Monthly Archives: June 2015

Day 6 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 32 miles – stayed in the Farmington area  – Trip total = 1672
  • highest temp:  102
  • highest elevation: 5642.6 feet at Aztec Ruins – very precise because there was a USGS survey marker embedded into a step of a portion of the restored ruins
  • no new states and no new license plates
  • One new park, The Aztec Ruins, and another park stamp for the Old Spanish Trail – 11 different National Park sites and areas for the trip so far.

After skipping longer tours for a couple of sites in a row we did a very thorough exploration of the Aztec Ruins.  First thing you have to know is that they have no connection to the Aztecs of Mexico.  This area, when first explored by the Spaniards coming up from Mexico, was given that name.  The people who built and lived here where the Pueblo people of the Chaco culture, the same people who built at Chaco Canyon and at Mesa Verde.

Our thoughts as we learned about these people kept comparing them to our ancestors at this same time period.  At about 1000 AD there were at least 50 to 60 thousand people living in this valley.  The ruins we visited were the cultural center structures.  In a cultu2015-06-21 12.20.48re with no long term written language they designed and built, over a period of 30 years, a major structure that was 3 stories tall including very complex internal structures.  The materials to build this were carried here from 5 to 30 miles away without any mechanical devices to assist and in an era when there were no beast of burden (no horses, donkeys, or cattle in the Americas at that time).  The primary ceremonial place was an impressive piece of architecture.  Some parts of the ruins included multi-layered wooden ceilings which have survived for 900 years.  The primary ceremonial structure, or Kiva, had collapsed but has been IMG_20150621_120046894reconstructed as exactly as possible.  It took the better part of the year to build using all of our modern technologies.

The reminder for me from the day was how important it is to understand that the many peoples of our world and our nation have many different histories and backgrounds and we need to try our best to step outside of our own shoes from time to time to try to see the world from one or more of those other perspectives.  This place has been labeled “abandoned ruins” by one group of people.  Another group, the Hopi people who are descendants of the Pueblo, believe these ruins where never abandoned.  They were built as footprints to mark part of their journey in this world and they believe their ancestors still reside here.  In a time when so many in our culture are only concerned with being “right” and making sure they let others who think differently know they are “wrong,” I think we might all benefit from considering our situation from another view.


Day 5 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 250 miles from Moab, UT to Farmington, NM – 1640 total miles
    • we are about 1/10th done with our trip
  • highest temp:  99 –  but it felt a lot hotter.
  • highest elevation: 7,070 feet at Monticello, UT
  • 4 states: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Total for the trip: 7
    • One of the those states was primarily me standing on the Arizona side of the four corners monument where these 4 state meet:
    • The tradition is to stand on the exact spot where the 4 states meet and take a picture of your feet simultaneously in all 4 states.  To do that 2015-06-20 15.54.43would have required waiting in a line in near 100 degree weather with no shade for probably and hour and a half.  I decided getting one picture of me in each of the four states would be good enough.  As my son Jacob says:  “Perfect is good.  Done is better.”
  • Licence plates spotted:  2 new states and provinces – 36 total for the trip
  • 1 new National Park site: Mesa Verde – 10 parks total for the trip.Meas Verde climb
    • Once again the heat kept us from doing much actual exploration at the park.  Here’s a picture of what would be involved in going on a tour to see the cliff dwellings up close.  I think that climb will be much more feasible in spring or fall with temperatures somewhere below 80 degrees.

This whole region of the country is amazingly beautiful and varied.  Our plan for this part of the trip was to treat this first portion of our trip as a scouting expedition to plan for a more extensive visit at a future date.  I think we have accomplished that.  I was a bit apprehensive about the road conditions here but found them to be in wonderful condition and most of the area is reasonably flat at the top of the whole uplifted plateau.  There are about 40 parks within a few hundred miles of the four corners.  I think it will take many more trips here to see most of them.

