(!) Leaving Bismarck
spending 7 weeks in Bismarck, North Dakota doing family research, I left on the
cool, sunny afternoon of Friday, October 19. As I got on Interstate 94
heading west, I wasn't sure if I was going to drive straight back to Bellingham
or dip south and spend a week or two traveling through Colorado, Utah and northern
California before heading back to the Northwest.
the one hand, I really loved the Southwest and hadn't been to Colorado, where I
worked for many years as a ranger in the 1980s, for over six years. On the
other hand, late fall is my least favorite time to travel and, from my ranger
experience, I knew how cold and snowy it could get in southern Colorado during
late October. Also, after the September 11th incident, I was looking
forward to seeing my Dad and my sister Doti again in Bellingham. As I
drove down the Interstate chasing the sun heading west, I weighed my
My Mom Met My Dad
that afternoon, I stopped in Dickinson, North Dakota, the largest city in
western North Dakota. Back in the early 1900s, a Normal
School (i.e., teacher's college) was built in Dickinson and
during World War II, the college was converted into a Naval Officer Training
School, something like in the movie, "An Officer and a
My Dad, who was 19 years old and attending
Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington in 1943, joined
the Navy and was sent to Dickinson to attend the Naval Officer Training school there.
Dickinson's first Naval Officer candidates, including my Dad, arrived in town by
train on Wednesday, June 30, 1943. Three days later, on Saturday, July 3,
the community was going to hold a dance in honor of the cadets.
Here's a song that my
parents probably danced to on their first date in 1943. This is Glenn
Miller's In The Mood.
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that same week in 1943, my Mom, who was 18 and who had just graduated from
Bismarck High School, took a bus out to Dickinson to visit a
girlfriend of hers, Evelyn Tobin. Evelyn's mother, as it turned out, was
on the dance committee but was terribly worried that there weren't going to be enough girls at
the dance, since it was the 4th of July weekend and a lot of families were out of town. Mrs. Tobin pleaded with
her daughter and my Mom to go to the dance. At first, my Mom
refused to go because she didn't like the Navy, thinking that all sailors were
sleazy scalawags. In deference to Mrs. Tobin, though, she finally relented and went to the dance.
enough, a few weeks ago while I was in Bismarck, I read a front-page article in
the Dickinson newspaper dated Saturday, July 3, the day of the dance. According to the article,
"Girls at the dance will not be permitted to tell the cadets their last
names, supply telephone numbers nor make dates. The cadets will not be
allowed to take the girls home after the dance." This was just as my
Mom had told me many years later.
you probably guessed, my Dad met my Mom that night at the dance. Naval
regulations notwithstanding, my Dad asked if he could walk her home and they
decided to meet outside, across the street, after the dance was over. He walked her
home that night and she asked him if he'd like to go horseback riding the next
day. My Dad, who had never ridden a horse in his life but didn't admit it,
cheerfully said yes. After bouncing up and down in a saddle for six hours
the next day, my Dad hobbled home. My Mom probably wasn't too impressed
with my Dad's equestrian skills, but he must have made a good impression
regardless because a year later
they got married in Florida, where my Dad was training for the Navy's Scouts and
Raiders (later SEALs).
had spent much of the past four months researching my family history, so I
thought I should see the place where my Mom met my Dad. I told this story to a nice woman at the Chamber of Commerce, but
she said that the Community Building, where the dance had been held, had been torn down the previous year.
She gave me directions to the empty lot where it had once stood, though, so I
drove out to the lot. As I stood there, I tried to imagine what that night
in 1943 must have been like.
I could almost hear the music.
Above left: Dickinson State University
in Dickinson, North Dakota. During World War II, my Dad, from the
small town of Skykomish, Washington, attended Naval Officer Training School in
this building, May Hall.
Above center: A
few days after arriving in Dickinson in 1943, my Dad went to a dance at the
Community Building. That night at the dance, he met my Mom, who was in Dickinson visiting a
friend. The Community Building was torn down last year and all that's left
is this empty lot. After the dance, my Dad met my Mom across the street, they walked home together... and the rest is history.
