Texas 4000
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Texas 4000

Written by Rick Archer
June 2013

On June 1, my daughter Sam will join a team of 69 cyclists who will be riding their bikes all the way from Austin, Texas, up to Anchorage, Alaska.  Their journey will cover 4,687 miles over a 70 day period. 

All riders are students at the University of Texas at Austin.  The program is sponsored by UT in conjunction with the Livestrong Foundation.  This is a charitable event designed to raise money for cancer research.  It is my understanding the bulk of the money raised will go to MD Anderson here in Houston.  As I write, the 2013 team has raised $430,000, a new record. 

This year's team is the tenth team to make this trip. Texas 4000 was founded by Chris Condit in 2004, then a student at UT Austin.  Diagnosed at age 11, Condit was a Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor.  He conceived Texas 4000 as a way to continue the fight against cancer. Condit and several friends worked to create the route, the volunteer model and the overall structure. 

Due in large part to the immediate impact of Condit's idea, his program has been continued thanks to new generations of UT student leaders and an increasingly large team of supporters and volunteers.  From what I gather, after they finish, many of the riders continue to follow the program and find ways to support each new team.  More about the Texas 4000 program  

Sam, Kelsey, Aaron
 

 

Three Routes to Alaska

2013 has been a big year for my daughter.  In May 2013, Sam graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Anthropology.  Even better, she did it the old-fashioned way, finishing in four years. 

Unfortunately, I still have no idea what a major in Anthropology means.  That said,  when I graduated as a Social Sciences major back in 1972, I remember my father saying he had no idea what that meant either.  So who am I to criticize Sam for having a confusing major?

What is most important is that Sam questions everything.  Seeing Sam wear her thinking cap is what makes me proud of her.  Sam has clearly received a wonderful education.   

As I listen to Sam, I have learned she is able to survey the world with far more understanding and far less prejudice than I could ever imagine for someone that young.  Sam's generation might just make this world a better place.  

When I first learned Sam was involved in this trip, I was understandably curious and maybe even a little bit concerned. With Texas 4000, Sam is embarking on the biggest adventure of her life.   This trip is a real departure for her.  Sam is a city girl.  She has had practically no outdoors experience.  In addition, Sam has never been interested in athletics.  And yet she has signed on for one of the most grueling ordeals imaginable.   You know what I say?   Good for her.   Go for it!

I should confess I sensed an opportunity.  If there was any silver lining for me in this crazy adventure, I thought I could at least tease her a little.  As Sam's father, I have long considered it my sacred duty to tease her.  This bike ride might just be my last best chance.   I figured if England's deacons of science could ridicule Phineas Fogg in Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, surely I could get in some licks too. After all, heading all the way to Alaska on a bicycle seemed a grand folly.  Surely I could find an opening.

Unfortunately, the one aspect of Sam's college education that I am not fond of is her newfound ability to turn the tables on me.  Teasing her isn't as easy as it used to be. For example, I asked Sam to explain how this huge undertaking works.  For starters, I asked Sam how many adults went along on each team to supervise.  Sending a bunch of college kids out on the road for two months seemed a recipe for rampant mischief.   Should I perhaps rent an RV and follow along? 

Sam gave me a withering stare.  "Dad, the riders supervise themselves.  We are the adults.  I am 21 now, old enough to vote, old enough to drink, and old enough to hold a job.  We take of ourselves out there.  It's just us!"

Somewhat chastened, I said that with 69 riders along, I supposed that no one was going to bother them.  Sam rolled her eyes again.  "Actually, Dad, there are only 23 of us.  We are divided into three teams and three different routes." 

Sam explained there are actually three routes from Austin to Anchorage.  The Blue Route is known as the Sierra Route.  As you can see from the map below, much of their journey parallels the Pacific Ocean.  The Red Route is called the Rockies Route.  And the Green Route is known as the Ozarks Route

Sam said that safety is paramount.  "Each of our teams has three vehicles.  Two of the vehicles are 12-person minivans.  That explains why our teams are limited to 23 riders.  In addition we have a trailer that is towed behind one of the vans.  This trailer is large enough to hold all the bikes.  This plan gives the teams flexibility and safety." 

One safety feature is the decision to use back roads whenever possible.  The less traffic, the better.   However, when forced to use a major highway, they use a convoy system for security.  For starters, the riders stick to the shoulders of the highways.  In addition, when they are out on the highway, they are flanked by one van in front and one van trailing the pack.  Sandwiched inside the protective convoy, the riders are far safer than the cyclist who risks his life riding the city bike lanes here in Houston.

Urban situations pose the greatest threat.  Too much traffic.  Whenever the riders approach an urban area such as Houston, on the outskirts of town they will put their bikes in the trailer and get into the vans.  There is no point in risking their necks.  From that point, the vans take them to the place where they will be resting that night or to the other side of town.


As I studied the map above which details the three different routes to Alaska, I noticed there were some curious wide stretches between some of the stopping points. 

For example, in the case of the Sierra Route, I saw a considerable distance between stopping points in New Mexico and again in Arizona  I asked Sam what those gaps meant.  She smiled and said the Pythagorean Theorem was in play.  She told me to take another look at the map above.  

Sam said the Rockies route was a direct diagonal  to Alaska while the Sierra route was shaped more like a right angle.  Anyone who has studied Pythagoras should understand why the Rockies route was a shorter distance.  Did she need to explain it to me?   (Like I said, the moment they graduate from college, they start to show off).  

Sam continued.  All riders try to travel on their cycles roughly the same amount. Since the three routes are not equal in distance, driving the entire team in the van is used to balance the distance.  Sam pointed out there is also a big gap in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan on her Ozarks route.   She said the distance from Saskatoon to Edmonton is 326 miles.  This long stretch will be covered by the team by driving in their two vans. 

The official guide for Texas 4000 says the distance from Austin to Anchorage is 4,700 miles.  Considering the Ozarks team is headed east instead of west, the detour adds considerable distance.  I estimate the distance for the Ozarks Route closer to 5,500 miles. Not a problem.  Sam said that no one on her team complains that the other routes are shorter because driving in the van will keep everyone's bike miles close to the concept of 4,000 miles. 

Of course, always the helpful father, I pointed out I knew another way to shorten the Ozarks Route from 5,500 to 4,000.  I showed Sam a Google Map (see right) that indicated that the Ozarks Route was just 4,000 miles as the crow flies. I said if today's kids could learn to fly, then their distance would be reduced considerably. 

