Thursday, May 28, 2009

The River List

Dee mentioned crossing the Smoky River (not to be confused with the Smoky Hill River), so this seems like a good time to review the rivers that the trikers have crossed on their journey so far. The Missouri River and all above it drain into the Atlantic Ocean, while those below it drain into the Arctic Ocean.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Vancouver, BC

Why am I posting about British Columbia while Dee and Cal are still in Alberta? And why about the oppositie corner of the province from where they will riding when they do get to BC? The answer is that Vancouver is where I am this week for the annual MUSE International Conference. Actually I am here to present a paper tomorrow. Obviously I have Internet access, and I will try to keep the Google map as up to date as I can, but I may be a little lax on posts to the Vicarious Triker.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lac St. Anne Pilgrimage

Dee and Cal are camping at the shores of Lac St. Anne tonight, the site of the largest annual spiritual gathering of Native people in Canada.

"A long-established annual meeting place for Aboriginal peoples, this lake became a Catholic pilgrimage site in the late 19th century. Since 1889, First Nations and Métis people have traveled here in late July to celebrate the Feast of Saint Anne. This saint, widely revered as the mother of the Virgin Mary and the grandmother of Jesus, embodies the grandmother figure honoured in many Canadian Aboriginal societies. Lac Ste. Anne is an important place of spiritual, cultural and social rejuvenation, central aspects of traditional summer gatherings for indigenous peoples."

Between 30,000 and 40,000 people are expected to attend this year (July 18-23).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yellowhead Highway Corridor

Once again the trikers find themselves following an historic road, the Yellowhead travel corridor. Originally, it was the secret trail to the fur cache of its namesake, the golden locked, Iroquois Métis guide known as “Tête Jaune.” Tête Jaune, (literally translated as “Yellow Head”) guided for both of Canada's greatest business rivals, the Hudson Bay Company and North West Company, the foremost fur traders of the world. In 1825, Tête Jaune led the Hudson Bay Company's chief trader, James McMillan, through the pass that still bears his nickname—Yellowhead.

It is my understanding that Dee and Cal will leave the Yellowhead Highway before it reaches the Yellowhead Pass, but it appears that they may come back through it on the return leg.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Saskatchewan River

Dee mentioned yesterday that Saskatoon is the "city of bridges" with seven river crossings. The river they span is the South Saskatchewan River. Shortly after leaving the campground this morning the trikers crossed the North Saskatchewan River, which they then paralleled the rest of the day. They are still north of this river tonight, but tomorrow they will cross it again as the river swings north of Highway 16.

The province of Saskatchewan gets its name from the Saskatchewan River, which gets its name from the Cree word meaning "swift flowing river."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ian Andrew

Nothing whatsoever to do with trike trips, but I thought I should share the fact that as of yesterday afternoon, I am now Grandpa. Ian Andrew Walter is a healthy 7 lb 6 oz boy. Couldn't let Dee and Cal have the grandparent limelight all to themselves.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rural Municipalities

As Dee and Cal first approached and then entered Saskatchewan, I noticed on the Google map (when zoomed in pretty close) numbers associated with names. I was curious about what those numbers meant, but couldn't figure anything out. Tonight I found out that these refer to Rural Municipalities (RM) in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. For example, the trikers are in Kenaston tonight, which is in the RM called McCraney No. 282 (pop 431). Here is a list of RMs.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sustainable Living Project

Craik, where Dee and Cal have stopped for the night, is the home of the Sustainable Living Project. This small town of less than 500 residents is progressive enough to promote the use of more ecologically sound technologies and ways of living.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Queen City from Pile of Bones

