Saturday, June 28, 2008


In his later years, my grandfather wrote what he remembered about his family history in a document he titled "Pioneers". His father, Jørgen Jørgensen, came from Denmark and homesteaded on the prairie near Lincoln, Nebraska. When he applied for naturalization, he was talked into changing his name to "John Johnson" because that would be easier for Americans to pronounce. He later regretted that decision. I was hoping that I could determine where the homestead was, and find the cemetery where Jørgen Jørgensen's father-in-law and mother-in-law, Ole and Karen Jørgensen, are buried. We spent some time in the Nebraska State Historical Society archives in Lincoln, Nebraska. They have some very friendly and helpful staff there. I was looking for information on the homestead and Barbara was looking for information about her grandfather who died (we believe) in or near Omaha. I was able to find the location of the farm and a record of when the US Government patent was issued transferring ownership to them.

This is a picture of what the homesteaded farm looks like today. Because of his wife's health, they sold the farm in the early 1900s and relocated to Portland, Oregon.

We also found the Danish cemetery where Ole and Karen Jørgensen (my great great grandparents) are buried.

The "Johnson" family was very excited when they heard that a new railroad line might cross their property. But it missed them by about a mile and crossed the land of a neighboring Irishman named Mike Davey. The small town that resulted might have had a different name if the railroad was built just a little more east!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Of Kansas Clouds, Cardinals, Fireflies and Cemeteries...

As I write this, we are driving north on U.S. Highway 75 and we'll soon be leaving Kansas and entering Nebraska. It's a good time for reflecting on our time in Kansas and our impressions of the Sunflower State. In no particular order (except I did save the best for last)...

- Green, green everywhere! The areas of Kansas we have traveled through have - we have been told by locals - had more than their usual amount of rain lately, resulting in massive carpets of green grass and green cornfields, occasionally separated by golden patches of wheat. Coming from an area of California that is always brown this time of year, all this green was a treat for our eyes. The green lawns really amazed me...huge expanses of emerald green grass, surrounding even the most modest of houses. And all freshly mowed.

- Front porches. Since we prefer traveling the back roads, we found ourselves driving through many rural small towns. Our main impression of these towns were all the old houses with big front porches, many complete with rocking chairs. I felt cheered by the idea of folks sitting on their front porches on warm summer evenings. In fact, just the idea that small town America is alive and well in some areas makes me feel good.

- The prairie isn't what I thought it would be. There were miles and miles of flat wheat fields and corn fields and grasses, but there were also more trees and rolling terrain than we expected. The prairies of Kansas were far more interesting than we had anticipated. And one thing that particularly struck me was the big sky...I can only imagine what the stars must look like on a moonless night in the middle of the prairie.

- The clouds. Warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico meets up with cool dry air from Canada over the Midwest. The result? The most interesting clouds I've ever seen. Especially the big glorious thunderheads that hunker down low to the horizon.

- And then there were, are and will be the thunderstorms. We don't get much thunder and lightening back in Solvang, California. So it's been fun to be treated to some great shows. Nothing too serious, nothing very scary, just marvelous displays of Mother Nature at her feistiest.

- Cardinals. I lived in Omaha, Nebraska, for seven years when I was much, much, much younger. One of my fond memories of those years is when I would walk home from school and see a bright red flash in the green leaves of a nearby tree. And if I stood and waited patiently, I would then see a beautiful cardinal settle down on a branch, just for a moment, before he was off again. Art saw our first cardinal here in Kansas, lucky guy. But I did eventually see one. Patience paid off yet again.

- And finally, fireflies. Sigh... When I was a child in Omaha, I couldn't (I wouldn't!) believe that those magical twinkles on a warm summer evening were mere bugs. They were magic then and they're magic now!

In addition to all these memorable impressions of Kansas, we also had lovely visits with my cousin Blanche in Wichita and Art's cousin Ellen in Olathe. We'd never met Blanche and we hadn't seen Ellen in over 20 years. So a new family connection was made and an existing connection was strengthened.

