Tag Archives: Lewis and Clark

Northwest Trek – Heading Home and Looking Back

22 Aug

We came to the end of our trip, which meant a long flight back home. It was nothing like the return trip of Lewis and Clark, but it still took a while. We had a layover in Los Angeles that brought to mind the old Susan Raye song, “L.A. International Airport.” Unfortunately, that was the only thing pleasant about the experience.

One would think that the second largest city in the United States would have a decent airport. One would be wrong. We landed in one terminal and were told that our connecting flight in another terminal. No big deal. We could just catch the tram to the other building. That is when we found out that the Los Angeles International Airport does not have a tram, or a train, or a monorail. It has a bus that takes you on the tarmac. That is the same tarmac where planes taxi to the runway. In short, the airport is a disaster.

Despite the airport craziness, we made our connection and got back to Tennessee. In the days following, I looked back upon the trip and thought about everything that we did and saw. Overall, it was a good trip. We spent time cutting up and laughing and having fun. We also saw some things that we had never seen before.

Although we had been to Oregon and Washington, it was only long enough to say that we had been there. This time, we saw some stuff.

Looking back, I think we should have spent more time in Washington and driven into the eastern part of that state. Oregon has some great things, but there was not enough in between to justify the drive. Washington is a smaller state and, looking at the map, may have a few more places to see.

Despite that bit of hindsight, I am glad that we made the journey into the Northwest. It gave us the opportunity to spend time together, and it allowed us to explore some territory that we knew little about.

With that being said, I will end this series with a picture of my dad and my brother. I hope you can make them out.IMG_2691

I hope everyone enjoyed reading about our trip. The next post will be about the regular goofy stuff.

Northwest Trek – Lewis, Clark and Kites

19 Aug

After a day of many miles and little sightseeing, we were determined to spend the next day doing the opposite. We wanted to see some stuff and do it in as few miles as possible. That meant hopping over to the Oregon side of the Columbia River and driving to Astoria, the town that served as the base for John Jacob Astor’s fur company.

As a historian of the American West, this is a place that I have talked about in class and a place that I wanted to visit. Astor’s company was the first in the United States to be worth a million dollars and served as the basis for investment in New York City real estate.

The Astoria Column sits on the highest point in the town and was built by the Astor’s to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of their business.DSC00340

My nephews and I climbed the tower and saw stunning vistas.DSC00337

It also gave them the opportunity to make fun of my discomfort with heights.

After the climb, we drove to Fort Clatsop. It is a place that few people know about but that played an important role in one of this country’s pivotal events, the journey of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the men who traveled with them. They built a fort to spend a few months on the coast before making their way back home. There is a reproduction of the fort that provides an idea of what it may have been like in the early years of the 1800s.IMG_2701

As we walked around, I thought about the location. The Louisiana Territory did not reach to the Pacific Ocean. During their time at Fort Clatsop, the expedition was trespassing. Obviously, it had long been the domain of Native Americans, but a couple of European powers claimed it before the United States.

I also realized that, through our travels, we have covered a lot of the trail that Lewis and Clark traveled.

Lewis and Clark went east when they left the fort. We went south toward Seaside, Oregon to a famous formation called Haystack Rock.IMG_2741

It was cool, but there was another place that we needed to visit.

While studying the map, my younger nephew and I saw the World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame. He was determined to go, and we were determined to get him there. After crossing the river in Washington, we made our way to Long Beach and a building full of kites. It was corny, but we learned about the important role that kites played in World War II. Also, the first floor had a wall filled with people who had been inducted in the Hall of Fame. I read each one of them. Hey, if you are going to be in a hall of fame, then someone should read your name.

You may have heard of a few of them.

Charlie Brown

Wilber and Orville Wright

Benjamin Franklin

Alexander Graham Bell

It is an impressive list.

We asked the lady at the desk for a food recommendation. She sent us up the road to a seafood place that fried everything. We wanted seafood, but something grilled would have been nice. Honestly, it was not any better than Captain D’s. Its only redeeming quality was the city park across the street. When we walked out, a band was playing a music filled the air. They were called Jawbone Flats, and I would have listened for a while. However, everyone was ready to leave.

Hey, look over there. It is a road that goes to the beach. When I say the road goes to the beach, I really mean that it goes onto the beach. Cars are allowed on Long Beach, the longest beach in the world.DSC00348

Honestly, we all thought that Daytona Beach was the only one that you could drive on.

