Yesterday's Magazette

5 – Wanderlust In 1961

Wanderlust In America 1961

By Colette Sasina

Dinah Shore’s catchy song, See The U.S.A. in your Chevrolet, convinced Papa to buy a Chevy stick-shift coupe, his first car. He never ventured more than an hour from home, though. Teaching me to drive in  Mt. Olivet Cemetery was enough excitement for him. I had difficulty mastering the clutch-brake dance on hills.


In spring of 1961, I bought a new Ford Galaxie with automatic transmission and radio; never parked it in the GM Tech Center parking lot, opting instead to car pool to work. I wed John a few months later. We moved to Ann Arbor into married student student housing on U of M’s North Campus, dropped off the last of our household boxes, readied the car and with maps and brochures stacked in my lap, John rolled down the windows and we began our much anticipated western honeymoon adventure.

Labor Day vacationers jammed the highways and filled motels. We skirted the Windy City and logged several hours, crossing the mighty Mississippi at Davenport, to stay in Iowa. A late start the next day put us near the Nebraska/Wyoming border that night. Town after town flashed No Vacancy neon signs. Finally we found a vacancy. We were road weary. I noticed that it looked like the Bates Motel. With Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho still fresh in my mind, I watched an Anthony Perkins look-alike, his character Norman appeared at the front desk with an old wrinkled woman (his fleshed-out mother?). The lights flickered. “You’re lucky. We have one room left,” Norman clucked. John paid the rate and picked up the key from the counter. “Park around back. Lighting’s poor but it’s closer to your room,” Norman added. Wolves howled in the distance.

“We’ll catch a cat nap and be on our way,” John whispered, scanning the Spartan dated room.

Shuffling noises trickled from the next room. I just couldn’t do the full shower thing; instead pulled back the bedspread. Blood stains screamed at me from the sheet. “Oh my God! Those sinister people must play out this scene several times a night; see who scrams fastest!”

“We’re leaving,” John announced. We grabbed our unopened suitcases, ran to the car and high-tailed it out of there, driving through the night. With adrenalin free flowing, we weren’t  tired any more.

John pulled into the parking lot of a cozy lodge early the next afternoon. We relaxed, ate dinner, got a good night’s rest and were off to Loveland, Colorado, and its exquisite views. I drove past Best Store by a Dam Site, stopped the car on a narrow mountain road, turned it around to take the picture. Power steering would be a must for our next car. Estes National Park featured stunning mountain panoramas. John drove to Salt Lake City nestled in a valley. We celebrated its shimmering lights for miles. He continued through The Great Salt Lake Desert to Reno where his underage bride played slots.

Lake Tahoe’s deep blue water proved a perfect color match to our car. We pushed on to Yosemite, witnessed Old Faithful, majestic mountains and waterfalls. A 1,000 mile round trip to see Crater Lake, Oregon, and throw a few snowballs was well worth the drive. From there, south into California to the breathtaking Pacific Ocean, its waves churning white against huge boulders jutting out from the shore. John squeezed our car through a tree in the Redwood National Park. I strained my neck looking up at these giants, some over 300′ high, 20′ around and thousands of years old. Bearing witness to America’s bounty filled us with gratitude to Our Lord for gifting us with His spectacular treasures.

We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, up and down San Francisco’s famous curly Lombard Street and continued to Los Angeles. It would take several days to enjoy Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, and Sea World with quick stops in Hollywood and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, our Michigan Wolverines stadium of choice. We drove through the Mojave Desert to glitzy Las Vegas and a dinner show; then visited the gargantuan cement monument, Hoover Dam; took in the fascinating tour and movie.

The following morning John found The Mother Road, Route 66, heading home. We took a side trip to see the grand Grand Canyon. 66 took us through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. We stayed between Gallup and Albuquerque, Navajo country. Gift shops dotted the route, supplied by residents of several reservations. John continued through Amarillo, Oklahoma City, and stayed in Joplin, Missouri. We visited cool Meramec Caverns, enjoyed Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in south St. Louis. The Mother Road beckoned us to the Chain of Rocks Bridge over the muddy Mississippi, north to Springfield, Illinois, Land of Lincoln. Early next morning we drove to Route 66’s official starting point in front of Chicago’s Institute of Art, then around Lake Michigan, east on 94, arriving home home four hours later.

Oh, the places we’ve been. Oh, the places we’ll go. Maps, film and souvenirs filled our small kitchen counter. We unpacked our household goods, made a grocery list. John’s classes and my job would soon begin in earnest.

A well-dressed encyclopedia salesman rang our doorbell the following day. “I’m holding the key to success. Please give me a few minutes of your time.”

We reluctantly invited him in and listened for several minutes before I interrupted, “Your great books are convenient to have on hand, but we’ll pass. Thanks anyway.”

With that he brusquely gathered up his material, opened the door, stood in the hall and drawled, “An encyclopedia is like a road map, Ma’am. You don’t need one if you’re not going anywhere.”

Shocked at his insult, my ‘kick from Route 66’ came quick before he left the building. “You know where you can go?”

Hearing a few muffled chuckles and comments behind the door across the hall, I poked my head inside our place and said, “John, I think it’s time to meet our neighbors.”

Vol. 40 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – 2013


1 Comment »

  1. Thank you Ned for continued access to your significant lifetime achievement, Yesterday’s Magazette.

    Comment by Colette Sasina — June 8, 2015 @ 3:30 am | Reply

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