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Alive and Well in the Bismarck Public Library

Sorry I haven't posted an update in a while.  That's mainly because I've been camping for most of the past month and haven't had much Internet access lately.  And when I did get a motel room a while ago, I plugged into the phone jack and tried to update my website but Earthlink, my webhoster, was having "technical difficulties" and I couldn't post anything.  Maintaining a website while you're traveling is a lot more complicated than I ever imagined when I started this trip.  "Gee, I know.  I'll create a website and post stories about my travels around America.  I mean, how hard could that be?" 


But after many trials and a few tribulations, I was finally able to post this update, so if you were waiting for something to read, I hopefully have enough here to keep you busy for a while.


Above:  The wonderful Bismarck Public Library, my home away from home these past four weeks.

Believe it or not, I've spent the past month in Bismarck, North Dakota.  To pronounce the state like the locals here, you have to say "North Dakoooooda."  And if you want to pronounce it like a real local, add an "eh?" to the end.  The  upper Midwest accent really cracks me up.  And to think that only a few months ago in Tennessee, I was dealing with people who said, "Weer y'all frumm"?  Here it's, "Where ya from, eh?"


I've been doing a lot of family research here in Bismarck (pop. 49,500 and the capital of North Dakota) this past month because this was where my mom grew in the 1930s.  My mom passed away a few years ago, so I came here to Bismarck to learn what I could about her childhood and her family, because she never told me much about either.  Both sides of her family lived in North Dakota during the early 1900s so I've spent a lot of time in the wonderful Bismarck Public Library trying to piece together their stories.  I've also spent a lot of time here getting caught up with my website and have added several new pages and photos.  I've also been spent a lot of time here returning e-mails.  I've spent so much time here in the Bismarck Library with my laptop this last month, in fact, that I'm sure the friendly women at the desk are starting to wonder about me.

Transmission Problems and Much Worse

Back in May before I left Portland, I got my truck's transmission overhauled at Cottman's Transmission, which cost $1,200 (gulp).  That was a lot of money but, looking on the positive side, it was the first major work that's been done to my truck since I bought it in 1984, so I didn't gulp too much.


Things were going fine with the truck until one morning a few weeks ago in Bismarck when I suddenly couldn't shift it into reverse.  Fortunately, I had exactly 95 miles left on Cottman's 12,000-mile warranty (doing the math, the warranty was 99.3% expired).  But unfortunately, there's not a Cottman's shop here in Bismarck.  But fortunately, the Cottman's shop in Portland agreed to pay for it to be fixed by a shop (Leo's Transmission) here in Bismarck.  As a result, I spent about a week in a Bismarck motel room, working on my website and waiting for my truck's transmission to get repaired.


Above:  Leo's Transmission in Bismarck, where my truck spent several days getting fixed. 

On the morning of September 11, from my motel room, I called my webhoster, Earthlink  to ask a few questions because I was having problems posting an update.  The first thing the guy asked me was if I'd seen the news that morning.  When I said no, he said, "You better turn on your TV.  The World Trade Center has been demolished and the Pentagon's on fire."  


After hanging up, I immediately flipped on the T.V. and that's how I learned about the September 11 terrorist attack.  Like everyone else in America, I was stunned and devastated.  I sat glued to my television for the next several days, hoping they would find survivors, but unfortunately not.  I wasn't in much of a mood to write after that and am still deeply saddened by what happened, one reason I haven't updated my website in a while.


The people in Bismarck were shocked, of course, by those events just as I'm sure people everywhere in the U.S. were.  A festival in downtown Bismarck went on as scheduled on the Saturday after the tragedy, including a parade with lots of bands and floats.  People kept a stiff upper lip and waved their flags during the parade in the cold, cloudy weather during what is normally a happy event, but a lot of folks didn't have their hearts in it and I saw more than a few tears.  There are a lot of American flags waving here now and, more than anger, just a lot of sadness.  That describes my emotions, as well.



Above left:  Catching up with my website in my motel room in Bismarck.  This was the day before the September 11 attacks.

Above right:  I was transfixed as I watched the terrible attack on New York City unfold.  I was deeply saddened and unsettled for the next several days (and weeks), as I'm sure was every American.

Statistics So Far 

I'll switch gears now (which I can do, thanks to the folks at Leo's Transmission) and post some statistics about my trip so far:


Trip Stats


  • Days on the road:  115

  • Miles driven:  11,612

  • States visited:  31

  • Flat tires:  1

  • Photos taken: 7,288

  • Web pages on this website:  Exactly 100

  • Photos on this website:  852

  • Bratwursts consumed:  Countless


Yes, I really have posted 100 pages and 852 photos so far.  And I haven't even left for Australia yet.

New Pages

As I mentioned, I've spent a lot of time in the Bismarck Public Library these past few weeks working on my website.  In addition to four News updates, I'm adding several new pages in this round and am posting over 200 captioned photos.  I know that not everyone will be interested in reading every page (or even most pages or even some pages), but I've tried to write about enough different things that hopefully everyone who visits my site will find something interesting.


