Afternoon at Ackworth – #14

My campground in Lake Ahquabi State Park, Iowa was a few miles from Lacona, Milo, Green Plain, Newbern and Ackworth.

These places were all familiar to my Quaker great-great grandparents, Ann and Henry Way.  They lived here and were active in The Society of Friends (Quakers) during the 1860’s.

The Warren County Genealogical Society mentions Henry Way as pastor of the church in Ackworth for a time.  Pastors were not paid, so I imagine Henry farmed or hired himself out for odd jobs during the week.  Ann M. Way’s signature appears on a church document found in a history of Ackworth.

Ann M Way at Ackworth

The Friends Church in Ackworth was established in 1852.  Although the building is not the one that was there in Ann & Henry’s day, it continues the community and fellowship they knew 150 years ago.

I wondered what I could see in Ackworth that might have been there in the 1860’s.  Ah… the cemetery.  I found some early headstones dating back as far as 1855.  Ann and Henry surely would have seen these, too.

In 1867, the Way family left Iowa and moved to Indiana.  Ann kept a diary of the trip.  A few years ago, two cousins and I used Ann’s hand-written diary to follow that same trip.

Diary photo

She writes about leaving from Green Plain and mentions a place called Newbern.  In 2010, my cousins and I did not see either of these locations because we didn’t want to take our rented car on gravel roads.  This time, however, I was in an SUV with all-wheel drive and set out to find them.

The library in Milo yielded a book with a photograph of an old school at Green Plain, but the school no longer exists.

Newbern, however, showed up on a Google search.  At least Newbern cemetery was on the map.  A gravel road took me out to a cemetery in the corn fields.

The mowers were there, and one old-timer told me how I could find Newbern, or what was left of it.  Following his directions, I found a few scattered houses and a couple of very old buildings.

Driving back to the campground, I was satisfied that my eyes had seen the same rolling hills, far-reaching acres of green, and wooded areas that my ancestors knew.







Marvelous Minnesota – #13

Minnesota is another one of those “frozen north” states that I had never visited.  Most of what I know about MN came from listening to Prairie Home Companion, which, uh, might not be completely accurate.  A thunderstorm hit while I was on the interstate.  I pulled off at a roadside rest to wait it out.  Several trucks were also there, so I felt like I had made a good decision.  The storm passed and I continued.


My hosts, Paul and Janice, provided good directions to Minneapolis.  I pulled up in front of their house in the afternoon, and Paul kindly backed the trailer into his driveway for me.  Dinner included ribs from the smoker and fresh corn on the cob.  Paul was a student of my husband years ago at Baymonte Christian School near Santa Cruz.  I enjoyed hearing his stories.

The next day, Paul and Janice drove me around Minneapolis and St. Paul, admiring the elegant homes and historic architecture of the twin cities.  They graciously drove past The Fitzgerald Theater which I wanted to see.

We parked downtown and walked to the Mill City Museum, located in the old General Mills flour production facility.  I enjoyed learning the history of General Mills and the significance of flour production to Minneapolis.  The gift shop is wonderland for anyone who likes to bake.

We drove a few miles to Minnehaha Park where a statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha stands.  Minnehaha Falls is said to be the waterfall of Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha.

Paul and Janice asked if I wanted to go to The Mall of America.  I said no, but wouldn’t mind driving by.  It’s huge!  We just happened to end up at Grand Ole Creamery for ice cream cones.  It’s a cute place with unique ice cream flavors and handmade waffle cones.Grand Ole CreameryOn the way home, we stopped at Kowalski’s Market.  It’s kind of a mash-up of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and a regular supermarket.  Kowalski’s had an entire department for cheese with its own Certified Cheese Professional!  Paul & Janice are on a first-name basis with her, so I got to meet Liz Nerud.  I was introduced as from California.  Liz mentioned that she had competed in the Cheesemonger Invitational in San Francisco (she did well, too).  Liz is kind of famous in the cheese world.  Google her.Cheesemonger

The following morning, I went to church with my hosts.  Their church has a pipe organ.  Oh. My. Goodness.  It’s been years since I sang hymns accompanied by a pipe organ, so I was completely thrilled.  Janice and I spoke with the organist for a little while afterward and found out more about him and the instrument. The whole service was amazing.  I couldn’t stop smiling.ChurchLater that day, I was able to meet Paul & Janice’s daughter and son-in-law, and also Janice’s mom as we all shared a meal.  We must have covered almost every subject imaginable.  After lunch, Paul & Janice sent me off with grilled bratwurst, a jar of honey butter, homemade Puppy Chow (a people food), and other goodies.  I pulled out of the driveway and headed south to Iowa under clear skies.


North Dakota – #12

All I knew about North Dakota was that it was the frozen north.  That, and the motto of one northern city:  “Why not Minot?”  Oh, and that the oil boom has changed things.


