Category Archives: Travel

Where I have been; where I am going…

Year in Review: 2010

As we look forward to 2011, I thought I would take a look back at 2010.  This year has proven to be one of the most important years in my life.  It began by starting my final semester at MSSU.  After receiving acceptance letters and graduating with my Bachelors degree, I wound up in Virginia.

Driving in 2010: August trip to Virginia (Red) and December Trip home (Yellow)


-January 11 – Began my internship at George Washington Carver National Monument

-January 18 – Began my final semester at Missouri Southern State University


-February 24 – Senior Assessment Day at MSSU


-March 6 – Co-coordinated History Day competition for Missouri’s 6th Region


-April – Received acceptance letters from James Madison University and Washington State University.  After speaking with both, it is clear that I will only receive funding from JMU unless someone leaves the program at WSU.

-Accepted the offer from JMU

-Began looking for apartments in Harrisonburg, Virginia

-April 24 – Completed my internship at GWCNM


-May 22 – Graduated with my BA in History from MSSU

-Found an apartment in Harrisonburg and paid the security deposit



-House sat for two friends

-Made final preparations for moving to Virginia

-July 21 – Started this blog!


-August 2 – ABF U-Pack took my stuff to Virgina

-August 10 – Leave for Virginia.  Stayed overnight in Lebanon, Tennessee

-August 11 – Stopped in Bristol, Tennessee and toured Bristol Motor Speedway . Stayed overnight in Lexington, Virginia

-August 12 – Arrived in Harrisonburg, Virginia (my first time seeing Harrisonburg, and my apartment, in person)

-August 14 – My parents left Virginia for Missouri

-August 23 – Orientation for the Graduate School in the morning – A seminar for TA and GA students in the afternoon

-August 27 – Orientation for the Department of History

-August 30 – Beginning of first semester at JMU


-September 18 – Made a trip to James Madison’s Montpelier, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and James Monroe’s Ashlawn-Highland


-October 17 – Attended the Kevin Harvick Fan Club Gathering in Kernersville, North Carolina


-November 10 – Presented my lecture to my TA class

-November 22 – Registered for Spring 2011 courses


-December 10 – Final day of classes

-December 11 – Final exam for TA course

-December 14 – Left Virginia for Georgia, had to avoid the winter storm in the Midwest.  Stayed with my Aunt and Uncle.

-December 15 – Drove the rest of the way to Missouri.  My first time being home since August 10.


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SS United States: A Ship in Distress


SS United States

Built in 1950, the SS United States is over 1,000 feet long and holds the record for fastest transatlantic crossing.  The maiden voyage for the SS United States was in 1952, and she took back the Blue Ribbon for the United States.  Her transatlantic crossing beat the fourteen-year record of the Queen Mary by over ten hours (with a time of 3 days, 10 hours and 40 minutes).  It was no surprise to the print media however.  It was predicted the SS United States would easily beat the record with its speed of 36 knots.  On its return voyage to New York, which took only 3 days, 12 hours and 12 minutes, the record for the westbound crossing was also taken by the SS United States.  To this day, the westbound crossing record is held by the SS United States.

The 1950s was a lavish time in America and the pleasure cruise was at its height.  The SS United States was also at her peak.  Throughout the 1950s, the ship was often 90% booked with each voyage.  However, the jet age was entering maturity.  Travel was no longer a leisure, but an inconvenience to many and the ocean-going cruise liners were hit hard.  In 1964, the SS United States was sold to a foreign company and in November 1969, she was withdrawn from passenger service and laid up in Norfolk, Virginia.

SS United States’s Lavish Interior


The United States Navy had control of the ship until she was sold in 1978. In 1984, the interiors were auctioned off to pay off various debts.  The SS United States was eventually moved to Philadelphia in 1996. There was hope in 2002, however, when the Norwegian Cruise Line purchased the ship with the intent to renew service.  This proved to be too costly and the Norwegian Cruise Lines offered the ship for sale.  Many scrap yards expressed interest.

