Puzzling Together History

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A vaguely industrial multi-floor building. Loading docks here, single-story office wings there. A locked up entryway hidden behind overgrown trees, broken branches, knee high weeds, and piles of leaves. A kiln sitting amongst broken appliances line the pavement. Trailers full of tires and trash parked behind tall fences. The dirty outline of where the letters spelling “Hospital” used to be.

Forty-something years ago I was born in the hospital on Chanute Airforce Base in Rantoul, Illinois. The base closed in 1993. The hospital is now used as make-shift housing for migrant workers.

It’s a bit of my story.

It’s a bit of my parents’ story.

Single Shot

There’s nothing like being there. A cliche, yes. But true.

Being able to travel and visit a specific location can bring the history of that spot to life in a way that just reading about it can’t.

Walking from the hospital through the rest of what used to be the Air Force Base - I can better imagine what military life was like for my parents at ages 17 and 18. And then adding a newborn daughter.

Visiting places important to our national history - like Gettysburg - has helped me more deeply and completely understand what led up to the event taking place.  I can then more easily see how it influenced the direction of our country afterwards.

There are more stories here than just my own.

Connect the Dots

To get to the former hospital we walked down Tuskegee Drive.

Our family’s first real encounter with the Tuskegee Airmen was in the movie Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. We met up with them again during a visit to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

We caught another piece of their story in Tillamook, Oregon. Later we visited the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site for the most complete telling of their story.

Now we learn that some of the Tuskegee ground support crew trained here before shipping off to Alabama.

Saving the World

When we can connect the dots of the same story across multiple locations, travel starts to feel like being in a National Treasure movie. We visit multiple locations, get little clues from each place, with a goal to figure out the mystery, solve the big picture, and save the world.

We connected Gettysburg to Picacho Peak, AZ - location of the west-most battle during the Civil War.

We connected Johnny Cash from his boyhood home, to a radio show he perfomed on, to a studio he recorded in.

We’ve connected pieces of the Lewis & Clark Expedition in West Virginia and Montana.

Hints of other stories.

Hints of other stories.

Former hangar at Chanute AFB.

Former hangar at Chanute AFB.

Plane left behind at a now-closed museum.

Plane left behind at a now-closed museum.

The former hospital entrance.

The former hospital entrance.

Clues to the past.

Clues to the past.

What did you use to tell people?

What did you use to tell people?

The copper in this phone junction was stolen long ago.

The copper in this phone junction was stolen long ago.

Richer Education

Field trips are great. Vacations are great. Any way of getting out of your day to day grind, grabbing the kids and going somewhere is worth the effort. You’re sure to learn something.

But the ditched life takes it a step past that. A step higher. A step deeper.

We often get asked what it costs to live on the road in an RV. The way we look at it, our basic cost of living for a year includes a year of education.

At that price, it’s pretty cheap.

Your Puzzle?

What pieces of history have you puzzled together from your travels?

3 Comments Puzzling Together History

  1. Picture of Anthony Anthony October 30, 2016

    Its upsetting that old military bases get left and run down like they do, you would figure our government would do something useful with all of that space!

  2. Picture of aNNa aNNa May 20, 2017

    I stumbled across your blog this morning, and it’s *amazing* what we have in common.  we live in West Michigan, homeschool (5, in this case) kids, and we try to travel - it’s ending up to be from this location, branching out, as we can’t work remotely, but we LOVE to go and see and do.

    Oh, and I grew up 13 years as an Air Force Brat, with my ‘home’ base (K.I. Sawyer AFB) being closed in 1993.  We went up there on our U.P. trip… was it three years ago?  I cried.  Then talked 90mph as I told my family all about the closed and abandoned buildings of my childhood.  Where I went on my first date.  Where I danced at prom.  Where I got my first library card.  All abandoned buildings.  It was bittersweet.

    I will probably try to read through your entire blog soon… but tomorrow we leave for our big Illinois trip (!!).  Which - by the way - I’ve enjoyed your entries from the state.  Thank you!

  3. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink May 20, 2017

    Thanks Anna - there’s almost 7 years of blogging here so you might want to make coffee first..;)

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