Above right: My
Mom and Dad ice-skating near Dickinson in 1943. They got married six
months later, before my Dad was sent to China to fight in World War
II. He still has that Western Washington University sweater.
Close Encounters at Devils
I stopped at a Burger King in Dickinson late that afternoon
to eat a Whopper and fries for dinner, then drove south on a two-lane highway
for a few hours and pulled into the small town of
Bowman, North Dakota. This being hunting season, the motels in Bowman were
pretty jammed and the only room available was cloaked in a heavy fog of
cigarette smoke. Not wanting to smell like a pack of
Marlboros for the next three days, I slept in my pickup truck next door in a church parking
Always having a place to sleep like that is one reason why I like pickup
trucks. I used to sleep in parking lots quite a bit during my younger and poorer traveling days, but this was the first (and last) time that I'd have to
resort to that on this trip. No shower in the morning but hey, it's a cheap
way to travel.
the next morning, I headed down into South Dakota
and Wyoming, drove by the geographic center of the United States just off
Highway 83, and reached one of my favorite places in America, Devil's Tower
National Monument. Even if you haven't been to Devils Tower, you'd
probably recognize it if you've seen the movie "Close Encounters of the
Third Kind," since it was the source of Richard Dreyfuss' obsession in that
been to Devils Tower twice before, both times during the late spring, and
although I never saw any little green men or flying saucers there, I always had a great time.
Indeed, it's one of my very favorite National Parks in the U.S. This time was different, though: the
skies were gray, the air was crisp, the campground was closed, the leaves
had fallen, and the park was nearly deserted. As I hiked around the base of Devils Tower, I changed my mind
and decided to just head straight back to Bellingham instead of going to
Colorado. I missed the
Northwest too much and I wanted to get home.
Above left: On U.S. 83 in South Dakota.
Above center: The geographic center of the
United States is a few miles north of this town, Belle Fourche (pronounced "Bell Foosh"),
Above right: Back in the late 1800s, Harry Longabaugh spent several
months in the Sundance, Wyoming jail (for rustling cattle, I believe). Of
course, that's how he got his nickname, "The Sundance Kid."
Above left: Entering
Devils Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming. It was cold, gray,
and rather dreary when I was there, not like my other visits to this park.
Above center: According to Indian legend, the
sides of Devils Tower were scraped by a giant grizzly bear who was trying to
Above right: Each
year, hundreds of mountain climbers also try to climb Devils Tower. You probably can't
see them, but the tiny specks in the lower left and upper right corners are
climbers making their way to the top.
Left: In 1800, over 2 billion prairie dogs lived on the Great Plains. The
habitat has since shrunk to a few pockets, like here at Devils Tower. Cute critters,
The Plains of Montana
leaving Devils Tower around noon, I hopped onto Interstate 90 near Gillette,
drove west, spending the night at an EconoLodge in the very Western town of Livingston,
Here's Jimmy Buffett
singing A Livingston Saturday Night.
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For some reason, Jimmy Buffett once wrote a song about this town
called "A Livingston Saturday Night," although I don't know what that
Caribbean Crooner was ever doing in central Montana.
Contrary to his lively
description, though, the town seemed pretty dead... at least, on this Saturday
night in October. Nevertheless, Livingston seemed pretty interesting, with lots of charismatic brick buildings, many dating back to the
1800s, giving it an authentic Western feel. As I strolled around town, I
felt like I'd stepped back a hundred years and was expecting to see a
fight break out in one of the bars and some dude crash through a window.
No such luck, though, so I moseyed on back to the EconoLodge and turned on
Above left: After stopping in Gillette,
Wyoming to refill my gas tank and to get a Whopper, I got back on Interstate 90.
Gillette, a large yet desolate city on the high plains of Wyoming, has more house trailers per capita than any town I know.
Above center: A Sunday morning in
a quintessential Western town
Above left: End-of-the-season sign in
Above center: I found
this photo of my great-grandmother, Anna
Swang, a few years ago. On the back, Anna had written "This is in
Washoe Park in Anaconda. Just fished my hat out of the stream. 1916."
