12mph America At The Speed Of Sanity

26Jul/100

Abode hunting….a new sport

Looking back at our time in Illinois, I believe we were spoiled to have lived in only two homes over the course of 29 years. Moving last September to the rental duplex in Batavia  and now trying to find our next rental in Denver, it is becoming more of a reality that it just isn't as much fun as house hunting when you want to own a home.

Rentals.com and MyNewPlace.com have been helpful websites. When we were at the car wash the other day getting our mini-van washed, we picked up two booklets on apartments for rent. Another technique that we used on Saturday and then for 6.5 hours today, was to just drive up and down one street after another looking for "For Rent" signs, which all seem to be red signs with white letters for the most part. Craigslist has also been helpful.

Over the weekend, we synthesized our lists and priorities so that we have more of a focus. We've decided that it makes good sense for us at this point to rent something within the University of Denver (DU) neighborhood, so roughly a mile from campus. Steve doesn't register for classes until new student orientation the first week of September. We want to make it easy for him to get to and from campus should he have classes at various times of the day or evening. Biking and walking are the preferred methods so that we do not have to rely on a vehicle. With the light rail system and bus routes within an easy walk, it would make those attractive commuting options for me as I look for employment down the road. We could also jump on them for a 15 minute ride to Downtown Denver for Colorado Rockies games, theater productions, etc.

For now, we have two options at this point in the hunt. Option#1 has 3 bedrooms, a finished basement with a fireplace, a 2 car detached garage, and a covered patio that is attached to the detached garage. Good sized master & guest rooms. Office space. Utility room. Plaster walls are a drawback since they don't want anything hung on the walls. There is a good backyard space for bocce ball or ladder ball, but the flowerbeds are actually weed-beds. Give us a lawn mower and we'll gladly mow the lawn, but all of those weeds? Please? We weren't planning on the type of flower gardening that we once enjoyed.

Option#2 was built in 1892 with many updates over the past few years. It's a charming, 1.5 story Victorian. It has a small footprint: 24' X 24 '. The yard: 25 ' wide X 75' wide deep. 2 car detached garage with a finished loft studio above garage. Ladder to a teeny-tiny loft in the house. Washer & dryer in the main bathroom on the 2nd level. Beautiful Mexican tile floor, cherry & glass cabinets, and Viking gas range are in the kitchen. The postage stamp size front yard would take less than 5 minutes to mow. Vines, ground cover, a dying apple tree, and flagstone patio make up the backyard.  Our furniture could be challenged. The landlord claims that the queen-sized box springs would fit through the upstairs windows since they won't go up the narrow, winding staircase. A few blocks from the Pearl Street shops, coffee-houses, and restaurants. Pricier than option #1.

We did have a bit of a reality check today around mile #60 in our labyrinth-drive of the neighborhoods (or so it seemed), we located a beautiful house, which looked like fairly new construction. It was on one of the many blocks within a mile of the University where small older 2-3 bedroom ranch homes seem more like little "hiccups" squeezed in between the newer homes that loom next door to them. It seems that one by one these small homes are being purchased, torn down, and a larger home built on the property. Naively, we called on that beautiful house since it sported a "For Rent" sign. Within the hour, we received a reply from the agent. Are you seated for the news folks? The home was renting for $4,900 per month!! "Egads and little fishes" (as my Mom used to say when she was aghast). Staggering? Yes. Affordable? No. We've been looking at places that are in the range of $1350-1695 per month and having a fit over those prices.

Ah yes, abode hunting. It is a fun sport. We will hope that sometime this week, the place which we'll call "Home" will become more evident. Any suggestions? Please pass them along.

Love,

Diane

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23Jul/100

Denver!!

We arrived in Denver yesterday afternoon around 3:15. The traffic along I-25 from Ft. Collins south was heavy. It was such a contrast to the open landscape and congested-free two weeks from the Chicago-Wisconsin-Minnesota-South Dakota-Wyoming-Montana-Wyoming route. Mom has graciously opened her home to us. She emptied dresser drawers in our guest room so we don't need to live out of the van or suitcases. She provided desk space in the basement where we can set up our computers and paperwork. And, her garage became a little more filled with the addition of our bikes and camping gear. It is time for us to shift some of the extraneous "stuff" to the little space that is left in the storage unit along with the rest of our household belongings that await a move into our next abode.

