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Home > Travels (2001-02) > Trip Summary & Story Index



Trip Summary & Story Index



It's hard for me to believe, but some of you probably don't want to read through all 421 pages of my website :-).  In that case, here's a brief summary of my trip.  I've also included an index of the stories that appear on each update page. 


The U.S. Trip

As I described on my About This Website page, after working in Portland, Oregon, for 10 years, I quit my job in March of 2001 to begin a two-year trip around America and overseas.  In June 2001, my 17-year old Toyota truck and I left the Northwest on our trip around America and we spent the next five months on the road.  The main reason I drove around the U.S. was to research my family's history and I learned a lot about my roots.  For one thing, I discovered that I'm related to Benedict Arnold and to the Kohler toilet family -- pretty cool, huh?  Highlights of my U.S. trip included:

  • Visiting friends and relatives in California.

  • Camping for several days in the sunny Utah desert, my favorite part of the U.S.

  • Visiting with old friends in Austin, Texas, and eating the best spaghetti sauce in the world.

  • Meandering for two weeks through the steamy South and retracing the steps of my great-great-grandfather, who fought there for the Union Army during the Civil War. 

  • Spending a couple of days in Boston and getting a tour of that wonderful city from my dear friend, Julie.

  • Doing family research in Massachusetts and learning about my Dad's ancestors, who came over from England during the 1630s.

  • Spending a couple weeks with my brother Don and his family in steamy Syracuse, New York.

  • Spending a few days with my old friend Mark and his family in Minneapolis.

  • Camping for two months in North and South Dakota while researching my Mom's ancestors who homesteaded in the Midwest during the late 1800s. 

The Overseas Trip

After returning to Bellingham, Washington in October of 2001, I spent a month getting ready for my first trip overseas, then left on December 7, 2001.  My first stop was the Cook Islands in the south Pacific, where I spent several days eating mangoes and soaking up the sun.  The Cook Islands are beautiful, relaxing, and relatively undiscovered, and I definitely want to go back there some day.


From there, I flew on to Auckland, New Zealand, where I rented a car and spent the next two months driving about 5,000 miles around the country, visiting just about every corner.  It rained a lot during my first month in New Zealand and it was really crowded (no, I mean REALLY crowded), but by mid-January the skies cleared, the crowds dissipated, and I started to enjoy my visit -- especially after I discovered cricket and fish & chips.  As I learned, New Zealand is a land of incredible scenic diversity.  Imagine all of the scenery in the U.S. packed into a country the size of Colorado and you'll get the idea.


After spending a couple of months in New Zealand, I flew on to Australia in February of 2002.  I had a great time there during the next two months as I drove about 9,000 miles around the eastern half of the country, including over 3,000 miles through the desolate Outback -- all without seeing an Outback Steakhouse.  Australia was a lot different than I expected and I'm definitely glad I went there, especially because of the meat pies and kangaroo burgers.  Frankly, the scenery in Australia was pretty bland compared to New Zealand, but it's a fascinating country nonetheless.  I love deserts, empty highways, and wide-open spaces, so I enjoyed visiting Australia even more than New Zealand.


What impressed me the most about both countries was how friendly the folks there were.  I was astounded at how often total strangers would go out of their way to help me.  Perhaps that's because I was traveling alone or maybe it's because I looked like I was lost -- which I often was.


The U.S. Trip (Part 2)

After leaving polite and cheerful New Zealand and Australia, I experienced major "culture shock" when I returned to the loud-and-pushy U.S.  Jeez, was this really the same country that I left four months earlier?  However, I got used to it (unfortunately) and set off in June of 2002 for a two-month trip around the Western U.S.  After a leisurely drive down the Oregon Coast, I spent a couple of weeks visiting the Colorado Rockies where I'd worked as a ranger and firefighter many years ago.  That journey was followed by a two-week boat trip on the British Columbia coast with my brother and his family, which was a lot of fun.


I was planning to return to work in the fall of 2002 but some things came up, so I pushed that plan back.  I've been staying in Bellingham while working on my Dad's house and doing some family history projects.  I plan to go back to work soon, though... so I can pay off all my traveling bills!







Here's a list of the stories that I wrote in my updates.  Check out my Story List to read the individual stories:



June 11, 2001  (Bellingham, Wa. to San Jose, Calif.)