The only Anaconda I knew was in Montana, so I stopped to see if there was a
Washoe Park there.
Above right: Sure
enough, there is. This is probably where the photo was taken. I
don't know what Anna, who lived in Fessenden, North Dakota, was doing in
Anaconda or who she was with. I never knew Anna, who died in 1933, but
from what I learned in North Dakota, she was a remarkable woman.
Finally Back To Bellingham
was pretty chilly the next morning as I left Livingston and after visiting Bozeman, Butte, and Anaconda
that day, I got a motel room in
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and enjoyed watching the Seattle Mariners beat up on the New York Yankees
in the playoffs. I don't care who wins, but it's always fun to watch the
Yankees lose in the playoffs. I left Coeur d'Alene the next morning and drove west on
Interstate 90 across Washington, a rather bland drive, especially on a
chilly gray day in late October.
Before I returned to Bellingham, I wanted to make one last stop on my U.S. trip,
and that was in the small town of
Skykomish, Washington, located on the west flank of the Cascade Mountains. My Dad
grew up in Skykomish during the Great Depression and has told me many stories of his father,
George, who owned a small grocery store there called "Leu's
Market" and who worked hard to eke out a living for his family.
Meanwhile, his mother Minnie May raised him and his five siblings. They
had a tough go of it during the Depression; such times I can hardly
The United States is
an amazing country. To cap off my four-month tour of America,
here's Ray Charles singing America The Beautiful.
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As I crossed over Stevens Pass, the drizzle turn to snowflakes and then back to
drizzle as I pulled into Skykomish. I
didn't spend too much time there, but I did stop to visit the graves of my
grandparents, George and Minnie May. According to a family legend, my
grandfather George Leu briefly played baseball for the Cleveland Indians in the
early 1900s -- until he got beaned with a fastball. Of my four
grandparents, George was the only one I even vaguely remember, and he died when
I was five. People tell me that my grandmother, Minnie May, was a
lively person who enjoyed traveling, and earlier in this trip, I had visited Minnie's
birthplace in Mayville, Michigan (see News:
giving my regards to George and Minnie, I reached Interstate 5 and headed north to Bellingham, pulling into my
Dad's driveway late that afternoon during a blustery storm. After being
gone for over four months, I
was home again.
Above left: Some roadshots during the last
day of my 4-1/2 month U.S. trip. This is on Interstate 90 near
Washington. For those of you back east, it's pronounced "Spo-CAN."
Above center: Driving
across the bleak wheat fields of central Washington.
Above right: And
up over Washington's Cascade Mountains on Highway 2.
Above left: I encountered the first snowfall of
trip here at 4,000' Stevens Pass. With winter on the way, I figured this was a
good time to head home... and then to the southern hemisphere.
Above center: My Dad
grew up in the tiny town of Skykomish, Washington (pop. 365). This is the
high school that he attended in the 1930s.
Above right: I promise that this is the last
cemetery visit of my trip! This is the gravesite of
my Dad's parents, George and Minnie May Leu, in Monroe, Washington. For
more about his family history, see My
Dad's Ancestors: Map and Photo Essay.
Above left: Home sweet (well, sort of) home. I returned
to Bellingham on October 22, after 4-1/2 months on the road. It was good
to be back again, and to see my Dad and sister.
Above center: My
Dad (far right) on the Bellingham School Board. He's 78 years old and is
darn-right irrepressible. After a 50-year career in education, he's done
just about everything education-wise: school teacher, principal, Professor, Dean of Education,
Superintendent of Education for the State of Michigan, international education
consultant, and now a school board member.
Above right: A terrific birthday dinner that
my sister Doti made for me last week in Bellingham. That's my Dad on the
right. After my Mom passed away a few years ago, Doti moved up here from
Oregon. She's doing a wonderful job around the house.