Now for an update since my last posting. On Tuesday afternoon Steve, John, Karen, and I bicycled from their rural Bozeman home to the city of Bozeman, 7 miles away. The many times I've driven that 7 mile stretch, I thought it was more level than what I discovered on the bike ride. Weee....it was pretty much downhill with very relaxed pedaling! Our turn-around spot was Sola, a little coffeehouse-bistro. We took a 30 minute break for cold beverages before getting back in the saddle. Whoa....there was a grade! I definitely pedaled with more effort on the 7 mile return to their home. The weather reminded us of a September day in Illinois with a bright blue sky, few clouds, breeze, and lower humidity. Where John and Karen live, there are gorgeous views of the Gallatin and Bridger mountain ranges. As they live in a valley, agriculture and ranching is evident. Irrigation systems help to keep broad swatches lush and green. At night they seem to have a million more stars in the sky.

Tuesday evening Karen fixed a pasta dinner for us, Laurie, Tom, Allan, and Sean. Again we soaked up another evening together and appreciated John and Karen's hospitality. Wednesday morning John and Steve hiked Kirk Hill, just down the road from their home. Karen and I opted for a more leisurely morning plus I needed to pack. Laurie came out for a cup of coffee with us. We said our "see ya laters" to John and Karen. Then Laurie led Steve and I to Tom's shop for our goodbye with him. We will sure miss these two families as we were privileged to five fine days between their two households.

Under the encouragement of our Montana families, Steve and I embarked on a scenic route towards a Wednesday night stay in Wyoming. We drove up Paradise Valley out of Livingston, Montana and through the northern part of Yellowstone. We saw elk, a black bear, and bison along our drive. Unlike past trips to Yellowstone, we basically drove through it rather than making stops. Tom told us about the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. So out of Cooke City we intersected with this route and followed it for about 2.5 hours. This route followed portions of the original trek that Chief Joseph used in 1877 as he led a group of Nez Perce Native Americans out of Yellowstone and up to what is now Montana in a strategic effort to flee to Canada from a U.S. Calvary. Sadly, the 2,000 soldier Calvary captured them. The route was one of the most picturesque we've driven. We went through the pass of the jagged Beartooth Mountain Range, wound through the Shoshone National Forest, across a portion of Sunlight Basin, and over the Sunlight Creek Bridge, which spans across sheer cliffs above Sunlight Creek. Several vista points provided awesome views of the mountain ranges, plateaus, basin, gorge, and our winding switchback road. The clouds cast deep shadows and the sunlight added distinct highlights. Yes, a very spectacular drive.

As we left the byway, we decided our goal for the day was Thermopolis, Wyoming, home of the largest natural hot springs. We arrived just prior to sunset feeling like a confident cowboy and cowgirl after a hard day's ride in the saddle ready for a cozy night's stay in town. (A little like Clint Eastwood, aren't we?) Actually, within 30 minutes we received a rude awakening as we were jerked back to reality stripping the cowboy theme from our imaginations. There were NO VACANCY signs posted and motel clerks telling us to "try down the street". All of the "no-tell motels" and chain-hotels were completely booked. Even the RV campground with their pull-through spots had RVs packed like sardines and sported red neon NO VACANCY signs. We felt like we were being chased out of town by sunset...er...night. At a Welcome to Wyoming stop last week, I picked up a guide to Wyoming. Fortunately there were long lists of motel/hotel/campground options for communities along our route. Bright idea!! I decided to place a few calls. (Smile here.) 20 calls later, I located a room at a Motel 6. Argh! Frustratingly, it would be another 136 miles to Casper. Steve bravely agreed to drive. Bravely, because it seems like all of the nocturnal creatures decide to head to the road at night on suicide missions! Elk, mule deer, white-tail deer, and rabbits all joined in their demise effort. Sadly, one bunny decided it was his time. Fortunately, all large game animals leaped back into the ditches as we approached. An observance that we noted, more drivers than not, do not dim their brights in Wyoming. Hmmm...maybe we missed the sign? I should mention that while it was a white-knuckle drive in that way, it was quite beautiful with the 3/4 moon casting its light on the Wind River Canyon walls and the winding river. The moonlight did help add extra lighting too, so for that we were grateful.

