Above: My faithful 2001 Dell laptop with its "huge"
30 GB hard drive. It was pretty primitive by today's standards -- but hey, twenty years later it still works!
The world of technology was very different 20 years ago, back in April 2001 when I created my first website, DelsJourney.com. The Internet
was in its relative infancy, laptops and cell phones were rare, and wi-fi didn't exist at all. Websites were hard to create back then, especially
when traveling, and the first digital cameras were only just starting to emerge.
There were very few travel blogs in those days because of all those issues. I got lots of strange looks in campgrounds back in 2001 whenever I
took out my clunky Dell laptop to work on my website and curious passersby often struck up conversations, wondering what the heck I was doing with a
computer in a campground.
Posting those web updates was also a challenge back then, because it required a phone jack (and, consequently, a motel room) along with several
cables and adapters. The fastest connection speed was only 56K, which is 100 to 1,000 times slower than a typical broadband connection today,
so I had to keep my website's photos small. And the idea of posting any kind of video, which devoured bandwidth, was absurd. This was
long before YouTube.
Above: The Canon D30 digital camera that made my website possible. I bought this
camera, one of the first digital SLRs ever made, in March 2001. The pictures were only 2160 x 1440 pixels (3 MP)
but it was a great camera. Over the next eight years, I shot over 25,000 pictures with it and posted many of them on this website.
On the positive side though, once I posted stories, they were often ranked highly in Google or Alta Vista (remember Alta Vista?) because there
were far fewer websites back in 2001 -- less than a million instead of the tens of millions today -- and competition was relatively thin. It
almost wasn't fair. Due to the wide range of topics in my 400-page website and its thousands of photos, DelsJourney.com was ranked in
the top 2% of all websites in the world in terms of traffic until
about 2006. My readership has dropped off a lot, of course, as more websites have been created each year since. However, I can proudly
say that, as of 2021, DelsJourney still gets over a thousand readers a day.
On the 20th anniversary of my website, during the Covid winter of 2020 - 2021, I spent hundreds of hours revising DelsJourney.com, giving it a
complete and much-needed makeover. To accommodate today's larger monitors, I increased the size of the text and photos in my website, and
given today's higher bandwidths, I improved the quality of the music. I also posted a few new stories and pictures -- and heck, I even
posted some video clips from my travels back in 2001. But I kept the basic appearance of my original DelsJourney.com website, with its blue
background and green "road sign" theme, intact.
A New Website -- And Still Not Monetized
I posted stories on DelsJourney.com until 2016, when I created a new travel website called
www.ExtremeGeographer.com. My new website uses more current web technology
(i.e., Joomla instead of HTML) and, with its drop-down menus and flashy home page slide show, looks more modern.
One thing has remained constant among both of my websites, however: neither is "monetized." You will never see an
advertisement or irritating pop-up on either website. I didn't create DelsJourney.com to make a buck and I never will make any
money from it. That's another big difference between then and now. Back in 2001 when I created DelsJourney,
the few blogs that existed rarely had any ads. Today, it's hard to find a blog or YouTube video without ads. But not on DelsJourney
because I've done this simply to (hopefully) entertain and inform my readers about the places I've traveled.
I've thought about merging my two websites into a single, modern-looking website with fancy drop-down menus, pop-up photo viewers and other
cool web technology. But I'm sentimental and decided to keep DelsJourney.com pretty much as it looked originally. To summarize, therefore,
I've posted my stories on:
Today, given all the recent advancements in technology, it's easy to create
a travel website. But creating a travel website back in 2001 while actually on the road, like I did, was a huge technical challenge.
That's why no one except a few crazy fools like me tried to do it. And so, I hope you enjoy DelsJourney.com, as well as my new website,
Above: Busy (?) at work in Portland in 1994 back in my mustachioed days. Ooh, check out
that "modern" computer!
