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or_trailWestward, Ho!  In the old days west coast settlers would cross the Snake river ford near old Fort Boise and travel across what would become the state of Oregon. Today Interstate 84 roughly follows the original Oregon Trail from Idaho to the Dalles.

Do you remember the computer game Oregon Trail?  Gameloft has taken the original and built upon the details as well as made it available on the iPhone.  Reading through the instructions of the game and premise — you and your party are traveling from Missouri to Oregon in 1848, a time of limited technology and rampant disease as you trek west.

It seemed to me that this virtual wagon-based road trip is a lot like prepping for a motorcycle trip!  For instance:

Wagon Load: How many oxen do you need? How many shotgun pellets?  For a motorcycle trip — the oxen is a metaphor for the fuel in the tank, and the shotgun pellets is your knowledge base. You can kill more buffalo (or squirrels/rabbits if you are in a non-grassy area) with more bullets. Motorcycle travelers are better supplied if they research the journey and prep for the unexpected.  Clearly a motorcycle has limited space compared to a wagon.  Long distance riders are often forced to make compromises on how much of what items they will need or take.

Travel Pace:  Are you going to travel at a slow, medium or fast pace? In the Oregon Trail if you leave too late you risk being caught on the trail during the winter (thus decreasing the amount of things to hunt.) Motorcycle travelers determine if the route is freeway or two-lane back roads.  Is the trip is covering long distance they’ll want to build in flexibility to revise trip plans to either optimize for speed vs. scenery and reduce any risk of inclement weather. 

Hunting: This was every kid’s favorite part of the game.  Are you going to eat meager portions or full portions? You have to be a cautious hunter though — if you killed everything on screen (knowing you can only carry back 100 pounds), chances are the next time you needed to hunt there wouldn’t be any buffalo or rabbits around.  If you eat meager portions on the Oregon Trail, your food supply will last longer (unless it rots) but you will become frail.  Motorcycle travelers decide eat on the go vs. a more relaxed pace largely depends on trip time.  As for quantity of food…there are eating establishments everywhere these days so, becoming frail on the trip has little merit.  However, bringing an energy bar or tail mix and water will come in handy and keep riding skills sharp.

Wagon Repair: In the game if your wagon gets busted up or you come across a downed traveler, you can opt to manually patch things up and use your supplies.  For a motorcycle traveler – don’t over plan, but  many are tempted to just hit the road and follow their nose.  Few are prepared for a break down.  Supplies are always limited.  You’ll need to decide if “credit-card repair” is the best approach or if you have enough supplies and storage in your “wagon.”

Typhoid Wagon-Mates: In the game if you catch a disease or get bit by a snake you’ll see a tombstone lying next to the trail.  As a motorcycle traveler you or your “wagon-mate” might become ill, but hopefully never observe a ‘stone’!

The Finish:  I don’t know that I’ve ever made it to the end of the Oregon Trail. I usually quit breathing about three-fourths of the way through the game.  But that’s probably just as well. I need to spend more time on the Wii Fit mastering the ski jump anyway!  As a motorcycle traveler I recall one trip where I didn’t make it to the end destination on the motorbike.  A board, a nail and air challenges on the back side of Mt Hood challenged my journey.  But, like on the Oregon Trail you learn from each run thru the game and every time you get a bit better.

So happy trails, my fellow wagoneers. I hope you reach your finish!

Photo courtesy Gameloft.

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