Sam replied that with the rate of today's technology, flying to Alaska might actually be a possibility for her generation someday.  That shut me up in a hurry.  You see what I mean? 

Teasing my daughter isn't nearly as much fun as it used to be.


The Road to
Houston

The Ozarks Route is brand new in 2013.  No team has ever ridden it before. 

I was surprised - and pleased - to learn that Sam was directly involved in designing and mapping out this new route.  In addition, she has taken on the responsibility of finding places for everyone to stay in the towns they visit. 

Understandably this has been a pretty huge undertaking for her.  I asked Sam how this new route was created. 

She said the first goal was to come visit Houston.  After all, with the MD Anderson cancer research center located in Houston, it made complete sense for the bike team to come through the city and make an appearance. 

This visit to Houston, incidentally, will take place on Tuesday, June 4th.  

There is all sorts of hoopla involved.  For example, at lunchtime the Ozarks team will meet with Mayor Annise Parker downtown.  Then in the evening the team will visit MD Anderson for a presentation.

I might add there will be an Open House here at my house in the Heights the same day from 2-4:30 pm.  If you are interested in meeting the riders, let me know and I will email you the address.  ( rick@ssqq.com )


The Road to Chicago

I laughed when Sam said that her Ozarks Route was headed to Chicago.  After all, a trip to St. Louis and Chicago seemed a bit out of the way if you are headed to Alaska. 

Sam patiently let me tease her, then explained the rationale behind this direction.  She said that there is a publicity element to this trip.  In each town they visit, they attempt to contact the media and tell their story.  By explaining their mission, each bike team helps to further raise awareness of the importance of cancer research.  

With that goal in mind, I agreed it made complete sense to branch out a little.  In fact, I am sure it is only a matter of time before they start sending bike teams from Austin to Dallas to New York to Boston to Maine.  After all, an idea this good is sure to be expanded on.  Not only do the kids get to have the adventure of a lifetime, they raise a lot of money for a good cause.

But at the same time, it didn't seem fair for Sam's Ozarks team to add what seemed an extra 1,000 miles to their trip.  It was about this point that Sam said not to worry, they would reduce their bike time by driving in their vans to compensate for the added distance.

So the goal was to aim for Chicago, 930 miles northeast of Houston.  The first problem was getting out of Texas.  The first 500 miles of the trip were right here deep in the heart of Texas.  Here is a quote from James Michener's Texas that pretty much sums it up.  

If you stand in Texarkana, you're closer to the East Coast than El Paso.
If you stand in El Paso, you're closer to Los Angeles than Texarkana.
If you stand in Brownsville, you're closer to Mexico City than the Panhandle, and...
If you stand in the Panhandle, you're closer to Canada than to Brownsville.

A straight line from Houston to Chicago suggested taking the route through the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas and Missouri.  By now you have surely figured out the "Ozark Mountains" explains where the team's name came from. 

Sam decided that St. Louis was an obvious choice for a visit, so she quickly penciled the famous Gateway to the West into her itinerary.   

Sam's next decision was how to get from Houston to Saint Louis.  The obvious choice was to head to Little Rock, Arkansas.  However, after Little Rock, now Sam had two choices.  Should they take the route east to Memphis and then head north along the Mississippi River?  

Although on paper this seemed the most direct route, they picked a trail that took a more northerly path into the middle of Missouri.  Sam said they did it because there was more natural beauty to appreciate.  I see her point. This is obviously Mark Twain country... I noticed six different parks along the route designated as part of the "Mark Twain National Forest". 

I was glad the bike team would be getting exposed to some Mark Twain ideas.  I think this might be a good time to explain why all parents think Mark Twain is brilliant.

"When I was fourteen years old, I was amazed at how unintelligent my father was. By the time I turned twenty-one, I was astounded how much he had learned in the last seven years" -- Mark Twain

The Missouri route meant the team would approach Saint Louis from the west.  After nine days on the road, Saint Louis would offer a much-needed day of rest.  After crossing the Mississippi River in St. Louis, now it was on to Chicago and two blissful days of rest in the Windy City. 

   

The Trans Canada Highway

After Chicago, now what? 

Sam drew a straight line from Chicago to Alaska.  Not surprisingly, the line to the northwest bisected Wisconsin and Minnesota with stops in Madison and Minneapolis.  From there the most logical route traveled into North Dakota.  They would cross the Canadian border in North Dakota.  Next up was Winnipeg, the capital city of the Manitoba province.

I have to be honest.  As a Texas boy, my knowledge of the geography of the Midwest has always been very limited.  If it wasn't for UT playing in the Big 12 conference, I would know zero.   When I got out my map to trace the Ozarks route, I think I learned more about Midwest geography in an hour than I had learned in my entire lifetime.  For example, to my surprise, I discovered Missouri is still in the United States.  I assumed it ceased to exist after it defected from the Big 12 Conference.

For that matter, ditto that for Canada. Until Canada begins to play serious NFL football, we can all agree they can't realistically expect Americans to know where anything is located.  My knowledge of Canadian geography doubled, tripled, and quadrupled while I studied Sam's route.

From Manitoba, the next part of the route was fairly obvious.  For starters, there are not many highways in Western Canada to choose from. 

Sam opted for a westerly route through Manitoba and Saskatchewan along the famous Trans Canada Highway, also known as Canada Highway 1 (see the thick red line on the map).

When the route hit Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, it was time to leave Canada Highway 1 and start climbing to the north.  So now the route began to veer sharply north along Canada Highway 16.  The new direction took them to Edmonton, capital of the Canadian province known as Alberta.   

 

The Road to Alaska

After the bike team reaches Edmonton, the next goal would be to reach Dawson Creek further north up Canada Highway 43.   I immediately complained about making a stop in this city with the bad reputation.  I assumed Sam deliberately chose this spot for the wrong reasons. 

"No, Father, it's not that Dawson Creek.  Dawson Creek in Canada has nothing to do with the teen drama.  It is just a coincidence."

I was of course skeptical.  Not that I had actually ever seen Dawson's Creek on TV.  But I had heard about it!   I was almost certain that this naughty teen drama had been based on a bunch of randy Canadian teenagers romping about naked in haylofts, camping tents and igloos.  I had a renewed vision of wild parties out on the Canadian taiga. 