One more park in this area tomorrow, the Aztec Ruins, just north of where we are staying in Farmington.  Then we are off to the southern mid parts of the country, starting with Texas.

Day 4 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 345 miles from Tremonton, UT to Moab, UT–  1390 total miles
  • highest temp:  103.
  • highest elevation: 5666 feet at Timpanogos Cave
  • 1 state : Utah.  Total for the trip: 4
  • Licence plates spotted:  6 new states and provinces – 34 total for the trip
  • 3 new National Park sites:  Timpanogos Cave,  Arches National Park, and Old Spanish National Historic Trail – 9 parks total for the trip.
    • We decided not to do the actual cave tour on this trip but will definitely be back. The geology of cave formation and trying to get my head around the 100’s of thousands of years long process of their creation has always fascinated me.   Visiting Jewell Cave in the Black Hills was one of my first visits to a national park and has stuck with me ever since.
    • T cave
    •  Even though I have seen many pictures of Arches National Park, none of them compare to actually being there.  I have a bit of an issue with switchback, hang on the side of the mountain, type roads, and you had to travel a bit of that to get into the park.  However, it wasn’t at all bad for me and, once inside, well worth the travel.  We spent a few hours in the park and walked a couple of short paths but will have to come back for a longer stay.
    •  2015-06-19 19.10.59

At the end of the day we found a great restaurant, the Broken Oar (if you ever go, ask for Trisha as your waitress).   Excellent food in a nice rustic decor.   As a bonus, it was a short walk from the hotel.  More importantly a short walk back to the hotel.  Nice not to have to get back in the car after a long day driving.

The recent parks we have visited have caused me to reflect on how many of my greatest interests in the world relate to the wonder of Evolution.  At Arches the park film used a phrase that really struck me.  In stating that we often think of arches built by people and in comparing them to the arches in the park they said:  One type is the result of Intentional Creation and the other the result of Erosive Destruction, but at least for a moment in time they look the same.  Arches park has more natural arches than any other place on earth.  They emphasized that this statement can only be made for this specific time because all the arches are like living things.  Erosion slowly forms them and then slowly destroys them.  Some arches here today will not be here in 100 or a 1000 years.  New ones will be.

Having triggered this line of thought I found myself refelecting on several of the areas of scientific, historical, and cultural understanding which I find fascinating and about which I am always interested in learning more.

  • Astronomy and the evolution of the universe, our galaxy and our solar system;
  • Geology and the evolution of the physical nature of our planet;
  • Evolutionary biology and the history of life on this planet;
  • History and particularly the evolutionary history of human ideas about how we can and should live together and interact with each other;
  • and more specifically the history of humanity’s thinking about civil rights, human rights and what we currently refer to as race relations.  I hope and believe we, as a people, will get to a better place in our understanding of these issues.  One small step might be the current effort to eliminate the use of the Confederate Flag in an official manner in South Carolina after the recent shooting there.
  • Our personal ancestral history and development.  The part of my ongoing ancestry and family history research I love the most is developing a better understanding of where my ancestors lived, what circumstances they had to deal with in their lives, what traits and skills enabled them to survive and what events caused them to relocated to new places.
  • In short, I have always been fascinated with the process of things.  Where did things start from? How did and do they evolve into something else?  What happened along the way?


Day 2 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 400 miles from Walla Walla to Boise –  671 total miles
  • highest temp:  93.
  • highest elevation: 4245 feet at White Bird Hill, between Lewiston and Meadows Valley.   With a 7% downgrade off that peak we could smell the brakes getting a little hot.  Then Peg figured out that the letter “B” on our Prius gear shift stood for “Brake” and is a special mode, like down shifting on a manual transmission.  We used that on later grades and it works great.  After having the Prius for 7 years I guess its good to learn one of its more useful features.
  • 3 states : Washington, Idaho & Oregon.  Total for the trip: 3
  • Licence plates spotted:  6 new states and provinces – 21 total for the trip
  • 3 new National Park sites and/or stamps:  Nez Perce, Lewis & Clark Trail, and Big Hole Battlefield. – 5 parks total for the trip.
  • 1 major river crossed:  The Snake – 4 times.  (There is a reason they call it the Snake River.
  • 51.8 miles per gallon so far.  Filled up once at about 400 miles: 8 gallons.
  • Also today we crossed the 45th parallel which is the point exactly halfway between the equator and the north pole.

