Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Year's jaunt broken up into three parts

(Continued from previous week)

Our year off work didn’t mean that we were on the road each week for 52 weeks.

We sort of broke it down into three separate trips.

The first was a nine-week jaunt as described earlier that took us from home up to Illinois, over to Maine, through Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and into West Virginia and down the Blue Ridge Parkway, to where else, but the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a day or two.

It was then to home from just before Thanksgiving until the latter part of January.

The second leg was a three-month haul that gave us a taste of the Southwest and a good taste of California, especially Yosemite National Park, before heading back home in early May.

The third jaunt was just at three weeks. 

It was the beginning of summer and we made it as far as Rapid City, SD. Some say it was the hottest summer in 30 or more years for the Plains states.

We felt their pain, especially since our vehicle didn’t have an air conditioner and we weren’t budgeted to stay each night in a motel.

But we did succumb. On the way back home there was a good motel stop and a bad one. The first was somewhere in either Nebraska or Kansas or thereabouts.

It was hot and the people running the motel knew how to please anticipated guests. When we went into our room, the air conditioner was running and the room was at a very cool temperature.

Our next motel stop was in Little Rock, AR. It’s funny how we forget where the good spot was and know exactly where the unpleasant point was.

We went into our room, and the air conditioner was not running. The room was hot. The curtains on the window on the front of the room had been pulled back allowing the evening sun to blast in and heat up the brick interior wall.

There was no way those bricks were going to cool down. There’s always the good, the bad and the ugly.

Well, that room was  the bad and the ugly compared to our previous motel stop.

Anyway, we made it home on the evening of the next day.

The journey was over, but the remembrances remain these many years later.

Other experiences will be shared later.

Next post: Oct. 11, 2016 

(Note: We are going on vacation, that is, camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where there will be no wifi for posting during that time.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Heading into unknown a challenge

This is continued from last week and concerns the year my wife and I took off from work to travel around the US.

The decision to take such action wasn’t made over night. The process took a year or two with a look forward to the fact that our only son at the time would be going to school the following year.

Nowadays we could just have claimed to home school him. After all, my wife was a top graduate in her college class and had already taught for two years.  She would have been well qualified.

But that would seem more like work to her during that year than a break.

We had purchased our Chevy van a number of years earlier and had already taken a 21-day, 7,000 mile trip with it.

We felt prepared. But there are always those ifs, ands and buts to think about.

Quitting jobs meant losing income for a year. What would we do upon return?

What about expenses during the year, etc?

Well, we saved some money and we knew how to live frugally. Planning to be out of work for a year, we decided that our budget would be $100 a week on the road.

Now, back in the 1970s that wasn’t too bad, although it wasn’t a lot either.

The weekly budget allowed for just one fillup for our 20-gallon van. If we ran out of gas before we ran out of week, we would just stay put. That worked pretty good.

Spending time with relatives helped and campground fees were pretty reasonable. On occasion, we pulled off and camped in the woods beside a stream.

We budgeted about $25-$30 per week for food, eating up what would  be the most spoilable things first and then at the end of the week eating meatless spaghetti or some can goods.

We enjoyed our coffee, tea and hot chocolate and also ended up eating out (in a restaurant)  usually once a week.

Steak was also on the menu at times. We enjoyed lobster in a Bar Harbor, ME restaurant. But we like Mississippi Blue Crab better, especially boiled in Zatarain’s.

Heading into the unknown is a challenge. But we were up to the challenge and survived, and after some 39 years, the trip marks one of the high points of our lives. (Continued next week)

Next post: Sept. 20, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Today marks milestone anniversary

My wife and I experienced a milestone on this day, 39 years ago.

Our only son, at 5 and a half at the time, was also a part of that event.

The day after Labor Day in 1977 was when we embarked on the adventure of a lifetime.

Some wished us well and others wished that they could also go. And both sets of our parents wondered if we were crazy.

I guess we were, but we did it anyway.

We quit our full-time jobs on the area newspaper, where I had been working for seven years and my wife about three, and decided to devote a year to see as much of the US as we could.

Our transportation was a long-wheel-based Chevy van in which we traveled and lived.

We camped and we visited relatives whether they wanted us to or not.

It was first up to Kentucky visiting relatives and then to Chicago and more of my father's kinsmen.

In-between we spent nights at campgrounds.

The it was east traveling through Indiana, Ohio, a part of Michigan, up into Canada, over to Niagara Falls and New York and Lake Placid followed by a few days spent in Vermont and New Hampshire before hitting the coast and staying a few days at Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME.

The days and nights became colder with the leaves exhibiting their fall foliage.

We learned a lot during that first segment.

In Kentucky, tobacco was still a big thing back in 1977. Our relatives grew the crop and were harvesting it as we arrived.

We joined in.  The tobacco was already cut in the fields and I helped load it onto wagons which carried it to the barn.

The tobacco was hung in the barn to dry. There were different levels of rafters.  As the tobacco was taken off the wagons, it was handed to a worker and passed on up to the one at the top level. The top of the barn was filled up first and then other levels were filled in.

Being around the tobacco is not for everyone. 

A thunderstorm had moved in and it started to rain. The barn took on a smell of its own with so much product hanging.

It got the best of my wife. On the ride back to our relatives’ house, whether it was the tobacco smell, the curvy road or a combination of both, she ended up throwing up.

Not the best of experiences, but memorable none-the-less.

More about our milestone experience next week.

Next post: Sept. 13, 2016