Sam said I was being ridiculous.  For one thing, no one "romps naked" in the Canadian outdoors no matter what time of year it is.  If the bitter cold doesn't get you, the bears will.  But even worse than the bears are the mosquitoes.  She couldn't speak for everyone, but she expected her ride to be a lot closer to Little House on the Prairie than Dawson's Creek.  Oh sure, that's what they all say.  My catastrophic fantasy was not easily abated.  

Finally I took a look at the map.  To my surprise, I saw that Sam was right.  There really is some town named Dawson Creek.  It is located at the border of Alberta and British Columbia.   Now I learned that Dawson Creek is the starting point for the fabled Alaska Highway

The Alaska Highway begins at the junction of several different Canadian highways in Dawson Creek. The highway runs to Delta Junction, Alaska, via Whitehorse, Yukon.  Completed in 1942, the highway runs an imposing 1,387 miles.  But I suppose when you plan to bike 4,000 miles, what's a mere 1,400 miles to these guys??

   

Detour Alert

Rick Archer's Note: 

Although obviously my article is about Texas 4000, I think that Alaska plays such an important part in the journey that I have decided to add some background material.  I think these next stories will help people familiarize themselves with our neighbor to the north. 

So what is with these stories?  I write stories all the time.  Now that I am retired, I use my free time to write stories about things I find interesting.  For example, thanks to my wife's travel business, I get to visit to some really fascinating places.  Then, once the trip is over, I have fun writing stories about the places I have seen.   For example, I have a section on the SSQQ web site where I have written about all 27 of our previous cruise trips.

I should add that I tend to meander a bit.  I attribute my wandering to the fact that I like to share my best discoveries with everyone else.  Once in a while, I learn something on these trips that leaves me absolutely amazed. 

The most striking example are the revelations I received upon visiting Omaha Beach, scene of of the most intense fighting on D-Day.  During my cruise trip to Northern France in May 2010, I found myself incredibly moved by the stories of sacrifice of these brave men.  I was so moved by their heroism that when I returned home I wrote a much-praised eight chapter recap on the D-Day Battle of Omaha Beach

My story below about William Seward is another example.  Without William Seward, there would be no Alaska.  More likely Alaska would be a part of Canada today.  As I researched "Seward's Folly", I learned that William Seward was indeed a very remarkable man.   Unfortunately, now that his story is over 140 years in the past, most of us have no idea of how important Seward really was to the American Destiny. 

Here is what really impressed me about William Seward.  I don't care if you are a Democrat or a Republican, I think you and I can agree that there are a lot of people in Washington who don't always vote on what is good for America, but rather what is good for their district or for what is good for their own pocketbook.  For example, Alaska's infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" comes to mind.  This 2005 bridge in the Alaskan city of Ketchikan would cost $233 million in Federal grant money and would serve an the island with a population of 50 people.

Seward made a career out of doing what was right for his country even though it made him one of the country's most unpopular men.  If America had more leaders like William Seward, I think our government would be a lot more effective.  In Seward's case, he nearly died for standing up for his anti-slavery principles.  Then he faced tremendous public scorn for having the nerve to buy a remote land full of ice and snow.  The kind of hatred and ridicule Seward faced would have made most of us retreat, but Seward stood firm for his principles. 

So forgive me for taking the time to share more about William Seward, a genuine American hero. 

I think we all need to be reminded from time to time how important it is to take a stand.   I promise to get back to Texas 4000 shortly.

   

The Attack on William Seward

William Seward was the man who would make Alaska a part of the United States in 1867. 

Previously Seward had served as Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State during the Civil War.  Seward was hated by many southern bigots for his fervent support of Lincoln's anti-slavery policies.  When John Wilkes Booth organized the conspiracy to murder Lincoln, the men targeted William Seward as well.

Let me share this passage from Wikipedia.

On the night of April 14, 1865, Lewis Powell, a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth, attempted to assassinate William Seward at his Washington D.C. home.

Powell's attack on Seward was coordinated with Booth's attack on President Abraham Lincoln and George Atzerodt's aborted attack on Vice President Andrew Johnson in order to maximize the element of surprise and to sever the continuity of the United States government.

By chance, Seward had been badly wounded nine days earlier in a carriage accident.  As he traveled not far from home, the door to the Seward's carriage flew open.  When the driver dismounted to secure the carriage, the horses suddenly bolted.

Seward leapt out of the carriage in a desperate attempt to grab the reins.  Instead, he lost his balance, fell hard and blacked out.  He was carried back to his house unconscious.  Seward had fractured his lower jaw and his right arm. 

The doctor considered his condition “perilous in the extreme” and confined him to bed rest at home. 

Due to the accident, the assassin Lewis Powell not only knew right where to find Seward, he figured the man was a sitting duck. 

Powell gained access to the Seward home by telling the butler that he was delivering medicine for Seward.  Upon entry into the home, Powell began to climb the stairs with his gun in his pocket. 

Powell's progress was stopped at the top of the stairs by Frederick Seward, 35.  Frederick explained to Powell that his father was asleep.  Why not just leave the medicine with him?  Frederick promised he would take the medicine to him.

Powell complained that only he was to administer the medicine, but Frederick Seward remained unmoved.

Now Powell was stuck.  He had not thought to bring any fake medicine along to bolster his story.  Unsure of what to do, Powell turned around and began to descend the stairs.  Powell reckoned they would eventually discover that he was a fake.  In that case, they would increase the guard. Powell reached the conclusion this would be his only real chance. 

So suddenly Powell swung back around, drew out his pistol, and shot it at Frederick's head.  The pistol misfired.

Realizing he needed to act quickly, Powell rushed to the top of the stairs.  Now a fight broke out.  Powell began beating Frederick over the head with the barrel of his gun. The force of Powell's blows crippled Frederick Seward and left him sprawled on the floor lying unconscious in a pool of blood.

Immediately after knocking Frederick unconscious, Powell tried to get his gun to work.  To his dismay, Powell discovered the gun could not be fired.  He had damaged it when he used it to beat Frederick Seward.  Now the gun was hopelessly jammed. 

Frail and slender Fanny Seward, 21, had been in her father's room keeping him company along with her older brother Augustus, 39, and Sgt. George Robinson, a combination soldier and nurse.  Hearing the loud noises coming from the second floor hallway, Fanny opened the door.  She gasped when she saw her brother slumped on the floor.  Then Fanny was horrified to see a wide-eyed Powell pull a knife from his pocket and charge directly towards her dagger in his hand.