Ready for Part 2
been in Bellingham for the past month getting ready for my around-the-world trip
and have been pretty busy here. That sounds like a long time to get ready, but
it seems like there are a million things to do, especially since I'll be gone overseas for 8 months.
I'm trying to take care of
everything before I go and to plan for contingencies, which is a lot of work.
fact that I'll be traveling to several different countries and doing different
things in each place also makes it complicated. Plus, it's been a learning process for me since this is my first
trip overseas. Bringing along the laptop computer also complicates things
because just about every country uses a different type of AC
outlet and a different type of telephone plug, so I've had to purchase AC
adapters and modem adapters for each country I'll be visiting.
been spending a lot of time on the Internet making reservations. During
the past month, I've made 7 plane reservations, 4 car reservations, and 4
lodging reservations, and I've had to change some of those a few times as my
plans have shifted. And I won't even get into the whole issue of finances
(setting up wire-transfers, online access, traveler's checks, extra credit
cards, etc., etc.). I'm starting to wonder if all this preparation is
really worth it! It would certainly be a lot easier to go for just a couple of
weeks -- but then, that wouldn't be much of a journey now, would it?
between all this planning, though, Dad, Doti and I spent a nice Thanksgiving at
my cousin Bob's house in the Cascade Mountains near Skykomish.
Above left: Thanksgiving at
my cousin Bob's house. The fellow
opening the wine is my
Uncle Bill, who was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. The following year, Bill's ship, the U.S.S. Neosho, was sunk in the
South Pacific and he floated around on a raft for several days until he was
rescued by a U.S. destroyer. My Aunt Dorothy and my Dad are in the background.
Above center: Thanksgiving dinner.
From L to R: my cousin Bob, my sister Doti, Uncle Bill, Aunt Dorothy, my
Dad, Aunt Lois. During dinner, I described how to cook "Turducken"
by stuffing a duck inside a chicken and turkey.
And speaking of duck, I mentioned how a guy in Florida was killed by a duck
recently. He was zipping around on a Jet Ski and ran into a flying duck
Above right: Ready to hit the south
be leaving Bellingham on Friday, December 7 (Pearl
Harbor Day, though I'm hoping my trip won't be a bomb) and will fly down to
southern California and spend a day with my brother Dave and his wife.
Saturday evening, I'll board an Air New Zealand flight bound for the island of
Rarotonga in the South Pacific, arriving there bleary-eyed at 5:30 the next
morning. Rarotonga is supposed to be a beautiful island with lots of
white, sandy beaches and palm trees, and it's not nearly as touristy as Hawaii
or Tahiti. And, best of all, it's cheap.
spending a few days in a beach-front studio on Rarotonga (and for only $30 a
night), I'll fly on a tiny plane to the even smaller island of Aitutaki, about
150 miles away, which I read about in a travel book and which is supposed to be
even more spectacular than Rarotonga. I'll spend a couple nights on
Aitutaki in another beach-front studio that's a cut above a thatched-roof hut
(but for only $14 a night), then fly back to Rarotonga and spend another day
there. After that, I'll fly to Auckland, New Zealand.
made reservations at a B&B north of Auckland, where I'll spend a few days
getting ready for my 2-month drive around New Zealand. I'll probably rent
a Toyota Corolla in Auckland, which will cost about
$15 per day, but I may instead buy a pickup truck if I find something
decent in the first few days that I'm in New Zealand. The way it looks now,
though, I'll be doing a lot of tenting around New Zealand instead of sleeping in my
pickup on a comfy foam pad. I'm not sure if my back will forgive me for that
the way, some people have asked if I'm afraid to travel because of the recent
problems with terrorism. Not to sound macho, but I'm really not concerned
about it because I figure flight security is much higher now than it ever has
been (though I'm not planning to stop in any Muslim countries on this
trip). Actually, I'm more concerned about mundane things, like trying to
remember to KEEP LEFT when I drive around New Zealand, and getting used to shift
with my left hand instead of my right.
it, folks. I hope you'll enjoy reading my updates from New Zealand and
Australia, and keep in touch!
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
U.S. Trip >
December 3, 2001 (Page 2)