We arrived at Motel 6 at 12:30 a.m. It was an interesting experience, suffice it to say. Yes, it was non-smoking, had two comfortable double-beds, and was very clean. However, it likely had another life as a smoking room since the floral air-freshener greeted us like a 10 ton brick at the door. We believe there was a special filter in the vent that wafted the scent. There was no way to escape it. Then we discovered that the water from the sink faucet either came out scalding hot or hot. There was no warm or cold, despite turning the knob to cold. Alas, Steve gallantly obtained a glass of cold water for me from the shower, which fortunately had a functioning knob. Despite those couple of annoyances, we slept soundly after a challenging night's drive.

Yes, we're back in Denver. It is hard to believe that this is where we'll be living for the next two years as Steve goes to graduate school at the University of Denver. We will begin this next chapter of our lives by obtaining a detailed street map of Denver. The next step will be venturing out to the streets and neighborhoods along the bus lines, bike paths, and light-rail routes.

Alrighty...time to stop this madness and resume the day. Let us know how your summer is going as we'd love to stay in touch. Email is the best way!

Love,

Diane (and Steve)

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20Jul/102

Time got away from us!

Goodness, it is already Tuesday, July 20! Guess that time got away from us! After Murdo, SD last Wednesday night (July 14) we drove to the Rafter J Bar Resort near Hill City, SD where we were fortunate to score a tent camping site for the staggering price of $30. (It was a resort though, so we had great amenities). We kept tabs with John and Karen throughout the morning as to their whereabouts since ironically we were only 70 miles apart longitudinally the night before. Steve and I set up camp and were eating our usual PB&J sandwich lunch when we saw John and Karen pulling into the resort. Within an hour the four of us were on our bikes on the Mickelson Bike Trail. The Resort's entrances intersect with the trail so there was no need to calculate an involved plan for getting there. We all rode together until the 5.2 mile spot when Karen and I decided that the grade of the old rails-to-trails was taxing our legs for the day. So the gals managed a 10.4 ride whereas the guys managed closer to a 13 mile ride. Our efforts made the dip in the resort's pool and hot tub a great way to end the afternoon.

John and Karen invited us to dinner at their campsite: hotdogs, baked beans, and tossed salad. Later we roasted marshmallows for s'mores while watching the crescent moon descend over the Black Hills and the night's canvas of stars take form. The evening cooled off nicely making for a perfect night's sleep in our little tent. The next morning John treated us to the pancake breakfast that the resort has each morning. It was a delicious way to begin our day.

On Friday morning Steve and I took off for Montana City, MT, about 6 miles outside of Helena. It ended up being around 600 miles and 11 hours of driving. My sister Laurie and brother-in-law Tom recently moved to rural Montana City from Bozeman. The temperatures that day hovered around 95 and with the "dry" heat, the day was a scorcher. We knew that the Midwest and East Coast were suffering from the heat, too, and with the high humidity, they dealt with a dangerously high heat index and warnings.

We spent two wonderful days and nights with Laurie and Tom. Laurie grilled some chicken breasts and asparagus to a "tee", making for a lovely dinner out on their deck. On Saturday we went into Helena, ate a fish taco lunch at Taco del Sol before climbing aboard The Last Chance "train". This is actually a truck chassis fitted with a train engine for the body, and it pulled several train cars. It resembled the trams that we've taken at Brookfield Zoo. The conductor was our tour guide and she drove us around Helena, providing an introduction to the city's rich history and its current status as a university town, the Montana State capital, and ease of exploring the lands beyond for recreation. During the day we heard about the Symphony under the Stars being featured that night.

