Monday, August 17, 2009

Journeys Taken

Fifty years ago today, on August 17, 1959 my family arrived in the Bay Area in our 1955 Chevy Bel Air, a green and white two-door sedan with a fully loaded car top carrier and an equally loaded trunk. (Ah, the capacity of that trunk! ) We had spent the night in Virginia City, Nevada, an historic silver mining town. I remember a Polar Bear mounted in a glass case--something that was rather shocking then and would be utterly appalling, if not actually illegal, now. The beauty of the creature still haunts me.

Papa knew that we would make it to our destination that day, so he allowed time for
lingering and being on vacation as it were. We had spent the last nine days driving across the country from Toledo, Ohio. Across the Midwest plains states, bypassing Chicago--Papa did not like city traffic, (Much later I realized that he had actually lived in Chicago for a short time when he was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Station to fill out his contracted term with the Navy after the war in the Pacific ended.)

Through Iowa with its, "Iowa has more pigs than people" highway signs, we stayed overnight in Nebraska at a Motor Inn, a wonderful place that had been built in the 1920's. With its two bedrooms, spacious bathroom, front entry hall that would easily have doubled as a sitting room if it had had furniture, and tiny kitchen ("kitchenette") we could have spent a week there--if there had been something to do!

Our journey took us to Wyoming and I remember eating lunch in a town called Laramie and marveling at the splendor of the mountains. "Purple mountains majesties" became real to me that day. Onwards to Utah, with even grander scenery we stayed over on the fourteenth of August. The next day, the fifteenth, was the Feast of the Assumption, a Holy Day of Obligation, so Papa inquired of the cashier at the restaurant where we ate supper and then we found the church we would go to in the morning and checked the schedule for morning Mass.

Very bright and early the next morning we arrived at an empty parking lot and watched sunrise in the Rocky mountains, wondering where the people were who should be attending Mass. Only after we had been sitting there for a bit, did our parents realize that the time zones had changed and we were an hour ahead of everybody! We went back to our motel and gathered our things together so that we would be ready to leave after Mass. We could not eat breakfast, of course, because we wanted to receive Communion and the laws of fasting still held in 1959.

I remember seeing sisters in the congregation with the great white headdresses that would later show up on tv in Sally Field's "the Flying Nun". Daughters of Charity, perhaps? Mass was quick and breakfast eaten and we were on our way again, marveling still at the deep drop and glorious mountains that we drove through. That night was spent in Elko, Nevada, I believe and then two days later we were home, although we did not call it that yet.

It was the essence of the great American Road Trip. I may still have the AAA "Triptik" somewhere in the house. It changed our families lives, of course, for we became Californians and our parents lived out there lives here, as I very well may, in this house that I still live in.

I am grateful for these memories and for my family today. Grateful too for the Bay Areas's natural air conditioning, that I love!

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