It was about this time that a group of people took interest in the SS United States because they did not want to see it scrapped and the SS United States Conservancy was born.  Fund raising efforts were strong, but not strong enough to purchase the ship for NCL.  In 2010, however, that changed.  A local philanthropist, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, donated up to $5.8 million to purchase the ship from NCL.  The Conservancy is now working to find a future home for the SS United States.  Plans have been suggested for making the ship into a casino in Philiadephia, while others have suggested she should be moved to New York City.  Either way, the cost is going to be high.  The ship was stripped of everything in the 1980s, but this also presents an opportunity.  She is, in essence, a blank slate.

SS United States today in Philadelphia

As a historian, I hate to see an important piece of maritime history teetering on the edge of destruction.  The SS United States would be a great addition to a casino or as a hotel.  The preservation of the ship is of upmost importance.  Naturally there are critics of the efforts to preserve the ship, but I do not want to see the SS United States have the fate of her sister ship, the SS America.  The SS America was being towed to a new location when she ran a ground.  Little effort was made to save the ship and she ultimately rusted and collapsed into the sea.

The tragic end of the SS America

The SS United States is an important part of America’s history and deserves every chance to be immortalized.  The ship has many connections to families across the world, but it should also hold a special connection to every American.  Ships such as the Lusitania and Titanic are immortalized, but they are not American ships.  The SS United States was the pride of American cruising in the 1950s.  Today, cruise liners are popular, but none are American.  The SS United States and her sister ship, the SS America were two out of a small number of American flag ships.  The SS America is gone and the SS United States faces a similar fate.


-Donate to the SS United States Conservancy

-Purchase items from the SS United States Conservancy Store

-Become a SS United States Plank Owner

-Post links to this blog or to SS United States sites on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.


SS United States Conservancy

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To Kevin Harvick Inc.

On Sunday I drove to Kernersville, North Carolina for the Kevin Harvick Fan Club.  The event took place at Kevin Harvick Inc. and I really enjoyed meeting the drivers, touring the shop, and meeting fellow Kevin Harvick fans.  It was a great afternoon and I was able to meet Max Papis, Ron Hornaday, Ken Schrader, and, of course, Kevin Harvick.  The only person I was unable to meet was DeLana Harvick, but only about 100 fans were allowed to get her autograph.  I gladly waited in line to receive each autograph as they were giving up a Sunday afternoon to meet all Harvick’s fans.

Overview of KHI

While at KHI, I noticed they were selling pieces of sheetmetal from various cars.  My favorite car that Harvick drives, besides the #29, is the #33 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet.  They did not have any diecasts of the car available, but they were selling a driver side door panel from one of the cars.  I had to buy it!  The proceeds from the sale went to the Kevin Harvick Foundation and that justified the purchase in my mind.  I had this signed by all the afore mentioned drivers, as well as many members of the crew, including Harvick’s crew cheif, Butch Hylton.

KHI Race Shop

Besides meeting the drivers, there were many cars on display and fans could tour the race shop and fabrication shop.  These are located in two separate buildings, but serve important functions.  There were countless contests, music, food, and just a great atmosphere among the fans.  After all, we did all have something in common and most conversations were in regard to Harvick or KHI.

KHI Fabrication Shop

This was the 10th and final year for the Fan Club Gathering at KHI.  Next year they will hold events at various race tracks around the country in order to reach more fans, but there is a certain excitement about holding the event at KHI.  With that being said, I am glad I was able to attend this, the final Fan Club Gathering.  I believe it is going to be a hassle holding events on race weekends, but we wait and see.

Max Papis

Ron Hornaday

Ken Schrader

The Man of the Hour – Kevin Harvick

My “little” Souvenir – Complete with Signatures

I have included several photos in this post from the weekend and I hope you enjoy them.  This weekend I plan to describe History 592 – Material Culture (my favorite class) in a post.  Until then…



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A Day with the Presidents

Saturday, I was finally able to get away form Harrisonburg for the day and visit some historic sites.  I will describe where I went, give a little history, and share some of my photographs from the day.