With daylight burning, there was one more stop to make. An old lighthouse sits on the edge of Cape Disappointment.IMG_2774

My brother and nephews climbed to the top while I talked to the man at the entrance. They learned all about the operation of lighthouses while I learned that men were stationed there during World War II. After all, they never knew when the Japanese my attack the Columbia River.

We returned to the hotel with our mission accomplished. We did not go far and saw a lot of stuff. We old folks went to bed while my nephews went to Shari’s to get more pie.

D.C. Road Trip – Protestors, Pasta and Thomas Jefferson’s DNA

22 Jul

On Wednesday, we packed up the vehicle and started toward the first historic site of the trip, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The route took us on an interesting stretch through Amherst, Colleen, Covesville and other little towns. It also took us near the Kappa Sigma Museum, which my nephew and his fraternity brothers would probably find fascinating.

Finally, we arrived at our destination. With time to wait before we could enter the house, we were able to watch have lunch, go through a small museum and watch a movie about the third president. It was in that movie that I first heard something that the tour guide would later repeat. According the DNA testing and most historians, Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves.

That is a rumor that started during his Jefferson’s presidency and is something that I have told my students since I started teaching. However, here is what was surprising about the statement. It said “most historians.” Are there still historians out there who ignore DNA testing, the same testing that we use to convict people of murder, and deny his paternity?

Oh yeah, they also took great pains to let us know that the relationship between Thomas and Sally was long after his wife’s death.

After a while, we made it to the front porch of the house, where a kid warmed my heart. When asked what first comes to mind when we think of Thomas Jefferson, he shouted out the Louisiana Purchase. Now, that is a smart young man. When we walked through the front door, the entry hall was filled with artifacts from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Apparently, Jefferson thought that land deal was pretty important, too.

Monticello is not a huge house, and the tour did not take long. After, my family tried their hands at writing with quills.image-12

We also walked around the yard to take a few pictures.image-11

On the shuttle back to the visitor’s center, the tram stopped at Jefferson’s grave, and I jumped out to take a quick picture. When I turned around, the shuttle was gone. Apparently, the driver was in a huge and gigantic hurry.

Washington, D.C. and our lodging for the next few days were next on the agenda. However, we saw some neat stuff along the way. There was the nicest gas station we had ever seen. It looked like a bank more than an Exxon. There were horse farms with massive amounts of fencing and large houses. There was also an interesting question from my wife.

With several presidential homes and many Civil War battlefields in the area, how did those homes not get destroyed? It is a great question that leads to the complexity of who those presidents were.

I believe the homes were spared because those men – Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison and James Monroe – represented to the United States government the ideals for which they were fighting. They were among the Founding Fathers who started a nation based on liberty and freedom.

For the Confederacy, those same men represented the plantation economy of slavery and agriculture that was being threatened by northern politicians. They were people who rose up against an oppressive government. In essence, both sides looked upon the owners of these homes as representative of what they were fighting for. As a result, neither side wanted to disrespect them by destroying their properties.

Of course, that could be totally wrong, and the houses could have been in locations that were not strategically important.

After many miles, we hit the interstate going into Washington, D.C., which looked like any other city until I realized that we were passing the Pentagon. My wife tried to explain to my stepdaughter about the building, but she said that she knew what it was. It is where they imprisoned Magneto in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Then, the Washington Monument suddenly appeared. Now, we knew that we were in a different kind of city.

After navigating through the traffic and the pedestrians, we made it to our downtown hotel, where I promptly parked in the wrong place. Coincidentally, the people we were meeting got there at the exact same time and parked in the exact same wrong place.

We unpacked. We rested. Then, we walked a few blocks to a great restaurant called Siroc, an Italian place that was out of this world. It was a lovely evening eating pasta and duck and all sorts of things on their sidewalk patio.

Once dinner was over, we strolled a few clocks over to the White House and acted like tourists. We took pictures of the house.image-10

We took pictures of the protestors supporting Palestine. We took pictures of the Andrew Jackson statue.image-8

I have now seen the ones in Washington, Nashville and New Orleans. Monty Pope would be proud.

Despite the White House and the statue, I, for some reason, was more interested in seeing the Blair House. Harry Truman lived in it for much of his presidency as the big house was being renovated, and I always thought that made it cool. While gawking at it, my wife discovered that the gardens were donated by Jack Massey, a Nashvillian who put three corporations on the New York Stock Exchange – Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hospital Corporation of America and Volunteer Capital Corporation.image-9

It seems that Andrew Jackson is not the only Tennessee connection sitting in front of the White House.

