Reliving the journey

In the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, circa 2004



The state tourism bureau keeps promising an onslaught of curious Lewis-and-Clarkies in summer 2005. The ad campaigns, the Lewis and Clark impersonators and the trinket manufacturers preach the message that Montanans will soon see the Missouri River Breaks flooded with vacationers sporting SUVs and faux beaver-skin hats. Whether the tourists will actually arrive in the promised hordes remains to be seen, but Good Housekeeping, in an attempt to capitalize on Lewis and Clark fever, recently sent two advance scouts out to blaze the trail. Last winter, the magazine hosted a national contest in which winners of a drawing would get to “Relive the Journey.” Jim and Amy Edwards, from North East, Md., won. The Edwards are taking the trip in stages. We contacted them this past weekend to learn more about the most recently traveled segment of their ongoing, out-of-synch journey—North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean—which took them straight through the Garden City. Adventure Connections arranged the Montana portion of the trip and collected a $2,000 “goody basket” including a dinner at Guy’s Lolo Creek Steakhouse (their favorite meal away from home), lodging, and Carousel for Missoula vouchers.

The Edwards, we learned rather quickly, aren’t purists. They have veered from the original route as the spirit moved them. “This is the 21st century version,” says Jim. “We stay in motels.” While they “won” the trip, the Edwards had to pool their own resources to pull off the vacation. In addition to the time spent planning their itinerary, they estimate that they spent about $2,500–$3,000 of their own money on airfare, gas and meals. Altogether, they drove 5,000 miles in three weeks, much of it in a Rent-a-Wreck, which Jim says wasn’t a wreck at all, but a 1998 Buick LeSabre.

Indy: What do you do when you’re not trekking in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps?

Jim: We both work at Sandy Cove Ministries, which is a Christian conference and retreat and a vacation area at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Indy: Were you forced to leave behind any creature comforts?

Jim: Yeah. Our creature. We couldn’t take our dog.

Indy: When was your last vacation?

Amy: We only take weekenders, just to visit relatives.

Jim: We work at a Christian conference center. We don’t make enough money for vacations.

Indy: How many crew members on your expedition?

Amy: Just us.

Indy: What about a guide?

Jim: Yeah. It’s called a road map. [The states made suggestions for stops based on the original route, say the Edwards.]

Jim: North Dakota did very well as far as lining that up. Montana was a little freer.

Indy: Did you have a chance to sneak off the explorers’ route?

Jim: Yellowstone Park.

Amy: Yeah, we saw the southern half of Glacier. We saw the top part of Theodore Roosevelt [National] Park.

Indy: When Lewis and Clark ran out of food, they ate fish and berries. What kind of provisions did you bring?

Amy: We had a lot of granola bars, plenty of water, bananas.

Indy: A May 31, 1805 entry in Lewis’ journal describes the Missouri River Breaks. “The hills and river clifts [sic] which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance.” Was there any particular portion of the trail that left you breathless, hopelessly in love again?

Jim: Well, you’re really exaggerating this trip. There were many parts of what we saw that left us breathless. The awesomeness of the mountains and the buttes and the rivers. And the lake at Yellowstone Park was just like a mirror, and massive.

Amy: The three waterfalls in Oregon, that was something. Multnomah. I don’t know if [Lewis and Clark] saw them but we made sure we did.

Indy: Lewis describes an outing where, in just one day, hunters kill six elk, two buffalo, two mule deer and one grizzly bear. Do either of you happen to be on the Atkins diet?

Amy: (Laughs) No.

Amy: We had a buffalo burger. That was the extent of the buffalo.

Jim: We had salmon. We did see some elk and buffalo, but most all of those were in parks.

Indy: Jefferson’s explorers ran into some inclement weather. Hailstones that were “7 inches in circumference and waied [sic] 3 ounces, fortunately for us it was not so large [over the entire route,] if it had we should most certainly have fallen victims to its rage as the men were mostly naked, and but a few with hats or any covering on their heads.” Did any rough weather catch you off guard?

Jim: We were prepared. When we called and talked to different people from the state, we were told May could be 70 degrees but it could also be snowing.

Amy: [During one rainy day in Missoula] we rode the carousel. We rode that for about an hour.

Indy: Any canoeing at all?

Amy: No.

Jim: Do you know how cold it is? I’m 50 years old. My heart can’t take 40-degree water.

Indy: On the face of it, reliving the journey sounds like somewhat of a mixed blessing. The original journey, after all, was pretty treacherous. Did you develop any empathy for the explorers based on your reenactment?

Jim: I wonder why it took them so long. There wasn’t as much traffic back then.

Amy: We watched a movie in one of the interpretive centers and wondered how they made it back.

Jim: It was pretty funny that they were given up for dead. Their cell phones didn’t work. [And speaking of cell phones…] What I found really amazing [in eastern Montana], I could have no service, I take a step and I get a bar, I take another step and I get five bars.

Indy: Did you make journal entries, like the explorers?

Amy: I kind of scribbled notes. We had kind of made ourselves an itinerary.

Jim: What do you mean ‘kind of?’ We had day one through…[Marital dispute of small magnitude ensues.]

Indy: Try to do any trading along the way?

Jim: Yeah, we traded cash for stuff we wanted.

Amy: Or we gave them a gift certificate and got a free meal out of it. vJim: “Is there anybody that wants to sponsor us again? We would love to go back to Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming and maybe even South Dakota. We saw Wyoming mostly at night.”


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