Remember The Oregon Trail computer game? Remember when your son, Jeremy, died of measles because your poor decision-making to ford a river rather than wait for conditions to improve? Remember when the stark reality of 19th-century covered wagon travel passed over you and gave way to your ultimate desire – your ultimate manifest destiny – to kill tons and tons of bison? Those were beautiful moments and so necessary in every child’s life. It is now time to regress back to those simple days: the days of bartering for wagon axles and seeing your wife, Helene, die of smallpox. This time, though, we will be experiencing The Oregon Trail with the Oregon Project. This stupid exercise is cleverly called The Oregon Trail with the Oregon Project.
You start your journey on your high school track in Independence, Missouri. You just finished your senior year like every other high school runner to ever live by running 2:04 and 4:42 at a dual meet (“The Jackson County Duel for Independence” or something). Your coach pats you on your back, subtly reminds you of your mediocre career, and invites you to the kegger he is hosting for graduating seniors and their parents. You start your steel mill job tomorrow, but figure there’s no better way to start a career than with a malted-hop induced headache.
After copious amounts of Schlitz and a few retellings of that-time-you-got-lucky-with-Sharon-Olstead-after-outkicking-her-ex-boyfriend-in-a-1600-meter, you realize your dream: to run for the Oregon Project. You suddenly feel compelled to go on a shouting rant fueled by the constant IV-drip of Schlitz for the past six hours and your Midwestern tendencies. (This is not a dig at Midwestern tendencies, I promise). IT JUST SO HAPPENS that Alberto Salazar and his charge of Oregon Project athletes are walking by the alley where you’re proselytizing, puking and generally being a nuisance. Why is NOP in INDP, MO? Not clear. But, Alberto is picking up what you’re putting down, buddy, and asks you to join the team on their covered wagon expedition back to Portland to become Mary Cain’s pacer. (Alright, listen up NERD. I know she isn’t still on the team. This is pure fiction and, therefore, I can do whatever I want. What I’ve created is some sort of space/time continuum that transcends your knowledge of the current makeup of some domestic running team). You agree.
“Sober up. The wagon leaves after Galen’s morning dabbing practice.”
What follows is your journey on the Oregon Trail with the Oregon Project.
First thing is first, Alberto sends you to Matt’s General Store to get rations and equipment for the road ahead.
Matt greets you with a goddamn riddle.
This looks like some sort of quantum physics problem set. You hand Matt the shopping list from Alberto, settle up and leave Matt’s Mathematical Emporium.
Here is your list.
After your grocery store excursion turned Yoke lesson, you get to hop in the wagon and choose your next move.
This isn’t some R.L. Stine choose-your-own-adventure, so I get to choose for you. You decide you want to do all of these things! I applaud your discovery of free will. This will undoubtedly turn into an existential crisis of choice and, in turn, dread of choice in your adult years, but you’re doing great and are on the right track. I promise.
Cam found a cool coonskin cap and now thinks he’s Davy MF Crockett. He convinces you to hunt Bison with him.
One down. Like five to go.
Following a brief funeral ceremony, you crowd back in the wagon and everyone quickly realizes there is now more room in the wagon to stretch out. At first, the party feels guilty for picking up a W in lieu of Cam’s eternal L, but, as we all have come to know, guilt doesn’t last long.
After a ¼ mile of travel, you come across a river crossing. Matt (no relation to the General Store Physicist) offers to step out of the wagon and see how deep the water level is to determine if it is passable. Alberto rejects his offer, and asks Suguru to check up on it.
Assuming a decision would have been made sooner than later ultimately resulting in Suguru’s demise is no “shock”, but the manner of his death is hard for you to swallow.
These events sadden you and morale is at all-time low. You and Suguru were becoming quite close – sharing with one another the conspiracy theories you held dearest to you. Suguru? A flat-earth truther. And you? You my friend are all in on Simulation Theory. Au revoir, Suguru. The beautiful thing about dying a flat-earth truther, is you were never proved wrong; therefore, my friend, you were right.
Amidst the two deaths separated by a mere six minutes, an idea has crept into the mind of Alberto. He thinks it may be a better idea to fly back to Portland. This is not a baseless idea; the group has traveled 15 miles and seen two members perish by objectively stupid means. It is clear this group was not made for the Oregon Trail. It is agreed once the wagon reaches the next municipality, air travel will be arranged.
The next municipality is 30 miles away. Plenty of time for disaster.
You travel seven more miles.
Aaaaaand boom goes the dynamite.
Shannon is medevaced out of the firestorm. Alberto does a “tsk-tsk” noise and a little wag of his finger at Galen. Galen smirks, raises his hands and shoulders yet remains oblivious. Matt is nowhere to be found. You begin to think he escaped at least a few miles ago.
You, Galen and Alberto now only have a few more miles to go until you can hop on a flight to Portland and begin your career as Mary Cain’s pacer. You are now controlling the wagon as Galen massages Alberto’s ailing hamstrings in the back of the wagon. Distracted, you hit a crossing bison and the wagon’s axle snaps sending expletives and massage lotion all over the wagon. You obviously crash. This was your first time steering the wagon. You had no shot.
After a good samaritan helped fix up the jalopy, he decided to give you a physical because he’s a doctor and he thought you appeared a little “on the bad side of some Lupus!”
Your health report is below.
At this point, Alberto decides to forgo wagon travel all together. It was clear 13 miles ago how ill-equipped for 1860’s-style travel you all were, but it has only been further illuminated by your contraction of a seemingly archaic disease.
You all jog seven miles to the airport and board the first flight from the airport that happens to be about 30 miles from Independence, Missouri to Portland, Oregon.