Friday, May 14, 2010

Travel Day 2 - Going South

I left South Dakota, and headed south into Nebraska, then Kansas, and then cut the corner into Colorado. About 550 miles of driving today. Of course, I followed mostly small highways and stopped to take some pictures of courthouses.

It was beautiful most of the day with blue skies, sunshine, and about 70 degrees. Toward evening, I could see clouds moving in from the west and the temperature started dropping. Some thunderstorms are moving across central Colorado tonight and tomorrow. I'm in the middle part of eastern Colorado and figure about 9 hours to Albuquerque tomorrow, crossing into New Mexico via the Raton Pass.

I talked to a couple I met this evening in a motel lobby who said they had just driven north through Wolf Creek pass and had some rain, but the temp. stayed above 50, so there was no snow or sleet. This is good news. I've driven through these mountain passes many times, and frequently have encountered snow and slippery driving ... even in what would normally be considered warmer weather.

Some people-- both on the road and back home-- have said they thought I was crazy to do all this driving myself. Actually, I kind of like it. To be honest, I'd rather be traveling with my wife, Julie, so we could explore different places together. But, since it's unrealistic for her to get off work for this long, I just loaded up my iPod with great music, and brought along about 8 or 9 books on CD.

Yesterday morning, as I headed out, I listened to Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns read "Horatio's Drive," about the first cross-continental automobile drive. I love Duncan's writing and it seemed fitting to listen to the many mishaps Horatio Nelson Jackson endured in 1913 while driving an early motorcar from San Francisco to New York City. That trip took 62 days. I'm thankful my drive is quite a bit shorter, and that I have a much more reliable set of wheels.

Later in the day yesterday, while crossing South Dakota, I was listening to Larry McMurtry's biography of Crazy Horse. Very well written and thoughtful and I learned a lot about one of the Sioux Indian's most famous warriors.

Today, I enjoyed Tim Russert's "Wisdom of Our Fathers." In it, he shares personal stories of his father, Big Russ (an expansion of what he wrote in his first book, "Big Russ and Me"), and stories of parenting his son, Luke. The book mostly contains individual stories that thousands of people sent to Russert after reading his first book.

As I listened, I thought a lot about my own Father, Don Grier, who has been gone from this planet for more than nine years. I still miss him terribly. I also thought about my son, Jeffrey, and my daughter, Jennifer, and how I hope I have been a good father to them. I got teary-eyed several times while listening to the stories in this book. Feeling the emotion was good, but the tears were interfering with my ability to see the road!

Next, I popped in a Tony Hillerman novel featuring Navajo Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. Some of my Navajo friends don't particularly value Hillerman's writing as accurately portraying Navajo culture or lifestyle. I read him for enjoyment. The stories are engaging, and Hillerman include lots of references to communities and landmarks on that Navajo Nation with which I'm familiar.

Well, this blog post has gotten a bit off track from where it started. I'm on my way to the Navajo Nation to help a group of Winona State University and Diné College students work together to do in-depth journalism projects on Navajo elders. By the time I get there, I'll be ready to be out from behind the wheel.

Thanks for reading ... more to come.

-- Tom Grier, professor of Mass Communication
Winona State University

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