Magical History Tour (MHT): Prologue
In the spring of 1801, 57-year old Thomas Jefferson, newly elected third President of the United States, asked 28-year old Captain Meriweather Lewis to become his private secretary. No one is quite sure why he chose Lewis, but Jefferson’s long-term dreams and plans for the western portion of North America must have played a role. During the next two years, while European intrigue boiled around them, the two Virginians talked at length about exploring the un-explored West. As construction crews continued work building the “President’s House” (aka The White House), the new president and his young protégé poured over existing maps and descriptions of the largely unknown American west and put in motion a plan to explore and stake the new nation’s claim to it.
By 1803, efforts were underway to secure for the United States land claimed by France east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Mississippi River, culminating in what we know today as the Louisiana Purchase. At the same time, Jefferson and Lewis had developed the outlines of a western expedition, and Lewis began to make specific plans to form, outfit, and assume command of what became known as the Corps of Discovery.
Lewis, without hesitation, asked that 32-year old William Clark, with whom he had served in the army on the frontier several years earlier, be assigned as his co-equal in the adventure. These two young army officers and 30 some other enlisted men and civilians would spend the next three years living an early and crucial chapter in American history as they searched for the headwaters of the Missouri River, looked for a feasible water/land route to the Pacific, expanded scientific knowledge by identifying hundreds of previously unknown plants and animals, and established relationships with native peoples whose ancestors had lived in the area for thousands of years.
During the next five to six weeks, I’ll once again expand my geographic and intellectual horizons by retracing the route of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition, up the Missouri River to its source in Montana, over the Rocky Mountains to the land of the Nez Perce Indians (aka Niimiipuu) in Idaho and down the Snake and Columbia Rivers to the Pacific coast at present-day Astoria, Oregon. Along the way, as I navigate my well-traveled Harley-Davidson on scenic and lonely backroads that parallel their mostly-water route, I’ll visit historic sites, explore museums large and small, catch glimpses of the wild and rugged lands they traversed, and learn more about their incredible journey. And I’ll share my journey—and theirs—through daily blog postings and pictures. I’m glad you’re reading this and hope you follow along in the coming weeks as I joyously pursue two passions that have occupied much of my adult life: motorcycling and history.
For those who followed my two-wheeled rambling via earlier blogs (e.g. Alaska, Newfoundland, the Rocky Mountains, Alaska again), welcome back. For newcomers, know that I’ll try to entertain you for a few minutes each day with various misadventures, serendipitous encounters with interesting people, and pictures of our beautiful land and its amazing inhabitants. During this year’s great adventure, I’ll include a little more history than in past blogs. Please feel free to use the comments section of the blog to stay in touch, respond to my ramblings and let me know what you think about this year’s Magical History Tour.
Tomorrow it begins. “I can’t wait to get on the road again.”
Partial Cast of Characters: The Queue Crew