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, March 19, 2011

24 May 2001 – Thursday Harrisonburg – Charlottesville, Virginia

Surprisingly I did not sleep well in the motel. For $50 one would think I should sleep twice as good as at the $25 campsite. But I didn’t. I like the quiet campsite much better – and somehow the bed made of the fold down bench seat at the rear of the van is very comfortable, even if it’s just a little short.

I used my time in the morning to upload a bunch of pictures for my website. Next chance I get I’ll insert the photos into the text and make them into thumbnail pictures. I heard from my friend Alvin Wong in Hawai'i and he is clicking on each thumbnail picture to make it big and very clear. He has a high speed line, and can check up on me. Which reminds me, if you are reading this, why not send a little e-mail – you can do it right from the homepage and say hi. It can get lonely out here.

Well, at 11am I was out of the Day’s Inn at Harrisonburg and filled up with gas for $1.55/gal. I thought that was a great bargain, as it was up to $1.79 in Washington, DC. Too bad, just down the road gas was selling for $1.29!! I think the refineries have shifted into overdrive and are producing more gasoline. I hear city gasoline is higher because of the special formulation it has to go through, for air pollution control.
Birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson - Staunton, VA
I continued on down Interstate 81. Lots of big trucks on this road. But it was a beautiful day. I wanted to do as much as possible before the next rain – forecast for tomorrow. I arrived at Staunton, VA. Such a nice little town. I give it “Donna’s Four Pineapple Award” for it’s historic significance, its use of signs to find the visitor’s center, and it’s overall beauty. Downtown is the birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson. We don’t hear a lot about him, but since he was president when my mother was born (1914) I figured I should see the historic house. He moved to Georgia when he was 11 months old, but Staunton still claims him. I was the only person on the tour.

Scot-Irish Farm
 But what I really wanted to see was the Museum of Frontier Culture in Staunton, VA. I must award it “Five Pineapples” as it is so unique and such a labor of love. They have imported three farm houses from the 1700’s of Northern Ireland, Worcestershire, England, and the Palatinate of Germany and reconstructed them here. They represent the typical home of early immigrants to the Shenandoah Valley – the English, the German, and the Scots-Irish. Then they found an old log farm house, barn and outbuildings in Botetourt County, VA built about 1830, and reconstructed it here, showing how the descendants of these immigrants used methods and traditions of their ancestors from Europe. My Thornburgh, Polson and Harbison ancestors were Scots-Irish who travelled down this valley and continued around the time of the Revolution into Kentucky..

View from the Scot-Irish house out the beautiful window
This is a living history village, with people dressed for the period and actually working on their farms. I totally loved it. There were only about 10 other people in the place. But I imagine by Memorial Day weekend which starts tomorrow, their business will pick up.  I can't stress how wonderful this place is.

Kitchen at the English House
View from the window in the English House kitchen

Early American log house from Botetout County in the Shenandoah Valley, VA at the Museum
Sheep at the early American long house

At the Palatine German house - Museum of Frontier Culture, Staunton, VA
Finally I headed East to Charlottesville to the KOA campground I had made a reservation with using my cell phone. Quite a handy gadget, I'm glad I got one for this trip. But not to worry, the campsites were far from being sold out. I was the only person in the tent section, and not many motor homes. This campground is really in the backwoods. Very close to where Thomas Jefferson built his home, Monticello. Other homes of famous men built in this area of those of Patrick Henry, James Madison, and James Monroe.

I hadn’t eaten all day and had thought I’d first get my campsite and then go find a restaurant, but this campground is so far in the woods, I decided to try what I had. So I opened cans of asparagus and a can of chicken, then heated water in the camp bathroom to make instant mashed potatoes – and “wha-la” dinner for a van-person. I topped that off with ice cream from the camp store. This place has internet access, but I didn’t use it. There is a nice big swimming pool here. I found a tick on my neck when I looked into the bathroom mirror, so I decided not to go walking out in the woods this evening.. YIKES. Very few people here, like a ghost-town.


  1. SOOOOO Glad you are publishing all this online!!!

  2. It is always a little weird to go into a campground when no one or very few people are there! Also, saw that you paid a whopping $1.55 per gallon for gas - a lot has changed in 10 years! This morning I paid $3.69 per gallon! And considered that a bargain. Am enjoying "catching up" on your posts.

  3. Gas for less than $2 a gallon... those were the good ol' days!

  4. I love those living history museums. THis will be a treasure to keep forever on line.


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