and Worst of My Trip
The Best and
Worst of My Trip Around the U.S.
3, 2001 -- Bellingham, Washington)
Experience: I've had a lot of good experiences on this trip,
including visiting numerous friends and relatives around the country.
best experience, though, was meeting an 87-year-old woman in North Dakota named
Hester Bailey. As I discovered, Hester was a former student of my grandmother
Helga's when Hester was in Kindergarten in 1921. Hester told me a lot of
stories about my grandmother Helga. I never knew Helga, who passed away in
1964, so it was really interesting to meet Hester and to talk to her about my
Great Experiences: Doing genealogical research in North Dakota, Massachusetts and
Michigan and meeting a lot of wonderful people, including an ebullient woman in
Bismarck named Bernie Swang whom I may or may not be related to. Also, receiving e-mails from folks I've
never met but who are following my website, and getting a full-day tour of the Civil War battlefields in Mississippi from Tommy,
a historian I met in Corinth, Mississippi.
Pleasantly Surprising City:
Knoxville, Tennessee. I had never been to Knoxville before this
trip and discovered that it's a real gem.
Pleasantly Surprising Town: Jonesboro, Tennessee. This is the
oldest city in Tennessee and it's lined with lots of interesting old historic
buildings. Second place goes to Webster, South Dakota. I spent a
week in this area and the people there were incredibly friendly and helpful.
Greeneville, Tennessee was also a very interesting town with lots of nice folks.
Boston, Massachusetts, a place I'd like to move to... if only it were out West!
Disappointing City: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (tie),
near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These are the tackiest cities
I've ever seen in my life.
Disappointing National Park: Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North
Carolina. It wasn't nearly as beautiful as I had imagined and, even worse, it was jammed with tourists.
Frustration: Not being able to spend more time updating my website
because I've been traveling so much. I promise to do better in
Night: Camping in my truck while overlooking the beautiful and desolate Clay
Canyon in southeastern Utah, and being the only person within hundreds of square
miles. Second place: Camping on my great-great-grandfather's former
homestead, on the desolate prairies of northeastern South Dakota.
Night: Sleeping in a pool of sweat during a hot and steamy evening in mosquito-filled
Harold Parker State Park north of Boston, when the temperature dropped only to
Regret: Not visiting Colorado, where I worked for 6 years as a
ranger during the 1980s. It was just getting too late in the season and I
was anxious to get back to Washington. Maybe next summer?
E-mails: I enjoy getting e-mails from everyone, but the best
e-mails I get are probably from those people who don't know me and have written
to tell me how much they enjoy reading my website. The website is a
pain-in-the-neck sometimes, but it's worth it when I get nice, unsolicited
e-mails (or even solicited e-mails).
Pleasantly Surprising Campground: Beartree Campground in the Mt.
Rogers National Recreation Area, Virginia. Without a doubt, this is one of the nicest
campgrounds I've ever stayed at. There's lots of privacy between sites,
small creeks run throughout the campground, and, at 3,000 feet in elevation,
it's high enough so you can avoid the sweltering summer heat.
Runner-up: Fort Sisseton State Park near Lake City, South Dakota.
It's fairly small and open, but affords sweeping vistas of the prairie and, best
of all, is usually empty.
Experience: Visiting the desolate, 19th-century Rocky Springs cemetery along the
Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi one rainy morning, and then hearing a
conversation in the nearby church only to find, upon opening the doors, that the
church was empty. Second
creepiest experience: Hitting my golf
ball and watching it stop 20 feet from the hole at a San Diego golf course, then when I got to
the green discovering that the ball was gone. Third creepiest
experience: Hearing Navajo chanting and drumming at Muley Point Overlook
in southern Utah,
miles from the nearest person. Too many donuts, I guess!