1.  James Madison’s Montpelier

Being a student at James Madison University, it almost seems like a requirement to visit his home.  Montpelier is about a hour from Harrisonburg which made for a nice drive over the Blueridge Mountains.  Montpelier was built by James Madison Sr. in the early 18th century.  After James Madison Jr. married Dolley, the house was expanded and converted into a duplex.  James Madison’s parents lived on the South end of the house and Madison, Dolley and Dolley’s young son lived on the North end.  After the death of his father, Madison expanded the house again and made it a single residence home.  Madison’s mother would continue to live in the house in 1826.  Madison died in 1836 and Dolley lived in the house until her death.  The house changed hands several times after Dolley’s death before the duPont family bought it.  The duPont’s added on to the house and nearly tripled the square footage.  The home remained in the duPont family until 1983 when it was turned over The Montpelier Foundation.

Today, the house has been restored to it appearance at Dolley’s death.  The duPont’s additions were torn off and the house project was completed in 2008.  Today, the foundation is working on purchasing the original furnishings of Montpelier.  In addition, they are working on wallpapering the home.  Dolley only wallpapered three rooms and one has been restored.  The dining room was re-wallpapered two weeks ago and they are palling on wallpapering the drawing room in a few weeks.  There are also several archaeological digs taking place and many items have been uncovered that belonged to the Madison family and their slaves.  As the work continues, Montpelier will only become a more popular stop for tourists.

2.  Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

What is there to say about Monticello?  Everyone knows something about it.  Weather it is the distinct architectural styling or Jefferson’s collections and inventions, Monticello is an extremely popular tourist destination.  Monticello is located atop a 867 feet peak overlooking Charlottesville.  What is not well known is that Jefferson was given an option when his father died.  He was given a choice between land in the valley and the mountain, and he chose the Montpelier.  The views from Monticello are spectacular!

3. James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland

Most people, myself included, do not realize that Jefferson and Monroe were neighbors.   Monroe purchased the land adjacent to Monticello at the request of Jefferson.  Monroe purchased the land as a second home.  Monroe’s primary residence was Oak Hill which was closer to D.C.  Ash Lawn was used as a source of income and operated as a farm with several slaves, however, Monroe left the White House $75,000 in debt.  He placed Ash Lawn-Highland and Oak Hill on the market.  Ash Lawn sold two days after the death of Jefferson.  Ash Lawn is a modest home when compared to Montpelier and Monticello, but Monroe lived in opulence at Oak Hill.

I went to all three homes in one day and learned a lot about each president.  I found it interesting that presidents 3, 4, and 5 lived within 30 miles of each other and their connections go beyond being former Presidents of the United States.  Prior to becoming president, Madison was Jefferson’s Secretary of State and Monroe was Secretaries of State and War for Madison.  In addition, Monroe was tutored by Jefferson and encouraged by him to become a lawyer.

After visiting all three homes I discovered a few things about each president.  Madison was modest, Jefferson had to have the newest and greatest, and Monroe strived to keep up with both of them.  As a result, Monroe was in deep debt at one point of his life.  Of the three homes, I would prefer Montpelier.  To be fair, Monticello is very impressive, but I could not picture myself living there.  It was more like a laboratory than a home.  It also does not help that there were 100s of people at Monticello and a new tour starts every 5 minutes.  There were only about 40 people at Montpelier which made it feel more comfortable.

I really look forward to visiting Mt. Vernon and other sites in Virginia and will discuss them as I do.  I apologize for not posting anything last week and will start describing my courses next week.  Until then…


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Photo log

View of Ozark Mountains – Missouri
Mississippi River
Nashville, Tennessee
Tennessee Mountains
Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol from the Owner’s Suite
Bristol – 30 Degree Banking
Hampton Inn – Lexington, Virginia
Hampton Inn – 1700s Cabin – used as Board Room
Shenandoah Valley
The View from my Window


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Life Reduced to Boxes

The move was a success!!  It was a quite a week and here is the briefest of overview (click the links for more information):

My parents and I left Neosho Tuesday, August 10 and drove 535 miles to Lebanon, Tennessee.  We drove Highway 60 across Missouri.  The scenery was amazing.  It was easy to forget we were still in Missouri!   After lunch we crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois.  We were in Illinois for only two minutes before crossing the Mississippi River again into Kentucky.  We drove on two lane highways until we got to Paducah, Kentucky and it was interstate the rest of the way!  We got into Lebanon about 4:30 after driving about nine hours!  Keep in mind, ABF moved my books and furniture for me, so we only had two cars.  My Mustang got 28 MPG despite being loaded and running the air conditioner.

