earliest long trip I took was with my parents back to their native
Ohio when I was 18 months old. Needless to say, I donít remember
anything of this, but I know it was the only time I ever saw any of
my great grandparents. (I occasionally remind my two grandsons how
lucky they are to have many grandparents and great grandparents in
their lives. Johnny, now 21, knew five of his great grandparents and
one great, great grandfather, while 8-year old Mikie has had three
great grandparents in his life.)
Ohio for several months during the winter, since my fatherís job in the
sawmill was seasonal, winter snow making the area inaccessible. He
had neglected to make it clear that he was returning, and when we
came back, his job had gone to someone else, so he worked for a
different mill for one season until he could get back to his
my childhood and teen years, our family trips were either one-day
visits to nearby
Yosemite National Park, or long weekend visits to relatives in southern
Ventura and the
San Diego area. For those of you familiar with Yosemite
only in recent times, it may be surprising and depressing to know
that in those days we would drive to all the major tourist stops in Yosemite Valley, never having any problem finding a parking space.
Way back in 1969 my wife, Jackie, and I decided
to take a really nice and adventurous vacation Ė all the way to
Mexico. The kids were five and three at the time, so we figured somewhere
on the ocean would be a place everyone would enjoy. We settled on
Estero Beach Resort, a few miles south of
Ensenada, about an hour south of the border.
In those days crossing the border was not the
hassle it is today, and Tijuana, which has over a million people now, was a large city of 300,000.
We stopped first to visit friends in
who had attended elementary school with Jackie in the
San Fernando Valley, and her husband Leonard. We had a nice time there, and they and
another couple made plans to join us in
for a day during the weekend.
We got into
with no trouble, and headed south on a very good highway to our
destination. The motel was located right on a nice little bay, with
clean sand and remarkably warm water. I am not very big on swimming,
and anywhere I had been in the ocean before always seemed too cold,
but this was just right.
We had a good time swimming and playing on the
beach, even though I had a brief, painful encounter with a
jellyfish. It hurt for a while, but was nothing excruciating, and
didnít detract from our fun.
We wandered around the town of
Ensenada, buying some souvenirs, eating tacos from the street vendor,
and taking pictures, some of which appear below. We also took a motorboat tour of the harbor.
At the motel,
the kids made the acquaintance of
Lalo and Pita, who I believe were the children of an employee there,
and had a good time playing, with no need for a common language.
Although I tried out my high school Spanish a
few times, for the most part everyone who catered to tourists spoke
English (and accepted American money).
When we returned, we had only a short delay at
the border. We had to give up a bottle of Mexican beer that we had
brought, but conveniently there was a gentleman hanging around the
entrance station who was only too willing to take it off our hands.
We headed on home, with movies and photos and some great memories.
Cousin Donís 1971
Some time around 1970 my cousin Don
Hall stopped to
visit us in
Fresno. He grew up in
County, but was now living in
Oregon. He had been released from the Army a year or so earlier after
Vietnam. He and a friend took the money they had saved and each bought 50
acres adjacent to each other on a mountain near OíBrien, five
miles north of the California border on US Highway 199, which runs
from Crescent City CA to Grantís Pass OR. OíBrien was just a
post office, store and gas station; the nearest ďrealĒ town was
Cave Junction, about ten miles away, with a population of two or
three thousand. Twenty five miles up the highway was the city of
Grantís Pass, where 199 meets Interstate 5.
Don had built a cabin from logs he cut on his
property, and was eking out a living selling firewood, doing odd
jobs, and whatever. The life in rural
Oregon sounded fascinating to my wife and me, having been city dwellers for
most of the last 12 years or so, and we decided to visit Don during
the Thanksgiving holiday in 1971.
We loaded up our Opal mini-brute with two
little kids, age seven and five, plus way more cold weather clothing
than we would ever need, and a ready-cooked turkey, and headed
north. We went up Highway 99 and I-5 through Sacramento, Redding, Weed, Yreka,
Ashland, Medford and Grantís Pass, where we turned south toward
Donís. We found his turn-off with no trouble, and headed up about
a mile and a half of somewhat primitive dirt road (no big deal,
since weíd done a lot of camping on similar roads in the Sierra).
In addition to my cousin, we found a group of
four or five guys that he knew from
San Diego, who had all come up with the same idea we had Ė getting away
from it all in the backwoods of
We had a great Thanksgiving dinner, but we also
had little cooperation from the weather. It started raining not long
after we got there, and rained all three or four days we were there,
except for a break of about an hour and a half one day. We took
advantage of this to go out walking, heading over the mountain to
visit George, Donís friend who owned the other side of the
The life in this rural setting took such a hold
on us that on the way home we talked about chucking it all and
moving up there. Fortunately the realization that we had no skills
for such primitive living soon hit home, and a couple of nights back
in the comfort of our home helped us realize what a silly idea that
However, I have made many trips to Donís
since, getting to know him and his family. He is about eight years
younger than I, so when we saw each other in our childhood, he
was just a little kid, and I spent most of the time with his two
older brothers. I have watched as the cabin became a real house; as
he became a father when his girlfriend gave birth to a daughter; and
later as he married and had two more children, all of whom are grown
up now. His economic situation also improved over the years as he
became a building contractor and owner of several rental properties
in Cave Junction.