One reason I'm taking this 18-month trip is to learn about my family's history on both my mom's and my dad's side.  I've written a description of their family stories in Summary of My Family's History based on what I've learned so far.  Some of this may be confusing, so I drew a map showing how my father's ancestors moved across America and have included several old photos, shown in My Dad's Ancestors:  Map and Photo Essay.  I also drew a map showing how my mother's ancestors moved across America and have included a lot of old photos, shown in My Mom's Ancestors:  Map and Photo Essay.

No More Del Stripping


      Some of you may know that the original name of my website was DelsTrip.com.  However, when I mentioned that name to some friends before I left, they thought I said DelStrip.

      I wanted to assure folks that they won't see any pictures of me stripping, so I bought the domain name "DelsJourney," which is a much better name, anyway.  I had kept the DelsTrip site, though, and added a link there to DelsJourney.  Not that anyone was checking it, but I recently cancelled my DelStrip site.

      Interestingly, I got an e-mail from a company a few months ago wondering if the name DelsTrip.com was for sale.  I told them it was, but then they backed out.  I can't help but wonder what they were planning to post there.


Since I love to drive around America, I put together a page called My 20 Favorite Drives in the U.S., though it was hard to narrow down my favorite drives to a list of just 20.  Also, I realized that I had never properly introduced my traveling companion, My Toyota Truck, so I went through my old photos and picked out 36 pictures of my truck parked next to various friends over the past 16 years.  Hey, you might see yourself there!


As I described in my update from Syracuse (see News:  August 8, 2001), there was some confusion about the location of Comanche, the horse ridden by Captain Myles Keogh at Custer's Last Stand in 1876 and the only U.S. cavalry survivor of that battle.  I recently learned Comanche's whereabouts, which you can read about in The Comanche Mystery Solved.  General Custer's home base for several years was Fort Abraham Lincoln, near Bismarck, which has also been my base during my month-long stay here. 


Since I'm traveling through the upper Midwest now and am tracing my ancestors who homesteaded here, I wrote up a short page on The 1862 Homestead Act and included a blurb about that Norwegian delicacy, Lutefisk.  Another feature that makes this area unique is its changeable weather, which I've described in Weather in the Midwest.  And while you're at it, you can find out Why I'm Responsible for the Current Recession.  All of these pages are in my Close-Ups section. 


Now you can see why I've spent a month in Bismarck.  I've done enough writing for a while, though, so now it's time to dig into my family research.


Schedule?  What Schedule?

According to my original plan, I was supposed to leave Portland in June for a two-month drive around the U.S., then leave for Australia on September 1.  By September 30, which is now, I was supposed to be scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef.  But here I am in Bismarck, North Dakota with nary a blonde, bikinied Sheila in sight.  So what happened?


Now   More Photos
and Faster Downloads!


      I apologize for some of my earlier News Updates, especially from May and June, since they were filled with lots of page-size photos that took years to download.  That was before I learned how to create thumbnail photos.

      I've gone back to all of my earlier webpages that had lots of large photos and converted the pictures to thumbnails so those pages will download faster now.  In fact, the pages downloaded so fast that I decided to add more photos and stories to them.

      My goal for this website is to limit the download time of each page to about 45 seconds at 56K speed.  Of course, I put text at the top of each page so you can start reading while the photos are downloading.  Those of you lucky enough to have DSL or cable modem, of course, don't have to worry about it.

After frantically driving across New Mexico a few months ago so that I could meet my friends in Austin on a certain day, I reached the profound conclusion that, "This sucks."  That's when I realized that I don't like schedules.  I also realized that, for maybe the first time in my life, I don't have to be at a certain place at a certain time.  Therefore, I've decided to mosey, spending as much time as I like in one place before moving on. 


This new attitude explains why I spent two weeks in eastern South Dakota recently and why I've spent a month (a month!) in Bismarck so far.  Hey, the weather's nice here, the campground is cheap, the people are friendly, the fried chicken at Dan's Supermarket is great, and I've got plenty of work to keep me busy.  So, in the words of Bobby McFerrin, "Don't Hurry, Be Happy" or something like that.


I've rearranged my trip Down Under, by the way, to accommodate my delayed arrival there and to better take advantage of the weather.  I'm now planning to visit New Zealand first, from November through January, and then Australia from February through July.  I want to visit during our winter because, down there, it'll be summer.  And by the time I finish traveling in the southern hemisphere and come back to North America, it'll be summer here.  As a result, I'll be spending three summers in a row without having to deal with a single winter.  I figured that was pretty clever, so maybe I'm not as stupid as I look.


This page is getting pretty long, so I've split it in half and have posted my update at News: September 30, 2001 Part 2.  Be sure to click on the link and check out my fascinating stories on that page about hail dent repair and head lice, among other fascinating topics.



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