“And the Road Goes On Forever”

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The less said about the last two days of driving across the country, the better. Suffice it to say that there was a great deal of traffic on the interstates once we got past Chicago. The dogs no longer had the freedom to romp across vast empty fields. So they began to get cabin fever. More traffic meant meaning to have to pay closer attention to angry drivers which meant we were getting grumpier. McDonald’s consistent food tasted the same,which is their point, but it got very very tiring to eat it.

I was so elated when we came to this sign that I pulled the van into the Welcome Center and ran in and said, “Welcome us. We just arrived from Oregon.” We got our first taste of New England reserve when neither clerk responded. Then my husband, from Alabama, saw the road was now called “The Yankee Highway.” We decided not to take a photo of that to send to his mother! My husband had actually been taught in the 1960’s that the Civil War was the “war of Northern aggression.” He didn’t believe it then or now, but the sign did spark a lively conversation about our different high school history classes.

We finally arrived at a local motel where we stayed before we signed the final papers to purchase the house. We couldn’t understand why the wife was so unhappy to be selling us their home.( I will write about that soon.) We got the keys, drove over to our new home, entered and learned that the movers were delayed for another three days. We had no furniture, save one lawn chair. We did have blankets, drove straight to Sleepy’s Mattress, pleaded our case, and had a new bed by that evening.

It may have been unfurnished, but the heat worked, we had appliances, and I cooked us real food–the first in over a week.

The dogs ran around the back yard, reluctant to ever enter the van again. We had made it across the country in the dead of winter and we were still speaking! Thank G.O.D.!

“Why Dixon, Illinois?”

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I know that we went to Dixon, Illinois and saw this house, the boyhood home of former President Reagan. But looking at a map today, I have no idea why. Neither of us had any great love of Reagan, and it looks as if we got off the right highway and onto Interstate 88. That might explain why when I try to remember this day all that returns is a general sense of grumpiness.

My husband and I love each other. We both loved both of our dogs. However, we were getting really really tired of each others’company. Tired of motels. Tired of Egg McMuffins, and we hadn’t even reached Eastern Standard Time. The phrase “Great Plains” should have been called “the never ending story.” We could well imagine earlier people thinking they went on forever. So it looks as if we missed a turn and got on Interstate 88.

I am not sure seeing Reagan’s house made lemonade out of lemons. But it was dusk, and we saw it and then found a motel and then went to eat at a tacky restaurant and called it a day. Only Ohio, Pennsylvania and a bit of New York stood between us and Connecticut. How bad could it be?

“Parlez Vous Francais?”

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In the spring of 1969, a good friend and I took a road trip to Quebec. At college, there were three full weeks of what was called “reading period” to  allow time to study for end of the year exams. That year the reading period was in May for the late May exams. My friend and I had one course in common, and we each had only one other final. At that time, a full load was four demanding classes, but two of ours did not have finals scheduled.

Reading period was usually extremely intense. That year was even more nerve racking. Students had gone on strike at Harvard to protest the Viet Nam War and had occupied University Hall. Harvard had called in the Cambridge City Police, an unusual cooperation between town and gown. Tension on campus was high and everyone was expected to have a stance about the political situation. Sally, my friend, and I were ready for a break and decided to hit the road in my beloved Ford.

Sally was from Montreal so she suggested we start there, then drive out the Gaspe(forgive my English keyboard) Peninsula, then drive a loop through New Brunswick, Maine and New Hampshire back to Cambridge. This sounded wonderful, so we set out. We had the settlement money from the Cambridge Small Claims Court which we figured would be sufficient. We had no other plans.

In those days, Quebec was solidly French and few people spoke any English. We each had schoolyard French, so we muddled along all right. The rock above is in Perce, a lovely town on the north side of the peninsula. We had lunch in a little hotel there, then drove on. Gaspe at that time was very isolated and not designed for tourists. Each little town announced itself around a bend with a church steeple. Outdoor bread ovens abounded. We stopped at one farm and bought some from the housewife using our broken French. We spent that night in the car, stretched out on the very comfortable seats.

Driving further on the route, we stayed at Acadia National Park, which was warm for May and we studied for our mutual exam at a picnic table. Later we bought lobster from a Maine pound and ate it by the ocean.

By the time we returned to Cambridge we were rested, well prepared for our exams and had a perspective of a larger world than that of the insulated university. What more could you ask from a road  trip?

“A Car of One’s Own”

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Virginia Woolf wrote a wonderful book A Room of One’s Own about the space a woman needed to be a thoughtful writer. I amended this to suit my automobile theme which continues today.

Above is pictured a 1965 Ford Fairlane 500, 289 with a dual carburetor, blue and white, with four doors. It is, regrettably,  not the original car of my own. But it is a remarkable likeness to mine, save the fancy wheels which I didn’t have.

In the autumn of 1968, when I was about to return to Cambridge, Massachusetts for my senior year in college, my parents surprised me with the gift of my father’s car. He was going to buy a new car and thought I might enjoy having one for my last year of school. The only major problem was that the car and I were in Oregon, 3084 miles away. But I, the intrepid(or loony) 21 year old said yes to the cross country solo trek.

Armed with a map of the United States and a Shell Oil credit card, I set off on the interstate. In those days, I could use the Shell card at motels as well as gas stations. I also had traveler’s checks for meals. I drove each day until I was exhausted and then checked into a handy motel. One morning I woke up to see a large water tower with WSP on it. I had, unknowingly, slept next door to the Wyoming State Penitentiary!

Wyoming had no speed limit and I had the thrill of blasting the AM radio and careening down the road at 110 mph. The previous day, as I drove the hill down into Ogden, Utah, I had heard the Beatles song Hey Jude for the first time. It astonished me and is forever linked to my long trek.

By the time I got to New Jersey, on the way to stay with friends who lived in Washington Heights in New York City, I was exhausted. I could not figure out how to get to the George Washington Bridge. I could see it, but pulled over and wept at my inability to get on it. I pulled myself together, tried one last time, and successfully crossed the Hudson to the safe arms of my worried friends. There were of course no cell phones then, and they couldn’t figure out what was keeping me.

Well, I wasn’t Charles Lindbergh on his solo flight across the Atlantic, but it challenged me deeply. I made it across the country by myself. That was a true accomplishment.