Our little Rambler station wagon would carry us up the West Coast to Vancouver and Victoria, across Canada to Chicago, and then to the East Coast by way of the Great Lakes, Niagara Falls, Quebec, and finally Montreal. Coming home, we'd drive south into the U.S. and eventually across the country back to Berkeley. My sister, Carol, almost twenty, would come along, help drive, and see some of the world. My primary jobs were to plan the route and keep two and a half year-old year old Simone entertained. We didn't know exactly how many miles we'd cover in a day, so we didn't bother with hotel reservations.
"Do you have the traveler's checks?" Sherrill asked as we approached the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Oops!
Another outdated concept today, but then we needed them, so back we went, only a few miles, fortunately. At least, we'd remembered Simone's little Beatrix Potter books and favorite doll, "green man," a soft, cuddly version of the Jolly Green Giant.
Sherrill loved working her way through a list until she completed it. Her first year as a children's librarian, she got a list of the hundred best children's books by grade and age and read them all. As we continued traveling outside the U.S., she declared that we should visit every country in Europe. Eventually, we got to all but two, not so easy with some of them breaking up, creating new ones. We had plans to finish with Norway and Andorra, but didn't make it.
This trip created new lists for us: the U.S. states and their capitals, the provinces of Canada and theirs. We didn't get to all the states and provinces this trip, but did pretty well seeing the capital cities of the ones we did pass through. How Sherrill enjoyed checking them off: Victoria, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec. Salem, Olympia, Madison, St. Paul, Albany, Providence, Hartford, Boston, Trenton, Richmond, Nashville, Oklahoma City (oil wells pumping on the state capitol grounds), and on to Santa Fe and Phoenix. Then there were lists of historic cities and sites: Washington DC, of course (where I took one of my favorite photographs of Sherrill and Simone), New York City, Philadelphia, and all those New England Revolutionary War sites, Niagara Falls, Mississippi River, Carlsbad Caverns, Petrified Forest, and more. And the famous homes along the way: Hyde Park, Mt. Vernon, The Hermitage, Monticello, The Little House on the Prairie.... And as we explored Expo 67, Sherrill announced that we might as well go to every World's Fair from then on. We didn't achieve that, but we did get to one more.
As we covered the miles, I read the Beatrix Potter books to Simone until we all had them memorized. When she wanted me to start reading, she'd reach from her car seat to flip my earlobe. Each time we stopped for the night, she put Green Man to bed, usually in a drawer. One morning, however, we left the motel without checking all the drawers and left Green Man hundreds of miles behind, someplace in Canada. Simone was very sad, but we promised we'd get her a replacement.
In Chicago, my high school and college friend, Don, joined us for as far as Montreal. In motels and restaurants, people seemed to assume that he and Carol were a couple, just as Sherrill and I obviously were. In Quebec, the hotel wanted to give the pair of them a separate room. As I recall, that night Don and I camped in a small room. The next evening, we all splurged on the best restaurant of the trip, French gourmet in Montreal's Old Town, with prices to match. While we were eating, for no reason we could figure out, two year-old Simone began crying and couldn't stop. Since we'd ordered a splendid meal, we took turns taking her into the hall so she wouldn't disturb other diners..
When we reached the vast Expo 67 grounds, we didn't always stay together. The most popular pavilions had waits of hours to get inside—the Czech pavilion with its vast array of fine art, especially. (The 50 million visitors to Expo 67 is still an expo world record.) The Soviet and U.S. pavilions, close together, seemed to be challenging each other. The sleek glass Soviet building was set off at its side by a monster silver-gray hammer and sickle celebrating 50 years since the 1917 revolution. The neighboring U.S. transparent geodesic dome presented a very different message. I was fascinated by Moshe Safdie's Habitat at one end of the expo, in which prefabricated concrete forms created 146 apartments, all with private terraces and gardens. It seemed to me like a perfect model for a commune. However, of all the exhibits, Simone liked best the cascading display in the U.S. pavilion of scores of all-American Raggedy Ann and Andy rag dolls. Sherrill and I liked it, too.
Gazing over the years, I'm amazed by how much we saw and did on this road trip across the continent and back, but we were young and enthusiastic and always ready for more.
To be continued....
Bruce Douglas Reeves, Author of THE NIGHT ACTION, new ebook edition by Automat Press