It’s not very hard to make this trip before I’m actually leaving. All I have to do is close my eyes, and a moment later I’m riding my bike across the vast and empty American desert, leaving a trail of dust behind for dramatic effect. Sagebrush next to the road is still shaking ‘no’ long after the bike has passed. The skull of a cow is lying on the sand beneath it, perfectly white because of the many years of burning hot sun. High above me, two vultures are keeping their hungry eyes on me. Rattlesnakes on the road I pass smoothly and without the least bit of trouble. And if I squint my eyes just a little more, I’ll see Indians on their ponies, whooping and yelling, riding along with me. No need to cook every night of course, because these friendly redskins will always leave a piece of the best buffalo meat for me, served with an ice cold beer.

Well, so much for fantasy. I’m sure reality will be quite different. But preparing for the trip has been a lot of fun so far too.
Night after night I’ve been devouring books about the trail, and the more I read, the more its history seems to come alive. Meaningless old portraits suddenly become faces, names become people and their stories. I discover that it wasn’t just a vast wilderness these people were crossing, it was a stage for all aspects of human life. Fighting, loving, giving birth, dying, it really wasn’t very different from the lives people left behind.

I’ve bought detailed roadmaps of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon and with the help of Gregory W. Franzwa’s historical maps I’m trying to figure out a route that will lead me past the original trail as closely as possible. That’s not always easy. As time passed, roads have changed, or the trail goes through private land or a park. Every now and then modern day obstacles have simply made it impossible to ride a certain part of the trail. A factory for example, or a dam. I’ll just have to ride around that. It’s quite a job, figuring out this route, but it brings me in the right mood.

So preparations are in full swing. Less than four weeks to go now. Not much if you think about it, but to me it seems like forever. I think I’ll close my eyes now for a few minutes…