Powell didn't stab Fanny.  Instead he grabbed her and threw her down to the floor like a rag doll.  Then he burst through the door and immediately jumped onto Secretary Seward's bed.  Powell began to stab Seward in the face and neck area.  However, he didn't get very far.  Thanks to Fanny's screams, Augustus Seward and Sergeant Robinson were already rising out of their chairs to meet the threat as Powell entered the room. 

Powell's attack on Seward was interrupted when both men rushed to Seward's aid.  Forced to defend himself, Powell forgot about Secretary Seward and lashed out at the two men with his knife.  Powell was able to stab both men. 

However, the hallway was full of sounds indicating there were other people coming.   Hearing the people in the hall, Powell knew he had only moments to make his escape.  Seeing Secretary Seward bleeding profusely from his wounds, Powell concluded the man was dying.  He didn't have time to look twice, it was now or never.  Concluding it was time to go, Powell jumped over Fanny lying dazed in the doorway and raced to the stairs. 

As Powell fled down the stairs, he was confronted by yet another man racing to help Seward.  Emerick Hansell had just entered the house.  He had come to deliver a message to William Seward and heard the sounds of the fight upstairs.  Now he found himself on the stairway blocking Powell's desperate attempt to escape.  Yet another fight broke out.  Powell stabbed Hansell in the back, crippling him instantly.

Finally Powell was free to escape, but he was in for a surprise. Powell was furious to see his accomplice had fled during the screams and commotion, taking both horses with him.  This meant Powell was forced to flee on foot, preventing him from leaving town as had been his plan.  On foot, he didn't get very far.  Powell was captured the next day at the DC boarding-house home of Mary Surratt.  He was executed three months later for his actions.

Amazingly, Secretary William Seward survived, although he would carry deep facial scars for the rest of his life.  His family had saved him.  First Frederick had halted the progress.  Fanny's screams had warned the men in the room. Then bravery of Seward's son Augustus and George Robinson had prevented Powell from having enough time to strike a killing blow. 

Unfortunately Seward's family paid a heavy price.  Neither Augustus Seward or George Robinson were badly hurt.  It was different, however, for Frederick.  He lay in a coma for several days.  Eventually he too recovered.  It was Hansell who was hurt the worst.  Hansell was rendered permanently paralyzed from the stabbing.

There were other dire repercussions as well.  The events of that night upset Seward's wife Frances terribly. Her health declined rapidly after the attack.  She died just two months later.  Seward's daughter Fanny was frail to begin with and she too fell ill soon after.  She died of tuberculosis a year later.

His wounds, the tragedy of losing Lincoln and the tragedy of seeing his entire family devastated took a huge toll on Seward.  Amazingly, he shook off the terrible night and decided to carry on.  Although it took Seward several months to recover from his wounds, he emerged as to reclaim his position in the administration of Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson. 

Ironically, Seward became one of the few decent men in the Johnson Administration in regards to the South.  Seward frequently defended his more moderate reconciliation policies towards the South to the point of enraging the Radical Republicans who had once regarded Seward as their ally.

However, the South didn't care... they still associated Seward with Lincoln and continued to hate him.  President Johnson didn't particularly want Seward and his own political party wanted to disown him.  Consequently, with Lincoln gone and few remaining allies, Seward's political star power dwindled dramatically.  From that point on, Seward was content to work behind the scenes and exert a steadying influence on the Johnson Administration. 


Seward and Lincoln

During his early political career, William Seward had received a lot of practice at dealing with hatred.   Seward presented himself as the leading enemy of the Slave Power – that is, the perceived conspiracy of southern slave owners to seize the government and defeat the progress of liberty.  

Seward had other liberal views.  He had long been an advocate of prison reform and better treatment for the insane.  Seward sought to prevent certain men from being executed by using the relatively new defense of "insanity".

In a landmark case involving mental illness with heavy racial overtones, Seward argued, "The color of the prisoner’s skin, and the form of his features, are not impressed upon the spiritual immortal mind which works beneath. In spite of human pride, he is still your brother, and mine, in form and color accepted and approved by his Father, and yours, and mine, and bears equally with us the proudest inheritance of our race—the image of our Maker. Hold him then to be a Man."

Seward supported personal liberty laws and was an opponent of the Fugitive Slave Act.  He often defended runaway slaves in court.  Seward believed that slavery was morally wrong, and said so many times, outraging Southerners. He acknowledged that slavery was legal under the Constitution, but he also denied that the Constitution recognized or protected slavery. Seward famously remarked in 1850 that "there is a higher law than the Constitution".

Gaining the nickname "Higher Law Seward", he continued to argue this point of view over the next decade.  He was despised by the leaders of the South.  Fortunately, Seward didn't let the scorn and hatred stop him.  He was a principled man and not easily intimidated. 

Seward and Lincoln started out as political rivals. Despite their similar philosophies, they stayed apart because they both wanted the same job: President.  Seward assumed he had the inside track because he was the choice of the powerful New York delegation.  But then came the decision.  Like many in his party, Seward was shocked when he lost the Presidential nomination to Abraham Lincoln, whom he furiously described as “a little Illinois lawyer.”

Seward, though, had a trait that was rare in Washington: the ability to curb his rancor.  Despite his deep disappointment at losing the nomination, Seward threw himself into campaigning for Lincoln.  Perhaps more than anyone, Seward's influential support helped secure Lincoln's victory.

Lincoln had been paying attention.  Soon after his inauguration, he asked Seward to become his Secretary of State.  Seward didn't know Lincoln very well and was taken by surprise.  However, as he and Lincoln talked, Seward realized that both men wanted the same things for the country.  Seward readily accepted the offer. 

That was the start of a remarkably successful collaboration between the President and his Secretary of State.  Lincoln told Seward early on, “I shall have to depend upon you for taking care of these matters of foreign affairs, of which I know so little, and with which I reckon you are familiar.”

Seward joined his rival's cabinet and became the real power in the Administration.  Seward was indeed very knowledgeable about foreign affairs and acquitted himself well.  He was particularly credited with the tricky maneuvering necessary to keep England and France from entering the war on the side of the Confederacy.

Seward proved to be cagey political veteran.  As Lincoln recognized his skill, the President began to depend on Seward more and more.  Lincoln consulted Seward regularly for advice and help on a wide variety of problems.  From that point on, William Seward became the President's most indispensable ally. 