It’s late and I have no other thoughts to share tonight.  Tomorrow we stop by City of Rocks and end the day in Utah

Day 1 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 271 miles from Seattle to Walla Walla.
  • highest temp:  95.
  • highest elevation: 3022 feet at Snoqualmie Pass crossing the Cascades out of Seattle.
  • 2 states : Washington & Oregon.
  • licence plates spotted:  15 different states and provinces.
  • 2 National Park sites:  Whitman Mission & Oregon Trail.
  • 2 major rivers crossed:  The Mighty Columbia – 3 times – The Snake.

Today was an easy day for the start of our travels.  We were surprised to find the Whitman Mission open today as the website says they are only open Wednesday to Sunday.  Glad we stopped as it will save some back tracking tomorrow.  The area around Walla Walla is very pretty.  It is on the edge of the Washington Palouse region which is geographically very similar to Western Iowa, where I grew up.  There are high rolling hills and very erodible soil, though the climate is dryer so there is more irrigation than in Iowa.

The historical story of the Whitman Mission is a very sobering story.  It is part of the general story of the poor treatment of Native Americans throughout history, but is specifically the story of the consequences of arrogant and misguided good intentions.

We have seen many parts of the Oregon trail on prior trips, but never this section of it.  Many people stopped here for respite before completing the last part of their journey to the Willamette Valley.

Tomorrow we stop at the Nez Perce National Historic Park.  We will learn of the story of the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) people in this part of the country.  The Historic area is huge, covering land in 4 states and includes 38 specific historic sites.  We will just be stopping at the main park location and will have to see more of the park on some future trip.  Then onto the Boise area.  A bit longer day tomorrow but we should see some beautiful country driving south through Idaho.  The most exciting part of this trip is that we will be seeing so much of the country we have never seen before.  Except for the first hour today and a few hours on Thursday, the entire trip of about 10,000 miles up til we get to Kansas City next month will be on roads and through areas we have never seen before.

Day 0 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

Final preps for the trip today.  Amazing how many devices we travel with these days:  computers, phones, pods, nook, hearing aides, etc.  Hope we have all the chargers and connectors we need.  Had a final gathering with all 4 boys for a birthday celebration at our favorite Italian restaurants, Soprano’s.  Tomorrow we start our trip with a short drive of less than 300 miles to Walla Walla and our first National Park Site, Whitman Mission.


2015-June-RJbirthday 058

Count Down to 2015 Trip -14 days

14 days till we leave for a cross country trip.

2015 trip overview


Leaving in 2 weeks for a family reunion for all the descendants of Nick & Mary Goeser, to be held at the century farm owned by my cousin in Panama, Iowa.  The reunion is scheduled for August 9th so we decided to use this as an excuse to see parts of the country we haven’t been to before.  My wife and I have visited about 200 national park locations in the past 5 years.  We have a trip planned which will take us to, or at least near, many parks we have never been to.  The summary plan at this point has us traveling about 12,000 miles in about 60 days, through at least 23 states, to 50 or more national parks sites, many other museums, NASA, and Civil Rights related historical sites, with visits with friends and family along the way.

With 2 weeks left til launch we are busy trying to decide on how to pack our little Prius with the essentials for such a trip.  We will be traveling through parts of the country and hot weather that we are not used to so it is hard to know what is essential.

I plan to try to blog daily during the trip. Follow along if you want to hear about some of the amazing sites to see across this great country of ours.  For family members, I look forward to seeing you at the reunion in August.