Wascana is an anglicization of the Cree word for "pile of bones." Wascana is also the name of small spring run-off creek in south central Saskatchewan, so named for the large piles of bison bones in the area. "Pile-of-Bones" was the first name for a small site along the Wascana Creek adjacent to the future route of the Canadian-Pacific Railway, and the hamlet that resulted. The choice of this site for the headquarters of the Northwest Territories was a national scandal at the time, but the choice stuck anyway. The town was renamed Regina in 1882 after Queen Victoria, i.e. Victoria Regina (regina is Latin for "queen"), by her daughter Princess Louise, wife of the then-Governor General the Marquess of Lorne. Wascana Creek was dammed to create Wascana Lake, around which Wascana Centre was built.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sitting Bull

Since Dee and Cal stopped (however briefly) in Plentywood, MT on their way to the Canadian border, I will take this opportunity to write about Sitting Bull, because the town of Plentywood claims to be the site where "Sitting Bull and his Sioux people surrendered to the U. S. Army after living in Canada for five years." Other sources, including biographer Robert Utley place Sitting Bull's surrender at Fort Buford at the confluence off the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. Dean Simmons and I are trying to run this inconsistency down.

In any case, Sitting Bull is considered by Utley and others to be an American patriot, a stubborn defender of the traditional ways against the steadfast and unwelcome encroachment of the white man. In the months after the Battle of Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and his people fled to Saskatchewan until they surrendered some five years later due to hunger and cold. Let us hope Dee and Cal find Saskatchewan more hospitable.

Forty-Ninth Parallel

Another quiz. What is the northern most point in the contiguous United States? I admit I expected it to be the northern point of Maine, and I was wrong. Maine is below 47° 28' N latitude, while most of the U.S.-Canadian border is on the 49th parallel, the longest continuous international border in the world and all demilitarized. Due to confusion about the source of the Mississippi River and resulting ambiguity in the treaty, there is, however, a tiny area of Minnesota north of the 49th parallel called the Northwest Angle.

In any case, Dee and Cal are now north of the forty-ninth parallel and in Saskatchewan, Canada. Still not sure where they will camp for the night or if they will have broadband coverage there. Nevertheless, it is all pretty cool!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Time Zones

On April 21 the trikers crossed into the Mountain Time Zone in Nebraska. They neglected to say that they crossed back into the Central Time Zone while going north in North Dakota between Belfield and the Little Missouri (Thursday). Tonight they are back in the Mountain Time Zone by virtue of crossing into Montana. I was tipped off to this by Dean's comment about Fortuna, ND being so far west in the Central Time Zone. Dee and Cal are in Culberson on the Lewis and Clark Trail, west of the Yellowstone River now. Of course this means they will miss Fortuna. Incidentally, they spent the day riding west on US-2 (before heading north again tomorrow). Most primary east-west US Highways end in zero, but this one was named 2 to avoid being named 0.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It's the Journey

Out of town this weekend and away from my ordinary routine, I am prone to philosphical reflection (more than usual). It has occurred to me, therefore, to share a few things I am learning from Dee and Cal. The first is that life is a journey, not a destination. In a way, Alaska is a just metaphor for all that seems far off and unreachable. But arrival in Alaska is not the most important thing; what's important is the getting there, the adventure itself. The reason we follow Dee and Cal so closely is to see what each new day will bring. What will they see, who will they encounter, what hurdles will they overcome, how far will they get today, where will they stop for the night?

And the best thing is that there is something new to be learned each day, places and things we might not have thought about in a hundred years except for the fact that Dee and Cal came this way today. I write this blog day-by-day only because of their journey. I would not have researched any of this, let alone written about it, any other way. The experience is day-by-day, mile-by-mile.

Although the destination is not important, the vision is. What sustains Dee and Cal every day is their vision, their goal. Because of their dream, they are not put off by wind and rain, hills and bad roads, no-vacancy signs and sore muscles. Sure they get discouraged and they don't try to hide it, but they are not stopped by these things. They just keep on trikin' (pardon the pun). The vision they have is like the dreams sought by the native Americans at Bear Butte, like the one Crazy Horse had there, which sustained him his entire life.

