Landing at JFK, we picked up a shuttle that took us to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, close to our next destination, Jan and Brian Dobbs house in nearby Voorhees. Jan is a childhood friend of Joanna’s and remains so to this day. She had moved back to New Jersey when they were in High School, married a local boy Brian and made a life for themselves in this still semi-rural New Jersey suburb of Philadelphia. Brian was an electrical contractor who was taking advantage of the housing growth in that area fueled by the PATCO Line, transit that ran from Atlantic City to Philadelphia, bringing city commuters out to the suburbs.
We would spend two weeks with them, a stay that would involve a three-day road trip up to Valley Forge, the Amish Country, and Hershey, and a week or so of work. Joanna got an assignment through a temp agency at a pie plate factory, a job she very much enjoyed for the people she worked with. I worked for Brian around his property, helping to rearrange two semi-trailers worth of stuff he had either collected or inherited, from his father who had passed away prior to our visit.
Most memorable are the two Thursday night visits he and I made to a country auction known as Harker’s. This was a weekly ritual for Brian; he’d meet up with a friend, have a nice dinner and then head out to the farm where the auction was held in a barn. I recall that folks would drive in with their cars, open up the trunk, pull out stuff and it would get auctioned off right then and there.
Visiting the auction made me realize why Brian had so much stuff to sort out; being a regular visitor he was regularly picking up bargains. As a side note, Harker’s (http://www.auctionzip.com/NJ-Auctioneers/45249.html) is still in business and Brian, sadly, would suffer a massive stoke there one night in the parking lot and did not live to recover.
On October 13th, we drove from Voorhees to Hatfield, Pa, just outside of Philadelphia to rendezvous with my parents, who were camped there along with Jeff and Alice, their traveling partners. After two nights, including a day trip into Philadelphia, the two thirty-foot rigs and our little convertible caravanned down to Washington DC to stay for ten days in a park in Maryland, just outside Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway. With convenient access to a metro stop, we were busy every day with visits to the White House (twice, including a rare tour of the gardens), Ford’s Theater, the FBI Building, National Archives, Museum of American History, Arlington, all of the Presidential monuments, and the Air and Space Museum. Day trips took us to Annapolis and Mount Vernon.
We spent one very memorable day cruising the Potomac on a sailboat captained by the boyfriend of my step grandmother’s (Evelyn) niece, JoDonna. He was a captain in the Army, stationed at the Pentagon and it was a delight to be out on the water, a gorgeous blue sky fall day with a stop in Old Town Alexandria for lunch.
We bid farewell to my parents on the 25th and took off west on Highway 50, headed for Clarksburg for a night with Evelyn. As she was ill, we visited her hospital room (she would recover and live a number of years longer) and then took off the next morning for Belle Valley, Ohio, my Mom’s hometown. A number of my great aunts and uncles were still alive and living in and near that small community is southeastern Ohio. Spending the night there, we had an opportunity see folks we would not see again, a bittersweet memory now.
From there we took off for St. Paris, another small town outside of Springfield to visit with my Grandma Cuba. We slept upstairs in the attic bedroom my brother Chuck and I stayed in when we were young, and when Joanna and I said goodbye to Cuba three days later, I felt as though I was truly saying farewell to my childhood, and all of those people who shaped me as a boy.
One element of this visit became an icon for the whole drive west, what we referred to as the Pie Trail. We’d managed not to gain much, if any, weight while in Europe. During this portion of the trip, we’d stay indoors with family and friends, not be too active and generally eat way too much food. At Cuba’s, it meant a pie a day. Sugar Pie, Apple Pie, and a Cherry Pie, all as good as a pie can be.
We drove up to Milwaukee to spend four nights with Joanna’s Dad’s (Carl Beierle) parents. It would be the first and only time I would meet any of this side of Joanna’s family. We did some sightseeing, including the original Pabst Beer Brewery and The Domes (Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory), marveled at the beer selections that could be found in most markets (this was Milwaukee after all), and continued to eat way to much delicious home cooking.
Our next major destination would be my sister Beverly’s place in Iola, Kansas. Too far to drive in one day we stopped for a night in Springfield, Illinois, taking in a number of the opportunities available to celebrate the life of Abraham Lincoln. We had grown used to how inexpensive lodging had seemed in Europe, what with the strength of the dollar, and so decided to bed down at an inexpensive place in town, the Southern View Motel, for $18 a night.
We checked in and went to our room, wondering why the room next to ours would have two room numbers over the door. My parents had given us a bit of money to help us celebrate our anniversary, so we went out to dinner, and then returned to the room to catch a little TV before bed.
I was sitting on a chair watching Monday Night Football and leaning back I put my hand out to balance myself and in doing so reached behind the baseboard-heating unit. I felt something small and hard and pulled out a metal magnetic key container. Curious as to why something like that would be attached to the heater I slid the box open to discover a razor blade, straw and small baggie with trace elements of some powdery substance.
This concerned me as the room next door, the one with the double room numbers, received a steady stream of visitors throughout the night. So, in a momentary fit of paranoia, I took the metal box and its contents and flushed the incriminating elements down the toilet. That night neither one of us slept well; every time someone knocked on the door next to ours we came awake, wondering if it was the authorities come to take us away for our key container.
Up early the next day, we finished off our Springfield sightseeing and made a beeline for Iola. During our six-day stay with Bev and her husband Bill, we made a side trip up to Kansas City to spend a night with Joanna’s Uncle Phil (Carl’s younger brother), visits to Coffeyville, the Dalton Museum and the Brown Mansion. The Sunday of our visit, Bill arranged for the two of us to join some of his friends for a hunting outing. Dressed appropriately, we roamed the fields outside of town with a large enough group that any prey worth talking about could have heard us coming from a long ways off.
From Beverly’s we drove west to Eads (Ead’s Fills Your Needs) to spend three nights with Doug Hoggatt, who had relocated to this somewhat barren section of southeastern Colorado for work. Our next destination, my Aunt Ruth’s (my Dad’s oldest sister) house in Elmira, Oregon (a rural suburb of Eugene) would take two full days of driving, and so about halfway there, we camped overnight at a KOA in Twin Falls, Idaho. Arriving in Elmira at the end of the next day, we enjoyed two nights touring around Eugene before heading to the coast, with a stop in Florence to take in the Sea Lion Caves (with its indescribably noxious odor), before heading back inland for a five night stay with good friends, Kathy and Tom Carlisle at their place outside of Selma.
We departed Oregon on November 24th with a stop in Woodland with Chris and Mark Love, heading out for Los Angeles the morning of the 25th. We’d driven all the way across the United States with nothing but our German/European Delivery license plate on the rear of the car without any problems, but we’d been on I5 for no longer than about an hour when a CHP officer pulled us over and cited us for no registration, a problem I would have to correct soon after our return home. A fine and fitting welcome home after many months away!