Nancy Foster Renk
“Why would I want to drive around and look at the same old stuff that I see every day?” you may ask. Because you’re not looking for the stuff you see every day. You’re looking for the stuff that was there fifty or a hundred-and-fifty years ago (or even older, depending on where you live).
For example, in my area of northern Idaho, historian Nancy Foster Renk has written a new book called Driving Past: Tours of Historical Sites in Bonner County, Idaho. In it she outlines several driving tours, and along the way she tells you the stories of what to look for. See that tumbledown building? It was once one-room schoolhouse, and here’s what it was like to be a student or teacher there. That patch of meadow? Indians tribes used to gather there every year. That old cabin now used as a museum? It was built as a ranger station by the Civilian Conservation Corps 1934. For a history- or nostalgia-minded person, soaking your imagination in “how it used to be” is a delightful, refreshing way to spend summer afternoon.
Now, chances are most of you won’t be visiting North Idaho anytime soon. But you can do something similar for your town or county. Look for a book fo historical driving tours or, if there’s none available, map out a plan of your own. Visit your local library or historical society to find out where buildings and other structures were located, or what was there before there were any buildings at all (a farm field? A forest where people picked huckleberries?) Then plot your route, grab your lunch and your camera, and hit the road. Let your car become a time-travel machine as you learn about the people and places of yesteryear.