Monthly Archives: July 2015

Days 28 to 45 – The rest of the trip – Not a vacation

By the numbers:

  • 18 – days since my last blog.  Turns out Jacob fractured his C5 vertebrae in 2 places and needed surgery to fuse 3 bones in his neck.  Dropped all prior plans and drove across country to be with Jacob before his surgery which was scheduled for Monday the 20th.  We got there on the 19th.  The surgery eventually took place on the 23rd, a week ago today.  All went well and he is likely to have a full recovery with no paralysis and only a little loss of neck flexibility.  Between the driving of 600 miles a day and then dealing with all the issues at the hospital no time to blog for awhile. See Peg’s blog at for more details on the time between day 29 and day 44.
  • 113 –  degrees.  We thought we had seen the worst of the heat but we find ourselves through central California during a record heat wave.  109 degrees yesterday in Fresno.  113 today in Red Bluff.  Feels like standing in front of the oven when you take the turkey out to baste on Thanksgiving.  Only all around, not just on the side facing the oven.
  • about 3,600 miles since my last update:
    • A speed drive across country, mostly on I-20,  then I-10 from Savannah, Georgia to Long Beach, California.
    • Back and forth dozens of time between our hotel and the Harbor-UCLA Hospital.
    • one trip to Long Beach airport to send Jared home after he had spent a week with Jacob in the hospital until we got there.
    • eventually another trip to John Wayne airport to send Jacob home to be with his brothers and friends as he begins to recuperate.
    • Beginning our trip back to Seattle up the Valley in California.
  • No new national parks or license plates spotted.  Done with that kind of vacationing for this year I think.
  • Other numbers: about 30 additional national parks, a dozen other museums, 13 other states, several meetings with friends, which were part of the planned vacation.  All of which will still be there at a future date when we pick up where we left off this time.
  • One missed family reunion with the 5 generations of descendants of Nick and Mary Goeser, which will be taking place on August 8th in Panama, Iowa.  I hope to see some pictures of all the 100 or more cousins (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) who will be attending.  I hope you have a wonderful time.  Sorry I couldn’t make this one but be sure to look me up if you make it out to Seattle at a future date.

Here’s a brief photo sampler from the past 3 weeks:2015-07-16 15.29.30

The texas plains:

One of many Starbucks stops:2015-07-16 15.50.15      2015-07-18 14.51.17

Rain in the Arizona Desert and the Interstate 10 bridge near Desert Center in California that was washed out in a flash flood a few hours after we drove over it.I10 Bridge





2015-07-20 19.27.32First view of Harbor-UCLA Hospital exterior and the all too familiar lobby:
2015-07-19 18.56.48



Jacob with his neck brace – protecting him from further damage after a 2 part fracture of his C5 neck vertebrae.2015-07-19 19.14.11
2015-07-20 12.44.17Jared and me at a Starbucks across from the Hospital, which was about the only decent choice of a place to eat within walking distance.  I think we sampled almost every type of sandwich, parfait, and snack they offer over the course of 8 days.

2015-07-21 09.06.15

At the Rodeway Inn, 4 miles from the hospital.  The closest reasonably priced place we could find with a vacancy.  There were 2 major events going on in the area and most hotels were booked.  8 days at one hotel is the longest we have ever stayed at one location we didn’t call home.

2015-07-24 14.47.32Some flowers we saw through many stages of blooming while walking from where we parked the car to the hospital.

Waiting for 6 hours in the Surgery waiting room.  Hoping to see a doctor come out and tell us how the operation went.  Instead we got a security guard asking for the family of Mr. Andrew. (Just one of many stories from the week.)2015-07-24 20.43.36

2015-07-23 21.17.43Jacob and X-ray after surgery:



2015-07-25 15.31.57

First post-surgery walk.

2015-07-27 15.17.59-1 At John Wayne Airport in Santa Anna to send Jacob home.




2015-07-29 11.44.40

Across the Mojave Desert on the start of our trip up to Seattle.


Day 27 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip – July 12

By the numbers:

  • One – One phone call from home – had to cut yesterday’s blog short.  A call from home put a temporary stop to our trip, and maybe a bigger stop.  One of our sons is in the hospital.  We spend last night and most of today trying to get a handle on the situation.  Options including abandoning our car here in Georgia and flying home.  However, after many hours of conversation with all family members. we have decided to continue our trip and monitor the situation as we go.  For now we can help more by being available to talk and explore options than if we were less available while flying back home.  If we dropped everything and started to drive back it would be 5 or 6 days to get back to the West Coast.  So, for today at least we have kept traveling, checking in both along the way and at every stop.  That may change tomorrow.
  • 230 miles. From Jacksonville, Florida to Savannah, Georgia – 5392 miles for the trip.
  • One new license plate spotted, Quebec.  In addition to 48 states and D.C. we now have seen 4 Canadian provinces.
  • 3 National Parks today. – Cumberland Island National Seashore, Fort Frederica National Monument,  Fort Pulaski National Monument.  37 Parks and designated areas for the trip.
  • 98 degrees.