With images of a previous Ravinia Park outing in Highland Park, IL on my mind, I couldn't help but imagine us dining on a picnic while listening to wonderful music. So Laurie and I shopped for a finger-food type of picnic. The event was held at Carroll College in Helena with the Helena Symphony playing a delightful repertoire of "Spanish Nights" for a couple of hours. The weather was perfect as the heat gave way to the cool mountain air while the sunset evolved into a beautiful evening sky. As an encore, a fireworks display went off in tandem with the symphony's last piece. On Sunday we drove to Gates at the Mountains Recreation Area, which was carefully journaled by Meriwether Lewis as he explored the Missouri River during his expedition. We opted to take the Sacajawea Tour Boat. Since no vehicles are allowed in the protected lands surrounding this area, it was the only way to see the Gates. It was intriguing to listen to the guide tell stories of Lewis' account, to learn about the geology of the limestone cliffs, to appreciate the Native American history (including pictographs that can still be seen), and to see some wildlife.

Sunday afternoon we headed off to Bozeman to spend several days with John and Karen since they arrived back home earlier in the day. During our stay with them we've enjoyed a dinner at the Ale Works, a hike at Drinking Horse Mountain, a dinner gathering at their home with Laurie, Tom, and our nephew, Sean. Last night our nephew, Allan, arrived in Bozeman from Wichita Falls, TX for a 10 day vacation from his air force training. It was wonderful to be at the Bozeman airport last night to provide a warm welcome home to him. He leaves next for Okinawa, Japan for 24 months. Today has been low-key. We grabbed a cup of coffee with all of them in Bozeman and visited. We appreciate the time to get reacquainted with Sean and Allan, since we do not see them often. They are awesome young men and we are so proud of them.

Steve and I are truly blessed to have family and friends who along the trek these last two weeks have been so gracious with their hospitality. Tomorrow we'll leave towards Denver and hope to stumble across either a reasonably priced motel or tent site. It is our hope to be in Denver at Mom's by sometime on Thursday. We are ready to begin looking for our next abode in Denver. Next week should be an adventure in itself as we negotiate the light-rail and bus systems to see where potential housing options might lie along those routes. Stay tuned!

May you enjoy the remainder of your July. It seems like the summer is flying.

Happy trails!

Diane

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14Jul/100

Billboard Central

Our drive today successfully took us to Murdo, South Dakota. Warm, humid weather and some showers this morning followed by shifting winds through the weather front, brought us drier, cooler temps by the time we arrived in Murdo. Green, lush Minnesota with its rolling hills, tall corn, and thriving soybeans on family farms shifted to large tracts of wheat, hay, and alfalfa with very few fences across large ranches in South Dakota. Oh, and yes, roadrunners trying to cross the interstate from their nesting haven in the ditches also caught our attention.

However, the best part of the day was the billboards lined along South Dakota's I-90. Here are some of the best billboard messages thus far: "Dick's 24 Hr. Toe Service"; "Days Inn: Vintage Dolls", "Ditty's: Eat here (then get gas).", "Bel Aire Motel: Great rates. Imaginary friends stay free!", "Gas now. Or gas can later."; "Wall Drug: Do lunch or be lunch!"; "Pioneer Auto Museum: Check out our muscle!"

Off for some shut-eye.

Diane & Steve

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14Jul/100

Westward Ho!

It is July 14 and we are making our way westward. Leaving our family in Batavia was difficult. We have been extremely blessed to be able to call the kids up for various outings & times together. It does seem a little odd to be the ones relocating as so often it is our offspring who leave. Thank goodness Denver has a major airport and we can either fly back to Chicago or they can fly to Denver with relative ease. Through google video or Skype, we will look forward to staying in touch.