Seward's contributions to the Lincoln Presidency were immense during the Civil War years.  There were times when he practically ran the White House himself when Lincoln traveled to the war zone for a first-hand look at what was happening.  Plus Seward ran Lincoln's re-election campaign.  Pulling all sorts of strings within his own important New York delegation, Seward was instrumental in helping Lincoln get re-elected in 1865. 

Seward played a vital role in helping Lincoln pass the critical Thirteenth Amendment which permanently outlawed slavery.  Their collaboration in getting this controversial law passed was documented in Spielberg's 2012 movie Lincoln.  That movie was based on Doris Kearn Goodwin's Lincoln biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  As you might gather, Dr. Goodwin's title referred directly to the powerful interaction between Seward and Lincoln, once enemies, now friends.   

After Lincoln's assassination, Seward agreed to stay on to help President Andrew Johnson.  Now that the war was over, Seward turned his attention to the traditional role of Secretary of State: Foreign Relations.  He immediately renewed the negotiations on the purchase of Russia that had been on hold since the start of the Civil War.  Unfortunately, Seward's waning political power and America's total lack of interest in the frozen wilderness would make this a very difficult deal to sell to Congress.  Seward was facing a huge uphill struggle.
 

The Alaska Purchase

William Seward had long been an advocate of American Expansion.  His dreams didn't just stop at the Pacific shores of California. 

As far back as 1846, Seward had said, "Our population is destined to roll its resistless waves to the icy barriers of the north, and to encounter oriental civilization on the shores of the Pacific."

It was now twenty years later.  With the Civil War ended, Seward was finally able to pursue his dream. 

On a political tour in the summer of 1867, to vigorous applause Seward told an audience in Hartford that the people of the United States had before them the “most glorious prospect that ever dawned upon any nation on the globe.” 

Seward spoke of a free nation “extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and approaching the shores of Japan and China.”

That said, it isn't easy to lead when you are so far out ahead of the pack you can't even see if anyone is behind you.  Seward was pretty much on his own when it came to Alaska.  


 

Seward's Folly

As we all know today, the Alaska Purchase was without a question one of the greatest real estate swindles in history.  In 1867 shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War, for the princely sum of 2 cents an acre, the United States government acquired this vast northern paradise. 

Just on size alone, one would wonder why so many people objected to the deal. In a word, Alaska is gigantic.  After acquiring Alaska, the USA immediately grew in size by 20%. 

Alaska is so big that is twice the size of Texas.   Alaska is so big that it is larger than all but 18 sovereign countries. For example, Alaska is bigger than France, the second largest country in Europe.  And get this - Alaska all by itself has more "coastline" than all the other 49 states put together. 

And get this - even though we robbed Russia blind, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward was severely criticized for his "colossal mistake".   Calling the deal "Seward's Folly", the press practically labeled Seward a complete idiot.  

For example, The New York Tribune's Horace Greely claimed

"Alaska contains nothing of value but furbearing animals, and these animals have been hunted until they are nearly extinct. Except for the Aleutian Islands and a narrow strip of land extending along the southern coast, the land would not even be worth taking as a gift."

The newspapers suggested Seward had paid way too much money.  Seward was lambasted for "his brains of mush to buy this worthless icebox".  

Amazingly, our own Senate pretty much agreed with the newspapers.  Seward had great difficulty making the case for the purchase of Alaska before the Senate.  In the end, the Senate ratified the treaty on April 9, 1867 by a margin of just one single vote.

Of course 150 years later it is so effortless for all of us to see who got the better of the deal.  Consequently one might wonder why Seward took so much heat for his controversial move.   Let's take a moment to look at the positions of both parties at the time of the deal.

It was actually the Russians who first proposed the deal.   Negotiations had begun just prior to the Civil War, but understandably were put on hold during the fighting.  When the war ended, both parties began to talk again. 

Czar Alexander II of Russia had decided to sell the country's territory in Alaska for several reasons.  The obvious reason of course was that Russia was having economic troubles.  After fighting all those endless European wars, Russia could really use the money. 

The other reason was that Alaska was virtually worthless to the Russian government.  Plain and simple, Russia wanted to make a deal because Russia owned more land than it could handle. 

The problem was finding a buyer.  Back in those days, nobody wanted Alaska because nobody needed Alaska.  Even the Russians could have cared less.  In fact, they barely knew what they had!! 

In 1725, a few weeks before his death, Russia's Peter the Great wanted to determine if far eastern Siberia was attached to the North American continent.  So Peter dispatched Vitus Bering, a Danish-born sailor, to find out.  In his first expedition, Bering determined that Asia and North America were indeed separated by the narrow strait that now bears his name.  However, he did not sight Alaska. It was not until 1741 on Bering’s second expedition that he made landfall there.

Due to a storm, Bering's ship was forced to take refuge on what is now called Bering Island.  It was there that the explorer died of scurvy at the age of 60, along with many of his crewmen.  The survivors, however, made it back to Siberia with sea otter pelts, among the most valuable of furs.  It would be the fur trade that would draw the Russians to Alaska.

Map generously contributed by Daniel Feher
 

Basically when the 1860s rolled around, the only people who had any interest in Alaska were the 8,000 indigenous people - Inupiaq, Yupik, Aleut, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian - plus a few hundred Russian fur traders.  

Why Europe recognized Russia's claim to Alaska is still a bit of a mystery to me.  The truth is that Russia really didn't have much a claim.  You can't just stick a flag in the ground and say the land is yours.  Besides visiting the place, then you have to populate and colonize the place.  Basically Russia owned the land because it was closer to it than any of the other European powers.  Plus it had all those important fur traders.

Alaska was the Land Beyond Beyond.  Due to its remote location, Alaska was about as important as Mars back in those days.  For example, just recently we have begun to show interest in Mars, right??   Well, back in those days, Alaska seemed almost as remote as Mars.   After all, the Alaska Territory was 500 miles north of Washington, the nearest American state.

The US population had not yet expanded into areas like America's west and the Canadian people had certainly not expanded to the Canadian west other than Vancouver.  Nor did any Russian people other than the fur traders care about the place.  Alaska was located across the Bering Strait from the Siberian territory of Kamchatka which was part of the immense Siberian forest.  Kamchatka was virtually deserted.  Anyone who lived in Kamchatka could have cared less about the vast icy expanse across the water... they already had a vast icy expanse of their own.

