Homer's Travels: Installment #6: Genealogy 1999

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Installment #6: Genealogy 1999

In the late 90's, after the passing of my last grandparent, I realized that I knew very little about my heritage so I cranked up the Internets and began researching my family tree. For those who have not delved into the hobby (some would say obsession) of genealogy, searching for clues about you family history can be fascinating, like putting a puzzle together or solving a murder mystery. Each piece of information leads you to the next. In the summer of 1999 we decided to combine my hobby with a family vacation.

The plan was to drive back to the Midwest stopping in Nebraska and Iowa towns along the way to meet with relatives and to take pictures of tombstones. Our route would take us through Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and a short jaunt to Illinois. We started out on a Saturday morning. My plan was to end the day somewhere in central Utah like Richfield. Now, I have driven this route a couple of times going the opposite direction and I had always spent the night in St. George, Utah. This would have been the first time I drove through St. George without staying. It would have been if the car hadn't broke down about 20 miles north of St. George. We called AAA and we were towed back to the St. George Honda Dealership. Unfortunately it was near the end of the day and they would not be able to look at the car until Monday so we rushed to the nearest car rental place and rented a car before the place closed down. We didn't want to waste our time waiting for our car so we decided to take advantage of our unscheduled stop to explore. We started off with Zion on Sunday. I had been there before in 1995 but the wife had never been there. Zion is a beautiful park with awesome formations of red rock. Our visit was before they restricted car entry into the park so we drove in and took in the sights. We did a short hike along the Riverside Walk Trail including wading into the cool water of the North Fork Virgin River.

On Monday we discovered that the ol' Honda needed a part that wouldn't be available until Tuesday so we headed out to Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon is a very accessible, walkable canyon which is less daunting then the Grand Canyon but just as jaw-droppingly beautiful. We took a short hike and walked through the unique geology of the park. On the way back we stopped at a little shop and bought a rug which blesses our little guest bedroom floor. We continued back to St. George and we were on highway 14 heading west when we had to pull over to look at a view of a forested valley that took my breath away. We were high over forests of Pine and Cedar trees that looked like heaven to me.

On Tuesday we finally continued on our trip. A day and a half later we arrived to Belgrade, NE where we visited with relatives from my Mom's side of the family and visited the local cemetery to take pictures of some of the markers. We didn't know where they lived so we stopped at the general store to ask for directions. It turned out that the person we were looking for was in the store having some ice cream with her friends. We had a pleasant conversation and exchanged genealogy stories before we said our goodbyes. That night we ended up in Schuyler, NE.

Early next morning the wife was awoken by chest pains. They were severe enough that we found a nearby hospital and went to the emergency room. A doctor, who probably wrestled in high school, poked, prodded, and squeezed the wife before announcing that it probably was a pinched nerve and not a heart problem. The pains went away so we continued on to some cemeteries in north-east Nebraska. We took some pictures of some stones near Hooper and Scribner before heading to Mom's place in Omaha.

The next day we left with Mom to western Iowa looking for some more cemeteries. We were doing pretty good when the wife's chest pains came back with a vengeance. We rushed back to Omaha and back to the emergency room. This time they hooked her up to a EKG and monitored her closely. Once again they say it was an irritated nerve and that it may have been a result of stress. We found this strange that this would happen after school was out and the stress of the job was behind her but we were told that the effects of stress usually occur after the stress was gone. It was when you relax that the aches and pains show up.

The next day we headed east to visit with the in-laws at Lake Cornelia near Clarion, IA. On the way there we started to hear a weird sound so I pulled over. Sign ... flat tire. The tire literally was melting. We put on the spare and headed to a nearby Sam's Club and bought a new tire. We made it to the lake without further incident and enjoyed some time with the family.

We next headed further east to Hillsdale, IL for more genealogy research in the local library and more cemetery pictures.

At this point we were ready to head home. We sped across Iowa and Nebraska before stopping in Fort Morgan, CO. The next morning we filled up at a filling station across the street from out hotel and continued west towards home. That's when the engine trouble started. The car died a few times and it was hard to start. This lasted all the way back to California. My guess is that we got a batch of bad gasoline. When we got home the engine trouble went away and never returned.

So, to summarize, car breaks down, serendipitous visit to Zion and Bruce Canyon, cemetery, chest pains, cemetery, chest pains, flat tire, cemetery, bad gasoline. Now you know why we often call then the vacation from hell. I got some good pictures and added a lot to my genealogy research but, wow, at what cost?!? We almost needed a vacation from our vacation.

The wife still gets the pains every once in a while but they have never been as bad as on the genealogy trip of 1999.

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