The parks the last two days have been of two types.  One is of the National Preserve nature.  When you see these areas in there natural state, with all of the wonderous elements of creation living and thriving within their boundaries is makes me thankful, we live in a country which values our need to care for the planet sufficiently to protect these places.  It also makes one wonder at what it must have looked like along the whole East Coast before so much of it was developed to fit the needs of just one of God’s creatures – humans.

The other type is historical in nature.  This is the part of the country which was in active dispute during the height of the colonial powers trying to divide up the known world.  Fort Frederica was the southernmost fort of the English defending their claim to North America from the North and as far South as they could stretch.  Castillo De San Marcos was the northernmost fort of the Spanish trying to extend their claims as far north as possible.  Fort Matanzas was basically a fortified watch tower to protect the backwater approach to Castillo.  In between those two for a very brief time the French had Fort Caroline, where they had designs on wedging their way into the Americas between the other two powers.  That did not last long.

One thought for me was a reminder of how Florida fits into our early national history.  We all know that Florida was not one of the original colonies.  However, I did not have it clearly in my head how much later it was before Florida became a State. Before reading ahead take a guess as to which number of state Florida was when it entered the Union.

Florida was still a Spanish Colony until 1821.  All of the other Deep South states had entered the Union by 1819.  Arkansas and Michigan entered in 1836 and 1837.  Florida did not become a state until 1845, only 15 years before the Civil War, and was the 27th state.

One other thought for the day, as I find myself valuing family relationships to a great degree.  Part of a poem I heard from Garrison Keillor on the Writer’s Almanac, from “Reading Late” by Jesse Graves.

This book we write together keeps me turning pages deep into the night, re-reading chapters . . .

as the main characters grow steadily beyond our grasp, suspended from the hidden strings of this love story [and] develops with so much indirection and suspense, I can’t stand to put it down.

Tomorrow, we will stay in the Savannah area while we figure out the situation back home.

Day 26 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip – July 11

By the numbers:

That’s all for now.  Maybe an update later.

Days 23, 24 & 25 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip – July 8 to 10

By the numbers:

  • 237 miles since the last update.  From Ocala to Tampa, Florida, around Tampa, and then to the Eastern seaboard and Palm Coast Florida tonight– 4982 miles for the trip.
  • One new license plate spotted while in Tampa Bay – CT – only three states left to find.
  • 1 National Park today – Canaveral National Seashore.  29 National Parks for the trip to this point. Several more tomorrow.
  • 98 degrees with a “real feel” of 105 at the peak of the day.
  • 2253 miles –  the approximate straight line distance from Seattle to our furthest point from there today at Canaveral Seashore.   Less than half the driving distance.

Took a few days to recuperate in Tampa while Peg spent time with a friend who works there.  Car service after 5000 miles on the trip and 90,000 for the car revealed no concerns.

Used the time to do anything other than drive.  Read some, took a nap, and caught up on some ancestry research.  I don’t have any really ancestry from the southern part of the country so nothing particular to explore here regarding that.  Just generally keeping up with automated hints from and corresponding with various people with connected family histories.  Got one new contact from someone who found me in a DNA research site to which I belong.  The DNA indicates we are likely 5th cousins but we have to exchange some info on our family research to try to find which branch of the family that connection might be from.  Even with as much research as I have done that type of connecting is not easy.  Not long ago I got a similar request from a person born in Vietnam, whose father was an American soldier there during the Vietnam war.  He does not know his father’s name but is searching.  DNA indicated he and I are likely 5th or 6th cousins.  I don’t have information that far out on most of my family tree, and even where I do, I rarely have info on military service.  He will need matches with more people who will then have to cross check their trees to find a common line.

Anyway, a bit of a sidetrack from our trip, but that is what I was doing the past few days.

