Notes from the Road (5) – Travels with Ivan

You’ve met my new Ukrainian friend, Dr. Ivan Sopushynskyy, as we took short trips here in Pennsylvania to a logging site and to a truss and beam operation. But in March and April, we got serious and really hit the road. The next few posts will hit the highlights of our waypoints.


We headed South to Florida and back in March, and to the great lakes in April. I discovered that as interesting as our Pennsylvania timber industries and forests are, they are in many ways similar to those of western Ukraine where Ivan is from. So, in order to help him get a fuller experience of the diversity of the American forest industries, I knew we had to hit the road. And hit it, we did.


Unfortunately, I can’t share my excellent documentary photography and videography from the southern leg with you. Through some type of technical glitch I still don’t understand, I somehow lost all my photos and video in the process of transferring them to my laptop computer on the last day of the trip…and didn’t realize it until a few days later, when I couldn’t find them. Luckily, Ivan took some good stuff at a few key points on the trip, so I’ll use his for the southern swing.


We stopped first at our state capitol in Harrisburg, where one can view a level of architecture and building magnificence that will probably never again be equalled. When you take the full tour, you’re simply blown away by the level of thought that went into every chamber of the building.

The Chamber of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The painting is Apotheosis of Pennsylvania, Photo by Ruhrfisch –

From Harrisburg we continued south a few miles to the Gettysburg battlefield. I’ve had the opportunity to tour the site many times, and it gets better every time. Showing the battlefield to Ivan, I realized that as fascinating as our Civil War seems to us, it is only a vague concept in ancient history to non-Americans. And as such, I found it difficult to explain exactly why the war happened in the first place. I’ll say this – I saw the battlefield in a very different light this time, as I struggled to explain not “what” happened, but why it happened at all.

Ahhh, the brave Texans of General Hood’s Division. Most of them never came back from the Wheatfield or the Devil’s Den at the foot of Little Round Top.
For you Texans out there.

As much difficulty as Ivan had grasping our American Civil War, he warmed up considerably to our history at our next stop – Monticello, the home of President Thomas Jefferson. I’ve shared a tour of this great place before on Go Wood, so I can’t add much to that prior account…except to say, that our conversation turned to the real meaning of liberty, and a country’s right to exist, with an earnest intensity as Ivan digested the spirit of the great man in light of Ukraine’s current struggle to establish it’s own place in the world.


We continued to head south through the Virginia mountains, and spent the night in Galax, Viriginia, home to the headquarters and operations of Vaughn-Bassett furniture company. Bright and early the next morning, we met Jim Stout, the director of manufacturing technology for the company, and he led us through the vast maze of the the largest bedroom furniture plant still operating in the United States. There’s a great story behind the company, and its persistent struggle to survive, thrive, and provide jobs to the folks of southwestern Virginia (which you can read about in a book detailing that story, Factory Man by Beth Macy.)


From Galax, we headed into the Deep South. Ride on with us in the next post.


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