Today is my wedding anniversary. On July 15, 1972, my husband Warner and I said our vows in the church I attended as a child in West Virginia. Yes, 49 years ago.
On July 24, we set out on our honeymoon, a four-week journey cross country. As an elementary reading specialist in Montgomery County, Maryland schools, I had the
summer off. Working construction and deciding what to do with a history degree, my new husband also had the time free. We’d purchased a bare-bones, (standard shift & no back seat) white Volkswagen van we named Lurch, after the character in the TV show The Addams Family. Warner used his new carpentry skills and outfitted it for camping, but because he grew up sailing, the interior results resembled a boat cabin. I sewed the covers for the mattress and curtains. My aunt gave us a Coleman cooler, lantern, and camp stove as wedding gifts. We still have the cooler. We were on a budget, so we saw the West by visiting national and state parks rather than cities.
From Tacoma Park, Maryland, on July 24, armed with a Rand McNally Road Atlas and excitement, we headed west. We opted to take the southern route west and the northern back. I documented much of the expedition with my small Kodak film camera. Film meant we didn’t see our photos until after we returned home.
Today I’m sharing a few highlights. That first day, we made it to the Buckeye Lake KOA in Ohio in late afternoon under cloudy skies. In 1972, a campsite without electricity cost about $2 a night, plus quarters to deposit in a slot for a hot shower. A couple parked near our site were wrestling with a huge tent as we parked beside our picnic table and got out our stove.
Raindrops soon plunked on the metal. We stuffed the stove and the meal ingredients (no idea now what) inside and went to help the couple, who we learned had bought their tent that very day. The downpour lasted all night, and instead of cooking our first camping meal on the Coleman stove, we ate cold chili out of cans.
Things went uphill from there. Literally, once we left Kansas.
After a couple of stops to visit friends, we arrived in Colorado. (July 30) I grew up in the Appalachians, so the Rockies were a whole different scene. We toured Estes Park Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park. Poor Lurch struggled up and over the Continental Divide, but didn’t overheat because of the air-cooled engine (in the rear, remember). We did stop several times to give it a rest.
From Colorado, we headed south through Utah. An acquaintance had given me a used portable “air conditioner.” The contraption sat on the floor. You filled its box with ice and plugged the cord into the cigarette lighter. And voilà, cool air. Except this device wasn’t equipped to handle the Utah desert heat. A mere half hour later, the ice melted and flooded the floor. At the next gas station, we dumped the beast.
In Arizona, we camped in the national park campground on the South Rim (Aug. 2) and hiked, but not down into the Grand Canyon.
On across the Mojave Desert to California and San Francisco, where we did stay at a hotel in the city to do some touring of the waterfront and Chinatown.
Moving north along the coast, we climbed dunes at a beach in Oregon and drove the loop in Olympic National Park. After Washington, we headed east to Montana’s Glacier National Park (Aug.17), where we saw more than one glacier and the first moose for both
of us. Glacier was our favorite of all the parks, with Yellowstone a close second. In Cody, Wyoming, we attended a rodeo. I wonder what the locals in their Western shirts and hats thought of this longhaired couple. Then through the Badlands and downhill the rest of the way. After a couple of days in West Virginia visiting my parents, we returned to our small apartment in Maryland with 15,600 miles on the VW van (Aug. 27). Lurch had needed a couple of repairs along the way, but never broke down.
Warner and I didn’t live together until we married, so this trip might’ve challenged our relationship. Maybe it did occasionally, but not enough that either of us remembers that part. Forty-nine years later, we’re still each other’s best friend, lover, and partner.
Thank you for letting me share my reminiscences.