Today, we drove to Canaveral Seashore and then up to Palm Coast, Florida.  Always amazing how different each ocean, or gulf or large lake can look.  The Atlantic Seashore is so much flatter than anything on the West Coast, the water is much warmer, and the ocean looks more green than does the blue Pacific.  2015-07-10 20.18.16-1Take that last comment with a grain of salt from a partially color-blind observer.  However, my non-color blind, photographer wife agrees with this observation and took this lovely picture:

I wish we could have seen some manatees at Canaveral today but apparently the hot weather this summer has made spotting them much less likely.  As with many other stops on this trip we will have to return during cooler weather.

Tomorrow, the plan is for only a short drive, but one filled with several National Park options, on our way up the coast to Jacksonville at the northern shore of Florida.  See this map as one of the more interesting tools I have used in planning our trip and trying to see as many parks as possible.  After it opens, zoom in on the Florida coast and see how many parks there are between Canaveral and Savannah, Georgia.


Days 21 & 22 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip – July 6 & 7

By the numbers:

  • 470 miles from Crestview to Ocala to Tampa, Florida– 4745 miles for the trip – time for a service check for Dixie, our car.
  • Skipped the blog yesterday after along day driving.
  • 2 Museums – Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base yesterday. – The Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida today.

B-17 nose-resized

Saw another B-17 bomber, as was used by the eighth air force out of England during WW2.  How would you like to have as one of your job duties?

Stick your arm out this hole in the nose of you plane to wipe off snow or frost so you can use your bomb site to make sure you drop your bombs over the intended factory.  Keep in mind that you would be doing this while flying at 30,000 feet, at 40 degrees below zeor, at 250 to 300 miles per hour, and all this while also being shot at by enemy airplanes and flak guns.

Quite a collection of Dali art here.  A collector wanted to donate it to a museum that would promise to keep the collection together and not loan it out to other museums in bits and pieces.  The Museum here agreed to those terms so here is the world’s largest collection of Dali art.

Dali Lincoln art signage-croppedHe was a prolific artist and I won’t even try to comment on his overall work.  One I found interesting was titled:  “Gala Comtemlating the Mediterranean which at Twenty Meters Becomes a Portrait of Abraham Lincoln.”

Dali Lincoln portrait-croppedClose up it looks like a typical Dali from that portion of his career when his paintings were jammed full of many apparently unrelated objects.
But from a distance it looks like a portrait.

Dali RR sign-croppedAlso took this picture.
Had some concerns that at a Dali museum there might a larger and confusing array of choices.

In Tampa for a couple more days.  Probably no blog tomorrow.

Day 20 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 267 miles from New Orleans to Crestview, FL –  4275 miles for the trip.
  • Traveled in 4 states:  LA, MS, AL, and FL.  2 new ones for a total of 12 so far on the trip.
  • Spotted one new license plate today:  Our old residence, Washington D.C.  – Only 4 US states left to spot.
  • One new national Park:  The Gulf Islands National Seashore.  We stopped at the Mississippi part of the park.  Explored on the mainland but did not find a boat ride out to the islands.  28 National Park sites for the trip.

My view is that these types of national parks are some of the best examples of the need for a national park service.  As stated in the park film, “These barrier islands have served to protect us from the worst of storms for centuries.  Now it is our turn to protect them.”   The loss of these types of barrier islands, wetlands, and coastal marshes in recent times has contributed much to how destructive hurricanes have been when they come ashore.  Normally these places help absorb the energy of hurricanes and slow their powerful winds.  When the offshore barriers are reduced, the major storms hit the mainlands with greater force and cause greater destruction.

I am felling pretty good at this point about my planning for this trip.  I had a day by day outline of how our trip might go.  Nothing, was set in stone and we have made some day to day adjustments, skipping a few sites and stopping at a few we hadn’t planned on.  With all that as of today we are 1 day ahead of our original plan and 38 miles short of our expected mileage.  Maybe if I need a post retirement job, I could do vacation planning.

Tomorrow and for the next few days we will be in Florida and seeing friends so I may skip a few days on the blog until we are ready to head north on the Eastern Florida Coast on the 10th.

Day 19 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 38 miles, around New Orleans – Just past the 4000 mile mark for the trip – about 1 third done.
  • Only one place traveled today – The National World War II Museum.

2015-07-04 12.12.01We had heard the World War II Museum was a must see place to go and we were not disappointed.  Spread out over 4 large buildings it is a pretty amazing collection of the 2015-07-04 11.57.20
vehicles and equipment used in the war, as well as some great displays, movies, and personal testimonies.

First, you ask, why is our nation’s World War II Museum in New Orleans?   Because this was where Andrew Jackson Higgins had his home and his factories.  And who was Andrew Jackson Higgins?  The inventor and producer of variations of the Higgins flat-bottomed landing craft. Higgins landing craftPresident Eisenhower said that Higgins “won the war for us.”  Without boats that could land on open beaches, he explained, “the whole strategy of the war would have to be rethought.”  See this NY Times article.