Well, now I know a little more.  North Dakota is a lovely state with endless fields of grain, striking “badlands”, and roaming herds of bison.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park is in western ND.  In fact, Roosevelt himself said “I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.”   He came to that part of the country as a skinny young man from New York.  His strenuous experiences in rugged terrain enabled him to later establish the US Forest Service and develop conservation policies.


I didn’t visit Roosevelt National Park, but chose instead to “boondock” at nearby Sully Creek state campground.  A few miles down the road I stopped at a view point and discovered the stark beauty of the “badlands” of North Dakota.

Fort Abraham Lincoln was where I camped next.  This state park was where General George Custer was quartered with his troops in 1875 (a year before Custer’s Last Stand).  There are re-creations of officers’ quarters, barracks, and Gen. Custer’s home.  The commissary building offered a snack area, gift shop, and well-stocked book store with plenty of Custer-related material.  Bismarck is close by so I got a few groceries at Dan’s Supermarket and made a quick stop at Staples.Fort Abraham Lincoln

The following day, I was able to connect with a friend from Hemet who now lives in Fargo, ND.  Nancy was my daughter’s 5th grade teacher.  We hadn’t seen each other since 2004, so it was fun catching up over dinner.  Nancy

On to Minnesota!

Airwaves – #11

I enjoy listening to the radio.  While I was in Canada, I noticed that Canadian stations are not dominated by political conversation and rancor.  In fact the big news all day long on one Victoria BC station was that an unfortunate transient asleep in a dumpster met his end in a trash compactor.  Some announcers spoke with a pleasing French accent.  I soon got over the shock of  temperatures given in Celsius.  (Good morning!  The high today will be a comfortable 27 degrees!)CBC radio

Driving across Montana and North Dakota, I learned about the price of hard red winter wheat, the expected cost of fresh and frozen lamb cuts, and other agriculture and livestock futures.  I also heard ads for heavy farm equipment and found tons of country music stations.

Almost every large city has a classical music station, and contemporary Christian music is easily accessible.

My car came equipped with Sirius XM Radio for a few months.  Lots of choices there.                                         Sirius XM



Often I will use Bluetooth to send a podcast from my phone to the car’s audio system.  Of course, The Girl Camper is one of my favorites.

Girl Camper

I was given a subscription to Audible audio books and have several on my playlist. Recently I began listening to “Educated” by Tara Westover. Audible (2)

Listening to something interesting makes the miles fly as I take in the scenery of our beautiful country.

A Week in Montana – #10

Crossing the border back into the US was fast and easy.  I came back in at Sweetgrass, Montana.  The agent asked the purpose of my visit and if I’d bought anything.  “Postcards,” I told him.  It was nice to see the Interstate 15 sign.  This freeway goes near my house in Southern California.  The thought crossed my mind that I could just stay on I-15 and go on home, but I have places to go and things to do!

Interstate 15

Honestly, it was a relief to see speed signs in MPH, distances in miles, and gas by the gallon.  I stopped in Shelby to go to the post office and bank.  Surprising to me, Wells Fargo closed at 4 pm.  (Nearly every bank in California is open until 6 during the week.)SinclairI decided to stay a few days in Great Falls, see the sights and plan out the route ahead.  There was a wonderful Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center on the east side of the city.  The expedition had to carry their canoes and supplies around the falls.  They thought it might take a couple of days, but it was over a month before they could get back on the Missouri River.Great Falls.jpgFriends from California mentioned that they were going to be in Yellowstone National Park later in the week.  Looking at the map, I decided to join them for a day.  Camping in the park fills up fast, so I stayed in Gardiner, just outside the park’s northern entrance.  It was an easy drive to the park early the next morning.  I had a wonderful day with Dave and Lyn, seeing the sights and catching up on our shared history in Hemet when our children were young.

The next day I drove to Billings and parked in the yard of Bill and Diana, also friends from Hemet.  They have lived in Montana for years, but return to California frequently.  They showed me around their area and took me to the cute, historic town of Red Lodge.  We had dinner at The Pollard Hotel which is filled with antiques and has a history with Buffalo Bill Cody.  I was served delicious, crispy fish and chips as we listened to live music.

On Sunday morning, we went to the “Bluegrass Worship Service” at their church: hymns & choruses accompanied by banjo, guitar, fiddle and bass.  After dinner at Cracker Barrel, we said goodbye and drove in different directions.

The next day, I visited the battlefield at Little Big Horn, site of Custer’s Last Stand.  The day was cold, rainy and windy which made for a somber mood viewing the cemetery.

On the way east, I wanted to stop at Pompey’s Pillar, where William Clark etched his signature on July 25, 1806 as the expedition was returning to St. Louis.

Several miles later, I left Montana, entering North Dakota and Central Daylight Time.

