First job in California is to get into the nearest cheap motel and start the search for a Ford Econoline Camper! We’re going to drive our own home for a week! Of course, I’ll do the sums. I’m not irresponsible. It’ll have to be reasonable . . .
Those days you still used telephone directories, yellow pages and a phone plugged into the wall!
Off to Yosemite! Heard about it all my life and now we were going there!
Favourite birds probly the Acorn Woodpecker, the California Quail and the Roadrunner.
From Yosemite we headed back to the coast in an arc to drive the Big Sur coastline
We were in California cos Aitch said ‘Hey! We can’t only be in the sticks! I’ve never seen an American city with its shops and bright lights. You have.’ OK, m’dear I said, thinking Yosemite, Redwoods, Big Sur coastline. Oh, and San Francisco – we’ll ‘do’ San Francisco, OK?
So we did, we hired a small car after handing back the camper – and paying in for a bumper bashing while reversing in Yosemite – and roamed the streets, going down the famous twisty Lombard Street and catching a few trams. And, unfortunately, shopping. I dunno what Aitch bought, but I got caught for such a sucker when I bought a telescope. One of these salesmen: ‘Ah! South Africa! Aangename kennis! Hoe gaan dit?’ you know the kak. So I overpaid for this telescope which was OK, but not what I had wanted. ‘Sucker!’ chortled Aitch, showing zero sympathy. Was this what marriage was going to be like? Was she not going to be like my Ma, who would have sympathised with her poor boy?
I cheated a bit, using the car to also go across the big bridge and into the redwood trees at Muir Woods, just 20km north of San Fancisco. This using her ‘city time’ for my ‘backwoods time’ did not go unnoticed, nor unmentioned. But she loved the redwoods as much as she’d loved the sequoias!
We loved California. Now, we were off to Wyoming – I’ve been to Yosemite, now I’d love to go to Yellowstone! You too, right Aitch?
The first part of our 1988 honeymoon was highly organised and efficient. We flew into Orlando Florida, were taken to a hotel and from there ferried to DisneyWorld while there, by bus or steamboat. Seamless. Aitch had organised it.
I was a bit ho hum, but guess what? Aitch was right to insist: these pics came in very handy ten years later when we adopted kids! They were briefly impressed.
Times’ up! We escape. What have you organised? asks Aitch. Um . . I’ll find a rental car. And, um, I’ll find a nature reserve. Where will we stay tonight? Um . .
Then let’s fly to Miami and go to the Everglades! I suggest, and we’re off. Our Delta Airlines pass is valid for sixty days.
On to Big Cypress
We drove back to Miami – next stop San Francisco . . .
Fresh out of that Hole in Wyoming we landed in Seattle and immediately headed for the hills. Or the sound. Puget Sound. I’m a bit allergic to cities, so we picked up a little rental car – would you believe a Toyota Tercel, with all-wheel drive and six forward gears . . what? I’ve said this before? OK, I did enjoy those cars.
We drove onto a ferry in Anacortes and disembarked on Orcas Island. We looked for a place to stay. I had something in mind – the thing I usually have in mind: cheap. And we found it, right on the other side of the island. Ah, this is good value, I thought. Aitch was fine with it. She liked the laid-back friendly approach they had. We were determined to avoid boring same-old places and anyway, she was always a great sport and tolerated me and my frugality. Hey, it was a lo-ong honeymoon. We had to stre-etch things. This was week four of our 1988 honeymoon.
Years later I read a Lonely Planet review: There are resorts, and then there’s Doe Bay, eighteen miles east of Eastsound on the island’s easternmost shore – as lovely a spot as any on Orcas. By far the least expensive resort in the San Juans, Doe Bay has the atmosphere of an artists’ commune cum hippie retreat cum New Age center. Accommodations include campsites, a small hostel with dormitory and private rooms, and various cabins and yurts, most with views of the water. There’s also a natural-foods store, a café, yoga classes ($10), an organic garden and special discounts for guests who arrive by bike. The sauna and clothing-optional hot tub are set apart on one side of a creek.
Ours was a cabin. We paid $10 for the night. Camping and the dormitory were cheaper, but hey, I’m no cheapskate. Our cabin was called Decatur and was luxuriously made of packing cases and a double layer of plastic sheeting in the windows. Cosy and warm. Seriously.
We’d seen a sign ‘Hot Tub’ on the way in, so we went looking. Walking down the path to where the bath house overlooked the Pacific, the sign said ‘suits optional’ and we realised that meant bathing suits, so we happily hopped in naked as we were the only people around.
Getting ready to leave, Aitch froze and I started laughing: voices, coming down the path! Aitch ducked back underwater, as we were joined by two couples who shucked their clothing and joined us. The view as they clambered down the steep metal stairs! You almost had to avert your eyes. We had a long chat, they were from Seattle and ‘South Africa? Optometrist? Did we know Rocky Kaplan?’ Well, actually I did know of him. ‘Well he has reduced my short-sightedness so much; I’m now only wearing a three eyeglasses!’ OK.
By the time they left up the steep metal stairs – the view! you almost had to avert your eyes – and Aitch could finally emerge from the steam, she was wrinkled like a prune.
Then it was back on the ferry, island-hopping our way back to the mainland. Next we were headed for Texas, the Gulf of Mexico! New birds and warmer climes. Except we wouldn’t get there . . .
