The other day I found an old letter I had written to my parents from a cross country trip I was taking with my good buddy David Trainor in his 1967 Buick Special back in 1975. Think of the letter (below) as a travel blog – before there were blogs… or travel… or intelligent life forms.
There’s a decent chance our trip, and this letter, existed before you were born. If that is the case, you can just keep it to yourself. No one needs to know how young and perky you are.
Maybe I’ll take you back even further than 1975, just to give this story and the letter below context. I graduated high school in 1971 and right after high school, in order to avoid the draft, I joined the Navy (Naval Reserves). I spent a year on active duty, came home, and then went to college at North Adams State College for two years. Those two years at NASC may not have been my proudest moments, let’s just leave it at that.
Side note: After that year of active duty in the Navy, I ended up spending an additional 12 years in the Naval Reserves, drilling on destroyers at first and ending in naval intelligence. Yes, I have heard all the jokes, thank you very little. But it paid for a bit of fuel, beer and food during my formative years – no regrets.
Back to the story, my buddy David (us pictured below in our natty attire), who had just graduated college in the spring of 1975, asked me if I wanted to travel cross country with him – explore, see, experience. Trust me – I was not sacrificing anything by putting my college career on hold. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life at this point. But we were both a couple of geniuses. Like you didn’t already surmise.
So, David and I, with about $300 each in our pockets, driving David’s Buick (pictured below towing a pop-up camper to David’s brother in Illinois), set out for sights and destinations unknown. See the world, so to speak. Gas was running about 50 cents per gallon at the time, and I continued to drill in the Naval Reserves even whiling traveling, so we had a little money coming in.
I mention glibly David’s ’67 Buick, but what you need to understand is that this was a complete shit box. Our strategy (we had absolutely no plans but we did have this one little strategy) was that if the thing crapped out, we would chuck the license plate, dump the car, and hitchhike the rest of the way; all our earthly belongings fit in our backpacks. You can only imagine – we looked good.
Fast forward to the other day when I uncovered a couple of letters that I had written from the road in 1975 to my parents.
Below is the letter I had written to my parents explaining our travels to that point in time. From October 1975, from Massachusetts to Illinois:
Well, having quite a time. Right now, David and I are in Illinois at David’s brothers house. The scenery so far has been fantastic. We hit the foliage at just the right time.
We went, so far, on all back roads so we could see a little more. We drove through the Berkshires (MA), the Catskills (NY), the Poconos (PA), into Maryland and through the Alleghany Mountains in West Virginia, and also the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are unbelievable.
We picked apples in Pennsylvania for a couple of days. Great fun. We got into Ohio in the evening and stopped at a bar near Cincinnati to watch the baseball game [side note: Red Sox were playing Cincinnati]. We were real popular. We left right after the game.
When we were in New York, we stopped at Vassar for a night. Met a couple of wonderful girls. One wanted to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Wonderful girls.
The land out here in Illinois is starting to flatten out. I think we’re going to take the car a little further, since it has been running like a charm.
We’ve had a few problems with it but nothing serious. The tailpipe is hanging on with a coat hanger. The muffler is hanging on with a piece of wire and a couple of welding rods. The back bumper is staying on because we wrapped my bike lock thru the trunk and hole in the body to lock onto the bumper. It overheated in Pennsylvania, so we took out the thermostat. Dave still has the old inspection sticker on, but we figure that no one knows the difference anyway. We’re going to stop at a junkyard and pick up some tires. Three of ours have kind of had it. Outside of that, the car is running like a top.
If you want, I’ll route you our trip so far, and you can follow it on a map.
I haven’t had too many pictures so far so don’t expect much, at least so far. The weather has been great except for a day or two. The weather’s been warm so far, which has been good. Well, must go and make the mail. Talk to you later, say hi!
Now, having read that letter, I can only hope our own kids never send us such a comforting letter. We really don’t need to know everything, kids. Sometimes, less is more.
Safe travels, and don’t share everything.