Wednesday, October 7, 2009
My apologies for not resuming the blog when Dee and Cal resumed their trip, but now that they are back home, I wanted to reflect a little on what I learned.
From the outset I was appalled at how little I knew about our neighbors north of the 49th parallel. That is why I initially created the Google map, not actually thinking I might continue to follow along with new points each day. That idea evolved later. At first I was just trying to figure out where Saskatoon was. Since then, I have learned so much about the western Canadian provinces, and even took this as a prompt to relearn the names and general outlines of all the provinces and territories. It was also cool that I was able to travel to Canada (Vancouver) myself during this time, and in this way meet people from all over Canada.
To be honest, my knowledge of the North Central States was not a whole lot better, thus I learned about this part of our country as well. Here is where I gained a new understanding of the role of the French in the early history of the region, as well the importance of rivers in exploration, not to mention the crucial role of railroads in westward expansion. Somehow the viewpoint of the trikes made all of this more apparent, like seeing things from a covered wagon perspective rather than from a speeding automobile. It is also fascinating to see how some of our major Interstate Highways still follow the old corridors.
Geography and history were not the only topics I explored. Ecology and biodiversity were interesting subjects, as well. Compare, for example, the Inland Temperate Rainforest of British Columbia with the Sand Hills prairie of Nebraska. What a fascinating contrast. A few simple observations about road kill led to reading about timber wolves, and a comment about bears and mothballs to finding out more about grizzlies (and from there about thinhorn sheep). I also gained a deeper awareness of the importance of preserving natural habitats.
Some trivia facts were merely that, trivia, such as where the towns of Hazard and Anselmo, NE got their names or where the "real" center of the U.S. is. Likewise for the pronunciation of "ch" in names depending on their origin. Other "surprising" facts are hardly trivial, such as the names of the longest river in the country and the third largest man-made lake, or that wolves are social and grizzlies solitary.
One of the most valuable lessons was a renewed appreciation for Native American (aboriginal, First Nation) peoples and their cultures, especially their religious observances (at Bear Butte and Lac Ste. Anne, for example). Reading about legendary Americans such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull was humbling and inspiring. Preserving their cultures and languages could be as important to the world as preserving biomes and biodiversity.
From Dee and Cal I learned the importance of consistency and flexibility. My new moto for the coming months is "Go with the flow, and keep on trikin'," to mix metaphors. I also learned from them that weather is a more formidable adversary than terrain. Some barriers, such as hills, have to be met head on. No way around it. In other situations, it is better to wait for the wind to change or the rain/snow to let up (and take full advantage of a tail wind if one comes up, of course). Finally, it is not the destination; it is the journey.
Oh, yes, one more thing: if you have had an ice cream today, life is good.