North to Spirit River – #9

Around 1910, my great grandfather, Thomas Leake decided he was done with life in Massachusetts.  He had worked as a master carpenter and tried his hand at operating a dairy.  But what he really wanted to do was farm.  His brother and other family members were living in the new Canadian province of Alberta, so he headed west to join them.  For $10, he laid claim to a piece of land in Spirit River in the northwest part of the province.  He built an east-coast style home and settled there with his wife, Louise, and the youngest of his eleven children.  He was 56 years old and starting from scratch.

Louise Neville Scott Leake

Cousin Donna and I drove north from Hazel Bluff Cemetery to the little town of Spirit River.  The skies were hazy because of wildfires, and the smell of smoke hung heavy in the air.  We settled in to our motel and were glad to rest after a long day’s drive

The next morning we visited the Spirit River Municipal Cemetery to find the grave of Thomas Leake who is Donna’s grandfather and my great-grandfather.  The mosquitos were vicious, so we didn’t stay very long.


Next, we stopped at the Spirit River Museum.

SR Museum1

A docent greeted us warmly.  We asked questions about the Leake family homestead and showed her a hand-drawn map. A gentleman had made it for Donna in 2001 showing roads that lead to the property.  Turns out the docent’s father was the one who drew it!  As a child, he had been a neighbor of the Leakes and remembered running across the yard to go to school.

The museum was filled with many historical artifacts of the area.  There was even a display of curling stones.  It was a nice surprise to see a photograph and artist’s rendition of the Leake homestead.

In the renovated school house, we found the name of Donna’s uncle (my great uncle) Albert Leake, in an old school ledger from 1918 when he was a school boy.

Albert Leake

We met our docent friend’s mom and learned more about Spirit River and the Leakes from her.  Finally we drove out to the homestead, built around 1910.  Thomas Leake built it in the style of homes he was familiar with in Wollaston, Massachusetts.  The house was considered stylish and well built in its day.  Now, of course, it is in poor condition.  (Donna and I felt like we were in an Alfred Hitchcock movie when birds flew out of the rafters, startling us!)  I loved seeing the house where my great grandparents forged a life in the Canadian west.

Leaving Spirit River, Donna and I felt completely satisfied with how the day had unfolded before us:  seeing the cemetery, museum and homestead and meeting people with some knowledge of our kin.  We considered going west to Jasper but decided against it with the fires and hazy skies.

The following day, we drove through the beautiful city of Edmonton on the way back to Donna’s house.  She pointed out significant buildings and structures and also the places she and her husband had lived as newlyweds. Edmonton That evening we had dinner in Sylvan Lake at Pete’s on the Beach, an eclectic restaurant serving great fish and chips.

After electronically swapping family pictures and information with Donna the next morning, I left my cousin’s house filled to the brim with wonderful experiences and deep connections to my heritage


O Canada! – #8

My passport and vehicle registrations were in order and I wasn’t carrying any contraband, so what was this anxiety about crossing into Canada?  The line leading up to the border station was long and slow-moving.



Eventually I reached the border and was greeted by an officer.  He asked me where I was going and how long I would be in Canada.  He also wanted to know if I had any alcohol or firearms, but was unconcerned about the fruits and veggies I had purchased the day before. Whew.  I was in!  This is the first sign that greeted me.


As soon as I crossed into Canada, my cell phone had no service.  I would have to deal with that later.  I was trying to be aware of metric mileage signs and sort out kilometers to miles ratio so I would know how far it was to my campground.

That night, I stayed in Fort Steele, an interesting historic town in British Columbia. This far north, it was still light at 9 pm (Mountain Time). The campground was full because it was a 3-day weekend for Canada’s Civic/ Provincial Day.  The Fort Steele Railway Co runs a steam train that sounded its long, melancholy whistle before each trip.Fort Steele

I tried to upgrade my phone to an international calling plan. However, my 2-year old Samsung is not compatible with Verizon’s plan.  (They offered to upgrade my phone, but I said no thanks.)  I decided I could live without text and phone calls for a week.  I still had email and internet with a hotspot device.

When I saw this gas sign, I was very excited.  Wow!  Gas was only $1.41 in Canada.  The next day I found out it is sold PER LITER and this worked out to be a little over $4 per gallon.

Canadian gas

A sign at the campground laundromat referred to Loonies and Toonies.  What?  Someone explained that Loonies are Canada’s one-dollar coin, so named because there is a loon on one side.  Toonies are a take off on that name. They are the two-dollar coins.

The next morning, I woke up to a radio announcer saying the high would be 35 degrees today!  Oh yeah.  Celsius.  I roughed out a chart I could use in the car for kilometers per hour, distance and how much I’m actually paying for gas.