Steve and I are getting a quick internet fix at a Panera's in the Minneapolis area. Since our return from Sweden and Scotland, we stayed with Steph and Shane a couple of nights, Deb and Gene one night, and Andy and Julie one night before departing for our current journey westward. We appreciated the gatherings that we had with family and friends throughout the weekend. Doing laundry, working on paperwork, and acquiring the rest of our belongings from 4 different locations, really put us in a time crunch. The time zipped past all too quickly. We know that we could have continued visiting so many others of you. We are happy to know that leading up to our household move at the end of May we were able to say our "see you sometime" to wonderful friendships and communities. We will sure try to locate an abode with room for a guest room!

We left Andy and Julie's on Monday morning. En route to Jenilee, Ross, and Nola's, Steve and I stopped for a picnic lunch (thanks to the Andy & Julie) and a 2 mile hike at mosquito-infested Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin. Fortunately the little shop down the road had mosquito repellent wipes which kept the little pests less pesky. On Monday night we were with Jenilee, Ross, and Nola for a great stay with them. Little Nola (our grand-niece) is just over 1 year old and such a delight.

After leaving Ross and Jenilee's yesterday, we drove to Buckhorn State Park, where we made one of our favorite lunches, PB&J, picnicked along the shoreline, and then hiked for 3 miles. We reminisced about the great state of Wisconsin and the many experiences in its State Park system from camping to biking to mountain biking to snowshoeing. The State of Wisconsin really has knocked itself out to make their State Parks and Trails some of the best in the nation.

Unfortunately we miscalculated our time at Buckhorn, so we ended up arriving belatedly at Meri and Hailey's in Edina, Minnesota by a couple of hours. Despite the shortened stay, last night was a great time with Meri and Hailey as we walked to dinner at Famous Dave's BBQ and visited the whole time coming and going. Hailey is certainly growing up and as always, is a real conversationalist! We wish Meri the best as she embarks on her own architecture business. If you want to tackle a renovation, let us know and we'll put you in touch with her. She is extremely talented and her award-winning work has been featured in various magazines, etc.

Today we're off to "somewhere" in South Dakota. Our friends, John and Karen, are "somewhere" in Nebraska so we're thinking that perhaps we'll join them near Hill City, SD tomorrow evening if it works out. Then we'll be traveling to Helena, Montana.

May this update find you be in the midst of enjoying your Wednesday. Sip some coffee or a glass of iced tea, stop to reflect on the moment, and remain wise.

Love,

Diane

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9Jul/100

Jet Lag

Well, we made it back "home". Since we don't have a home, the abode of Steph & Shane certainly works...or enjoying a pizza meal around Jeremy & Michelle's table works....or just plain being back with them is "home", since "Home is where your heart is!"

Having pulled countless all-nighters in college for a variety of reasons, I can honestly say that pulling one yesterday was not the best way to cure what ailed us, namely Jet Lag. We were up for 23.5 hours. Today hasn't been too bad, so maybe it paid off to force a long day.

I just downloaded photos from our trip. Being the shutter bug that I am and especially with my Nikon digital SLR, it was easy to rack up 2600 photos! Yikes. Would you like to sit down for a slide show??? 🙂 Looks like someone will need to work on trimming down that number.

Alrighty. Carry on with your July, stay cool, sip lemonade, and take time to play. We will journey onward as well!

Love,

Diane

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7Jul/101

2nd trip to Sweden!!

Bet the title of this posting caught your eye!! Actually, we are back in Sweden. We were up early this morning after a very nice stay at the Quality Inn near Edinburgh's airport. They offered a noon check-out time so it allowed us ample time to enjoy breakfast and pack in a very calculated fashion. Calculated because we were determined to be smart travelers and prove to Ryan Air that we could do it. Last time we were "failure puppies" as Jeremy affectionately terms those who don't quite make the cut! 😉 In the process of our packing & reducing weight, we even left behind a variety of items i.e. toiletries, clothing that was getting too thread bare (believe some items were packed in haste in Denver), & a nice variety of travel brochures or maps that we picked up in Sweden & Scotland. Then Steve rolled the luggage to the lobby where for 1 British pound each they could be weighed. BINGO!! He came back quite pleased that we were going to make the weight for Ryan Air.