Fort Clatsop, Oregon

Traveling Down the Oregon Coast

San Francisco


June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

My Great-Uncle’s Bridge in Big Sur

Highway 1 and the California Coast

Visiting Carole and Troy in Southern California

Golfing in San Diego


June 15, 2001  (Zion National Park, Utah)

Driving Across the Mojave Desert

Las Vegas

Utah and Mormons  

Zion National Park


June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Calf Creek Falls

The Burr Trail

Camping in Utah 


June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

Driving Across Southern Utah

Canyon de Chelly National Monument


June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Route 66

Amarillo, Texas (Cadillac Ranch, Big Texan Rest.)

Visiting Ace & Joan in Austin, Texas


June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

Getting Keyed in Austin

Bayous of Southern Louisiana

Sam Houston Jones State Park

Natchez, Mississippi


June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

Natchez Trace Parkway

Rocky Springs Graveyard

Vicksburg Battlefield

Biedenharn Candy Store


Elvis Presley's Birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi  


June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

Tommy’s Tour of Corinth, Mississippi

Ransom Myers (my ancestor, Civil War sergeant)

Meriwether Lewis Tragedy  


July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

The Karaoke Man

Nashville, Tennessee

Ryman Auditorium


July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

Old Stone Fort State Park

Chattanooga (Choo-choo, Lookout Mountain)

Dayton, Tennessee (Scopes “Monkey” Trial)

The True Story of Tom Dooley


July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Pigeon Forge and Dollywood, Tennessee


July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

Knoxville, Tennessee

Greeneville, Tennessee

Small towns in Northeastern Tennessee

Davy Crockett's Birthplace

Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area


July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

Road Rage in Roanoke

Blue Ridge Parkway

Shenandoah National Park

Schuyler, Virginia (the real “Walton’s Mountain”)

Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s home)


July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

Petersburg National Battlefield

Jamestown Settlement

Yorktown National Battlefield

Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Ponies on Assateague Island


July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

Eastern Maryland

Pennsylvania Amish Country

Mark Twain's House (Hartford, Connecticut)

Israel Putnam’s “Wolf Den”

Nathaniel Greene's House (Coventry, Connecticut)


July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

Visiting Julie in Boston

Photo Tour of Boston


July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)

Lexington, Massachusetts

Nathaniel Hawthorne's House

Louisa May Alcott's House

Concord, Massachusetts

Walden Pond and Thoreau


August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

Family Research in Ipswich and Rowley, Mass.

New England Accent

Holyoke, Mass. and the Volleyball Hall of Fame

Springfield Armory


August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse)

Visiting Don and Debbie in Manlius

Visiting Jake

Touring Auburn with Marilyn and Mike

Working on Don and Debbie’s House


August 10, 2001  (Battle Creek Michigan)

G-g-g Grandfather Solomon Myers (Lyons, N.Y.)

Hill Cumorah and the Mormons (Palmyra, N.Y.)

Not Seeing Niagara Falls

Putnam, Ontario

Mayville, Michigan and Ransom Myers’ grave


August 14, 2001  (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Driving Through Chicago

Visiting Brad and Cynde (Madison, Wisconsin)

University of Wisconsin

Visiting Mark and Jayne (Minneapolis, Minnesota)


August 17, 2001  (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)

Mall of America  

Dakota Uprising of 1862

Sod Houses on the McCone Farm

My Ancestors Homesteading in SW Minnesota


August 18, 2001  (Watertown, South Dakota)

Laura Ingalls Wilder  

Farming 101


August 30, 2001  (Webster, South Dakota)

My Ancestors, the Svangs, Homesteading in S.D.

Fort Sisseton State Park, South Dakota


September 15, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

International Vinegar Museum (Roslyn, S.D.)  

Storybook Land (Aberdeen, South Dakota)

Lawrence Welk Farmhouse


September 30, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

North Dakota Exodus

Bismarck:  My Mom's Hometown  

The Swang Mystery

My Opinion of North Dakota


October 6, 2001  (Fort Lincoln State Park, N.D.)