Russia understood that someday someone would want that land.  And when the time came, Russia would not be able to sufficiently defend the territory from invaders.  This was a very important factor.  Back in those days, Russia had not even begun to populate Siberia.  Siberia was a vast Asian forest east of the Ural Mountains, a huge mountain range similar to the Rockies that divide Asia from Europe.  With virtually no people living on the Pacific coast of Siberia and certainly no navy, how exactly was the Czar supposed to hang on to the Alaskan wilderness?   Unless those fur traders were tougher than Davy Crockett, even the smallest well-armed military force would dominate.

And how would Russia send reinforcements??   For example, there was no such thing as a train that crossed the Siberian tundra.  Traveling in wagons by land, it would be months before the Czar could get an army over there.  Nor was there any sort of Panama Canal that could be used to send warships to the area.  Hanging onto Alaska was hopeless. 

The Czar reasoned that they would be better off selling the territory now than waiting for it to be annexed by another country. It was better to get something for the land than to lose it and get nothing in return.  Russia already had one potential buyer - England.  However Czar Alexander didn’t want strengthen the British by selling it to them.  Russia and Britain, after all, had been at war in the Crimea from 1854 to 1856.  That damn Britain was the reason Alexander needed money in the first place.  Alexander had a better idea.  Why not offer the territory to a country that was no threat to Russia?   So Czar Alexander II offered to sell the land to the United States.  He sent a Russian diplomat to enter negotiations with William Seward.

So what exactly was the American point of view?   Look at it this way in modern terms.  Assuming it was even possible, do you think the U.S. should purchase the Antarctic?  Now there may come a day when scientists discover incalculable riches underneath the frozen ice, but at this particular moment in time, owning the Antarctic doesn't seem particularly tempting.  What would you get, a bunch of penguins and tons of ice that is melting rapidly?   Using this example, you get in touch with the same point of view most people held for Alaska in the 1860s.  Why bother??

This analogy helps to explain why the Americans of the 1860s could have cared less about spending a lot of money for what seemed like little in return.   And let us not forget that America had just begun its westward expansion.   There was Utah territory to develop, there was Texas territory to develop plus Oregon territory and so on and so on.  With all this empty frontier before them, why should anyone care about Alaska??

In addition, there were a lot of people who whispered we could get Alaska for free any time we wanted to.   After all, the United States had virtually stolen Texas from Mexico in 1846.  Why couldn't we do the same thing with Alaska when the time was right? 

Taking Alaska by force wasn't a very practical idea.  The thing to keep in mind was that America was hardly the military power in 1865 that it is today.  We were in the exact same position in 1865 that Russia was in.  We had no railroad across the American continent.  We had virtually no people on the West Coast.  We had no navy to speak of and we had no Panama Canal.  With no army and no navy, how exactly was the United States supposed to annex Alaska by force? 

Furthermore, if America did suddenly show interest in Alaska, England was in a far better position to get to Alaska first.  England actually had ships in the area.  Thanks to a series of amazing English naval explorers such as Francis Drake and James Cook, the English knew more about the Pacific than the United States did.  For example, the English sea captain George Vancouver had explored the area now named after him as far back as 1792.  Thanks to that early foothold, the British had been colonizing the Vancouver area on the Pacific coast of what we now call British Columbia for the past 60 years.

So look at it this way. In the 1860s the port of Vancouver was already a thriving albeit distant outpost.  If the U.S. ever attempted to take Alaska by force, England could very well view the hostile action as an opportunity to use its head start in the area to take it for themselves.  Once in, the English would be very difficult to dislodge.

Besides, the U.S. was hardly in a fighting mood.  In 1867, America was weary from its own Civil War.  So making a deal made a lot more sense than picking a fight.

So Russia was offering to let America have the first crack at this vast region.  Okay, so the United States had no immediate need of the area, but it might have use of it someday.  And we sure didn't want the British to have more control of the area than they already did.  The British Empire was at its peak;  God forbid they would get stronger because we passed on an opportunity.  Why not do the sensible thing and take the frozen Alaska wilderness off of Russia's hands for a price that amounted to beans? 

Unfortunately, since no one in America had any use for the place, Seward had a difficult time selling his idea.  Very few Americans saw the "Big Picture" as clearly as Seward did.  Another problem was that Seward's political clout was at low ebb.  Seward was extremely unpopular with the South due to his well-known staunch opposition to slavery.  As Lincoln's right hand man, Seward was hated almost as much as the President.  Indeed, Seward was targeted for assassination at the same time as Lincoln.  He barely escaped death the same night that his friend Lincoln was felled. 

Furthermore, now that President Andrew Johnson was in power, Seward had perhaps the weakest President in U.S. history behind him.  Thanks to Johnson, the atmosphere in Washington at the time was poisonous.  President Johnson was in the midst of being impeached by the House of Representatives.   Therefore when it came time to persuade Congress to buy Alaska, Seward couldn't count on any help from the South and he couldn't count on any help from his own President.

 

American Destiny

The phrase "Manifest Destiny" is most often associated with the territorial expansion of the United States from 1812 to 1860. This era which runs from the end of the War of 1812 to the beginning of the American Civil War, has been called the "Age of Manifest Destiny".  During this time, the United States expanded to the Pacific Ocean and created the borders of the contiguous United States as they are today.

Things happened very fast in 1846.  First President Polk signed a treaty with Britain that established a permanent Canada-US border in the Oregon Territory.  Then the Mexican-American War of 1846 gave the United States exactly what it wanted - the entire land West of the Mississippi including Texas and California.    These new lands would become ten new states: California (1850), Nevada (1864), Utah (1896), and Arizona (1912), Texas (1845), Kansas (1861), Colorado (1876), Wyoming (1890), Oklahoma (1907), and New Mexico (1912).

The United States paid Mexico $15 million in return.  This deal was basically highway robbery, but there can be no doubt it was a defining moment in our history.  Now, for the first time, the United States truly stretched from sea to shining sea. 

Oddly enough, the concept of Manifest Destiny worked against the purchase of Alaska.  Most Americans were perfectly content now that our borders finally reached the Pacific.  We had more land than we knew what to do with and couldn't care less about acquiring a new territory such as Alaska.  With American feeling fat and happy thanks to adding Texas, Oregon and California, the sentiment towards acquiring Alaska was total apathy.

Nor was the press helping much.  The press had a field day with his suggested Alaskan purchase.  Not a day passed without Seward being ridiculed in the press for "Seward's folly", "Seward's icebox", and President Johnson's "polar bear zoo". 

