The Open Road

The Open Road features intimate stories from some of America's best loved places in the West, taking the listener into the lives of people who live and work in America's wide open spaces.

The Open Road is a series of radio stories from the Western Folklife Center that aired for just over a year as part of Public Radio International's popular Savvy Traveler, beginning in October, 1998.

The Wawona Hotel, Yosemite National Park, California
Visit the Wawona Hotel at Yosemite National Park and travel back in time to an era before television and radio, when travelers entertained themselves by playing backgammon and cards, drinking cocktails on the porch, reading books around the hearth, or joining in a sing-along.

Urban Travel Legends, Salt Lake City, Utah
Examine the folklore of travel with professor Jan Brunvand, who wrote the book on urban legends.

Exploring Sitka, Alaska, Part 3
The old Russian settlement of Sitka still boasts an Orthodox Church, a Raptor Rehabilitation Center, and a thriving art community. We visit this historical place and find out what makes it tick.

Raising the Totem, Alaska, Part 2
Hal visits a remote Haida village where the elders are erecting the first totem pole to be raised in over 60 years. We talk to the carver who created the Totem and learn the meaning of these amazing carvings.

Ferrying the Inside Passage, Alaska, Part 1
Ferrying up the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska is a journey into the romance of frontier America. We find out why the lure of the frontier is so important to those who undertake this voyage.

Black Rock Desert Golf Tournament, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
The British Open, the most stodgy golf tournament in the world, takes place each July in Scotland. Since we didn't want to get damp nor dress correctly, we go to Nevada's Black Rock Desert for the least stodgy golf tournament in the world.

Custer's Last Stand, Little Big Horn, Montana
The Realbird family, friends and Crow Indians, reenact Custer's Last Stand from a distinctly Indian perspective each year on the exact spot of the battle; simultaneously, the Harden Chamber of Commerce nearby produces quite a different reenactment. We sample both.

Yellowstone in Spring, Yellowstone, Montana
There is something about the opening of fishing season that stirs the blood in those of us who still hold a little hunter-gatherer DNA. We meet legendary Yellowstone guide, Bob Jaklin, who takes us out to discover all that is awakening in the Spring at our nation's premier wildlife preserve.

UFO Friendship Camp-In, Rachel, Nevada
Each Memorial Day weekend, the A-Lee-Inn hosts a gathering of UFO and conspiracy enthusiasts who come to the edge of the mysterious Area 51 to compare notes and enjoy camaradarie, looking-over-the-shoulder style.

Donna's Ranch, Wells, Nevada
Cherry Rose is a working girl at Donna's Ranch. Copperfield is a truck driver, in love with Cherry. Hal explores the life and loves of a legal Nevada brothel, Donna's Ranch.

Introduction to Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
We meet ex-dealer Tom Martinet who tells us about Vegas, the gambling culture, and the meaning of gambling lingo. Teresa then goes with him to learn to play Craps at a Las Vegas casino.

The Golden Spike, Promontory Point, Utah
On May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed here, shortening the 6-month trip cross-country to just 6 days and changing America forever. We interview a 75 year-old engineer who recreates that moment in time as he stokes up his steam-powered locomotive for another run at history.

Real Hawaii, Hawaii
After spurning the tourist machine of the Big Island, we travel with Native Hawaiian and beloved elder, Kindy Sproat, who teaches us the true meaning of Aloha.


St. Patrick's Day: Butte Style, Butte, Montana
From Dublin Gulch, a neighborhood in Butte, we visit a raucous copper mining clan who celebrate St. Patrick's Day with total abandon every year.

San Xavier Mission, Tucson, Arizona
Travel with folklorist Jim Griffith, who has spent his life living and studying the old missions around his home near Tucson. San Xavier is not just an historic artifact, but a living house of worship for the Native Americans of the Sonoran Desert.

Extreme Oregon, Hood River, Oregon
Hood River is a place where you can single track, windsurf, kayak, snowboard and rock climb in a single day. We ride with two white water paddlers as they crash through rushing waters.

Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Elko, Nevada
An insider's look at the West's preeminent cowboy cultural event, from the perspective of one of it's founding directors, Hal Cannon.

Voice of an Angel
Many of us look for particular things when we travel: historic trails, eccentric museums, or unusual cuisine;  Teresa Jordan loves to find magical, exotic places to sing. She takes us to a few of her favorite singing spots...from a deserted church in Ireland to the beehive-shaped charcoal ovens near Ely, Nevada.

Cowboy Christmas Ball, Anson, Texas
Since 1878 ranchers have re-enacted an incredible Christmas Ball in Anson, where everyone reverts back to those old days on the frontier to find Christmas cheer.

Missionary Travel, Provo, Utah
Each year, 25,000 Mormon missionaries prepare to travel all over the world to proselytize. We track a 19 year-old missionary as he finishes up a crash course on language and culture, then sets off on his mission.

The Bounty of the Mighty Columbia, Astoria, Oregon
The first Anglo settlement in the West and the final destination of Lewis and Clark was Astoria. Hal Cannon and Teresa Jordan celebrate Thanksgiving with fresh caught fish and hear the story of a bounteous history on the Columbia River.

Sheepcamps, Ketchum, Idaho
Sheepherder wagons are still used as homes on the range for modern-day Peruvian sheepherders in Idaho. We travel with a herder from mountain to desert and find out what it is like to travel by modern covered wagon.

Moonlit Grand Canyon, Havasupai Reservation, Arizona
Teresa Jordan reflects on the Grand Canyon, as its sandstone walls are brought to life by the full moon, and the echoes of an ancient tribal language.

The World of Speed, Great Salt Lake, Utah
Hal Cannon and Teresa Jordan spend a day at the races at the Bonneville Salt Flats, where the fastest cars in the world have set speed records since 1914.

Special thanks to:

 Banner image: Rorie Holford; The Open Road image by Steve Green.