited until he turned his back and then scrambled over and just kept going. I was so disappointed. My consolation prize was that we were able to find one of Ezra Meeker's monuments at Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area in northeastern Oregon. Mr. Meeker set out in 1906 when he was in his mid-70's to mark the Oregon Trail so that it would not be forgotten by future generations. He traveled from the Dalles, Oregon to Omaha, Nebraska over a period of about two years. I understand that he placed 27 monuments along the Trail and was the catalyst for a number of others. I truly hope that you'll be reporting back to your readers on this expedition of yours. I, for one, am very much looking forward to that! Travel safely and best wishes to you and B for an incredibly memorable adventure!

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