Somewhere in my report on Later Trips I will
report on a trip to Donís with my older grandson Johnny.
first major trip as an adult was to
Ohio in 1973, when my daughters were about seven and nine. Packed into my
yellow Opal station wagon, we headed north from
Fresno on state 99 and Interstate 5, then east on I-80, which we followed
nearly to our destination.
the Interstate in
Indiana, heading north into
Michigan, and followed state roads to the home of my aunt Lnora in Adrian
MI. My maternal grandmother was living with them at the time, so my
daughters had their one visit with her. She had visited her other
three daughters and families in
California several times in her younger years, but was no longer able to travel
or live on her own.
paternal grandmother, who lived in
California, had two sisters, a brother-in-law, and a brother living at that
time, all in northwest
Ohio. We visited all of them, in addition to other relatives in
Michigan. I donít recall how long we were there, but it was probably a
week or so.
trip home, we went through
Chicago, then headed northwest into
Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota. We drove through
the Badlands, visited the famous Wall Drug Store, and stopped at Mt.
Rushmore. We followed I-90 much of the way into
Wyoming. We then took a more northerly route, entering
Yellowstone National Park through the
Shoshone National Forest.
tour of Yellowstone
was much too short, lasting through that afternoon and the next
morning. We stopped at
Yellowstone Falls, and saw a bull moose in a meadow, then spent the night at a lodge
near Old Faithful. Arriving on a Friday or Saturday in mid-summer, we were lucky
enough to get a cabin with no advance reservations.
next day we went south out of Yellowstone, and through Jackson Hole
Grand Teton National Park. We took a road over the mountains, dropping back down to rejoin
the Snake River
Idaho, and following it to the western part of that state. We entered the
high desert country of eastern
Oregon, and drove south and west to my cousinís house in the
southwestern part of the state, five miles from the
California border near Cave Junction. After a night or two there, we drove
northeast back to I-5 and headed home.
1978: In 1978
I had acquired a blue Datsun pickup with a white camper shell.
Several people I had known in
Fresno had moved to scattered locations around the
country and it was time for
another cross-country adventure. The girls were 11 and 14, and we
were joined by their best friend Angie, who I believe was 12.
I had worked with at KJEO Channel 47 was living in Helena MT so this
was our first destination. This time we went east over Tioga Pass
through Yosemite, then on into
Nevada. We turned north to I-80, and followed it a short distance before
going northeast into
Montana. We had a nice visit with Harold and Joyce, staying there
east, we generally paralleled the course of the Missouri River, passing the mouth of the
Yellowstone River canyon where it comes out of the mountains. We spent a fairly long
Montana, since it is over 600 miles across, then entered
North Dakota. We took a northeasterly heading toward
Duluth MN, where we spent the night with my sister Linda.
then joined us for the trip across northern
Michiganís Upper Peninsula, then down through the Michigan Mitten to Aunt Lnoraís in
Adrian. We made this our headquarters while we visited people in the area.
This included my parents, who were then spending every other summer
Ohio, living in their motor home at a cousinís RV park in Delta OH.
there for about three days, then we headed south through
Cincinnati, where Angieís grandparents lived. That evening we had the most
miserable humid conditions I have ever experienced. I was unable to
get to sleep until a thunder shower came through and cooled things
off. In the morning Angieís grandma fixed a breakfast fit for a
farm laborer Ė bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes, and I donít recall
what else. Stuffed full, we headed northeast across
Pennsylvaniaís tiny panhandle, and into
New York, our destination being
Cincinnati we drove on a freeway with six or eight lanes in each direction. We
were zipping along at normal speeds, but the traffic coming into the
city the other direction was moving at a crawl. The same conditions
prevailed going through
Buffalo, but we were zipping into the city, while the commuters crawled
Niagara Falls in time to walk across the street from our hotel to the falls and
take a look. Then I drove about 15 blocks across town and back to
get pizza. The next day we spent more time looking at the falls,
including a one hour trip across the bridge into
Canada to see that side. Although the height of Niagara
is not that great compared to the thousand foot or more drops
weíre used to in Yosemite, the volume of water is unbelievable, and itís a truly impressive
brought with us all the music cassette tapes I owned, stashed in
boxes here and there, including a large number of them on the floor
of the front seat. The Canadian border guards were suspicious that I
was bringing them in to sell, but I convinced them that we needed
them all for our entertainment on the road.
