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, October 23, 2010

20 May 2001 Sun - Silver Springs MD to Harper’s Ferry, WV

---continuing my travels and ancestor tracking...

Left Silver Springs, MD, and with the help of my GPS made my way through Rockville, MD to get on Hwy 270 to Harper’s Ferry.  Though only 60 miles away it seemed in another world.  I saw a dead deer on the side of the road at Rockville.  The country is very picturesque and rural.  I crossed over the Potomac river and was immediately at Harper’s Ferry National Historic Site and the KOA Kampground where I had a reservation. 
Potomac River bridge

Shenandoah River

My campsite home - 1st night in van
The campground office closed at 2pm (still winter to them) but I made it in time to check in and check out their elaborate facilities of a store, gym, pool, laundry and many camp spaces.  Not a lot of people competing for spaces.  There were many big Motor Homes, no little Conversion vans like mine.  I had a place by myself in the tent section since I didn’t want electrical (silly me!) or water hook-ups – I decided to go “Cold Turkey” and see how I did in my van. Cheaper that way too.  There was a blue tarp used as a shelter for the one Appalachian Trail hiker in the “Appalachian Trail hiker’s section.  Unfortunately it rained later as I headed to the nearby Visitor’s Center of Harper’s Ferry.  In fact rain is in the forecast for days

On the streets of Harper's Ferry, WV

John Brown's Fort - (fire house)

Church rennovation Harpers Ferry
Very few people visit Harper’s Ferry in the rain, I discovered. I was amazed to see just what Harper’s Ferry is. I thought it was something to do with John Brown’s body and the start of the civil war. I expected to see a working ferry boat. Well, I learned that John Brown led a revolt here to eventually free the southern slaves, and captured a US armory here in 1859. After 36 hours, and his supporters did not materialize to help, he was captured in a brick fire engine house and his much planned revolution ended with his hanging. This is credited with galvanizing northern sentiment to accepting a war between the states. Harper's Ferry was a thriving industrial town due to the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers providing abundant power for mills and machines. Today the town has been somewhat restored as a historic site, after eight times changing hands in the civil war and burning and after many devastating floods through the years. It is far more interesting that I had imagined and worthy of a day or two of visiting.
For dinner I went to the nearby Golden Corral in Charles Town, WV and enjoyed their feast. Because of the rain, I drove the van from my “camp site” to the restroom – no use getting wet. Then came the test – how would I sleep in the van? My first night!!!  Well, I slept very well, although it became somewhat cold during the night. Tomorrow night I’ll sleep IN the sleeping bag, instead of on top of it with just a poncho liner on top. Sure does get dark.  You notice the dark when you don't have electricity for a light.