25-48 The Second Twenty-Four
49-72 The Third Twenty-Four
73-96 The Fourth Twenty-Four
97-120 The Fifth Twenty-Four
121-on The Sixth Set
49 Pure Michigan
50 Ah, Youth
51 Unlikely Friend
54 Before/After Squared
55 Hawaiiana 1
56 Hawaiiana 2
57 Hawaiiana 3
58 A New Outlook
59 Hawaiiana 4
60 Crash Dummy
61 Dogs, Boards, Kids...
62 Photographic Treasures
63 Hawaiiana 5
64 My Comb is Crooked
65 Call Me A Doctor
66 Hawaiiana 6
67 Home for Christmas
68 Led By Words
69 Pono Bowls
70 Poppy Tour
71 An Invitation
72 Wunderkammer I
HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
The year was nineteen and sixty-three (as we used to say in ancient times). It was nearing the Christmas season (we were allowed to call it that back then) and I started to think of “home” in Michigan. However, I doubt that I had $100 to my name and just didn’t think a dose of “home” was in the cards. I had only been working for a few months in California so I didn’t have much vacation built up either.
Helen, a co-worker, co-bowler, co-drinker, etc., was in a similar financial state, had similar thoughts of “home” in Minnesota, was somewhat adventuresome as was I, and somehow our paths crossed. Now back in those days $10 bought an awful lot of gas, and even with the limited MPG of the time, a car trip to the Midwest with two people sharing the cost was quite feasible. We decided to go and elected to take her car. The car decision was easy. I was driving a decrepit 1955 Ford. The worm gear in the steering column was damaged so I had to turn the steering wheel about 30° before any change was made in direction. Helen was broke because she had just bought a new Mercury Meteor. Repeat – the car decision was easy.
With very little planning or consideration, we each threw a few things in a bag and took off. Along the way Helen thought we should have gotten some maps, but I assured her that this was winter time, we should take the southern route, which was simply Route 66 to Oklahoma and then turn left to Minnesota. I guess somewhere we acquired maps, but I never saw the need.
We stopped at a Hopi Indian Reservation and hiked through a bunch of lava fields. There were fumaroles there (whatever they are) and I scorched my hand by sticking it in one. I also came close to tumbling down the trail due to my leather soled shoes. We were thrilled to witness an Air Force jet-to-jet refueling mission overhead in the smog-free clear skies.
Somewhere along the road we ran out of gas. Police stopped to see what was wrong and took us off to a one-pump “station”. We got enough to get to a place where we could fill up. As we drove off the cop blinked his lights and waved heartily. He kept following us and would wave once in a while – very friendly we thought. Finally Helen remembered that she had left her purse on the back of the car. We stopped, retrieved the purse, and set off again. The cop blinked his lights and waved heartily. This time he cut a U and was off.
At this point my memory dims. I know we traded off driving and sleeping, and maybe we never did stop overnight until we reached Minnesota. Helen took me to the bus station from her folks’ place and it was about -12°. She stopped a cop for directions. He took one look at her CA license and said “Lady if you made it this far, you’ll get to Lagoon Ave.” She made it to the bus station, and I made it to the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan where my folks lived. It was great to be home for Christmas!
Helen with relies The Sandin cottage
In 1963 many aunts, uncles, and cousins lived in the UP as well as my parents, sister and brother-in-law. It was a busy time trying to see all of them. My aunt Marge had lost her husband that year in Chicago, and after a brief stint in Florida, she decided to move back to the UP. She didn’t drive, but she had her husband’s car with her and it was for sale. She offered me a deal that I couldn’t refuse and since I really needed a replacement, I accepted.
I broke the news to Helen. I called her to let her know we’d be returning to California in a truckin’ convoy and I don’t recall her response. But we did. We must have allocated a few days for the return trip because we did do some sight-seeing.
We stopped for some real food at one point and heard that snow flurries were predicted. By the time we got going again there was serious snowfall. Across Oklahoma we hit a blizzard. It snowed so hard we could hardly see each other’s car to keep together. Helen stuck her camera out the window and recorded some of the storm. She wanted a record of where we were for “when they find us”.
We joined a bunch of cars that were following a Greyhound bus and followed them right off the road. Workers finally showed up and dug a path back onto the highway. Somehow we kept going and eventually drove out of the storm.
We stopped at an obscure bar one evening for a nightcap. Although they didn’t think it was worth closing for, their toilets were out of order. They directed us to the far side of the parking lot. That worked fine for me, but Helen objected. She drank very sparingly that evening.
We diverted from Route 66 to see Grand Canyon and spend New Year’s Eve. We did some hiking, stopped at the popular overlooks, and enjoyed the sunshine, all with woefully inadequate clothing. But, that was all in keeping with the lack of planning for the entire trip.
I have no idea where that hat came from, or why I was wearing shiny black shoes, or why we wore “Indian blankets” to look at the big hole, but we were young and free of spirit.
Then we came back to reality. Rooms in Grand Canyon Village had been booked well in advance and there was nothing available. We considered napping in the cars after the New Year’s Eve celebration, but there were no remaining reservations for the party either. The best they could do was to recommend that we head south and try Tusayan.
In 1963, Tusayan was a wide (slightly) place in the road just outside of the park. There was a motel on one side and a gas station / pick up store / bar on the other side. (Today Tusayan boasts 6 motels and more than 500 people!) We scored a room at the motel with assurances that the party at the bar was first come-first served with reservations not required.
We moved in and set about getting ready to party. Our first class clothes were somewhat wrinkly from the arduous trip, but Helen knew how to fix that. She turned on the shower and hung up the clothes for a good steam treatment. A quick shower to get rid of the trail dust and we were ready for the big time. We walked across the street to the bar.
The bar was well filled, but I’m pretty sure we were the only tourists there. Locals kept filing in from miles around. Helen fell in love with a guy with a ginchy eye who was a muleskinner at the park. I fell in love with an Indian maid and we made arrangements for her to fly away with me to California the next morning.
Helen and I both had to be at work Thursday after New Year’s Day, so we got up pretty early the next morning. We had about 500 miles to go. My Indian maid was nowhere to be seen and the muleskinner didn’t show up to wave goodbye, so we picked up the pieces of our broken hearts and were on our way.
We skirted the metropolis and sneaked in to Santa Monica from the north. I think I was on auto-pilot most of the trip. I remember driving down from Sepulveda Pass and admiring the show as the city lights were dancing wildly. Helen wanted me to see her to her place in Pacific Palisades and I did. There were 444 steps from the street to her front door (Helen says there were only 127). I had about 4 more miles to go to my place after unloading Helen, but I don’t remember them – and even though I went to work on Thursday and Friday, I don’t remember much of anything else until the next Monday. But we got home for Christmas!