Another smart move, apart from having three of us in a car not well-suited to purpose, was the situation vis a vis gas that year (1979). As I am writing this for a retirement site it may be reasonable to assume that you remember the gas crisis. This was the context for our trip and this in a car that did about 12 miles to the gallon. Yes, gas was cheap by British standards but you just couldn’t buy it unless you joined the line and sometimes not even then. Incidentally ‘gas lines’ was translated for our friends back home as ‘petrol queues’. Our American friends, who all drove Japanese and VW Beetles, laughed and their joke was – it will pass anything on the road except a gas station. How we laughed. But, of course we couldn’t put it off to the following year because we wouldn’t be there, so off we set. Of course every cloud, and there was big silver lining to the gas crisis, no gas meant that Americans, who would be there next year, didn’t travel that year which meant, in turn, that all the campsites were pleasingly empty.
I don’t think I can quite do justice to the glamour of this enterprise. We, little old us from Leeds in Yorkshire, were going to drive 7,000 miles across America, up and back across by a different route. Jack Kerouac step aside, Paul Simon we’ve also come to look for America. Accompanied by Dire Straits, Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor and fittingly, America themselves, the very embodiment of the country, and many others, we drove from Washington DC to Los Angeles, up the coast on Highway One, stopping in San Francisco when it was the place to be, to the other Washington and then back again by the Northern route, via Yellowstone Park etc. We navigated with a Rand McNally road atlas which I still have and also the book of campsites we used to choose our nightly stop overs, those that didn’t involve staying with friends of friends, (we were after all quite poor) or just people we met on the road and who mistakenly suggested we come and stay with them little knowing that we just had the brass neck, as they say in Yorkshire, to show up on their doorstep looking sad, pathetic and British. For some reason we never could fathom being British and having a cute three year old made us an attractive proposition in America that year.
We stayed with people, Hal and Marie for example, who we met in the Rocky Mountain National Park. They lived in Palos Verde and they had a hot tub on the deck, a hot tub for heaven’s sake, overlooking the Queen Elizabeth on Long Beach I think it was. This was the America we’d been reading about. Thank you, Hal and Marie, 36 years too late. And to the many others who made the trip iconic, a big thank you.
I’m going to stop now although there is more to tell. I’ve been writing this in bed first thing in the morning, for some reason this is my best writing time, but now the pups have arrived, two, 7 month old, border collies. They’ve been released to come upstairs, they leap on to the bed snarling and snapping, trying to bite each other’s heads and /or limbs off, pausing every now and then to look at me and say this is fun isn’t it? So I stop writing. And here – the pups – is one big reason why we don’t travel these days. There are others but, at the risk of repeating myself, they may be for another time.
So, yes, retirement, it’s a funny old business. Not at all what we thought it would be. Where is the tabla rasa we expected, that blank sheet on which to design our new life, full of travel? Is it possible to travel without actually leaving home? Of course we have armchair travel which we do plenty of and, as in this post, we have reflections on past adventures. Will we ever hit the highway again? Yes, I think so. I found out you can take your dogs on the plane with you to the USA and we have a bit of land in Colorado which I want to build on, so that might figure in future plans. In the meantime we’re planning on hiring (to see if we like it) a caravan and touring, first round the UK and then Europe with the pups. That will be different.