The trip from Pennsylvania to California should not have taken as long a time as it did, but with three small boys and my just having had major surgery, we had to take our time. One good thing, however, this extra time brought with it some memories.
Having had a trial “camping” experience in Ohio, we decided to stop and buy a real tent and do it right. We slipped into Indiana sometime during the early morning, and stopped in a small town where we spied a sign that said “Sporting Goods.” I remember that the street seemed to be a rather long, what we would call a city block. My son Doug parked the VW bus and we went to where there were crosswalk marks in the center of the block.
We’re from back east, folks, where we only had crossing marks at corners. In the east crosswalks don’t mean a heck of a lot. Walking out, even when you had the right of way meant absolutely nothing. So we walked out, cautiously looking toward the oncoming traffic and stopped. So did all of the traffic coming in both directions. Those cars sat there waiting for us to cross the street. We were astonished. Our tent purchased, we were soon off to continue our westward adventure.
It wasn’t easy to eat three nourishing meals a day on this trip. Breakfast usually consisted of milk and a roll or cereal. We had one of those containers you can keep cold with ice, sometimes it contained extra apples or bananas, cookies or crackers, and always peanut butter, jelly and bread for evening meals. We had our big meal during the noon hours to save money, that’s when prices are lower than later in the day.
So somewhere –—it seemed in the middle of nowhere — we stopped at a Chinese restaurant, a favorite of the boys and mine. I was surprised that the owner wasn’t Chinese but an older lady who looked a lot like my mother-in-law. The meal was fine, plenty to eat, and it was time to go. My wallet contained three dollars. Out came the American Express Travelers checks. I started to sign one of them when the lady saw what I was doing.
“I don’t take checks, here, lady!” she shouted loud enough for them to hear her in the next county. ”This is a travelers check,” I replied. “I told you,” she screamed some more. “I don’t take checks!” Just then one of the waitresses came by and told her employer that it was ok to take them, buy the owner’s tirade continued. My younger boys were getting frightened.
Finally, the waitress got right up in the owners face and said that she would be responsible for the check being good. We got our change and left. We had to be a 100 miles further on when we had to stop for gas. When Doug told me how much money he needed I did a double check on our finances, having been certain that I had only three dollars in my wallet when we stopped at the restaurant.
I knew what should be in my possession. I was surprised at how much money I had left. I counted everything again. That woman had given me 20 dollars too much change from that travelers check. Okay, drive back a 100 miles. I don’t think so. Or send it back when I couldn’t remember the name of the town, let alone the name of that restaurant?
I’m an honest person, but all I could think about was how that woman had frightened my boys. Lesson learned. I kept the money. After many miles, it was again time to stop for the night and we looked around for a campground. Finding one we set up our new tent, an experience in itself when you are city people who’d never put up a tent.
I remember being terribly tired, and going to sleep almost immediately on that silly blow up mattress wrapped up in a blanket. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, I woke up to see a huge cat crawling out of the opening. The rest of the night was restless, and in the morning Doug had a mess of “chigger” bites on his body and was one very unhappy camper.
Another morning of using the campground facilities, breakfast and off to drive through another state’s border on our dream of getting to the Pacific Ocean.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.