ChartMy Canadian cousin had suggested some interesting places along the way.  I visited Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a World Heritage Site.  This is one of many cliffs where the First Nations people would gather and stampede buffalo over the edge. It was a well-coordinated, sophisticated process. The tribes would use nearly every part of the buffalo for meat, robes, teepees, tools and other necessities. Buffalo

I was happy to arrive at my Cousin Donna’s house.  She has lived in Canada all her life.  On a neighborhood walk, we gave the exercise equipment a try.  Many public parks have such a set up.  Donna pointed out open areas where people cross country ski in the winter.

Tomorrow, we’re going on an adventure several hours north see the old family homestead!

Wonderful Washington – #7

Long-time friends in Longview let me park in front of their house for a couple nights.  They know a lot about trailers, so I asked a hundred questions.  Tim fixed some shelves that had come loose in the trailer, and helped me with a hitch situation.  We visited the county fair and saw Pat’s amazing photographs (she won several ribbons!) I enjoyed their two little doggers.  Such sweet bundles of fur!

Continuing north, I stayed at Silver Creek, a beautiful campground overlooking Mayfield Lake.  This great old Maytag was part of the camp decor… not the campground laundry room!

One night was spent near Seattle with Tom and Sue, my husband’s cousin and wife.  They are trailer folks, too, and gave me lots of helpful information and ideas. Plus, I was treated to homemade venison sausage and home-grown tomatoes.

Then it was on to La Conner, a lovely area of farmland and waterfront shops.  The campground is on land owned by the Swinomish Tribe.  My site was a short walk from the shoreline.  Berries grow wild everywhere!

One afternoon I drove to Anacortes and connected with my 4th cousin Betty and her husband Jim on their boat.  We’ve corresponded but never met.  I loved chatting with her about genealogy, DNA and our common ancestors. On another day, I visited the Anacortes Library, and discovered Bob’s Chowder Bar, a great place for fish and chips.

From the cool, overcast skies of far northwest Washington, I headed east and camped between Quincy and Wenatchee on the Columbia River.  The climate and terrain was far different.  It was hot, dry and windy.  I saw endless apple orchards on the cliffs above the river in the Wenatchee Valley.

Wenatchee was a good place to exchange US dollars for Canadian currency. The dollars are pretty and have a transparent insert in the bill.MoneyIn Spokane the next morning, I went to church with long-time friends Wes and Gail.  Wes was my husband’s college roommate.  We all knew each other at Azusa Pacific College, and had our weddings about one month apart.

Then it was off through northern Idaho and into Canada!


Fires, Friends, and Firsts – #6

Fires in southern Oregon have been burning for weeks.  My eyes stung and there were ashes everywhere.  The moon was Halloween orange. The west just needs some really good rainstorms to get these terrible fires out.

I was glad to connect with several folks in Oregon.  Some friendships were from years ago when my husband and I lived in Santa Cruz and he taught at Baymonte Christian School. A friend who moved to Albany from SoCal this year invited me to an Eagles Tribute concert in the park.  The next day we hiked along the Willamette River.

On the backroads, I came across a cute little fruit stand.  The woman behind the table grew the vegetables and did the canning herself.  I bought a jar of raspberry jam.

A family who lives far away happened to be staying on a ranch near Bend during my travels there. I was able to visit and park my trailer on the ranch overnight

Loved catching up with all these folks.

Having coffee inside a cozy trailer on a chilly morning with a forest view is pretty great.Coffee in Bend

The firsts for me were “boondocking” on the ranch:  no hookups whatsoever.  Also, backing into a campground space by myself.   It took some maneuvering, but I was able to get in without hitting the picnic table.   Smile

Gassing up in Oregon – #5

It made me a little apprehensive to pull up to an Oregon gas station.  I knew you weren’t allowed to pump your own gas.  Did that mean I had to pay the guy pumping it, or pay inside, or just use my card at the pump?

I chose a Pilot gas station with 12 pumps.  One guy in an orange vest was running from pump to pump, servicing all of them.  So I got out of my car and waited… and waited… and waited.  Finally he came over to me and muttered that I should have pulled into the RV and trailer pump area.Pilot

I’m thinking: Look, bud, just be glad I didn’t take out any of the pumps with my trailer!  I’m new at this.  But I just apologized and said, “Sorry.  I’m from California.  Not sure how all this works.

He took my card and inserted it into the machine, took the pump nozzle and inserted it into my gas tank and then ran off to another pump. When my car was full, I stood there, uncertain of what to do next.  Would I be arrested if I took the nozzle out and put it back in the pump?  Waiting… waiting…  Finally I just did it, got in the car and drove out.

Some Oregonians love it, and others think it’s ridiculous.  One woman said you can tell who the Oregon drivers are when they pull up to a gas station in another state.  They’re the ones just sitting in the car, looking all around and waiting for someone to pump gas for them!