I am also learning about flexibility, willingness to take things as they come and respond accordingly, to make new plans on the basis of new information or changing conditions. This happened a couple of times in Kansas early in the trip, but the first time it really struck me was the stop in Hazard, NE, a hole in the road (from whence its name) on none of our maps until that afternoon. Really cool. Since then, this kind of openness to what the day brings has been exhibited over and over.

So thanks, Dee and Cal, for inspiring us in so many ways.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Quiz: Longest Rivers and more

Quick, name the longest river in the United States. If you said the Mississippi River, you are close. Acording to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Mississippi is the second longest river (2340 mi), followed by the Yukon (1980 mi), Rio Grande (1900 mi), St. Lawrence (1900 mi), Arkansas (1469 mi), and Colorado (1450 mi). First place, however, belongs to the Missouri River, at 2540 miles in length.

Next, name the three largest man-made lakes in the country. If you got the first two, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, both on the Colorado, I am impressed. If you knew the third, Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River, I am very impressed. Yesterday Dee and Cal crossed the Missouri River at the upper end of Lake Sakakawea.

Now name the explorers who followed this river into the Pacific Northwest from 1803 to 1806? This question is a bit easier, but I will let you follow the link to confirm their names. On Christmas Eve of 1804 they finished building Fort Manden on the river at what is now the other end of Sakakawea Lake.

Finally, can you name the longest undammed river in the contiguous U.S.? This would be the Yellowstone River, which flows into the Missouri ten or fifteen miles upstream from where Dee and Cal crossed it. The explorers I'm talking about followed both rivers because they appeared to be about the same size.

The river crossing by satellite. Williston is at the top and the lake is to the right.

Wind Halo?

At 2:25 pm MT this afternoon it appears that there was wind at 10-15 mph over most of North Dakota and Montana except for a halo of calm between Watford City and Williston. Could it be true?.

Little Mo -- Terrain View

The Terrain View in Google maps shows the ruggedness of the Little Missouri River valley even better.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Little Missouri River

Dee asked me to look up the elevation change for today's ride, which is gradually downhill the whole way with a 450 foot drop in elevation between Belfield and Watford City. That is, the whole way EXCEPT leaving the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The Little Missouri River runs through the park creating a narrow valley. The uphill grade coming out of the valley is 4% for almost two miles. A "'Lordy, Lordy' hill" to quote Dee.

This is not the place to post a biography of the 26th U.S. President, but I would be remiss if I did not pass along a quote by Theodore Roosevelt: "I would never have been president if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota." Read more at: T. R. the Rancher, Maltese Cross Cabin, and Elkhorn Ranch. (See also: T. R. Association, and Wikipedia). If I understand the location correctly, Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch was along the Little Missouri.

Wind Speed

If we have learned anything from the reports posted by Dee and Cal it is that wind is a much more formidable adversary than distance or elevation, maybe even than precipitation, though that is debatable and rain is not unrelated to wind. In any case, I figured out this morning that if one looks at the interactive local radar map, it is possible to click on "Weather Layers" below the map and then select wind speed for current wind conditions. As far as I can figure out, though, it does not indicate the direction.

Dee, you probably cannot get all this on your BB, but for those of us spectating from our desks, this is one more tool for the Vicarious Trikers. For what it is worth, predicts less wind today and maybe a shift out of the WSW.

While I am thinking about it, I am not sure how many of these tools will follow you all the way through Canada to Alaska. In particular, I am worried about your broadband coverage. I have become addicted to reading your posts each evening.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Millennium Mile Map

This is the Google map for the first 1003 miles. Click on the image above to see an enlarged version.

Millennium Mile at the Crossroads

Dee and Cal passed the Millennium Mile mark today (1003 miles to be exact). This seems like a good time to recap their accomplishments to this point. The trikers have been been on the road 28 days and stopped in 20 locations. By my count 5 nights were in the tent or on the floor. The highest elevation was 3967 ft at Alliance, NE and the lowest elevation was 1300 ft in Wichita, KS. They have ridden 36 miles a day overall and averaged 50 miles a day when on the trikes. The median daily distance is 54 miles. The longest leg was yesterday at 70 miles.