This deal was looking colder than Alaska.  Things were looking pretty grim.  So how exactly was Seward going to light a fire under this deal??  


Those Damn British

In the end, Seward knew exactly which button to push.  It was anti-British sentiment that carried the day. 

Resentment towards the British was very much a part of American politics at the time thanks to constant British intimidation.  England may have lost the Revolution, but it had continued to be a bully ever since.  The British had spent this entire century dominating the new-born USA in practically every diplomatic sphere. 

The best example was the War of 1812, a war that no modern American has a clue about (including me).  I was surprised to learn the United States actually started the war.  Big mistake.  England was still pretty angry over losing the Revolution.  Therefore they made the War of 1812 a sort of "revenge war".  England gave America a thorough spanking in the War of 1812. 

It is hard to believe the United States was stupid enough to go toe to toe with the mightiest power in the world. 

According to Wikipedia,

"The United States declared war in 1812 for several reasons.  America resented trade restrictions brought about by Britain's continuing war with France, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honor after years of humiliations on the high seas, and possible American interest in annexing Canada."

In other words, the United States was tired of being pushed around by the British plus they were interested in gaining control of Canada. 

Meanwhile the British relished the opportunity to get some payback.  They had even had the nerve to invade Washington DC.  While they were there, they burned down the White House.  Did they need to burn down the White House?   No, it served no military purpose.  The British did it out of spite. 

To fan the anti-British sentiment, William Seward recruited a valuable ally, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.  Sumner was a clever man.  He gave a passionate speech to the Senate that closed the deal. 

First, Sumner reminded everyone about the War of 1812.  Good move.  The serious butt kicking of 1812 was still within the living memory of many people in Congress, so that got their attention. 

Then Sumner appealed to everyone's patriotism.  He pointed out that America was destined to see the whole of the North American continent under the American flag.  Sumner declared that “our American Destiny can be nothing less than owning the entire North American continent.”

Next Sumner drew a parallel with the Roman Empire.  He said the ancient Roman senate held sacred a rule that barred foreign kings from entering the gates of Rome.  By purchasing Alaska, Sumner argued we would “dismiss one more monarch from this continent.”  Sumner noted that French kings and Spanish kings had already departed from North America and now the Tsar of Russia wanted to leave as well.  Sumner's implication was clear that with the Alaska Purchase, Britain's Queen Victoria would be next to go.

Heads nodded.  Okay, so our ill-advised 1812 Canadian land grab failed, but swiping Alaska out from under Britain's nose would be a real coup.  Just the thought of how irritated the British would be warmed their hearts. 

You would assume Sumner's passionate speech would guarantee an easy passage of the bill.  Wrong.  Even after Sumner's speech, the motion barely passed by one vote.  And even then the result was mired in controversy.  There is strong evidence that several bribes were necessary to change votes on the issue.   Some things never change.   

Does the end justify the means?   Good question.  Fortunately for the country, Seward got his way.  But that didn't mean the press eased up on him.  "Seward's Folly" became the laughing phrase of the day.  It didn't help Seward's cause that Alaska got off to a slow start after the purchase.  You might even say the pace was glacial.  Like a farmer who purchases a giant plot of lot he doesn't need, this giant land mass basically just sat there collecting more snow and ice.  Meanwhile the newspapers continued to ride Seward unmercifully.

It wasn't until gold was discovered in 1898 that people changed their tune.  After that, Seward didn't seem quite so stupid any more.  Only one problem - he had been dead for 26 years. 

As we all now know, for the bargain price of $7.2 million, in one simple stroke of a pen, America was instantly 20% larger.  This country had just obtained 365 million acres of land at slightly less than two cents an acre.  Once Alaska proved to be unbelievably rich in natural resources, it became obvious that Seward had known what he was doing all along.

Over the last 140 years, we have taken untold riches in gold, oil, and other minerals out of the ground and billions of dollars worth of fish out of the surrounding waters. And yet with a population of only one person per square mile, Alaska is still in a very real sense the last American frontier, a land rich in wildlife, open spaces, and incomparable natural beauty. 

Gaining Alaska gave the United States the most diverse national territory in the world. Today the United States is the only country whose territory encompasses arctic, temperate, and tropical areas.   Today all Americans are justly proud of that this beautiful icy paradise in the north is an important part of our country. 

I think of Seward as an American "Prometheus".  Prometheus, of course, was the Greek God who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to the humans.  For his courage, the Gods chained Prometheus to a rock and allowed him to be eaten alive by the eagles.

Thinking of how Seward must have been torn to pieces by all the criticism and hatred, I can easily see a parallel between Seward and Prometheus, two men who were tortured for doing the right thing. 

Like Lincoln, like Jefferson, like FDR, like Benjamin Franklin - the men we refer to most often as America's "visionaries" - Seward seemed to understand that his ideas were way ahead of America's thinking at the time.  When asked what he considered to be his greatest achievement as Secretary of State, Seward replied "The purchase of Alaska—but it will take the people a generation to find it out".

His contemporary Carl Schurz described Seward as "one of those spirits who sometimes will go ahead of public opinion instead of tamely following its footprints."

After World War II, Seward’s wisdom in buying Alaska would be even clearer. The great geopolitical struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union dominated the international politics of the second half of the twentieth century. The Cold War would have been fought very differently—and would have been much harder to win—had the Soviet Union possessed a major foothold on the North American continent.

In 1867 Alaska had been a remote and expensive tidbit of empire that the Russian government was only too glad to get rid of.  A hundred years later, the Soviet government must have bitterly regretted its sale for a pittance.

Well, Seward was right all along, but I think it sad to know he never got the last laugh.  Seward wasn't around to see American opinion turn around because he died in 1872, just five years after his greatest triumph.   Somehow I get the feeling that gaining popular approval was not important to Seward.  He was one of those men who always did the right thing for America no matter what the consequences.

 


The Road that almost meant this Article would be written in Russian

For every American Visionary like Seward, over time we have also had men in our government and military who didn't necessarily use a lot of common sense. 

One of our favorite sayings is that "Hindsight is 20-20".  Life entails many gambles where things could easily backfire.  For example, the decision to go after Bin Laden could just as easily backfired in a million horrible ways.  Or the proposed attack on Iran's nuclear program could easily backfire in a million horrible ways.