My Stay at Fort Lincoln State Park

The Life of Colonel George Custer


October 18, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

Researching my Mother's Family History

Anna Swang, Helga Swang, the Reinhards

My Grandmother's 87-year-old Kindergarten Pupil


December 3, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

Dickinson, North Dakota:  Where My Parent's

Heading Back Home to Bellingham

Getting Ready for the Around-the-World Trip

My Grandmother's 87-year-old Kindergarten Pupil


December 10, 2001  (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

Packing Up in Bellingham

Flying to Southern California

Flying to Rarotonga


December 14, 2001  (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)

Flying to Aitutaki

Hiking Around Aitutaki

Lagoon Cruise

My Impressions of the Cook Islands


December 16, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

Leaving Rarotonga

Arriving in Auckland

Where Driving Left is Right


December 20, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

Exploring Auckland

New Zealand's History and Geography


December 24, 2001  (Wellington, New Zealand)

Kiwifruit Country

Exploring Volcanic White Island

The World's Longest Placename

Christmas in Wellington


January 1, 2002  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

Fighting the Kiwi Crowds

My Impressions of New Zealand

Christmas in Wellington

Inter-island Ferry to Picton

Kaikoura and Christchurch


January 12, 2002  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

Camera Problems

Revised Travel Plans


Timaru and No Vacancies

The Penguins of Oamaru


January 16, 2002  (Te Anau, New Zealand)  


Driving through the Catlins to Invercargill


January 20, 2002  (Geraldine, New Zealand)  

Doubtful Sound Trip

Milford Sound Trip

Hanging Out in Geraldine


January 25, 2002  (Hokitika, New Zealand)  

Sunny Skies Return

Mt. Cook

Hikes to Hooker Glacier, Fox & Franz Josef Glacier


February 2, 2002  (Taupo, New Zealand)

Trip Up the West Coast

Nelson Lakes National Park

Ferry to Wellington and North Island

Mt. Taranaki and the Central North Island


February 7, 2002  (Auckland, New Zealand)

Volcanic Taupo and Rotoroa

The Northland, Cape Reinga, and Waitangi

Flying to Sydney


February 18, 2002  (Bega, Australia)

Arriving in Australia


The Central Tablelands and Blue Mountains


March 1, 2002  (Robe, Australia)

Gold Mining in Central Victoria

Kangaroos at the Grampians


The Great Ocean Road


March 5, 2002  (Port Augusta, Australia)

Beautiful Adelaide

Camping at Flinders Ranges National Park

Those Killer Gum Trees


March 8, 2002  (Coober Pedy, Australia)

Starting on the Stuart Highway

Woomera (Rocket City)

Coober Pedy

Mail Truck Run


March 11, 2002  (Ayers Rock, Australia)

Road Trains and Roadhouses

Bush Camping

Ayers Rock


March 13, 2002  (Alice Springs, Australia)

Alice Springs

Telegraph Station

Royal Flying Doctor Service

School of the Air


March 16, 2002  (Winton, Australia)

Aborigine Situation

Crocodile Dundee's Walkabout Creek Hotel

Waltzing Matilda

Winton: North Gregory Hotel and Qantas Birthplace


March 25, 2002  (Port Douglas, Australia)

Port Douglas

Dangerous Critters


March 28, 2002  (Airlie Beach, Australia)

Great Barrier Reef

Whitsunday Islands

Airlie Beach


April 1, 2002  (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Whitsunday Islands

Fraser Island


April 4, 2002  (Coffs Harbour, Australia)


Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo


April 7, 2002  (Sydney, Australia)

Thoughts of a Solo Traveler

Visiting Peter and Helen Horn



May 22, 2002  (Bellingham, Washington)

Flying Back to the U.S.

Dog Barking Situation

Summary of my Trip Overseas


June 18, 2002  (Port Orford, Oregon)

Dog Barking Situation Resolved

More Thoughts on my Trip Overseas

Camping in Olympic National Park

Traveling Down the Oregon Coast Highway


June 25, 2002  (Lassen National Park, Calif.)