Well, off to the airport we went. Returned the rental car with no issues. Strolled and rolled our luggage to Ryan Air, where we were 3 hours before the flight. 3 hours because last time there was a very long line through security and passport control. Well, we were too early to deal with our luggage according to Ryan Air. Instead we went to a cafe to sip some coffee, read, and work on Sudoku. Oops...time passed all too quickly. Off to Ryan Air. Went to the self-serve kiosk and the message was that we owed 80 British pounds for the extra luggage (nearly 130 U.S. dollars....can't find the dollar sign on this computer). We thought there was an error, so we stood in line for 20 minutes at check-in to speak to an attendant only to find that we should have booked the extra luggage on-line for 30 pounds. Now we had to return to the kiosk, pay 80 pounds, and shuffle items to fulfill an entire new weight. Obviously Stockhölm's Ryan Air had a different arrangement that Edinburgh's. Oh well....80 pounds later, we had our luggage checked. There was a very short line for security and absolutely no customs or passport control. Go figure!!

Today within 10 hours' time we experienced several modes of travel. We drove a rental car. Flew nearly 2 hours from Edinburgh to Stockhölm's Skvasta airport. Obtained passage on an airport bus that took us to Stockhölm's city terminal, an 80 minute ride. With 10 minutes to spare, we obtained passage onto another bus to the second airport in Stockhölm, Arlanda for a 30 minute ride. Then arrived at Arlanda where we called the hotel for a shuttle van.

Let's get back to Scotland. It was difficult to leave. As we lifted off the ground, I peered down to see the lovely landscape of Scotland fall behind. How I will miss it. The ties that I now feel to my ancestry seem to run deeper than ever. I have such a profound respect for the challenges that my MacLennan and MacKay relatives experienced. I can only suspect that trying to survive was difficult, especially on a 3 acre croft amidst rocks and peat, making enough to pay the rent to the laird plus feed a family of 8 children. Supplementing their meager means with herring fishing and collecting of seaweed was the only way to make a go of it.

I also feel that both Steve and I have opened the possibilities to discovering more about our ancestry. Between Mom, Evonne, Beth, and us, we feel like the time in Sweden was a bit like being super-sleuths. I admit the same goes for Scotland.

Tomorrow we return to Chicago, where we rejoin our family. It will be a whirlwind weekend as we slip back into the Central Time Zone, catch up on the mail that has accumulated, pay bills, empty the safe deposit box, pick up our camping and biking stash from our friend's basement, and enjoy time with overnights with the kids, Deb & Gene, Julie & Andy. We will leave towards Denver again on Monday morning via Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Montana visits with family & friends.

We are incredibly grateful for having been able to make this journey.

We hope that this message finds you all doing well. We look forward to hearing from you too.

Love,

Diane & Steve

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6Jul/100

Edinburgh airport digs

Well, we made it to Edinburgh airport's Quality Inn. While we tried to avoid anything "American", this trip i.e. no McDonald's or Starbuck's, we could not avoid Quality Inn. There are only a couple of hotel options near the airport and Hilton was going to cost us an additional 40 pounds, so for 125 pounds we have a night's stay in two twin beds in a dorm-room sized space. 125 pounds translates roughly to $200 plus a 4% foreign transaction fee on Visa. An expensive night for a dorm-room stay!

Today we left Fort William in low cloud covering. The trip through several glens was actually quite breath-taking despite the clouds. We have come to appreciate the clouds and rain as only adding a more dramatic feel to the landscape. And, we believe the phrase about Scotland's weather should be, "Wait a Scottish minute to check the current weather", for it changes that quickly.