our night at the falls we headed east across upstate
New York to
Phoenix, a small town near
Syracuse. Here we stayed with Wayne and Carol Wheeler, who had lived in
California for a few years before returning to their native upstate
of ďback storyĒ explanation is in order here. When Teri, my
older daughter, turned six, we joined the YMCA Indian Guides/Indian
Maidens program. Also at the first orientation meeting was Dusty
Smith and his daughter Charlene. He soon recruited a friend and
co-worker, Ron Reed. Ron had met Dusty's brother in the Navy, and
had moved to
Phoenix NY to join the brothers in the wallpaper business.
became friends with several of the Indian Maiden families,
especially the Reeds. A couple of years later, Ronís brother Gary
and two friends, Wayne Wheeler
Pullam, came to stay in
Fresno for a while. At the time they were young hippie-types, hitch-hiking
around the country, and sporadically employed. I was newly separated
and had a three bedroom house, so they stayed with me for a few
months, soon joined by
Wayneís girlfriend Carol.
this, another half dozen or so friends and acquaintances from
Phoenix made their way to
Fresno. Some returned within weeks, and ultimately Gary and another guy,
the late Mike Richards, were the only ones besides Ron to become permanent
California residents. For a while nearly all the people I hung out with were
Phoenix NY. I had kept in touch with Wayne and
over the years, so we decided to make
Phoenix NY one of the stops on our trip.
Phoenix Wheelers took us up into the Adirondacks
(my memory says we went as far as Old Forge); then another day we
went to a state park on
Lake Ontario. We also saw some of the landmarks of
Phoenix that weíd heard about so many times, and had a picnic at Carolís
New York, our next destination was
Memphis. We traveled south through
West Virginia into
Kentucky, then west and south into
Memphis we spent the night with Judy and Tom Scarano. Judy worked at the
welfare department when I started there, but Iíd known her through
my sister even before that. With the short amount of time we had, we
didnít do anything but visit and eat before we headed west across
Arkansas and on to
Oklahoma. Here we visited some more people with a YMCA/Phoenix connection.
Dusty met Steve McCullough in the Navy, and he and his wife Roseanne
moved from Washington to Fresno, also to work with the Smiths;
however, by this time they had moved on to Wagoner OK.
lived near a big lake in a fairly rural setting. Our visit here
included a trip into
Tulsa to check out the local redneck bar.
was our final stop visiting people; now our goal was to get across
New Mexico, and
Arizona and back home as soon as possible. I donít recall a lot of details
about this part of the trip, but I know we ate breakfast in a
roadside restaurant where the service and the food were terrible.
spent a night in
Gallup, NM, and ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant in
Albuquerque. Iím not sure if we spent another night anywhere before we got to
Needles, just inside the
California border on what is now Interstate 40. I do remember that most of this
Texas was on old Highway 66, since I-40 was not yet complete across this
section. My favorite stop, just for gas, was
Flagstaff, AZ, which was cool and surrounded by beautiful pines and other
Needles we made it home to
Fresno, having traveled about 7,000 miles in 30 days, never staying longer
than three days at any one stop. Of course, I was working at the
time, so in another day or so I was back at the grind, but the seed
had been planted for the idea of seeing as much of this country as
possible, a goal I am now carrying out a few miles at a time.
Sadly, I took very few pictures on these trips. I may have some on
slides that have not yet been scanned; if and when I find them,
they'll be added below.
those days, the Interstate Highway System was not complete. Most
stretches of most roads were done, but there were gaps. On our 1973
trip, we had 50 miles of two-lane road when we entered
Nebraska on Interstate 80.
which essentially replaced Route 66, was not completed through
Arizona till about 1980. Iím almost certain that our entire trip across
that state was on the legendary
now, check out this report, condensed from an article in The Fresno Bee
a lot to celebrate about the
U.S. interstate highway system, which turns 50 today.
one thing, here's the number of traffic lights on its 47,000 miles:
zero. For another, here's the minimum lane width: 12 feet. And the
minimum right shoulder width: 10 feet. That's three reasons that
interstates, mile for mile, are twice as safe as all other
more on the country's main arteries, which President Dwight
Eisenhower championed as a means of moving military materiel quickly
from coast to coast:
make up just 1% of total
U.S.road miles, but they carry a quarter of all traffic and 40% of all
60,000 people ride over the average mile of interstate highway
drivers could cover about 250 miles in a dawn-to-dark day on the
road. Interstates doubled that.
do interstates feel more congested these days? Because they are. In
the past decade, their traffic volume increased 29%. Total
interstate lane miles increased just 4% in the same period.
state has no interstates?
Hawaii has highways that are considered interstates because they're paid
for out of the same federal fund and built to the same standards,
but they're designated with an H instead of an I."