After following our ancestors’ footsteps across Europe, we decided to continue on their journey in the spirit of the Westward Movement. We priced the trip across the USA by plane, train, and RV. One of the most valuable things we learned during the nearly 30,000 miles we drove through Europe was how much we learned through overland travel.
We will never forget the geography of Europe because the bumps and turns and tolls were an intimate part of our adventure. Tales of Slovenian tunnels, the view of the Dolomites driving over the Austrian-Italian border, or the frightening curves of the Amalfi Coast, grace our dinner table nightly. We decided we wanted to understand the USA with the same rigor. We bought an old station wagon and planned our route.
We are following the footsteps of pilgrims and pioneers on a two-lane trek from Provincetown, Cape Cod to Oregon’s rugged coast. US-20 is known as America’s longest road spanning 12 states and 3,365 miles of transcontinental terrain. Our reasons for the Westward Movement are a bit different from the pioneers of yesteryear. Manifest Destiny was a belief that Americans were destined by God to govern the North American continent. Since that time, many historians have written about the issues inherent in that plan, such as the eradication of native populations and the prejudice that was behind much of the movement.
Given all of its flaws, the spirit of Manifest Destiny became synonymous with the “pioneering spirit” which is what we are celebrating on this leg of our undertaking. The pioneering spirit is full of hope and adventure. A clear vision that is full of flexibility, coupled with an appreciation of the journey, are also important aspects of the pioneering spirit. We have it easy compared to the wagon trains but we hope to garner their spirit when we need it as we bump along US-20 with their wooden wheel tracks in sight.
One of the things we now know is that it is more about the freedom we feel than it is about the movement west, north, east or south. The Westward Movement shaped the USA, and we know this All-American Road Trip will further shape our understanding of ourselves, our family, and who we are as citizens of this county, not because we are traveling but because we are facing the unknown.
We also know with certainty that there is never a happy ending to an unhappy journey so we will set aside our maps and brochures and packing lists and enjoy this very special day on the National Seashore in Cape Cod. As we gaze over the Atlantic Ocean at the horizon that barely masks the Westernmost point of Europe in Portugal, where we stood almost two years ago today, a swell of readiness overcomes me and I know it is time to go.