Yesterday's time in Fort William was low-keyed as we stayed in town and didn't drive except a couple of miles later in the day. Steve enjoyed newspaper reading in a coffee shop and then the local library, while I shopped for "light-weight" souvenirs and gifts. Then as the weather seemed to break a little from rain, we drove to Neptune's Staircase. There is a carefully-engineered series of 9 locks all within 200-300 feet, known as Neptune's Staircase, which connect the Caledonian Canal to Loch Lochy on which Fort William lies. Then Steve & I walked along the Caledonian Canal for about 2 miles, taking in the view and feeling the connection to great-great-grandmother Catherine, her son Lachlan, and several other of Lachlan's siblings as they made their way from Inverness to Glasgow, then to Liverpool, and to America. I must say that it was quite emotional to walk along the canal, just 5 feet away from where they traveled!

According to great-grandfather Lachlan's journal, they departed Inverness traveling the Caledonian Canal, aboard a steamship, on May 29, 1869. Their destination was Kewanee, Illinois to join friends of the family, the Murchison's. In 1866 John MacLennan, Sr. died suddenly while living in the Lochcarron village. At the time of his death, wife Catherine was working in the Lowland's, which would have been south of Glasgow. It was quite common for family members to become seasonal workers as living off of the 3 acre crofts was no easy feat. As it was, Lachlan was working in Jamestown, on the Black Isle, as a stable boy at the age of 10. He was 11 years old when word reached him of his father's death. He writes of "the anguish of his boyish heart" upon the news.

The family disbursed for a period of what seems to be 6 years to work wherever they can. Working on farms, in grist mills, or as domestic help. Then after saving up money six family members headed for America. Perhaps they pooled together their resources to make their trip. Two sisters remained behind while the others left their homeland. One brother, John, and a sister Isabella, already were in America. He was in California and she lived in rural Brooklyn, Iowa with her husband Alex Logan.  I wonder if they knew of their family's impending trip, or would they be literally surprised when they arrived?

The family did make it to America via the City of Washington boat, which was likely loaded with other immigrants. They came through Queenstown, Ireland (which was a temporary name of the community between 1849-1922. It is actually Cobh, Ireland) and Halifax, Nova Scotia before arriving in New York City. From there they caught rail passage to Chicago. They boarded the train bound for Kewanee, Illinois without money, so when they arrived in Kewanee, their kind friends, the Murchison's, paid for their baggage to be unloaded. Lachlan writes in his journal that he worked for a spell in Kewanee on the Murchison's farm, but eventually gained rail passage again towards Iowa. He got off the train in Brooklyn, Iowa and on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, 1869 only to walked miles north to his sister's home. Now that would be one wonderful Christmas gift for everyone!!

I must say that our trip to Sweden and Scotland has certainly inspired curiosity in us as we will likely continue a quest to find out more information about our ancestors. The Swedes and Scots are trying to capture what they can as far as immigrant history. We look forward to sharing parts of our archives with them.

Today we made a two-hour stop at Falkirk Wheel to watch the fascinating feat of lowering boats via a rotating boat lift from the Union Canal down to the Forth and Clyde Canal.  The difference in the levels of these two canals is 79 feet! Steve and I also found a walking path back to Roman Ruins, which was pretty dog-gone awesome to tread upon. In the U.S. we get excited about our colonial history or at the very least, the phenomenal ruins and cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people of Mesa Verde National Park. To walk where the Romans walked, was pretty amazing too!

Scotland has been a thrilling, beautiful, and very emotional time. We are so grateful. How I wish there was a way to turn back time about 25 years ago so that my parents could have realized their trip to Scotland. It has been such a thrill to have a photocopy of their map, with their details carefully noted on it, and to use it as part of our traveling guide. Great-grandfather's journal has been an incredible connection to our pathway through the Highlands as well. We would read sections of it and glance up from the print to see what he most likely would have been recounting.

Tomorrow we're off to Sweden on Ryan Air and likely another bit of juggling with the baggage contents to get the weight within their restrictions. Once we land at Stockholm's Skvasta airport we need to gain a quick link on their airport bus. 80 minutes on that to Stockholm Central terminal. Then we need to catch the train to Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. Once there, we need to call for the Park Inn hotel shuttle to get us.

Thursday morning shuttle back to Arlanda from the hotel and then off to Chicago.

So, with a very full and grateful heart, from Steve & I to you, we sign off from Scotland. "Beam me up Scottie!"