Traveling Through the Redwoods

A Week at Lassen Volcanic National Park


July 1, 2002  (Looking Glass Rock, Utah)

Virginia City, Nevada

Nevada's U.S. 50, The Loneliest Highway in America

Legalized Brothel in Nevada

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Arches National Park in Southern Utah


July 4, 2002  (Lake City, Colorado)

My Life as a Ranger in the Rocky Mountains



July 12, 2002  (Lake City, Colorado)

Alpine Town of Lake City, Colorado


July 24, 2002  (Bellingham, Washington)

Driving Back to Bellingham

Sailing on the "Lady Washington"

Cruising in British Columbia



In Search of My Heritage

As I described in About this website, one reason I decided to take this trip was to research my family's history.  I've always been interested in genealogy, and during my trip around America in 2001, I wanted to learn as much as I could about my ancestors by visiting the places where they had lived, fought, and died.  I ended up spending several months retracing my ancestors' footsteps and learning about their stories which, in turn, I'll pass on to my future generations (if I ever have any).  In fact, after a few months, my journey around America largely turned into a personal quest to discover my family's heritage.  I've briefly described the more memorable events below.





The Bixby Bridge, California  (June 2001).  Back in 1982, I took a picture of this beautiful bridge on the Big Sur coast of California, not realizing the role that it had once played in my family's history.  Many years later, I found an old photo of this bridge taken in the 1930s and, from the caption, learned that my great-uncle, Henry Swang, had helped to build it (later, Henry also helped to build the Golden Gate Bridge).  It had been nearly 20 years since I had seen the Bixby Bridge, but I decided to visit it and pay my respects to Henry Swang.  I was pretty excited as I headed south on Highway 1, and finally I spotted the bridge up ahead.  I pulled over and spent a couple of hours here admiring Henry's work.

Henry's bridge



Corinth, Mississippi  (June 2001).  The bloody Battle of Shiloh was fought just a few miles from Corinth during the Civil War in 1862.  As I discovered a few years ago in some old family papers, my great-great-grandfather, Ransom Myers, fought with the Union Army here and spent several weeks in Corinth, so I decided to visit the town.  I ran into a local historian and fellow Civil War buff here named Tommy Lee, who was kind enough to give me an eight-hour tour of Corinth and the Shiloh battlefield.  Tommie's ancestors had served with the Confederate troops in Corinth, but it didn't matter to either of us that our ancestors may have fought against each other here 140 years earlier.

Tommie Lee



Greeneville, Tennessee  (July 2001).  A few months after leaving Corinth, Mississippi, in 1862 (see above), my great-great-grandfather, Ransom Myers, was shot in the left arm, which was later amputated.  After returning to Michigan briefly to recuperate, Ransom joined the Michigan cavalry in 1863 and became a courier, seeing fierce action throughout northeastern Tennessee until the end of the war.  In 1864, his unit helped capture the Confederate general, John Morgan, in Greeneville.  I spent an afternoon in Greeneville, visited the house where Morgan was captured, and got a great tour of the Greeneville Museum from the curator, John Hendricks.

Ransom Myers



Brooklyn, Connecticut  (July 2001).  One of my ancestors, a man named Israel Putnam, lived in Brooklyn in the 1700s and, for better or worse, supposedly killed "the last wolf in Connecticut" when he was a young man (I guess there was no SPCA back then).  Following dirt roads and a mile-long trail, I finally found "Israel's Wolf Den," which was actually just a cleft in the rocks.  Israel later became an American general during the Revolutionary War and fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and some historians claim that it was Israel who issued the famous command: "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes."

The Wolf Den



Coventry, Rhode Island  (July 2001).  Nathaniel Greene, another ancestor of mine from the 1700s, grew up here in a house called "The Homestead" and later became one of the most able and successful American generals during the Revolutionary War.  In fact, during the war, George Washington considered Greene to be his best general.  Greene had a modest upbringing, was a true self-made man, and throughout his life remained humble.  His childhood home is well off the beaten path and took me a while to find, but it was well worth it because I got a personal hour-long tour from a woman named Mary, a neighbor and the house's caretaker.

"Is Nathaniel home?"



Ipswich, Massachusetts  (July 2001).  Before my trip, I had spent many months in Oregon researching my family's genealogy via the Internet.  One town that kept popping up was Ipswich, Massachusetts, where one of my ancestors, a man named Humphrey Bradstreet, had landed in 1634, just a few years after the Pilgrims had settled in nearby Plymouth.  Therefore, I decided to stop in Ipswich.  There, with the help of a local librarian, I discovered the exact spot where Humphrey had landed from England on the ship "Elizabeth."  After taking this picture, I wanted to reconnect with my past, so I walked down to the dock and dipped my hand in the seawater.  It was a stirring moment.

