A former ballet teacher and probable Willa Cather fan named Bernice Ende has been ambling across the United States at a stately pioneer pace of about four miles per hour. Her dog has been traveling with her in a most adorable fashion — sitting in a box on top of a horse that seems, at least from a few snapshots, to be a really good sport about the arbitrary hierarchy people impose on the animal kingdom. Ende has so far traversed 18,000 miles of scenic, American wilderness, and, according to a Today segment, she has no plans of stopping anytime soon.
Today's Bruce Dotson caught up with Ende after an agreeable, shotgun-toting fly fisherman led him on an arduous hike through the bear-dense wilderness at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Edne, who decided that her retirement would be a real-life version of the Oregon Trail computer game, minus all the frail, inconveniently dying friends and breaking axles, has been traveling without any gadgets to connect her to the modern world of people who'd regard her adventure with nervous admiration.
Her journey — which, Dotson notes, would be the equivalent in distance of traveling from the North Pole to the South Pole and back to the equator — has been marked with a few retrospectively exhilarating moments, like the time that a stallion very nearly killed Edne. Dotson meets her just as she's preparing to ascend the Rocky Mountains, a prospect that seems, to Edne, like an irresistible dare: "It's like they're [the mountain peaks] are saying, ‘See if you can come up here.' One peak leads me to the next, and I want to go on."
Meanwhile, someone in an American Studies graduate program is writing a dissertation on the American frontier, someone else is nostalgically trolling the internet for a free version of the Oregon Trail, and yet another is watching the vastly underrated Almost Heroes, because we can all explore America in our own unique ways. Except Ende's way is probably the best because she has three horses, a dog, and a sombrero.