Neglected passion & road tripping

Life has taken over. I got a new job and I’m working full time again. That along with my other job as daughter, wife, and mother, I haven’t had a moment to read any letters, let alone post about them in a thoughtful way.

And then last summer we took an epic road trip to Baltimore and Washington DC. A trip to DC would not be a trip to DC without a visit to the Library of Congress and time with KCB’s collection.  As we were discussing what we wanted to do and see and show the kid, I mentioned that I wanted at least one day at LOC if not two. Realistically I figured I’d squeeze in a morning or afternoon.

The list of “to dos” was long and there just wasn’t going to be enough time to see and do everything we wanted to see and do. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum. Ford’s Theatre. The National Mall. Air and Space (downtown and in Virginia). American History. Natural History. Harper’s Ferry. Fort McHenry. USS Constellation. Mount Vernon. Postal Museum.

The husband suggested I go do research while they do Air and Space. And that will probably take two days to do both locations. So why not do two days at LOC, he said. (Another reminder why I married him!)

Did I mention it was a road trip? Two days driving east and then two days driving back home. We decided to not do Tennessee twice. It’s a long enough state going one way and we drive it so much. We wanted to see something different. So going out we drove through Kentucky and West Virginia! So beautiful!

View from our hotel in Versailles, Kentucky

Our first night was in Versailles, Kentucky – just west of Lexington. As we drove toward our hotel, there was a huge sign announcing “Future Home of Frontier Nursing University.” Wait! What?

My brain started clicking! KCB’s daughter, Mary Carson Breckinridge, founded the Frontier Nursing Service in 1925 and I knew it was based in Kentucky but Appalachian Kentucky not suburban Lexington. I’d randomly picked this hotel because it was west of Lexington and solid 7 to 8 hour drive from Little Rock. Then I thought “Wait on second!” My fingers started doing the walking and with help from, I was reminded that KCB is buried in Lexington. In the family plot with Clifton, Mary, James, and the rest of the Breckinridges.

But we had a long day ahead of us and we really needed to get an early start. Turns out the Lexington Cemetery opens at 8 am. And getting the husband to visit a cemetery is one of the easiest tasks in life.

Katherine Carson Breckinridge’s gravestone at Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky

In many ways this felt like a pilgrimage. I’ve spent years studying this woman, learning every detail of her life. I’ve located and visit the place where she grew up. I’ve found houses she lived in on Google maps. But to visit her grave was different. The morning was beautiful. The sky was that Robin’s egg blue we get in the summer. Because we started at 8am, the heat and humidity hadn’t reached it peak. And we were the only people there that early. We stopped at the office and picked up a map. We visited Henry Clay’s mausoleum and strolled along between the headstones. There were spider webs that would rival Charlotte’s creations. The trees were anicent giants providing shade and protection to the 1000s buried there.

The Breckinridge plot includes dozens of graves. KCB’s grave is in a row with her husband, children and their spouses. The grave of John C. Breckinridge (KCB’s father-in-law) is just to the left and includes a statue of the former Vice President and Confederate General. Cousins Madeline McDowell Breckinridge, Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge, and the notorious W. C. P. Breckinridge are just a few feet over. Some people might find this morbid but a beautiful morning spent at a cemetery is one of my favorite activities. The stone work of most older cemeteries is true craftsmentship and there is so much symbolism in much of the art work.

This was a wonderful first moment of the first day of our epic road trip.

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