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...Wednesday, September 13, 2000...
Now joining the ranks of illustrious explorers as Lewis and Clark (1804-06) and
John C. Fremont (1842. 1843-44.) are:
Why is the time right for our pointless re-creation of Manifest Destiny? No Divine Providence drives us, no desperate need for space. We have no "54-40, or FIGHT!" to inspire us.
But we have a destination. San Francisco. What traveler needs anything more?
And while earlier travelers forged routes like the Chishom or the Oregon Trail, we will make use of the treacherous Eisenhower Interstate Highway System.
Lines and Boxes
We don't live in the Great Nation of Futurity of O'Sullivan's 1845 essay. We live in a world constrained and defined by one of the two most important inventions of Western civilization: barbed wire (*). Barbed wire made it possible to define lines. Lines which could keep livestock inside and people out. Very few things in this world say, "this is mine; keep out" like a barbed wire fence stretching across an alley or a horizon.
Not to jump into Frederick Jackson Turner Bizarro land ("West am free! Am NOT free!"), but look at the East and the Midwest. You see states and areas defined by nature more than man. Like the states surrounding Lake Michigan. The outline of the state of Michigan jump out at you, even including the U.P. Draw the state borders, and you can see where Illinois and Indiana fought for access to the southern end of the lake, where the Mississippi and the Ohio and the Wabash Rivers determine are borders that mapmakers anxiously tried to represent.
Then look at Nebraska. Or Oklahoma. Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, South and North Dakota. Borders determind by man more than nature. By longitude and latitude. Boxes stacked on boxes. Lines meeting lines like a geometry assignment. And the rest of the western states, like California and Nevada, are what happend to the barbed wire geometry when it hit the quadratic euations of the Sierra Nevadas and the Pacific.
What does all that mean? It means that for the next seven days or so, Max Whitney and I will be cutting across many of the lines on the maps. Maybe we'll see what's living inside the wire.
Miles to Go
Both Max and I have work to do in San Francisco. We have loved ones awaiting us. We have pavement to erode, acceleators to depress, and around 3,000 miles of the unkown lurking between us and the Pacific Ocean. Max Whitney and I will be posting updates and images as we discover our own Great Nation of Futility.
We welcome you to watch our progress.