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This story came to me several years ago during a visit to the City of Rocks.  I had stopped to read the graffiti left by early pioneers that were crossing Idaho for points west.  Many of them had been on foot since St. Louis.  They were in a wilderness where there were no motels, burger joints, or hospitals.  A simple cut could become infected and kill you.  There were ferocious animals and angry people who already called the land home.  There were no apps to guide travelers to the next source of fresh water or abundant game.

It was a testament to the human spirit that so many made the overland voyage, and clearly, many never made it to their goal.

The graffiti got me thinking about the brave souls who painted their names on rocks.  If they had made it to what became the western coastal states, wouldn’t they have descendants who were alive today?  I typed some of the more unusual names into a search engine and started adding the names of various western states.  If you get a hit, it’s quite possible someone settled in California and then settled down and begat many children.  Generations later, you would expect.

Let me share an example of how this works.  Charles Ingalls was born in my hometown.  He moved west as a young man and his daughter became a legendary novelist when she wrote her series of Little House books.  Charles left a lot of relatives back home.  When I was a kid, if you flipped through the local telephone book, Ingalls wasn’t simply a common name, there were dozens of them across the county.

I had little success with the names on the rocks in south-central Idaho.

It’s sad.  Some people were on the cusp of reaching what they believed was the Promised Land.  They never made it.

LOOK: Route 66’s quirkiest and most wonderful attractions state by state

Stacker compiled a list of 50 attractions--state by state--to see along the drive, drawing on information from historic sites, news stories, Roadside America, and the National Park Service. Keep reading to discover where travelers can get their kicks on Route 66.

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