My Memory of a Round Trip Road Trip in a Year and a Half

The year was 1973, I was 24 years old and married to Janie. Our daughter, Janelle, was 3 1/2 years old when Janie gave birth to the completion of our family, another baby girl. I was in the United States Air Force stationed in Northern California and I had taken a 30 day leave to come back to our home in Texas. It was the holiday season and my plans were to enjoy all the blessed events, then I would make the trip back to Point Arena, Ca., with all of our household goods.

An uncle of mine gave me a trailer made from the bed of a 1959, wide bed, short wheel base Ford pick-up truck. Since he was a good shadetree mechanic, he thoroughly checked and serviced it. From the hitch to the bumper and everything in between, he made sure all was ready for my 1,900 mile road trip. Being compressed for time I didn’t road test anything. I trusted Laurence. We loaded, double checked, hugged and kissed then I was on my way. My little family would fly out to San Francisco in six weeks, when Jennifer was old enough to travel. Once I was on the road it didn’t take long for my nerves to begin to unravel.

The old blue trailer tracked well. The low profile camper shell offered little wind resistance, and the 318 Chrysler motor was plenty strong. The problem with the trailer was that the shocks were shot. One thousand pounds of cargo, my longest haul ever and nothing but springs. Top speed was 55 mph. Anything above that and the trailer was rolling from side to side. The more I pushed her limits the more she pushed back. Fifty five and arrive alive.

Since I had never been to Los Angeles, that was the way I was headed. I resolved myself to the fact that it was just going to take longer and all went well. I patiently drove all night and into the next day. There was not much to see on I-10 for miles, so in the darkness, I had not missed much. In East L.A., I found a place to pull over to memorize my guesses about which way to go. Even as tired as I was, it looked like I-10 to I-5 was simple enough. I missed it but that’s no problem. “I’ll just take the next big highway headed North.” That went well and I had a chance to briefly glance at the Hollywood sign. No problem now that I can see I-5. With blue cube in tow, I arrived to my next interchange at high noon on a Friday. I said, “Goodbye Hollywood and welcome to L.A.”

I was not the only one on the road headed North. Four lanes turned into 5 which became 6 or 8. A nasty, cold, wet rain began as I passed Grapevine, Ca. I thought it best to stay in a middle lane, but so did the 18 wheelers. Every body else in California showed up just as we hit The Grapevine. That old trailer was rockin’ and the big rigs were knockin’ on my backdoor and both sides. The dirty spray that was being blown on me was so thick, I could hardly see the road. I just gripped the wheel, tried to focus and I prayed. I prayed a lot and I prayed fast. Finally a truck let me move over. Two or three more lane changes then an exit, a gasoline station and I stopped in the middle of the parking lot. I stepped out of that old Plymouth and in the rain I kissed the wet oily pavement. On my knees I looked up and said, “Thank you Lord for letting me live.”

Almost 2 years later, my family and I loaded the same old Belvedere II and the same blue box trailer. This time we were leaving the mist and the fog, the redwood trees and beauty of the Northern Pacific Coast. We were moving everything back home to Texas. We had not been home during those years so we were anxious to get started. We drove over the Rocky Mountains and negotiated Donner Pass enroute to Reno and Fallon, Nevada. Our journey continued South on Veterans Memorial Highway towards Las Vegas. It was already hot in the desert even though it was only May. We were out in the middle of nowhere with not enough money to be at ease and not enough room for the 4 of us to be comfortable. We didn’t have quite enough air conditioning nor did we have quite enough grease in the wheel bearings of that old trailer.

I heard a crashing, dragging sound. The hood of our car went to the right, so I yanked the steering wheel to the left. I looked to the left and I watched a trailer wheel, with the split axle attached, pass me. It took two big wobbly bounces, cut across in front of us and bounded out into the desert scrub brush and sand. Somehow, I managed to keep from being drug off the road. When we were finally safely stopped, I made sure my family was OK. They were alright. The girls did not even wake up, and I assured Janie that everything was going to be fine. I questioned myself, “How is it going to be fine?” I struggled through the sage brush to reclaim my tire-axle combination and when I touched it, I heard the sidewinder. The tire had rolled to a stop either on or right beside the coiled up snake, half buried in his depression in the sand. I carefully rolled my assembly back towards me until I could take hold of it. I picked it up, lifted the whole thing above my head and slammed it to the sand, tire first. I tried to smash the stuffin’ out of that critter. The tire bounced away and the snake slithered away. We were broke and I was broken down. No help was in sight and I had no answers. That was the first time in my life I questioned God.

A man stopped and another man supplied and worked. A third man gave of what he had. We were back on the road in about 4 hours. I learned the hard way to inspect, service and repair any vehicle for any trip. I also learned there is no need to question God. He already knows what to do.

The blue trailer stayed unused, on the back lot of our property. It had served it’s purpose. Dad sold it, ten years later.

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