At one point during the war almost 14,000 of the 15,000 vessels owned by the US Navy had been produced here in New Orleans at Higgins factories.

The major overview movie, Beyond All Boundaries, shown at the museum was quite well done.  Shown in a special theater with a combination of film, raised and lowered actual artifacts, motion devices built into the seats, and even artificial snowfall during the Battle of the Bulge.  I had tears in my eyes at the end and was feeling very proud of my Mom’s and my father’s service in WWII.  Some parts of the exhibits were very detailed and some were more summary.  Not a lot of detail on the parts of war in which my parents served.  Just a short segment on the Italy campaign, Anzio where Mom’s evac hospital came in to back up another hospital that was bombed, on the liberation of Rome, and the campaign in Northern Italy that continued until the war’s end.  In that part of the war army units composed of Japanese Americans and another of African Americans served with high distinction.  I am sure Mom helped care for soldiers from both of these units.

At the end2015-07-04 21.16.30 of the day we discovered that there was to be a fire works display near our hotel over Lake Pontchartrain.  We haven’t been to a live fireworks show for a long time.  It was more fun than expected.

See Peg’s blog for more pics of the fireworks.

Day 18 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 50 miles, around New Orleans – 3970 total miles for the trip.
  • highest temp:  93 – “Real Feel” = 105 or more.
  • 3 National Park Sites today:  These were the hardest ones to find yet.  In downtown New Orleans just a block off Bourbon Street you can find almost anything you can imagine (and some things you wish you couldn’t) except any signs or directions to where the little hole in the wall NPS sites were.  We found

Although I am not sure my mother ever said this to me, I am sure some mother somewhere has:  “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”  Good advice.  I am sure many people love visiting New Orleans and find many wonderful things to enjoy here.  Having visited here twice so far, all I can say is I am not one of them.

Outside of town we visited the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery.  The cemetery is a veterans cemetery created in 1864 for Civil War soldiers and with veterans buried there from every war since.  At the battlefield we learned about the battle here in 1814 as part of the war of 1812.  We watched a video with scenes from historical reenactments of the battle.  That history is pretty well summarized by the Song –  “The Battle of New Orleans” – Written by Jimmie Driftwood, a high school history teacher and released in 1959.  Lyrics below – click on album for YouTube of the song

220px-Johnny_Horton_New_Orleans_singleBattle of New Orleans

In 1814 we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.

We fired our guns and the British kept a’comin.
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin’ on
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

We looked down the river and we see’d the British come.
And there must have been a hundred of’em beatin’ on the drum.
They stepped so high and they made the bugles ring.
We stood by our cotton bales and didn’t say a thing.


Old Hickory said we could take ’em by surprise
If we didn’t fire our muskets ’til we looked ’em in the eye
We held our fire ’til we see’d their faces well.
Then we opened up with squirrel guns and really gave ’em … well


Yeah, they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go.
They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch ’em
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.**

We fired our cannon ’til the barrel melted down.
So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round.
We filled his head with cannon balls, and powdered his behind
And when we touched the powder off, the gator lost his mind.


Yeah, they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go.
They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch ’em
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.**


Almost exactly what we learned at the museum.

Day 17 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 290 miles, from Vicksburg, MS to New Orleans via Natchez– 3920 total miles for the trip.
  • highest temp:  93 – Under the idea that it is always good to learn something new every day, we learned something new today.  In response to a comment about the heat and being from Seattle at one of the visitor’s centers we were told we shouldn’t mind the heat here because we would be used to the humidity in Seattle.  I have lived in a few places with high humidity including Iowa and Washington DC, but until today I did not know Seattle was one of them.
  • Traveled through 2 states today:  MS and LA, but no new ones.
  • License plates for 3 new states today:  Rhode Island and Maine. –  That leaves just Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii, and D.C to spot for the trip.
  • Three new national park  stamps today for 2 new parks:  Melrose Mansion and the William Johnson House at Natchez National Park, and The Natchez Trace Parkway.  – 24 total park sites for the trip.
  • Elevation number for the day – 11 – more on that below.