A National Championship and the Lessons of History

4 Jun

Last week, the Cumberland University baseball team won the NAIA national championship. It is the third time in the past ten years that the baseball program has claimed the top prize. The coach, Woody Hunt, is a legend in these parts and has led the program for three decades.Cumberland Baseball

A couple of days ago, we had a celebration for the team. There was a parade, and hundreds of people showed up at the baseball field to honor the players and the coaches. Several people spoke, and I was lucky enough to be one of them. As Faculty Athletic Representative, I track the academic progress of all student/athletes and make sure that they are on the way to completing their degrees.

A lot of the baseball players have been in my classes and, hopefully, have gotten the point that history is important. We can learn from our past and use that information to move into the future. In fact, a lesson from the past convinced me that they were going to win the NAIA World Series.

The event was held in Lewiston, Idaho, home of Lewis-Clark State College. That is important because their team was in the World Series, as well. In fact, that is who the Cumberland Bulldogs had to beat to win the championship.

Lewis-Clark State College is names after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who Thomas Jefferson chose to lead an expedition into the Louisiana Territory. It is one of the most famous stories in our nation’s history. Lewis and Clark, with the help of Sacagawea, led a band of men through uncharted land to determine exactly what Jefferson had purchased. They returned in a couple of years with fantastic tales of the land and its people.

They were heroes and were treated as such. However, that is not the end of the story. After the journey, Meriwether Lewis faced difficulties in several aspects of his life. Finally, he left his home in New Orleans to travel to Washington, D.C. Lewis want to see Jefferson, his old patron. He traveled the Natchez Trace toward Nashville and was almost to the city when he stopped at a roadside tavern.

Meriwether Lewis never left that tavern. He was fatally shot, and the mystery of who did it continues to this day. The proprietors buried him in the yard, and his grave can be visited. A broken obelisk stands above him.Lewis Grave

So, how did this story convince me that our baseball team would win the national championship? Meriwether Lewis survived great dangers on his journey into the West. However, he could not survive his journey into Tennessee. With that in mind, I saw no way that a school named after him could beat a team from Tennessee.

I Want My Tay Made With Really Old Water

9 Aug

We left the wheat fields and returned to Lewistown to get our tire fixed. In my town, it takes forever to get that done, but in Lewistown the job went lickity split. My nephews wanted to cross the street to check out a cool-looking store. Alas, it was closed, but there were some interesting objects outside.

Nice guy. He’s just a little stiff.

We followed Highway 87 westward through towns such as Moccasin and Geyser before reaching Great Falls. I’m not sure what we thought we would find in Great Falls, but it is a thriving city with all of the franchised amenities of other cities. We all assumed that this was because it serves as home to Mainstrom Air Force Base.

We checked into the biggest hotel room I have ever stayed in; my youngest nephew swam; then, we went out for dinner. This brought us to a problem that faced the expedition several times. No one cared where we ate. You must understand that this is coming from a group of individuals who like for things to go their way. Yet, we rode around while the SUV filled with indecisions.

Finally, we decided to try Jaker’s, a restaurant chain in that part of the country. My dad and oldest nephew had been to one before, so we figured it would be good. We got seated next to the slot machine room (most Montana establishments have slot machines), and the waitress came by to take our drink orders.

Brother: I would like iced tea, and my dad would like iced tea, as well.

Me: I would like tea.

Waitress: (confused look) What?

Me: I would like tea.

Waitress: I don’t understand. You want tay?

Me: (getting frustrated) I WOULD LIKE ICED TEA!

My brother said something to ease the tension, but she walked off. I understand that I have a southern accent, but I also know that my brother has the same one. She understood him just fine. On top of that, there are probably some southern people serving at the base. Anyway, I was tired and wanted food and drink. I probably overreacted because she never came back. Some other waitress worked with us after that. Oh yeah, the food and tay sucked.

We went back to the hotel, and I made the same mistake that my youngest nephew made earlier in the day. I used a toilet that didn’t work and ended up going to the front desk to get a plunger.

The next morning was spent visiting the tourist sites of Great Falls. First, we went to the Lewis and Clark National Trail Interpretive Center.

For some reason, I like to take pictures of signs.