Fortunately for you and I, American History is full of gambles that worked out.  Otherwise we wouldn't be here today, now would we?  However sometimes our gambles have succeeded by the skin of their teeth.  Of course the American Revolution is the best example.  Trying to break away from England was the right thing to do, but we succeeded by the thinnest of margins.  We nearly lost that war.  In fact, we should have lost that war. 

Another famous gamble was our attempt to land troops on the European continent on D-Day.   One of the favorite jokes about D-Day is that we would all be speaking German today if we had failed in that bold attempt to break through the Atlantic Wall.  

We all know how D-Day turned out, so we have no idea the fear that gripped the Allied Command on that fateful day.  Eisenhower himself was so full of doubt that he wrote a speech ahead of time taking responsibility for the failure. 

In my research on D-Day, I was struck by the fact that there was no guarantee of Allied success as those boats crossed the English Channel.   The invasion was based on a risky strategy that somehow the Germans could be fooled as to the time and location of the attack.  Any leak in security could easily have doomed the entire mission.

Fortunately the Allies were able to fool the Germans, but even then the fighting did not go well.  The Americans had it the worst.  Indeed, with all its men pinned down by machine gun fire at Omaha Beach, it looked for certain that there was no way the Americans would win that fight.  And then suddenly the tide turned.  Do you know how the men turned an almost certain defeat into an amazing come-from-behind victory? 

Well, read my story and find out:  D-Day and Omaha Beach  After what you read, you will be amazed that we ever won that battle.   It took some real ingenuity and courage to turn the tide.

Let's face it - American History has more stories about the gambles that paid off than we do about the gambles that failed.  But we have had our failures too.  Think Korea.  Think Vietnam.  A current example might be Iraq.   Former President Bush contends that someday his decision to invade Iraq will be vindicated.   

What we don't read about very often in the annals of America History are the stupid things we do.  Before I share the story, I would at least like to point out that one of great things about America is that I have the right to write about it.  Other countries aren't so fortunate. 

Thanks to our tradition, here in America we have the chance to learn from our mistakes.   And now, here is a little known story of American stupidity.

The Alaska Highway

The Alaska Highway was originally constructed during World War II for defense purposes.  Also known as the ALCAN Highway (short for Alaska-Canada), this route was built to help protect America in case of Japanese attack on Alaska.

The military felt the need to have a land route connecting the contiguous U.S. to Alaska via Canada.  With this road, they could rush men, tanks and supplies to the north no matter what the weather conditions were.

I don't know if the Alcan Highway ever helped us win World War II, but the Highway almost caused the USA to lose the Cold War. 

America had a "Lend-Lease" pact with the USSR.  During World War II, the United States aided the Soviet Union against Germany by sending airplanes and supplies to the Soviet Union into the Russian Far East using Alaska.

After all, the distance between the countries is only 70 miles at the Bering Strait.  As they say, "You can see Russia from Alaska".


Over the course of the war, the USSR had repeatedly asked for lend-lease B-29s.  They were always turned down.  However when the Alcan Highway was finally complete, some idiot in Washington actually allowed three Boeing B-29 strategic bombers to get into Soviet hands in the Russian Far East.  Fortunately for that idiot, his name is long forgotten. 

Now Russia's Andrei Tupolev had what he needed. Using the planes which landed in Siberia after leaving Alaska to bomb Japan in 1945, Tupolev succeeded in replicating them down to the most trivial detail through a technique known as "Reverse Engineering".

It was quite an accomplishment.  Thanks to the genius of Tupolev, the Russians were able to successfully copy top secret American bombers.  This act of Cold War piracy landed quite a blow to America's sense of security.  One of our most closely guarded technologies was now in Russian hands.   At the time, these bombers were the world's first and only nuclear delivery platform. 

Thanks in large part to American stupidity, the USSR now had a way bomb the United States using its own weapons against them.   святое дерьмо : oh shit!

   

Gold Rush!!

As I have made clear, Travel is surely the finest way ever devised to learn History, Culture and Geography. 

On my previous trip to Alaska, I learned about the spectacular Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1899.  That's about the same time that everyone decided the Alaska Purchase was a good idea after all.

The Gold Rush took place in an area that was part Alaska territory and part Yukon Territory.

Anyone who has ever taken a cruise to Alaska may be familiar with the town of Skagway

On my 2005 Alaska cruise trip, I boarded a train in Skagway that took us to the same area where 40,000 prospectors once stampeded across the ice in their desperate attempts to strike it rich.

If you are curious, here's a link to my story about the Klondike.  It is actually a very sad tale.
Rick's visit to Skagway


The Ozarks Team will pass very close to this area.  Whitehorse, the capital of Canada's Yukon Territory, is only 80 miles due north of the area where they found the gold. 

Whitehorse is significant because it is here that the three teams meet and combine forces.   The three teams will get a day of rest in Whitehorse.  Maybe they will spend the day looking for gold.  After that, the hardest part of the entire journey will begin.

For the next nine days, the 69 riders get to travel 700 miles over valleys carved by rivers through the immense mountain ranges over the eons.  The vistas are unbelievable.

One look at the pictures is all it takes to realize the stunning beauty of Alaska.  Let us just hope the riders have enough strength left to enjoy themselves. 

Incidentally, you can check the dates and the stops for all three routes on the Texas 4000 web site on your own.  Here is the link:  Travel Itinerary for all three routes

Alaska!!

   

It all started in Austin back on Saturday, June 1st.   Theoretically 70 days later on Friday, August 9th, the riders will pull into Anchorage, Alaska. 

This destination will surely be met with a mixture of powerful emotions - elation and relief at the end of a long journey and sadness that the adventure of a lifetime has come to an end.

Over the next couple months, I will do my best to keep everyone posted on Sam's progress and her teammates as well.  Stay tuned!
 

   

About Rick and Sam

Samantha Archer is a 2013 graduate of the University of Texas.  For more information about Sam, you can read her Texas 4000 bio or you can read Rick's story about Sam

Rick Archer is a retired dance instructor.  He spends much of his time writing travel stories about the various places he and his wife Marla visit through their SSQQ Travel Program.

If you have any questions for Rick Archer, contact rick@ssqq.com
If you have any questions for Sam, contact samanthamarie.archer@gmail.com

Incidentally, Sam's bike team needs help finding places to stay in the following locations.  If you know somebody, by all means contact Sam directly. 

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

  La Crosse, Wisconsin
Grande Prairie, Alberta Whitecourt, Alberta Delta Junction, Alaska
Watson Lake, Yukon Territory Fort Nelson, British Columbia

 

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