The trikers are celebrating tonight at Trappers Kettle in Belfield, ND, which bills itself as the Crossroads of North America. This is because I-94 goes from New York City to Seattle, and US-85 is part of the CanAm Highway, which goes from Mexico City to Alaska (by different numbering in other locations). Belfield is also known for its rich cultural diversity with settlers here including French, Norwegian, German, Ukrainian, Russian, Irish, English, Polish and Hollanders. The percentage of population having Ukrainian ancestry is 13.6%, second highest of all communities in the country.

North Dakotan Dinosaurs

Dean Simmons pointed me to a fascinating article about the dinosaur digs near Bowman, ND, written by Tony C. Driebus (L.A. Times). The author goes to some lengths to describe the hard work under difficult conditions required to unearth these fossils. North Dakota not only has harsh winters, but brutal summers as well. No wonder the Sioux natives called this area makoshika, meaning Bad Lands. This is a good area to excavate, though, because the buttes that rise out of the surrounding grasslands hold millions of fossils. In topography, this region resembles the desserts of Arizona and Mexico. Thanks for the pointer, Dean.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Center of the U.S.

On April 15, Dee and Cal took a little side trip to the geographic center of the contiguous 48 states near Lebanon, KS. Yesterday they passed within 30 miles of the center of the 50 states (44°58'N, 103°46'W). The nearest town is Belle Fourche (the "ch" is /sh/), French for "beautiful fork" for the fork of Hay Creek, the Redwater River, and the Belle Fourche River at the site. It should be pointed out, however, that neither point is exact, since there is no agreement on which mathematical model to use. The Lebanon point was determined in 1918 by balancing on a point a cardboard cutout shaped like the U.S. This obviously would not work for the 50 states, and I don't know how that point was arrived at.

Last night the trikers were stuck in a little place called Crow Buttes Mercantile, a few miles south of Redig, SD, outside the Verizon broadband coverage. We could assume as much from the fact that they did not post on the blog, but to confirm this fact I placed a link to the Verizon coverage map in the Tools for the Journey section. This may come in handy again as they get further north.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bear Butte

Crazy Horse was still a teen (then called by his childhood name, Curly) when the Great Council of Teton Lakotas (Souix) took place at Bear Butte in the summer of 1857. It was here that he began to see the Lakotas as the same proud people as in the old days and to feel the power of their unity (Sandoz, pp 98-100). And it was here that Curly underwent an Inipi, or a purification ceremony, and had a great vision on the inclines of Bear Butte, which his father interpreted as meaning that Crazy Horse would one day be a great warrior (see Pluralism Project link below).

Violating a treaty of 1868, George Custer led an expedition to the Black Hills region in 1874, and according to custom he camped near Bear Butte. Custer verified the rumors of gold in the Black Hills, and Bear Butte then served as an easily identifiable landmark for the rush of invading prospectors and settlers into the region. Indian reaction to the illegal movements of whites into the area was intense and hostile. Ultimately the government reneged on its treaty obligations regarding the Black Hills and instead embarked on a pogrom to confine all northern Plains tribes to reservations. Incidentally, by taking Highway 79 to Rapid City, Dee and Cal avoided the Black Hills towns of Lead, Central City, Pluma, and Deadwood on US 85/385 that were the focus of the gold rush.

"The sacredness of Bear Butte as a religious site for the Lakota and a myriad of other native groups cannot be disputed. Legend and history, as well as the determination of the Lakota to defend Bear Butte today demonstrate the importance of mountain. The battle to protect Bear Butte is shaping up to be a battle between religious rights and property rights, coupled with the perceived need for economic development in South Dakota. Unfortunately, controversies involving the infringement of the religious rights of the Lakota have caused clashes between natives and those who do not see Bear Butte in the way of the Lakota and other Native Tribes." (The Pluralism Project)

I love reading Sandoz while Dee and Cal are traveling through this region.