Tuesday, February 24, 2015

California or Bust

First posted 07/07

Years ago I watched a Keith Olbermann editorial and was moved to respond with an email to the show filled with BRAVOS as he called for Bush and Cheney to resign. It's not a horrible thing, if the president resigns. What's horrible is 3,586 young men and women dying in this senseless war with more casualties each day.

I remember exactly where I was when Richard Nixon resigned, Reno, Nevada, August 9, 1974. My husband and I were on a month-long odyssey across the US in a renovated GMC van...from sea to shining sea. Practically newlyweds, we were on an adventure to find ourselves, define ourselves, and see the country. We lived in the back of the van with two sleeping bags, a regulation footlocker purchased at the Army Navy Surplus store for our clothes, a Coleman stove and cooler, a three foot tall canteen for water, and various pillows, blankets, first aid kits, books, magazines, maps and a 35 mm Minolta camera.

We left our apartment in Pittsburgh on August 1 and headed west with no particular path in mind...California or bust and back. Listening to the top hits of the 60's and early 70's on the radio, we motored through the Badlands of North Dakota, Mr. Rushmore, the Black Hills of Wyoming and Flagg Ranch; the Big Horn National Forest, the Rocky Mountains, Shoshone National Park and Yellowstone, where we witnessed the force of Old Faithful as it exploded from the ground, felt the heat of natural steaming pools bubbling like a pot on the stove among the giant evergreens, and stood in quiet acquiescence as a bear ambled across the road a mere 50 feet in front of us.

In Salt Lake City and Temple Square on a warm, clear Tuesday evening we listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearse, a sublime moment to remember, and we swam, but mostly floated in the Great Salt Lake the next day. We were part of a cable car accident on Fisherman's Wharf and drove down Big Sur to Los Angeles with the majesty of the Pacific Ocean as our guide.

We visited Disneyland and Hollywood, and camped in Victorville, CA. In Las Vegas we saw a young Bill Cosby and The (original) Temptations. We hiked around the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam in 115 degree heat. We took the Cog Railroad up to Pike's Peak, where it was a chilly 45 degrees and visited the Garden of the Gods outside of Grand Junction, Colorado. We were in awe as we toured the Air Force Academy and Royal Gorge. We paid the most for gas on Big Sur at 75 cents/gallon, but 45 cents/gallon was the norm.

Dinners at the campgrounds were a wide variety of spam and cheese sandwiches, or canned chili on hot dogs, or just hot dogs, or burgers, fried potatoes and onions, chocolate pudding, nectarines, peaches and 7-Up. Once, Dairy Queen hot fudge sundae's were dinner and twice we treated ourselves to a night in a hotel and gourmet meal.

The best nights were at the campgrounds when we'd swim under the stars of the western sky where millions of twinkling orbs filled the galaxy and felt so close you could put a name on each and every one. Or, if it was too cold to swim, we'd get cozy, snuggling in our sleeping bags and play gin rummy.
Occasionally we'd hear snippets of news but mostly our radio was tuned to local farm reports or top 20 tunes. No Satellite or Sirius radio, no cell phones, Internet, email, texts, twitters or Instagrams.

When I think back on this trip, Nixon's resignation is not the first, second or even the third thing that comes to my mind. I knew it was a big deal and I'm sure for a few moments as we learned the news we wondered what was about to happen. But, I remember thinking that the country could get back on course with the business at hand and not be distracted by the stubborn, elitist attitude of those in charge.

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