Love,

Diane

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5Jul/100

Greetings from Fort William, Scotland!

Since my last posting, we made our way to the northern reaches of the Scottish Highlands to Durness. The scenery is most indescribable. One could use adjectives such as desolate, breath-taking, magnificent, awesome, barren, lush, and more! The beaches are quite magnificent with their grand cliffs on either side and the North Sea surf pounding onto the beaches. The sand is a light tan. Sand dunes crowd in between the cliffs and encroaching coastline from above. The water looks so tropical with its deep torquoise, deep royal blue, and the crisp line of the horizon beyond. One day the clouds were puffy and sparse with a very beautiful sky-blue since the humidity was low. The next day was gale-force winds providing a pounding sound throughout the day. The clouds were low and brooding. How different the scenes looked in the change of day.

We stayed in a croft house with a family who own sheep and raise border collies. Crofts are farms, especially designated in the Highlands as part of the effort to populate the area with sheep and depopulate of people back in the 1800s. Steve and I made our way to Bettyhill to view the Strathnaver museum with its MacKay room. My great-great Grandmother Catherine MacLennan was born a MacKay (pronounced MacKi). I now would like to do further research to see if her family was part of the first Highland Clearances, which may have brought them south.

Yesterday Steve drove us 300 miles southward along the east coast of the Highlands to Fort William. After our first day of driving on the opposing side of the road, I became reluctant to continue driving. He has done an incredible job.

It is rainy here today so we're taking advantage of the local library, coffee shops, and shopping district along the Loch. We may take a walk up to the beginning area of the Caledonian Canal, where the MacLennan's caught a steamship to Glasgow as part of their immigration to the U.S.

Tomorrow we'll make our way near the Edinburgh airport for a stay at a place to be determined. We shall "wing it" in finding a place. Any place with little driving in the city will be good. Then on Wednesday we fly to Stockholm, negotiate the bus system to the Arlanda airport area for a night's stay. We fly home on Thursday to Chicago.

Love from Scotland,

Diane

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1Jul/102

Goosebump kind of day!

Today was a goosebump kind of day....as well as Steve's birthday! We went to Eilean Donan Castle for a tour. As I rounded the corner inside the castle, there in front of me was a framed explanation of MacLennan's. The Eilean Donan Castle is owned by Clan MacCrae, and has been for many years. The framed explanation told of the Clan MacLennan's significance in being the standard bearers for the Clan MacKenzies back during the turbulent war times in the 16th century. Notices were posted throughout the castle as to "No Photography" allowed. So I went straight to one of the attendants to see if I could get permission to take a photo of the framed text. As I approached him I told him that I was a MacLennan. He broke into a smile and said, " Well, welcome home! I am Richard MacLennan!" We enjoyed a nice chat followed by his encouraging me to take a photo of the framed text. We had our photo taken together, exchanged contact information, and said our goodbyes.

In our research of the area, we heard that Middlestrom, where my great-great grandfather John McLennan lived and where at least 4 of his and Catherine McKay McLennan's children were born, is actually Stromemenach. This former crofting community has been reduced to ruins scattered across the hillside above the crofters (farmers) closer to the sea. So today Steve & I hiked up to the old area in the rain. It was there that I let free in the wind the oak leaf that I took from my great-grandfather Lachlan's gravesite in Belle Plaine, Iowa. An emotional moment for me to say the least.

Then the sun broke out and the rain stopped. Aha....a chance to skip the stone!! Steve and I drove to the bay portion of Slumbay where we walked out to the water's edge thanks to the low tide. I skipped the stone that I found on my parent's gravesite. Three little skips and the concentric circles that great-grandfather Lachlan so enjoyed creating. Another emotional moment!

Tonight is our final night in Lochcarron. It has been a precious time. We leave in the morning for Durness to stay with a Martin MacKay at his B&B. We hope to take a ferry to Cape Wrath too. Internet access probably won't happen for about a week or until we are home.

Love to you all! Scottish blessings too!

Diane

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