The landing site



Rowley, Massachusetts  (July 2001).  Humphrey Bradstreet's son, Moses, moved to the nearby village of Rowley, one of the oldest communities in the U.S., and died there in 1690.  I had run across Moses' name several times on the Internet but knew very little about him.  With the help of Susan Hazen, Rowley's Town Clerk, I found the graveyard where Moses was buried and, after walking past rows of graves, found Moses' 1690 gravestone, barely readable after 300 years of weathering.  Standing by his old gravestone, I felt a true connection with Moses for the first time --  I even got goosebumps.  In fact, I still get goosebumps when I think about that moment.

Moses' gravestone



Lyons, New York  (August 2001).  While doing Internet research in Oregon, I discovered that I had relatives from Holland named Meijers who, in the 1600s, settled in the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, today known as New York state.  One of the Meijers' descendents, Solomon Myers, settled here in Lyons (think "Last of the Mohicans" for the era and location) and fought for the U.S. during the War of 1812.  I spent a few hours in Lyons and, with the help of Deborah, the Town Historian, found documents related to Solomon Myers.  Solomon's son was Ransom Myers (described above in Corinth, Mississippi), who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War and lost his left arm. 

Erie Canal at Lyons



Putnam, Ontario  (August 2001).  A story has been passed down in my family for many generations about Canadian ancestors named Putnam who crossed back and forth many times over the U.S./Canada border in the 1800s, for reasons now obscured by time.  Therefore, I decided to visit the small village of Putnam, Ontario, to see if there was any connection there with my family's history.  With the help of the friendly Putnam librarian, I discovered that the town's founder, a man named Putnam, had crossed back and forth over the Canadian border many times back in the 1800s to avoid capture during a rebellion which he had led in Canada.  I was excited to discover this, since it corroborated our family's story.  After reading this, I knew that one of my ancestors had, indeed, come from this small town, and I learned his fascinating story.

The helpful librarian in Putnam



Mayville Michigan  (August 2001).  After fighting in Corinth, Mississippi, during the Civil War, my one-armed great-great-grandfather, Ransom Myers, returned to his farm near Mayville, Michigan in 1865.  A few years later, his daughter, Minnie, eloped at age 16, much to Ransom's displeasure, and years later she bore a daughter who would become my grandmother.  After her husband died, the heart-broken Minnie and her daughter left Mayville around 1900 bound for Seattle.  With the help of the Mayville librarian, I found the farm that had been owned by Minnie's father, Ransom, along with Ransom's grave and that of his father, Solomon Myers, who was born in Lyons, New York.  After tracing Ransom's footsteps in Mississippi and Tennessee, I had now completed the circle.

The Myers plot in Mayville



Windom, Minnesota  (August 2001).  After researching my father's side of the family, which I've described in the stories above, I studied my mother's ancestors, who had all settled in the Midwest during the 1800s.  My first stop was in southwestern Minnesota where her ancestors, the Reinhards, had arrived from Germany in the 1870s and lived in a sod house.  This was just a few miles south of Walnut Grove, Laura Ingalls' home at this time, so my great-great-grandfather, Henry Reinhard, may have known Laura, because they were the same age.  I visited the farm that Henry's father homesteaded in the 1800s and found a barn that he built in 1893.  During my visit, two guys stopped by and I learned that I was related to one of them, my only known relative still in Minnesota.

Henry Reinhard's 1893 barn



Webster, South Dakota  (August 2001).  My mother had several ancestors who came from Norway in the 1800s.  She had once mentioned the town of Webster and, during my Internet research a few years ago, I discovered a possible ancestral connection.  Therefore, I decided to visit Webster -- and ended up spending two weeks there.  With the kind help of the Day County Recorder's Office staff, I learned a great deal about my great-great-grandparents, Ole and Birgit Svang, and found the place where they homesteaded in 1882.  Ole and Birgit arrived by covered wagon and lived in a sod house.  Years later, Birgit died of a possible suicide (common on the frontier) and the impoverished Ole was evicted from his land at age 83, after farming for 23 years.  I camped on their deserted homestead one night and tried to imagine how difficult their lives must have been.

