Professor Emeritus Gaines Post Recalls Road Trip in New Book
In May 2002, Gaines Post Jr., professor emeritus of history, began a long journey from California to Wisconsin, doing what few in the 21st century would dare even contemplate: leaving radio, cell phone, and all forms of electronic distractions behind.
To record his experiences, he brought only writing pads and a small hand-held cassette recorder, and for four and a half weeks over thousands of miles, his 1966 VW Bug navigated the roads to Wisconsin and back, with Post enjoying the history of America’s Westward pioneers. His memories and thoughts from this expedition have been compiled in his new book, Blue Bug, Red Road (iUniverse, Inc., 2008).
In recommending Blue Bug, Red Road, Post says, “Road books are an American tradition, and this one is different from the rest. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever been tempted to throw a few things into an old car and take off without a destination or deadline. It will appeal especially to those with a wandering spirit, searching for layers of history and memory in the American landscape.”
The idea for the trip began with a reunion in Wisconsin with his brother and the Mailer brothers, lifelong friends since 1942. Post, considering his retirement and age (he would turn 65 in September ’02), saw this as his last chance to relive the solo cross-country trips he had taken in his ’61 and 66 Bugs as a grad student at Stanford.
Post started his journey in May, setting out from Claremont to Wisconsin and traveling through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa, and resting at motels and staying with friends. On the way back home, he drove through Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, he visited the grave of Red Cloud, the feared Sioux war leader who fought the Westward bound United States. Post also stayed at Two Creek Ranch in Wyoming, working cattle where the tracks of the famed Oregon Trail are still visible.
Driving alone without cell phone or radio, Post says, allowed his mind to wander, wonder, and recall what had transpired. He originally intended his work to be a long trip journal to share with family and close friends.
Gaines Post Jr., professor of history emeritus, served as dean of faculty and senior vice president of Claremont McKenna College from 1983-88. He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in Germany, 1959-61, and earned his Ph.D. in modern European history at Stanford (1969). A specialist on Germany and the origins of the Second World War, Post’s major scholarly publications are The Civil-Military Fabric of Weimar Foreign Policy (Princeton University Press, 1973), and Dilemmas of Appeasement: British Deterrence and Defense, 1934-1937 (Cornell University Press, 1993). In his Memoirs of a Cold War Son (University of Iowa Press, 2000), Post reflects on the “silent” generation’s memories of the Second World War and coming of age during the early Cold War.
—Luke Rhee ’10