Look Family

My wife has a great grandmother named Frances Look.  She was born in about 1849 in Wisconsin or possibly in England.  I believe her parents were Robert Look and Mary (possibly Martyn).  Frances (age 2) and her parents (Robert-age 36 and M A-age 25) and a silbing, E. A. (age 4) are in the 1850 census for Eagle, Waukesha, Wisconsin.  They are all listed with a birthplace of England.  I have been able to find only one tidbit on what happened to the rest of her family.   There is a Jacob Look listed in the Mortality Schedules for 1850 as having died in Waukesha county Wisconsin in May 1850 at 1 month of age.  I have an assumption that he may have been Frances’ younger brother.

Frances then shows up with the Martin (Martyn) family in 1860 in Lindon, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  The Martin family consists of Emanuel (age 59), Elisabeth (age 40) and James (age 18).  There is no indication of how they are related to Frances.  They are all listed as having been born in England, but now Frances is listed as having been born in Wisconsin.  The Martyns may be related to the Looks, they may be friends who immigrated from England with the Looks, or they may be unrelated people who took in Frances when something happened to the rest of her family.

By 1870 Frances had married David Underhill, a civil war veteran, and they were living in Lyndon, Sheboygan, Wisconsin with one son, Edward.  I know of no further connection with the Martyn’s except that her son Harry listed Frances’ maiden name as Martin when he got married.  (The other son, Edward,  listed her maiden name as Look).  The Martyn family later moved to Pittsfield, Brown, Wisconsin, where Immanuel (1800-1880), Elizabeth (1810-1885), and James Lodge Martyn (1842-1924) are all buried.

I am looking for information on two things:

First, what happened to Frances’ family?  1850 in Southeast Wisconsin was wilderness.  There could have been deaths from illness, from accidents, from conflicts with Native Americans.  I have no clue at this time.

Second, who where the Looks? Look is a very difficult name to do research on.  It is both a common English name and a common English word.  I can find some Robert Looks in England but not with enough information to connect them with our family.

If any of this connects with anyone else’s research or historical or family information I would be grateful if you would contact me.

Dead Ends

I have been successful in tracing most of our family lines at least back to the generation that “jumped the pond.”  For a few lines I have pretty solid information back to the early 1700’s, the 1600’s, and even beyond.  However, as is the case with anyone doing ancestry work there are always brickwalls to work on.  Here is a list of the closest deadends in my ancestry research.  These are the brick walls for which I would most appreciate any help from others.

Great Great Grandmother –  Rose Ann or Rosanne McCarty, born 14 Sep 1814 in Loudoun county Virginia, died 23 Mar 1863 in McConnelsville, Morgan, Ohio. She married Fenton Ethell (1816-1891) on 18 Aug 1836 in Fauquier county Virginia.  I have been unable to find any leads on her parents.

Great Great Grandparents – Johnathon G Miller (1834-1922) and Barbara (Wappes?) (1841-1913).  I tentatively have his parents as Eli Miller (1804-1886) and Catherine Eva Whistler (1814-1897), and her parents as Casper Wappes (1793-1865) and Margaret (1786-1873), but my documentation is very weak.

my wife’s Great Great Grandparents – Nicholus Mueller and Barbara Bastian, parents of Magdalena Mueller (1859-1923).

3rd Great Grandparents – the parents of Anna Margaretha Philippi (1805-1870):  Peter Phillipi and Maria Caspers.  I have their names but no other helpful information.

3rd Great Grandmother – Amelia Schoenen (1825-1886) who married Nicholas Peter Kuhl (1827-1919).  I beleive her father may have been Peter Schoenen (1799-1860) but I have no other information on him or his wife.

my wife’s 3rd Great Grandfather – Andre Schuver (1778-1850), Wiesviller, Moselle, Lorraine, France.  There were Schuvers in Wiesviller from the 1600’s onward but I have not been able to make the connection with Andre.