This blog is a reprint of my internet journal from 2001 to 2002 in which I documented my "vagabond" solo journey in a Chevy Conversion Van tracing my roots. I not only traced their paths and found their homes and final resting places, but I did extensive genealogical research in court houses, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, cemeteries, and talked to the local people. I traveled with a laptop to upload my notes and photos, and use e-mail. It was a fantastic journey which lasted two years. I had no other home except my van to sleep in...just a bed and video player. My household goods were put into storage for two years. My mail was delivered to me at general delivery when I phoned "MailBox, etc." and told them where to send it. At night I stayed in campgrounds, motels, friends' backyards, friends' homes, and those of the few living relations I've tracked down. As I traveled I collected so much genealogy information, that I had to get rid of items that I had originally thought essential to my travels (like a microwave oven). Between ancestral sites, I visited any tourist sites I could find and got to know alot about the USA. This was a trip of a lifetime and I'm still sorting through all the wonderful memories, photos and invaluable genealogical data I found. I will post to this blog as I can - one or a few days at a time of that journey from 2001 to 2002

Monday, July 26, 2010

9 May 2001 - NC to VA

9 MAY 2001 Wednesday Mt Airy, NC - Blue Ridge Parkway,VA

The Original Siamese Twins
          [I'm having trouble with Blogspot blog site trying to get my pictures to insert correctly - sorry]

Up for the Continental Breakfast that was part of the room rate. Remembered to bring my cell phone that was charging in the wall receptacle. On to the Visitor’s Center for the video of the Mt Airy town’s offerings and a museum of the “largest collection of Mayberry RFD Andy Griffith- items in the world”. Let’s not forget that Mount Airy is the birthplace of singer Donna Fargo and home of the famous Eng and Chang Bunker. The twins were born in Siam (Thailand) in 1811 and were joined at the abdomen. That is where we get the term “Siamese Twins” from. They went on tour with the circus when 12yr old, married sisters, had 22 children all together (they didn’t give details on that) and are buried in the cemetery in Mt Airy, near where they farmed until dying in 1887. In addition, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart was born at Ararat VA, six miles from Mt Airy.

Mt Airy Museum
Granite Quary - Mt Airy, VA
I qualified as a Senior Citizen (yikes) at the Regional Museum, so kind of hobbled around looking at the exhibits. Finally I drove over to the other Mt Airy claim to fame, the World’s Largest Open Faced Granite Mine in the world. Granite from here is what made the Arlington Bridge over the Potomac in Washington DC.     Gas in Mt Airy $1.56. I had a problem with the station ringing me up incorrectly then not knowing how to credit my credit card. So after much convincing of the manager, I just signed for the additional $8 and they gave it to me in cash.  

Fifteen minutes later I was at the Blue Ridge Parkway and had to stop immediately and take a photo. It is a very beautiful and peaceful two-lane road; words cannot describe the pleasure in driving this crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Built during the 1930s to give jobs to people during the Depression during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, it is a masterpiece – a ribbon of Americana at 2500 ft above the land. I was in the Virginia part of the road.
I stopped at each overlook and place of interest, including Mabay Mill, a very picturesque mill with water wheel for grinding corn and sawing lumber. It is so picturesque they have post cards that have been printed by scoundrels using a photo of this mill advertising the State of Iowa and Maine!
MaBay Mill, VA
The Dogwood trees were beginning to bloom their white flowers accenting the many large hardwood and pine tree green. Azaleas added color. The weather was perfect. I could go on and on, but will just say that if you ever get a chance to travel this Parkway, do it – especially if the weather is good. With a speed limit of 45mph you can’t help but relax. and marvel at rural America and the beauty of the land.
Tent Catepillar nest in tree

I found a tent catepillar in the trees, so had to take photos of it.

I decided to get off the Parkway at Roanoke, VA. This was a mistake. I had avoided Roanoke before, and should have again. I never found the Visitor’s Center so drove through traffic back East to the Parkway and checked out a new “”Explore Park” at milepost 115. It was closed, but thought I’d return in the morning.

Unfortuntely when I got off the Parkway on the north side of Roanoke to find a motel, I ended up on a Highway that just kept going and going – and no motels. Twenty miles later I found myself in Bedford, VA. Took the first motel I found, Days Inn – for $40 – complete with microwave, refrigerator, free local calls, and continental breakfast.  Ate spaghetti at the adjoining restaurant so I didn’t need to drive anymore, and then got on the internet for awhile before I tuned in “Boot Camp” for the next to last episode on TV.