The Natchez Trace is another one of those interesting parts of our history about which I knew nothing before.  The Trace is now a parkway which runs all the way from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.2015-07-02 12.13.45  It began as a animal and game path 1000’s of years ago, then became a hunting trail, then a bit of a trading trail, but took a more permanent form in the late 17 and early 18 hundreds.  Farmers and traders from the Ohio and upper Mississippi Valley who wanted to sell their goods to people in the more populated Eastern cities would bring their products down the Mississippi on small wooden boat.  After selling their goods there was no inexpensive way back up the river.  Many sold their boats for the wood and then walked back up to the Ohio Valley.  The primary route followed was the Natchez Trace.  It took as long as 30 to 40 days to walk that trail and for a time thousands of people made that trek every year.

We are now in New Orleans and will explore the area for the next couple of days.  Consider that the main part of the city of New Orleans is at 11 feet elevation.  If you have ever been at an ocean beach in even a mild storm, think about how high some of the waves are that come crashing ashore.  Then imagine living in a city where the street is lower than the top of some of those waves.

IMG_2657Here’s my little tidbit of thought related to elevation today.  As I have said before, Louisiana is very flat.  How flat you ask?  Well consider this.  Back in Seattle, a few years ago, I redid part of my back yard in the form of a chess board patio.  The planning, excavation, building and construction was a fun summer-long project.  One thing I learned is that you should never build a patio or driveway perfectly level.  If you do, you will have water related problems.  The minimum recommended slope for such a project is to have a 1/8th inch rise for every foot of length of you patio.  This in necessary to ensure water will run off and not accumulate in puddles in the middle of you patio. Some math:

1/8th inch per foot  equals 1 inch per 8 feet  which equals  660 inches or 55 feet per mile.

Louisiana is 283 miles long from South to North.  So a this same slope would require an elevation of 15,565 feet at the high end.IMG_2658

The highest elevation in the state is actually 535 feet, so Louisiana is 30 times more level than my Chessboard.

Day 16 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip

By the numbers:

  • 21 miles around the battlefield and town of Vicksburg MS – 3630 miles for the trip.
  • highest temp:  about 89 but we are finally getting acclimated so it felt pretty comfortable most of the day.
  • No new states, license plates or parks.

Spent an interesting and relaxing day mostly at the Vicksburg National Military Park

Between my own interest in history, our time in Washington DC and area, visits to historic places, and just generally my long standing interest in the history of  civil rights, I feel reasonably well versed in civil war history.  However, there is always more to learn.  I don’t get particularly excited about all of the military strategic facts which tend to dominate the histories of these sites.  However, trying to understand the bigger socieDSC_8524-resizetal issues going on and trying to put myself in the place of the people involved in historical events is what I tend to find myself trying to do.  Today, that effort to put ourselves in the shoes of the participants took on a special significance.  Peg’s Great Great Grandfather, David Underhill, and 4 of his brothers all served in the Union army during the Civil War.  They enlisted with regiments from 4 different states: New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  3 of those 5 brothers were here at Vicksburg.  After the Civil War memorials and road markers were put up all around thDSC_8565-resizee area for each regiment that served here.  We found the plaques listing the individual soldiers for 2 of the 3: Monroe and Arnold.

One of  the brothers, Arnold, was wounded here, died shortly after, and was buried in the National Cemetery here.  We found his grave marker.  If anyone ever thinks genealogy is  not hard work today proved that wrong. The graves here are lined up along tiers of ground in theDSC_8625-resize hills over which the battles were fought.  The one we were looking for was several tiers down from the main road.  After trying to climb down the tiers and barely making it back up we sought another way around and ended up walking almost half a mile to get all the way around the hill to the marker.  DSC_8545-resize

The other insight for me was when we stopped at the large memorial put up by the state of Illinois for all the DSC_8531-resizeIllinois soldiers who served here.  I don’t often think about the fact that I was born in Illinois, but today for some reason that fact struck me.  If I had been born 110 years earlier I would possibly have been one of those soldiers listed here.

I found the state of Illinois’ statement about the war very eloquent. DSC_8536-cropped

“The People of Illinois, free of malice and full of charity, dedicate this monument as a memorial temple to enduring harmony and peace, and as a shrine at which all may again and again renew their consecration to loyal citizenship and gather inspiration to the most unselfish and exalted patriotism.”

Seems to me our current political environment could benefit from a few more people with this attitude.

Also I saw one of those business message boards today with a different piece of advice about attitude which I liked.  Advice I have needed at times in my life and which I think many people would benefit from occasionally:

“A bad attitude is like a flat tire.

 You aren’t going anywhere until you change it.”

Tomorrow we are seeing a a couple of parks on our way south to New Orleans or N’aw-lins.

P.S. – credit for all pictures goes to my lovely wife.