Ole Svang's homestead



Bismarck, North Dakota  (September 2001).  In the fall of 2001, I stopped in Bismarck for what I thought would be a few days.  I ended up spending seven weeks there, researching my mother's history.  My mother, who died in 1999, had always told my father, myself, and my siblings that she had grown up in Bismarck in the 1930s, that her parents were well-off and that she didn't suffer from the Great Depression.  As I discovered, however, she had actually grown up in poverty in a farm north of Bismarck, then moved to Bismarck when she was a teenager.  From my research, I pieced together her family's story and learned that it was one of toil, stress, and despair.  Evidently, my mother didn't want to admit that she grew up in poverty, but the harsh conditions that she endured during the Great Depression only renewed my deep respect for her.

The farm where my mother grew up



Regan, North Dakota  (October 2001).  After my mother passed away, I found an old photo album that she had kept hidden for many decades, which had belonged to her mother, Helga Swang.  I don't remember my grandmother Helga, who died when I was young, and knew little about her.  From the photo album, though, I pieced her story together and learned that she had taught in a one-room school in North Dakota the 1920s.  The album also contained the only pictures I've ever seen of her mother, my great-grandmother, Anna Swang, who died in 1933 after a life of hard work.  By looking at the pictures and reading the captions, I came to know and appreciate the undaunted Helga and her good-humored mother, Anna, and, for the first time, felt a close kinship with both.

My grandmother & mother (center)



Wing, North Dakota  (October 2001).  The most amazing experience of my trip around the U.S. occurred in the smoky "Chat and Chew Cafe," in the tiny town of Wing, North Dakota.  Here, I introduced myself to an elderly woman and local historian named Hester Bailey.  Through our conversation, I learned that in 1921, amazingly enough, Hester had been my grandmother Helga's kindergarten pupil.  During the next two hours, Hester told me stories about my grandparents that I'd never heard, and the only stories about my great-grandparents that I've ever heard.  Hester even recognized herself in one of my grandmother Helga's photos, which Helga had taken in 1921.  Hester is 89 years old and we still keep in touch.  In fact, she recently sent me a large quilt, which she made for me.

Hester Bailey (left) & her friend, Alice



Dickinson, North Dakota  (October 2001).  In July of 1943, my father joined the U.S. Navy and was sent to Dickinson to attend Officer Training School (like in "An Officer and a Gentleman.")  During his second evening there, he went to a dance in Dickinson, sponsored by the U.S.O.  My mother, who had just graduated from high school in Bismarck, was in Dickinson that weekend visiting a girlfriend.  You guessed it -- my mother met my father that night at the dance, and the rest is history.  I stopped in Dickinson to visit the dance hall where my Mom met my Dad, but sadly discovered that it had been torn down the previous year.  Nevertheless, after visiting the college that my Dad attended, I visited the site where my parents met and where they had once danced to the music of Glenn Miller.

My parents in Dickinson (1943)



Skykomish, Washington  (October 2001).  On the last day of my drive around America, I stopped in the tiny logging town of Skykomish, set high in the Cascade Mountains about an hour east of Seattle.  Back during the Great Depression, my father moved here with his parents and his five older siblings.  They were a poor but happy family, reminding me years later in some ways of the television show, "The Waltons" (perhaps one reason I like that show).  For many years, my grandfather ran a grocery store in Skykomish called "Leu's Market."  These days, there isn't much left of Skykomish, but I stopped here and visited the high school where, back in 1940, my father had been a star basketball player.

Skykomish High



Edmonds, Washington  (November 2002).  In the fall of 2002, after visiting New Zealand and Australia, I was getting ready to return to my job in Portland, when my father became ill.  He was diagnosed with cancer, so I decided to stay with him at his house in Bellingham, Washington.  A few months later, he learned that he only had about a week left to live and he told me he wanted to see his older brother and best friend, Bill Leu, one final time.  The next day, I drove my Dad to Edmonds, and he and Bill had a memorable visit.  During that visit, I videotaped an interview of them, during which Bill described his incredible experiences on the U.S.S. Neosho during World War II, which I've described elsewhere on this website.  My father died shortly afterwards and Bill died suddenly a few months later.  They were truly part of what many call "The Greatest Generation."

My father, Don Leu (left) and his older brother, Bill, during their final visit