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Home at Last

After traveling around America since June 8, I pulled into my dad's driveway in Bellingham, Washington on a stormy afternoon in late October, thus completing my 2001 trip around the U.S.  I always enjoy hitting the road, but for several reasons, including the September 11th attacks, I was glad to be back home (or as much of a home as I have right now) after four and a half months.



Final Statistics of My U.S. Trip

  • Days Traveled:  136 

  • States Visited:  34

  • Flat Tires:  1

  • Miles Traveled:  14,247

  • Miles per Day (avg.):  105

  • Photos Taken:  8,272

  • PPD (Photos per Day):  61

  • BPD (Bratwurst per Day):  1.7

I create a theme for each road trip that I take around America and the theme of this trip was "family history," which I'd spent half the trip engaged in.  From visiting the salty villages on the Massachusetts coast, the Civil War battlefields of Mississippi, and the plains of the Dakotas (and tramping through dozens of cemeteries in the process), I have a much clearer vision of where I came from, what my ancestors were like, and the hardships they endured and overcame.


During my journey around America, I discovered a number of amazing stories about my family and some tragic ones.  And by visiting the places where my forebears had lived, worked and died (ancestors including the one-armed Civil War sergeant Ransom Myers in Michigan, the colonial weaver Hugh Chaplin in Massachusetts, and the resilient Norwegian homesteader Anna Swang in North Dakota), I've come to understand them much better than just a name on a family tree.


It's great to be home!  Here's John Denver singing Back Home Again.


After I return from my overseas trip next summer, I'll write down what I've learned, hoping to pass this information on to future generations of my family.  I knew this family research would take a long time, and indeed, it was one of the reasons that I decided to take a break from my job of 10 years.  Other than researching my family history, the highlight of my trip around America was visiting relatives and old friends, as well as making new friends.  I met interesting people almost every day and was, at times, overwhelmed by their generosity.  As I traveled around America, the kindness of strangers never ceased to amaze me.  I've shared many of these stories on this website and hope you've enjoyed meeting these folks, as well. 


I'm leaving for my overseas trip on December 7, which is the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor an appropriate day for my invasion of the Pacific, perhaps.   To help pay for this trip, I'll be going down to my stockbroker on December 6 to cash in all that Enron stock that I bought last year at $80 a share.  I figure that stock must have doubled in price since I left Portland in June.  Right?  Right??


I've described my planned world trip and the last few days of my U.S. trip, including my drive from Bismarck, North Dakota to Bellingham, on my next page:  News: December 3, 2001 Part 2.  However, before I jump to that page I'd like to pass along a few things.

Country Schools

If you read my entries from October, you know that my grandmother Helga taught in a one-room schoolhouse on the North Dakota plains during the early 1900s.  I've done a lot of research on country schools over the past few years and wanted to share some photos and humorous anecdotes about the way schools used to be, so I added a new page in the "Close-Ups" section describing North Dakota's One-Room Country Schools.  I think you'll be amused by the 1872 "Instructions to Teachers."

Mea Culpa

If you've read Why I'm Responsible for the Current Recession, you know that every time I quit a job, the U.S. economy goes into a recession.  The last time I quit a job, in the spring of 1990, the U.S. suddenly plunged into a deep recession after years of unbridled economic growth.  According to the economists, though, that recession ended a year later in March of 1991.  That month, of course, was when I got my job with Parsons Brinckerhoff and started working again.


After I worked at PB for 10 years, during which our country enjoyed 10 years of prosperity, I quit in March of 2001.  Economists are now saying that our current recession started in you guessed it March of 2001.  As former president George H. W. Bush once said, there seems to be a pattern here.


If you're worried about our current recession, you're probably hoping that I go back to work soon.  However, you'll have to wait until next summer, because that's when I hope to finish my overseas trip and move back to Portland.  I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.  To ease your worries, though, I've sent Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan an e-mail describing my travel plans.

Hester's Story, Part 2

One of the highlights of my recent trip around America was meeting a delightful and wonderfully spry 87-year old woman named Hester Bailey, who lives in the tiny farming town of Wing, North Dakota, about 30 miles north of Bismarck.  I met Hester in the smoky Chat-and-Chew Cafe while I was doing family research and, since Hester was a long-time resident, I asked her if she remembered my grandmother, Helga Swang, who died in 1964. 


Hester certainly did remember my grandmother Helga.  In fact, as it turned out, Hester was one of Helga's pupils in kindergarten in 1921 when Hester was six years old.  Since I never knew my grandmother Helga, I was thrilled to talk to Hester about her.  Hester even remembered my mother, who was born in 1924, as a little girl riding in the back seat of her parent's Model T.  As we sat in the tiny cafe, I showed Hester several old photos that my grandmother had taken in 1921 of the Canfield School, where Helga taught and which Hester attended.  I was fascinated when Hester recognized many of the students in the old photos.  Unfortunately, though, she didn't see any pictures of herself.


When I got back to Bellingham, I sent Hester copies of the photos.  About a week ago, I received a nine-page handwritten letter from this delightful woman telling me how much she enjoyed meeting me and telling me what life was like there in the 1920s.


Amazingly enough, Hester even recognized herself in one of the 1921 photos I had sent her.  After studying those photos for the past several years in Portland and wondering who these children were and where they lived, I finally got to meet one of them.  And, from what Hester told me, she was probably the only person in those photos who was still alive.  As she put it, talking to me and seeing her picture "really made my day!"  I plan to keep in touch with Hester and hope to see her again the next time I return to North Dakota.



Above left:  87-year old Hester Bailey (left) was a six-year-old kindergarten student at the Canfield School in 1921, where my grandmother Helga taught.

Above right:  That's six-year-old Hester (circled) behind the boy with the gun (I believe this was a Memorial Day celebration obviously, no metal detectors in this school).  My grandmother Helga took this picture of her students at the Canfield School in 1921.  Until I had visited North Dakota on this trip, though, I didn't know what school this was, where it was, or who the children were.


For photos and stories about my trip home from Bismarck to Bellingham, see News: December 3, 2001 Part 2.



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