And then there were the connections made with family long gone. Seeing my great grandparents graves in Olathe and discovering that my grandmother was buried there as well, and reading an Olathe newspaper from 1913 and seeing the familiar names of great aunts and uncles, great grandparents and my grandmother.

It's been a good trip through Kansas.

--- Barbara
Day 15: 260 miles
Total miles: 2,417

Friday, June 20, 2008

Toto! We ARE in Kansas!

Your intrepid travelers find themselves near the middle of Kansas. Our first night in Kansas (Garden City) welcomed us with a severe weather watch and thunderstorms. We are now in Wichita, and are experiencing relatively clear weather. We came to Wichita to meet an 89 year old cousin of Barbara's and talk to her about that part of the family. She was thrilled that we stopped to visit her. We had a very nice lunch and learned about her life. She was wonderful to meet and talk to.

One of the reasons we chose this RV park is because they advertise a storm shelter. The shelter is a concrete lined cellar with steel girders for the roof (floor for building above). The campground staff did recommend we go to the shelter if the warning sirens went off! This is certainly new stuff for a couple from Southern California.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sing it with me! Somewhere Over The Rockies...

NOTE: The following was written on Wednesday, June 18th, but not posted until the following day due to the lack of an Internet connection. So sad...

After our exceeded-our-expectations stay in Salt Lake City, we headed for a favorite spot - Dinosaur National Monument, east of Vernal, Utah. Unfortunately, the Quarry Visitor Center (with its 1,500+ dinosaur bones embedded into the side of a mountain) was closed in 2006 because of structural problems (current plans are to reopen in 2011).

But the scenery alone is worth the trip. And then there's the rock art...the famous McKee Springs petroglyph is a must see for any rock art aficionado. Do we know any of those? ;-D

Then it was on to Aspen, Colorado, where gas was $4.89 per gallon! Luckily, we only needed to put a little bit in the Jeep.

While in Aspen, we stayed two nights at Difficult Campground (named for nearby Difficult Creek). It’s an older campground, but we did see a good number of pull-thrus long enough for the rig and the Jeep. We enjoyed camping among the forest of aspen trees, and the campground made a convenient home base for exploring the Aspen area. Speaking of which...

The Maroon Bells. Even the name sounds enchanting. And the scenery was literally breathtaking...the elevation at Maroon Lake is over 10,000 feet and a few of the “bells” soar to over 14,000. Even a photo, which usually conveys the beauty of a place so much better than mere words, does not do this beautiful area justice. But one can always try.

It is such a popular destination that the Forest Service instituted a shuttle system between the hours of 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. There are three campgrounds along Maroon Canyon Road, but with a grand total of just 15 sites for all three campgrounds!

Aspen had twice its normal amount of snowfall this past winter (we were told it snowed every single day) and they actually received some snow last week. But now the temps are in the 80s, so there’s water everywhere. Thundering cascades at the Maroon Bells, full-to-the-brim creeks flowing through town, and even snow melt overflowing its normal channel in our campground.

We also took a reconnaissance drive in the Jeep over Independence Pass, east of Aspen. There’s a 35-foot vehicle limit on the pass, so we knew we couldn’t drive it with the motorhome towing the Jeep, but we wanted to see how it would be if we drove the rig and Jeep separately. What a road! Winding and narrow with occasional sections of only one lane. Add in the hair pin turns and it’s just about what you might expect from a mountain pass road that climbs to over 12,000 feet. But what incredible vistas! In the end, we decided to go another route, but we are so glad we took that drive.

(Photo courtesy of

We have decided that, when we can, we will completely avoid the interstates. That meant that we spent yesterday on a lovely stretch of Highway 24 that featured beaver pond after beaver pond after beaver pond. Then we picked up the Arkansas River which is currently running very high and we drove parallel to it for miles and miles. It’s a popular rafting river and we were impressed with how many BLM recreation sites and RV parks we saw right along the river.

