9.22.2008,9:54 PM
Tracing the Butterfield Overland Trail

"We Americans are the best informed people on earth as to the events of the last twenty-four hours; we are the not the best informed as the events of the last sixty centuries." -Will Durant

A person can read history books, watch documentaries and movies, listen to the regurgitation of historical fact and dates from their chair or couch. But you can't really [I]know[/I] history unless you are there. The very ground, creek or river water, rocks, sand, mountain or fertile valley..... what ever you stand on or near. Perhaps that is why history repeats itself; we don't really know what happened and why.

"No matter where you go, there you are." Where you stand or sit imparts a sense of place: people, animals, flora, fauna; birth, life, death. All of it was there before you, are there with you now, and will be long after you leave. Natural and man-made events are a movie on constant play and reruns. And we're all together actors on this stage of time.

If you put your book down, turn off your television or radio, or walk out of the classroom, place yourself in any location and you can experience a piece of that history. Whether it was hundreds of tens of years ago or in the making, being receptive will impart knowledge and a sense of what transpired before, during and perhaps what the future may bring. It all flows along into a narrative full of life: emotions, dreams and dashed hopes, joy and pain, merriment and anger, success and strife.

History is the documentary of our humanity.

By plane, car, van, boat, horse, bicycle or hiking staff you, too, can visit history. I choose to do so on two-wheels: a motorcycle. When I was very young, I dreamt of crossing the country on my horse. Well, I am in a sense; many horses inside an engine.

In Lessons of History, Will Durant wrote, "Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice. " Considering the recent events of Hurricane Ike, and how modern and primitive man flexed and bent around the climate and geology of the southern United States (and northern old Mexico) to eke out livelihoods, it amazes me how rapid our culture has grown. Many call this progress, but some aspects of our past are worth salvaging, retaining them in our current society. Lest we forget, it was to those who came before us, and those who were already here, that we owe much of our prosperity. They blazed the trails for us, losing family, friends, and neighbors along the way. We can learn from them.

Regardless, tracing history and the stories of this country over the last 150-175 years is a lesson in how flexible we really are, and how far we've come. One can't help but wonder how far we will go.

"At any moment a comet may come too close to the earth and set our little globe turning topsy-turvy in a hectic course, or choke its men and fleas with fumes or heat; or a fragment of the smiling sun may slip off tangentially -- as some think our planet did a few astronomic moments ago--and fall upon us in a wild embrace ending all grief and pain. We accept these possibilities in our stride, and retort to the cosmos in the words of Pascal: 'When the universe has crushed him man will still be nobler than that which kills him, because he knows that he is dying, and of its victory the universe knows nothing.'"
- Will Durant

So I embarked upon not only tracing the Butterfield Overland Trail but many, many trails, paths and traces crisscrossing through history. No book can be as rich as traveling along and experiencing history then and now, like watching a movie unfold before you, at times fast forwarded. And what better way than on a motorcycle.

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posted by Macrobe
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