"Not all those who wander are lost" J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Pioneering Spirit

Growing up in Wyoming I was immersed in the history of the great migration of Pioneers to the wild, wild West.  I know all about the hardships of Conestoga wagon trains, traveling 20-30 miles a day in good weather, over miles of empty prairie facing down cold, Canadian winds.  Not to mention illness, predatorial animals, broken wheels and hostile Indians.  What astounds me is that the Pioneers continued on, day after day, month after month.  The women rose every morning before first light and made coffee on a campfire.  They didn't have North Face jackets and good shoes.  Maybe a quilt wrapped around their shoulders.  Yet most of them freely chose to join their husbands and make the life changing journey, knowing they were leaving behind many comforts and, nearly always, their extended families and friends.

Donald and I pondered the Pioneers yesterday at some length.  We left the Quad Cities at six am, showered and fueled by caffeine not made on a campfire.  Three or four hours into our trek across Iowa (a golden-pink sunrise over an Iowa cornfield is a truly spectacular sight) we realized we were making decent time and that our intended destination of Sioux Falls, SD seemed rather weak.  The Pioneering Spirit gripped us with both hands and caused us to brashly say, "let's go all the way to Rapid City!" 

Get out your map.  We were east of Council Bluffs and it was about 10 in the morning.  Rapid City is at the west end of SD, another 8 hours away.  8 hours if you aren't hauling a 40 foot RV.  Have you ever driven across SD in the winter?  While beautiful in its wide open starkness, it gets really, really, really long.  Really.  The Pioneering Spirit began to fade by 4 in the afternoon and we were nowhere near Rapid City.  We did stop in Mitchell to see the World's Only Corn Palace (as listed in the 1,000 Places to See before You Die book).  The Corn Palace has been completely redesigned every year since its birth in 1892 and is made of the native grains and grasses of SD.  Donald's response was, "I'm glad it was free."  William's response was, "THAT was one of the 1,000 places to see before I die?"  I cheerfully told him that he could at least check it off!

After 15 hours we finally arrived, late last night, in the dark and, in the freezing cold.    How did the Pioneers manage the gumption to do that same sort of thing over and over again for months?  We faced no real hardships other than arriving at a KOA that is closed for the winter and is basically self serve right down to the honor system of putting cash in an envelope and slipping through the slot.  Having no lights and being unsure of where to park caused Donald no small panic.  Remember, we are basically the length of a semi-truck.  The first casualty of the Big Adventure was taking out a small picket fence surrounding a propane tank, causing massive scratching to the RV and jacking up the protective fender along the bottom.  We woke up this morning at 4:30 (Mountain Time) to 19 degrees, heavy frost on the ground and a frozen water hose which is now thawing in the shower.  But I don't have to wear a quilt or stoke a fire so I'm feeling pretty good about life in general.  We covered more ground yesterday than the Pioneers covered in 6 months.  We are staying here today and my parents and sister are driving up from WY to see us.  My brother is stationed at the Air Force base here so I get to see my whole family by tonight.  Tomorrow, after being fed, watered and well-rested, we will take up the Pioneering Spirit once more and begin the two day trek to northwest Montana.  I'm sure Donald and I will ponder the Pioneers even further as we cross the Rocky Mountain passes that will take us to his childhood home.  As we ponder I will be pleased to make coffee and tea by electric means, pleased to have heat in my bedroom and pleased to not wear a quilt.

1 comment:

  1. Denise- I have no doubt that you and Don both would have done just fine as pioneers!