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

Saturday, August 14, 2010

11 May 2001 Shenandoah -Blue Ridge, VA Luray to Wash DC

- Continuing to find the roots of my ancestry -- and see the sights along the way -

     I’d expected a complimentary Continental Breakfast like the last (and other and cheaper Days Inn), but this one only offered coffee. So I loaded up the van and took a cup of coffee with me for the road. I got to Luray Caverns in a few minutes and decided to take the coffee with me while I waited for them to open at 9 am. Feeling I shouldn’t really take coffee into the lobby, I did anyway. They said a tour was leaving so I hurriedly searched for my credit card, upsetting the coffee and dumping it all over my clean white shoe and all over the shiny floor in front of the ticket booth. I volunteered to clean it up, and apologized profusely, but the tour was waiting, so I just set the cup upright on the floor in the puddle and ran off to the caverns. Very un-nurse-like!
Entrance to Luray Caverns & my van
     The Caverns were found in the late 1800’s and became a very popular tourist attraction for Luray. It was quite a trip into the attractive stalactites & mites. There was even an organ that used the sound of little hammers hitting the stalactites and something to do with solenoids. Lots of weddings are held down in the depths. The adjoining Car and Carriage Museum had an exhibit of 140 items including an 1892 Benz car.

Luray Cavern, Virginia
     After a hearty breakfast, or lunch by this time, at the cavern café – one pancake and one scrambled egg, I was off to return to the last of the 70 miles of the Skyline Drive portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah National Park.
Appalacian Trail  - Yes, I "hiked" it -- well a little.
 I couldn’t resist hiking a ways on the Appalachian Trail where it crossed Skyline Drive at the 10.4 mile marker of the Drive. Friend, Doug Jarboe, will be hiking up this way in a month and he keeps a “Trail Journal” on the web, just for people making the Georgia to Maine trek on the Appalachian Trail. I wanted to experience a little of the Trail hike, without the hardships!

The Drive was certainly a pleasure for me. Quite a few motorcyclists were also enjoying the traffic-free road and it would probably make it one of the most enjoyable rides in the US. There were also some bicyclists, but it looked like a very strenuous activity for them.

At the end of the Drive is the town of Front Royal and the Skyline Caverns. I figured I might as well “see all I can see” so I took in a tour of these caverns as well. This attraction is smaller, and more carved out of water. Very interesting and very different from the Luray Caverns. Their claim to fame are the 6-sided Anthrodite crystals growing on the ceiling and a “Valentine Beetle” 2mm in size found only in this cavern. They had stocked some trout in the underground river.
Shenandoah River and Valley
Finally I had to head towards a place I was not eager to drive in, Washington DC. I took Hwy 66 for 60 miles into the Beltway Hwy 495 and turned left (clockwise). I didn’t have to worry about fast freeways; the speed for an hour on Hwy 495 was 10 to 20mph. Finally I got the Connecticut Blvd and headed to Silver Springs, Maryland, where Bev, an Army Nurse friend graciously allowed me to stay, along with another friend, Army Nurse Anesthetist, Christina. Using Bev’s flawless directions I found her townhouse, even using my cell phone (for one of the first times) to warn her when I was about 3 miles away.  It was good seeing them again – both had been stationed at Ft Bragg. We spent a lot of time talking, but managed to squeeze a Greek meal in at the nearby Tennis Club.
Follow the yellow, then green line from Fayetteville to Washington DC
National Archives, here I come!!

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