The center was pretty cool, with a couple of good films and a decent museum. Most of it focused on the Corps of Discovery making its way over the waterfalls of the Missouri River, from which Great Falls gets its name. The group had to tote their boats around the falls, and they covered many miles.

Fake people taking a fake boat over fake land and around a fake waterfall.

Honestly, I had more fun looking over the real Missouri River behind the center.

Lewis and Clark passed by here. Of course, they passed by a lot of places.

Next door was a place that our wheat-growing friends told us to visit, and it turned out to be very interesting. This thing flows at over 330 million gallons of water per day and forms the Roe River, the shortest river in the world. It has been determined that the water travels for 3,000 years from its source before reaching this point.

This water has been around since they were counting years backwards.

Then, we made our way to the C.M. Russell Museum, which displayed the works of Charlie Russell – cowboy turned artist. It was a huge museum that showed works by many artists and had an excellent exhibit on the story of bison, a symbolic animal of the West. It was also the location of Russell’s home and workshop. My youngest nephew is an aspiring artist, and I took a picture of him in front of the shop.

One day, people will be taking pictures in front of his workshop.

In the next post, we will journey north.

Imagining the West

5 Jun

When the United States completed the Louisiana Purchase, a question arose among politicians and citizens around the country. What exactly did Thomas Jefferson buy? Some of it was known, but, frankly, a lot of it was a mystery. Like today, mysteries led to wild rumors and speculation. Some thought that the land was filled with mammoth. Others theorized that giants walked the land. Even the reports of Lewis and Clark did not quell the wild stories about the land that they traveled through.

This began a long fascination with the western landscape among Americans. While some ventured into the region, the vast majority was content with staying in their comfort zone and leaving the visions of the West to their imaginations. While they read dime novels exaggerating the exploits of the people in the West, they were also fed exaggerations of the images of the West.

It is easy to see how someone in the 1800s could incorrectly imagine the West as they read a book that was designed to be as adventurous as possible. The visuals were left up to them, and they only knew what the writer wanted them to know. However, the 1900s brought the invention of films. Now, the story could unfold in front of their eyes. No more imagining. They could see the real West.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the way it happened. The first “westerns” were filmed at Thomas Edison’s studio in New Jersey. I’m not even sure it was in western New Jersey. When the motion picture industry moved to Los Angeles, things did not get much better because movies were filmed close by. In other words, a story that was based in Texas was filmed in California. As people watched, they began to assume that Texas, and the West in general, looked like the place they were seeing on the screen.

Last night, all of this came into focus for me as I watched television with some friends. Longmire, a new show about a modern-day sheriff in Wyoming, premiered on A&E, and I had been looking forward to it. To my disappointment, it was a weak attempt to copy th success of Justified, but I digress. My friends, who have never been to Wyoming, were talking about the scenery and how beautiful it was. I have been trying to convince them to take a trip to the West instead of their usual beach excursion, and they began to get excited about going to Wyoming and seeing this beautiful place.

Wyoming is beautiful. It is one of my favorite states. However, if my friends want to see the landscapes of Longmire, then they will need to go to northern New Mexico, the filming location. I thought it looked familiar because I was just there. Anyway, I had to explain that westerns are not always filmed where the story takes place and that it has confused audiences for decades. I wondered how many people will watch the show and think that Wyoming looks like New Mexico.

Today, another example of filming that confused the audience popped up on my television. The Searchers, starring John Wayne as Ethan Edwards, is one of my favorite movies. It follows a loner who goes on a decade-long trek to find his niece who was abducted by Comanche. I could write about this movie all night but need to focus on the scenery in which the action takes place. The director, John Ford, used his favorite filming location, Monument Valley, because of its grand vistas. In fact, I used a photograph of Monument Valley for the banner above.

The problem is that the story takes place in Texas while Monument Valley sits in Utah. Through the years, I wonder how many people think Texas, an iconic locale for western stories, looks like that. I can promise that it doesn’t.

People have always imagined the West differently. In the 1800s, misconception was understandable because technology and transportation did not offer easy opportunities to see it. During most of the 1900s, a trip into the West was also difficult for many. However, today, with interstates and internet, there is not excuse for imagining the West incorrectly. I urge everyone, if provided with the opportunity, to travel through it and see for yourselves.

Wyoming does not look like New Mexico, and Texas does not look like Utah. However, each of those places and all of the rest have a beauty all their own. Don’t be fooled by the movies and television because the West is more magnificent than they can show and you can imagine. Plus, it will all be in the right places.