On the 11th we had a much shorter driver.  We drove from Lebanon to Lexington, Virginia (an hour south of Harrisonburg).  The 451 miles drive went by much quicker.  We stopped in Bristol, Tennessee for lunch and to refuel.  If Bristol sounds familiar, it is the home of Bristol Motor Speedway.  I knew we had a shorter drive and asked my mom to call the speedway to find out if tours of the track were available.  They offer tours daily!!  For a measly $5 per person, you get to tour the suites, view the track from the owner’s suite, and walk on the track!   It was quite an experience and I look forward to going to other tracks in the area!

The mountains in Virginia are amazing!  The Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful.  Pictures do not do them justice, but I will post some later today.  We got into Lexington about 5:00 and stayed in a Hampton Inn (click the link to see the Hotel) that is an Antebellum mansion.  The mansion is the lobby area and there are 5 rooms that are decorated in the Antebellum style.  Lexington is a historic town. It is the home of Washington and Lee University which is the burial site of General Robert E. Lee.   In addition, General Stonewall Jackson is buried in town.  We were unable to see these sites since we spent an hour at Bristol, but Lexington is only an hour away and I will go back!

On the morning of the 12th, I knew the next few days would be busy.  ABF was supposed to deliver the trailer to my apartment at 11 AM, but when I called they told me it would be around 9:30.  We got on the road at 8:30 because we had an hour to drive.  We entered the Shenandoah Valley and I got my first glimpse into the scenary that will be outside my window!  We got into Harrisonburg and to my surprise, the end of my road is torn out and we had to find an alternate route in.  Our cars got separated, which made for an interesting twenty minutes.  In the meantime, ABF delivered the trailer and I got the key from my landlord.  We were ready to move in!  It took us less then an hour to get everything inside the apartment and my parents helped get everything setup.  By the time my parents left Saturday morning, everything was setup except for my books.  The books did not take as long as I thought it would! Now, everything is setup and my apartment looks like….home.

I am glad my parents were here to help, or I would still be unpacking and putting things away!!

I will post some pictures from the trip later today, but looking back it was strange seeing my life reduced to boxes and I am glad everything is back to “normal.”


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Three Weeks

Welcome to my blog!!  I do not consider myself the blogging type, but many of you are interested in what I am doing and this is where you will find it all!  I will be discussing my travels and experience at JMU from my classes to my assistantship.  In addition, I want to answer any question you may have so if you have any questions about anything (grad school, Harrisonburg, JMU, etc.) just email me or post a comment and I will try to answer them all right here!


Three weeks from today I will be well on my way to Harrionburg, Virginia where I will begin my career as a graduate student.  I already have a full schedule and classes have yet to begin.  Here is how the month of August looks:

August 2 – Pack ABF U-Pack truck

August 3 – ABF U-Pack truck will be picked up from my house

August 7 – Trip to Des Moines, Iowa for Antiques Roadshow

August 10 – Leave Missouri for Virginia – Drive to Lebanon, Tennessee (537 Miles) and will stay in a Hampton Inn

August 11 – Leave Lebanon and drive to Lexington, Virginia (453 miles) – Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried in Lexington – The Hampton Inn we are staying in Lexington is a historic home (will post pics)

August 12 – Leave Lexington for Harrisonburg (61 miles) – My lease begins at noon and ABF U-Pack will deliver by noon for us to unpack

August 13 – Cable and Internet will be connected (do not expect updates on August 12th)

August 23 – Orientation for the Graduate School in the morning – A seminar for TA and GA students in the afternoon

August 27 – Orientation for the Department of History followed by a reception at a professor’s home in Harrisonburg


Despite my full schedule, I am looking forward to my experiences, travels and anything else I come across while living in Virginia.  I will update Twitter, Facebook and this blog while on the road and while I get settled.

I cannot stress enough the opportunity I have been given.  Not only will I be attending a prestigious University, I will be in great proximity to countless historic sites and will be in Virginia for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  I have ambitious goals for grad school, but I am confident I can achieve them!

Thank you for reading my first of many blogs to come and I will try to update everyone as much as possible.


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