Nearly every global square mile has been explored by someone at some time. Maybe a Visigoth or a Mongol or an Inuit or Lewis and Clark. Explorers come in all races, ages and conveyances. With different goals. The search for food, land, safety…or more recently a new perspective on the past or a possibility for the future or simply out of old-fashioned curiosity.
So if I venture out on new roads—in my 2005 Mazda with a credit card and a smart phone—in 2013, can I be an explorer? My Webster’s says to explore is to travel over new territory for adventure or discovery. It does not say you must be fearless, facing raging rivers or angry grizzlies, it just says travel over new territory for adventure or discovery. My companions and I did that this summer—our adventures were tame and our discoveries only for us—nevertheless we were explorers.
I’m okay with eliminating freeway travel as exploring (well, if it’s a previously untraveled freeway by you maybe it qualifies). Airplane travel never counts in itself (well, maybe if it’s on a Russian airline—you’ve heard about their safety record!)—not that there was any of that this summer. Exploring is about a new place where your tires or sneakers have not previously gone, where your eyes have not previously looked.
The Epic Road Trip of Summer 2013 involved quite a bit of exploring—first hand, highways and back roads, both new and second hand for me; all new for Teresa, my beautiful granddaughter, and mostly new for Vivian, my beautiful cousin.
We traveled over territory first explored by indigenous Americans down from the Bering Straits or up from the Yucatan Peninsula; then by trappers and traders, hunters and frontiersmen; and lumberjacks and gold miners, pioneers and farmers and shopkeepers. Many if not most were recent immigrants lured by that time-honored partial truth/partial myth The American Dream. And, you know, in some form or the other they are all still there in the middle of the country. In their Sioux and Ojibwe and Blackfoot ancestors; in the French names all over the trapping and hunting country of Minnesota; on the ‘old place’ where my dad, the lumberjack cut trees; at my cousin’s 80th birthday party where the kids of gold miner Otis honored their mom, the gold mine camp cook for some years; and sadly in the crumbling schoolhouses and ranch buildings and main streets that dot the prairie.
In my celebration of that old frontier spirit I drove and looked and took pictures—and introduced Teresa to the middle of the country. Then for the second part of the journey, Vivian and I connected with our cowboy/rancher/western cousins and I found a new state to explore and visit often—except there’s no time to do this all.
I went from Albuquerque north to Winnipeg; south to Grand Rapids and Minneapolis, Minnesota; west to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Hamilton, Montana; east again to Sioux Falls; southwest to Albuquerque. 6,462 miles.
Who doesn’t love crossing borders…and the signs that tell you it is happening. Here are they are as we crossed over for the first few thousand miles. I stopped taking pictures when I left Sioux Falls for Albuquerque but if I had they would have read Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico. 6,462 door to door, 13th Sreet in Albuquerque . Qualifies as epic don’t you think?
THEN BACK TO SOUTH DAKOTA, AND THEN WYOMING AGAIN, AND THEN…
AND THEN ACROSS A CORNER OF WYOMING AGAIN, ALL THE WAY ACROSS SOUTH DAKOTA, DOWN THROUGH NEBRASKA, INTO COLORADO AND FINALLY HOME TO ALBUQUERQUE. AND IT WAS PERFECT. HOW MANY TRIPS QUALIFY FOR THAT LABEL.