Bicycling through time with Lewis and Clark

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When bicycle tourists ride through North Dakota, they'll pass the small town of Washburn. It's near the site where the Lewis and Clark expedition erected a fort to survive the harsh winter on the Missouri River near two Mandan villages.

Two hundred years ago, Lewis and Clark had been cooling their heels at the fort since October 24 and would remain until April 7. They'd already met and hired French trapper Toussaint Carbonneau, whose wife, Sacagawea, would later that year play a crucial role in the expedition's success. On this very day, cloudy in the morning, chiefs Black Cat and Big White visited the fort with some meat. Some members of the Assiniboine tried to steal horses from the Minitaris, who fired on them.

Because Lewis and Clark kept journals of their trip, which still survive, we know such details of what happened on a day to day basis.

A blog of the Lewis and Clark journals takes that one step further. “Lewis and Clark: What Else Happened” quotes daily from the journals and fills in the perspective of what else was happening in the world that day. We can see the microscopic picture of Lewis & Clark getting meat from friendly chiefs, and at the same time see the big picture of Thomas Jefferson giving his second inaugural address and expressing sympathy for the plight of Native Americans.

Any bicycle tourist on the Lewis and Clark route with a laptop or access to computers in libraries along the way might enjoy learning what else was happening as the explorers trudged to their goal. It would certainly add another dimension to their cycling trip into time.

I've included links to the “what else happened” blog, journals, maps and other resources for bicycling the Lewis & Clark trail here. There also is information for taking the trip on your own, or going through a tour operator.

Also, organized nonprofit bicycle tours in Missouri, North Dakota, and Oregon are including parts of the Lewis & Clark trail on their itineraries this year. Check the State Bicycle Tours at left or click here.

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