Travels with Terri: America has History, too!


Travels with Terri
a monthly column by Terri O'Connell

Growing up there was one thing consistent in our lives. Travel. Vehicle travel. We drove almost everywhere we went. My dad purchased a motor home while I was little, and we drove it everywhere. While I remember the driving part to be stressful (dad always threatened to throw the toys out the window if we would not behave), it is also some of the best memories I have about growing up. If he had a destination in mind, we would stop at some of the bigger attractions for a visit to break up the trip.


As an adult, I have always tried to put a historical landmark on our vacation list. When my eldest daughter was just over a year old, we went to Mississippi for a wedding. We stayed with friends of the family and would go someplace different each day. We spent a day in Alabama, a day in Tennessee, and, well, I am not sure where else we went! We saw the Natural Bridge, and we saw Elvis Presley’s home. Again, she was only one year old. She does not remember this trip, but I do. And, I am glad we did it.


As I had more kids, the trips stopped for some time. But, when we planned one to drive east with a friend, Gettysburg was on that list. Unfortunately, we had major car problems and were not able to make that stop.


The point is this: there is so much around us that can give us a glimpse of the past. Do we take a peak and see what it was like? Or, do we continue to drive and say we can do that another day?


I opt to stop and see what I can, let my children experience what is there, and hope that we all walk away with something learned. Let me stress that if you are on a road trip with me, be prepared to stop. Once, while visiting my Grandma in Alabama, I looked around and decided that we needed to see Helen Keller’s home, Ivy Green. It is a beautiful estate with history of the area and information on Helen. I made my grown male cousins go with me. They did not understand my thought process on going. But, they walked away amazed at all Helen had been through and what she accomplished in her life. Maybe they don’t remember everything we learned that day, but, when we left, they said they were glad that they came with me and my kids.


Are there favorite places that you stop? Someplace you have to see if you pass it? I have a few that I like to see, and the Look Out Mountain Incline is one of them. I remember going to the top of Look Out Mountain and seeing the Civil War monuments. The last time I drove through there the incline had not opened yet, and I was with three college-aged girls. (I was not one of them! I was the mom on the trip.) No waiting for it to open; we had an agenda.


Who knew back then, when I was just a young kid, that history would become such an important part of my life? I guess if my dad listened to my suggestions for family trips, he should have guessed. I always wanted to go east and see the Declaration of Independence (still want to do this), the Liberty Bell (finally did this about 5-6 years ago), and go to Boston (did this 2 years ago.) The history there is abundant and should be seen by all.


Yes, we want to take our kids overseas and let them experience Italy and Europe. Heck, even I want to go to Ireland. Do we as parents forget all the history that surrounds us? I continually push it on my kids and my friends, and I hope that one day they will understand that America is a great place to explore and well worth the time you invest in doing so.


Interested in more things related to traveling and seeing history in the making? Launching Vacations and Birthday Blasts is a post I wrote about a trip in 1983. Or, you can view all of my Examiner articles HERE.


To ask Terri a travel question, email her at with the subject line, "Travels with Terri."


Copyright © 2012 Terri O’Connell.

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of The News from the Field / The In-Depth Genealogist. Receive The In-Depth Genealogist free by subscribing HERE.

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