Greetings! My name is Del Leu. I'm the author of DelsJourney and here's the story of my website. It all began in
Portland, Oregon in March 2001. That's when I started getting "itchy feet" after working as a computer mapping (i.e., GIS)
specialist and transportation planner with the same engineering consulting firm for 10 years. Precisely on my 10-year anniversary in 2001,
I quit my comfortable job with those assuring paychecks and started living like a hobo as I began an 18-month trip around America and
the world. Yes, many of my colleagues thought I was crazy -- and maybe I was!
During my journey, I planned to take long road trips around my three favorite countries: the United States, New Zealand, and
Australia. Well actually, I'd never been to New Zealand or Australia (in fact, I'd never been overseas before), but I'd always wanted
to visit them. I also wanted to visit the south Pacific, another place I'd never been, so I decided at the last minute to throw that
in, as well.
Above: Updating my website -- and now sans mustache -- in Brisbane, Australia. (April 2002)
Being my family's unofficial historian and "keeper of stories," I've always been interested in genealogy. So I decided
that my 2001 trip around America would be a great opportunity to learn about my family's history first-hand. It's one thing to read about
an important place, but it's much more satisfying to actually visit it and walk on the ground, breathe the air, and wipe the cow manure off
your shoes. And so, during my trip around America, I visited dozens of sites around the country that have historic ties to my
ancestors, some of whom were among the earliest settlers of North America. In many ways, my trip around the U.S. evolved into a personal
quest of understanding my family's heritage.
I also figured my trip would be a great opportunity to learn web programming, so I started up this website before I took off, deciding to use
a "green road sign" theme throughout the site. I brought along a laptop computer on my journey, a digital camera, and a thick
"How-To" book on Microsoft FrontPage, figuring that I would learn how to design websites as I went. During my travels, I posted
stories and photos of the places I visited, from Bellingham to Boston, through the south Pacific and across the Australian Outback using my
sarcastic wit and childish sense of humor.
Above: I love highway signs, including this one in the Australian Outback. I decided to
use this same green road sign motif for the navigational buttons, on the left side of my website.
Although I created this site mainly for my friends and relatives, I figured that anyone interested in traveling might find it interesting.
Sure enough, as I traveled around the U.S. and overseas, I started getting lots of e-mails from folks who had stumbled across my website.
During my travels, I posted nearly 500 webpages and more than 2,000 photos on this site, and if you print the whole thing out, it's about 600 pages
long. Yes, the website was a lot of work, and during my travels I frequently had to hunker down for several days at a time to update it, time
that I would've rather have spent traveling, to be honest. But the website was also a lot of fun and I'm glad I created it.
After my road trips around the U.S., New Zealand and Australia in 2002, I thought about taking my website down. But I decided to keep it
posted and updated, because I figured that travelogues never go out of date. I also figured that new readers would enjoy reading about vitally
important topics such as:
Contact Me If you're wondering whether I really do exist, feel
free to send me an e-mail.
In Search of My Heritage
As I mentioned above, 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 lived, fought, and died. I spent 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 had largely turned into
a personal quest to discover my family's heritage. I've briefly described the more memorable sites and 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.
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.
Greeneville, Tennessee (July 2001). A few months after leaving
Corinth, Mississippi (see above) in 1862, 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.
Brooklyn, Connecticut (July 2001). One of my ancestors, 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). Nathanael 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 Nate 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 (and salty) 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 goose bumps. In fact, I still get goose bumps when I think
about that moment.
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.
The 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 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 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, 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'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 in 1999, 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 mother, Anna, and, for the first time, felt a close kinship with both.
My mother & grandmother (center).
Wing, North Dakota (October 2001). The most amazing experience
of 2001 my trip around the U.S. occurred in the smoky "Chat and Chew Cafe," in the tiny town of Wing, North Dakota. Here,
I met 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 eighty years earlier in 1921. 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 the movie, "An Officer and a
Gentleman.") The day after arriving, 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 contented family, reminding me years later in some ways of the television show, "The Waltons" (perhaps one reason I
liked that show). For many years, my grandfather ran a grocery store in Skykomish. 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 School.
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, 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 (left) and his brother, Bill, during their final visit.