"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Road trip without roads, a book of summer

Road trip! We're traveling 350 miles plus into northwest Oklahoma, and then, staying on the back roads as much as possible, into Colorado, covering 2,000 miles in about seven days.
But before you get to the Western scenery, you need a book to listen to on long stretches of highway. 
Susan found an audio book that just fit, and I downloaded it on Audible. Thus Horatio's Drive became the first book I've "read" in July, my eighth this year.
It's the story of the first American cross country automobile road trip, in 1903, undertaken by Horatio  Nelson Jackson,  his mechanic Sewall Crocker and his dog, Bud.
No paved roads, sometimes no roads, no maps, no gas stations. 20-30 miles an hour was high speed in an open  20-horsepower Winton "touring" car he named "The Vermont." Starting in San Francisco and ending in New York, 61 days later, winning a $40 bet that it couldn't be done in under 90  days.
It's the book by Dayton Duncan, written for Ken Burns' 2003 documentary for PBS Horatio's Drive. The book is hard to come by in print, but easily available as an audio, and you can buy the documentary film too.
You know about Ken Burns, of course, including his recent documentary on The Dust Bowl which had its premier screening here in Oklahoma, in April, 2012, and we were fortunate to attend thanks to former student Ashley Barcum at OETA. Here's my report on that Dust Bowl documentary.
Duncan has also written other Burns' PBS films, on the West, Lewis and Clark, the National Parks, Mark Twain, and more. He's won many awards, including a Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum here in Oklahoma, A conservationist, he's been involved in New England politics. The Audio book has an introduction by Ken Burns, beginning with a quote from Walt Whitman.

What a trip. Go take it. 
"Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road," --Whitman
"The Vermont" is in the Smithsonian, plus this display.

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