Now, to address a rumor that's circulating. Yes, it’s true. I cut my hair. For me (and my hair), 5 months in an RV + the Midwest during the summer = hair cut. Once I made the decision to have it cut, it took me another three weeks to build up the courage to actually have it done. Now I wonder why I didn’t do it years ago!

Some friends might need proof, so here you are. The folks in the photo with me are our very dear friends Gene and Sally and their very special pup Gypsy.

Tonight, as I write this, we are in Garden City, Kansas. It’s raining and it’s rumbling. Welcome to the Midwest! And you can bet we asked where to go when the going gets rough. To the showers, campers, the cinderblock showers!

--- Barbara
Day 9: 237 miles
Total miles: 1,765

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Skeletons in Trees

The title refers to the proverbial "Skeletons in the Closet" found when researching family trees!

Our main purpose for visiting Salt Lake City was to visit the LDS Family History Library. This library has an huge amount of genealogical information collected over many years.

There are many available computer terminals for searching the computerized catalogs.

Over 2 million reels of microfilms!

And many microfilm reader booths to scan them.

All of this is available essentially for free, with only a small fee for each paper copy.

We were both able to find some new information about our family histories. There is also a digital microfilm scanner where I was able to capture many pages from the 1700s Stockholm, Sweden Combmakers Guild books.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Berggreens 1, Murphy 0

Ha! Take that, Mr. Murphy!

Despite all your efforts to sabotage the beginning or our trip, here we sit at our first official stop: Salt Lake City, Utah. And tomorrow we make our long awaited first visit to the Family History Library in Temple Square.

So, Mr. Murphy, that (as they say) is that. And do you know why you couldn't stop us? Because we heard voices, voices that could not be ignored.

Voices that told us: "Go East, middle-aged people, go East."

And so we shall.

But first, we're going to spend a few days here in Salt Lake City, coaxing some family skeletons out of the closet and taking in some of the sights.

--- Barbara
Day 2: 349 miles
Total miles: 819

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

On The Road Again...At Last!

After months of planning and preparation, what had seemed so surreal to us (Five months? 12,000 miles?) became very real today as we climbed in the Lazy Daze and pulled out of our driveway.

How did we feel?

Excited, forlorn, and grateful. All at the same time.

We’re very excited about our new adventure which will reunite us with friends and family and take us to new lands and cultures. We’ll also be meeting other family members for the first time and getting to do some long-anticipated genealogy research in the field.

But we’re also forlorn that we won’t be seeing Nick and Erin (our son and daughter-in-law) and Kona and Max (our cats) and many of our friends for five months.

But we’re also grateful for web cams and Skype that will help us keep in virtual touch with family and friends.

And we’re grateful for Jody and Kris, our housesitters, who we know will be taking good care of Kona and Max and our house.

And we’re grateful for the good wishes of dear friends who are as excited about this trip as we are.

The day was hot. And it was long (Solvang to Mesquite, Nevada: about 470 miles). But we’re on our way and we’re excited and forlorn and grateful. All at the same time.

--- Barbara

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bumpy Road (and we haven't even left yet)

Well, it seems Murphy is ever vigilant!

One of our biggest issues with extended travel is dealing with prescription meds. All it took was one little error by a doctor in writing a prescription, and it set off a chain reaction of problems. It didn't help that the mail order pharmacy that we have to deal with also made a series of mistakes. We think that we will have everything under control before we leave Tuesday morning. We are still not sure how we will handle prescriptions while we are in Canada. Our mail order pharmacy won't mail into Canada, and Canadian pharmacies can't fill prescriptions written by US doctors. So if you are planning extended travel outside the USA, make sure you know how you are going to get medications!

Barbara also had an optometrist write an incorrect prescription for eyeglasses. After another visit (to a different optometrist), we are still waiting for new eyeglasses. We expect to pick them up enroute as we head out Tuesday morning. Again, it is best to not leave things like this to the last minute!