My four-stage 1973 road trip started in Apache Oklahoma. Katie Patterson drove us down in her Ford LTD in Stage One to stay with her folks, Mama and Papa Hays, in Shreveport, Louisiana. There we ‘visited’ as Oklahomans say; We were spoiled – I was a third, honorary grandchild! We played golf – I recall smacking the ball into one inch ‘rough’ under big old trees draped in lichen, or old man’s beard; And we ate superbly.
Papa Hays gave me a beautiful old book:
Larry and his sister Ginny joined us, having driven down from Cobleskill NY and we got ready for Stage Two of my Great North American Road Trip: Heading north-east in a light greenish-grey Volkswagen Bug.
Larry and Ginny had packed their camping kit on the back seat; One more passenger meant we now needed a U-Haul carrier on the roof.
I remember surprisingly little about this trip north-east! We left the Red River and crossed the Arkansas River near Little Rock; I remember camping:
I remember crossing the mighty Mississippi River in or near St Louis, where the Missouri joins it;
The only thing I remember clearly is hoping my ID would be checked at the door when we went for my very first legal beer at a TGIF bar in Missouri. I had drank in Oklahoma, aged seventeen in a 21 state, I had drank in Louisiana and Arkansas, but now at last I was eighteen in an 18 state! Legal at last! Thank goddlemydee, legal at last!
I held my SA passport ready . . I now know it was a Sunday; Richard Nixon was the President; We were listening to Killing Me Softly With His Song, and Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree; and NOW, at last, I would be checked and blessed for the first time . .
But the man at the door just waved me through. ** sigh! ** why have I always looked much older than I am? Nowadays people think I’m a hundred in the shade. Next they’ll be wanting to take away my drivers licence . . .
Oh, well, at least some other world-firsts happened that week: The first cellphone call; The World Trade Center twin towers opened; the first international rugby sevens tournament took place; the last American soldier ignominiously left Vietnam; and Pablo Picasso died.
I also remember getting to Larry’s hometown Cobleskill, a beautiful little town in upstate New York, and meeting his parents. I’d heard about Cobleskill since 1969 when Larry breezed into Harrismith and we spent a fun year making memories and amok; early experiments mixing beer and petrol – which he called gas. Well, we had a gas! Fun times!
That’s a really vague and sketchy recollection of a magic route! Larry doesn’t remember much more. In fact he confidently remembered the VW Bug as being red! ‘Tis not only my memory glands that are dodgy, I’m relieved to tell.
He’s going to ask his sister Virginia. She’ll know more. I know we went here, cos my trusty Olympus trip 35 camera recorded it, but where is it?
A few days later, another VW Bug arrived, full of gorgeous Oklahomans; and one less-than-glamorous Aussie . . and this Bug was red.
We were headed for Canada!
Here’s our my correspondence to Larry in 2017 went:
Subject: Lost in the USA.
Hey Larry – Help a lost Vrystater who can’t remember where he has been!
I know we left Shreveport in your lil greyish-greenish VW Bug and headed up to Little Rock (I guess on highways 49 and then 30) but after that I’ve hit a blank.
And I know you took us to some interesting places. Do you remember the route you took? I’d love to hear it. Sort of a trip down Forgettery Lane. Cheers – Koos
Larry: Forgettery Lane? You’re talking to someone who’s pretty much strolling down Alzheimer’s Avenue! (at least where 40+-year-old memories are concerned). BTW, if we traveled in a VW Beetle, it must have been red.
Fortunately for us both, Ginny tends to be much better in the recall department than I am. I believe we started the trip as a way for me to check out some law schools (which I was sort of seriously considering at the time, but — fortunately — never pursued). She was good enough to volunteer to come along as a companion/navigator, though I’m afraid I was a bit tough on her in that latter capacity, especially when I got freaked out driving in Washington, D.C., where the traffic was a bit intense for a kid from the country and the city center is famously laid out like the spokes of a wheel, as opposed to the more traditional grid pattern. Not what I’d call intuitive.
Thankfully we’re still on speaking terms, which I fear I put in jeopardy there for a while, so I’ll ask her (by means of CC-ing her on this e-mail) for any details she may recall. Unless I traumatized her so badly that she’s repressed the entire experience! Or perhaps it had the opposite effect and seared it into her memory — let’s hope for that. We were just together (in Roanoke) over the Easter holiday; wish I could have asked her about it directly.
That’s a very long way of saying no, I don’t really remember our route — sorry. I’m still hopeful Ginny may be able to save my bacon.