At 1:28am a beep woke me up. I couldn’t figure out where it came from. I finally narrowed it down to my Cell Phone, so searched for it’s charger and got that going. Besides recharging my own battery, motel stops are now for recharging laptop, camera, cell phone, and soon, my GPS.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Start of my dream trip to track my ancestors 2001-2002

8 May 2001    Tuesday Fayetteville - Ft Bragg, Fayetteville, NC ---- Mt Airy, NC

I planned to “Blow out of Town”, “Get out of Dodge” or otherwise say goodbye to Fayetteville, NC by noon today – 3 months and a week after my Retirement from over 26 years in the Army Nurse Corps. I was only an hour and 15 minutes late. My household goods are packed and in storage.  Always more to do: Fill up the gas tank of my new Chevy Conversion Van  at $1.53/gal, go to the bank, check my mail service box, stop by AAA and load up on travel books for the North Eastern US and driving west to Iowa.

My Chevy Conversion Van
Packing my household goods
 With a Diet Coke and Ice Cream Sandwich, I hit the road via Hwy 87. Northeast to Sanford, then Greensboro (or Goldsboro, or Greenville, never figured all the names out). I had to stop for coffee then, added a spoonful of my instant coffee to the hot coffee I bought, to add a little more caffeine. Not good to be sleepy.

Lots of traffic at Winston-Salem as I passed through the furniture making region traveling from the pine to the hardwood forests. Then Pilot Mountain (Mt Pilot) rose like a sentinel on Hwy 52 in the beautiful forests approaching the Blue Ridge Mountains paralleling the mightier Appalachian Mountain range, which is just to the west.

About 5pm I rolled into the place I had located on the map last night -- Mount Airy. The real home of Andy Griffin and the fabled Mayberry, home of Sheriff Andy Taylor, Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), Barney Fife (Don Knotts), Floyd the barber, Aunt Bea, and Andy’s son, Opie, (Ron Howard). Not that I am the biggest fan of the old TV show, but I might as well see what I can see. Finding the Visitors Center I planned my motel for the night, got brochures and a tourist map of the town. Now 5pm I stopped by the jail of Mayberry RFD, with Barney’s police cruiser outside, the boyhood (1935-1966) home of Andy Griffith, the Snappy Lunch Diner, Floyds Barber Shop, and the Cinema.

"Mayberry RFD" - Andy Griffin show site
I decided on spending $50 at the Comfort Inn, so I could watch "Frazier" on TV and use the Internet. I helped myself to the complimentary “Cappuccino” they were offering between 5 and 7pm. I got a non-smoking, first floor room so I could be close to the van. A note by the phone said all Internet calls are “long distance”. So I decided not to tax my brain by figuring all that out, I just enjoyed the beautiful Spring evening, excellent weather, and walked over to Arbys for a gourmet Roast Beef sandwich and chocolate shake.

I really needed this evening to organize the van. I was able to consolidate containers with my genealogy books, food items, clothing, emergency battery power box, and everything else except my travel brochures; I’ll do that tomorrow. I also postponed figuring out my new GPS (Global Positioning System) unit, and how to activate my “Voice Mail” on my Cell Phone - first time I've had / used a cell phone.

Too tired to do any reading, I was in bed by 9:30 pm.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Inspiration for beginning this blog about my Ancestor tracking trip - a dream come true.

Recently Randy Seaver, of the great blog at "Genea-Musings" of July 24, 2010,  proposed for "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" that readers 1) Think hard about the genealogy research trip that you would take if money were no object. Where would you go, how long would you stay, what research would you do? What is your "dream research trip?"  2) Tell us about it in your own blog post, etc.  He (and I) have been following Becky Wiseman on her kinexxions blog as she travels around the USA.on her dream trip, although she is not doing a lot of genealogy research along the way. Her trip inspired the SNGF (Saturday Night Genealogy Fun) challenge, and I have marveled at her amazing photographs along the way.  
 My dream trip leaves from Fayetteville, North Carolina in May 2001, where I retired from the Army Nurse Corps at Ft. Bragg.  I drove for two years - both for genealogy research and to see the great sights of America.  I headed north and spent most of my travels in North Eastern United States -- with a stint up to Nova Scotia, and a couple flights to Wales and England.  After New England much time was spent in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Colorado.    I made it as far west as Las Vegas, where my brother lived, and down to San Antonio, Texas, then back east and up through the Shenandoah Valley, VA to Pennsylvania where I sold the van and flew to Hawaii to find my retirement home, at last, in 2003. Since I am from Los Angeles and grew up in California, I didn't cover that more recent part of my ancestors' journeys.

So here will be the record of my own amazing Genealogical Journey - my solo vagabond journey along the paths of my ancestors.