We flew into Jackson Hole from San Francisco. Change in temperature. I was still in short pants – had to change pretty quick! This was week three of our honeymoon, so we were into the groove: Fly in, find a car, then look around for the best places to visit and find cheap lodgings near there. Aitch was better’n me at that. She’d actually look and weigh up options.
Soon I was warm. Toasty, in fact, as I was sitting – still in short pants – in a Toyota Tercel! A little all-wheel-drive station wagon with four doors and a barn door in back. The four wheel drive system included an unusual six-speed manual transmission with an extra-low gear. It could be moved from front- to four-wheel-drive without coming to a full stop; That was nifty. The 1500cc engine produced 71 HP and awesome torque – more than ample with that light body. I had a SIX speed gearbox on honeymoon in 1988! Formula 1 cars only had five at the time. Plaid seats, two gear levers, four pedals and an advanced 4WD monitoring / information system were standard. Trish asked me, ‘Who do you love more? Me, or this one-week rental car!?’
I cleared my throat . . um, YOU – in a Toyota Tercel!
Then we found the Antler Motel. I said I LIKE the look of this place. She said ‘You’re only looking at the price.’ How do they do that? Only married a couple weeks and already she can see right through me!
We found out we were too early for Yellowstone – the road was still blocked with a wall of snow and we were turned back well short of the park boundary. Still, the view was breath-taking. All the way on our left the Grand Teton mountains loomed, disappearing behind cloud and then fully revealed as the cloud cover cleared from time to time. All around was deeper snow than either of us had seen before and on our right were rivers with Trumpeter Swans. And a moose!
One evening we went to the elk winter refuge, and enjoyed a sleigh ride on which we saw a grouse in a tree. Grouse, swans and elk in the wild – things I’d read about all my life, and here they were! I was chuffed. Also, being married . .
Also, I had read Thunderhead as a ten year-old. About a horse in SE Wyoming. I loved that book and also My Friend Flicka (Thunderhead’s mother), which I read next. Those books’ descriptions were all I knew about Wyoming, but it was enough to want to get there. Plus the attraction of Yellowstone (which I could have checked if it was open before we flew in!).
Every stream I came to I’d get out and search. Then I saw it: A Dipper – at last! It flashed down onto a rock next to the current – and dived underwater! I’d spotted a dipper! I’d read about these little songbirds for years – and here was one doing what they do: hunt underwater!
What a honeymoon! A. You, my dear; B. The Dipper; C. The mountains; D. That Toyota Tercel.
That night in our cozy motel room my sternest critic suggested I was thickly settled:
Wait! Did I show you a pic of our Toyota Tercel? It was all-wheel . . what? oh ok
Next: On to Washington State . . . we have a ferry to catch.
The sixth week of our honeymoon in 1988 was an eagerly awaited visit to good friend Larry Wingert. He’d been a Rotary exchange student to Harrismith in South Africa back in 1969-1970.
We flew out of Lawton Oklahoma to Dallas/Fort Worth, on to Little Rock, to Cincinatti and on to our destination: Akron, Ohio. Friday 8 April. Larry’s friend Dave “Zee” picked us up at the airport, took us to his condominium and fed us. The first meal of what turned out to be a major good food week! Later, Larry fetched us in his Subaru – our third all-wheel drive vehicle this trip, and this one free! – and took us to his beautiful old home on North Portage Path. At home it was all wine, one woman and song, with Aitch and Larry bashing the piano and asking me to please stop singing.
On our arrival in the States some weeks before, we received a letter saying “Please accept these portraits of old American Presidents and USE this plastic card!” Various denomination dollar bills and a credit card for gas (or petrol)! How’s that for a wedding present!? In Larry We Trusted!
I love the canoeing connection with his home: North Portage Path is an 8000 year old path along which native Americans portaged their canoes from the Cuyahoga river out of lake Erie, across a mere eight miles to the Tuscarawas River from where it flows into the Muskingum river, then into the Ohio and on to the Mississippi. Thus they could paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Of Mexico with only one eight mile portage, something any Dusi paddler would do without a second thought! The amazing thing: You can still paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico today, unbroken except for one short section – and while trudging along that section you could pop in to Larry’s place for tea. Or ‘tea’! America’s waterways are astonishing.
Larry indulged us lavishly. There was no tea. Only the good stuff. He indulged Aitch’s joy in shopping, especially deli shopping at the best places. And Larry knows his delis!
Followed by a big cook-up at home . .
. . and music with the two of them on the piano, shoving me aside and asking me to please stop singing!
Then he took us to parks and nature resorts for me to indulge in my birding passion. When he wasn’t able to join us, he handed over the keys to his all-wheel-drive Subaru. Above and beyond . . One morning we visited Cuyahoga River State Park quarry area. Our favourite bird in Ohio was probably the Northern Flicker.
Afterwards we went shopping at another rather special deli – its obvious Larry is GOOD at this! For supper he cooked us some great steaks on his portable barbeque outside his kitchen door. We ate like kings. After supper there was music with the two of them on the piano, shoving me aside and asking me to please stop singing!
A visit to Kendall Lake; Later to Cleveland’s Old Arcade Centre and a look at Lake Erie. Supper at a French restaurant on Larry; He had already spoiled us generously, now this.
Suitably fortified, we moved back home to liquers and piano and song! No tea. By this time my good friend and my good wife had formed an excellent working and jolling relationship. They shoved me aside and asked me to please stop singing. To bed at 2am, rising at 5.30am;
Off to Boston 13 April 1988. In consultation with Larry, we decided Cape Cod was next . . .
As I settled in the seat of the Delta Air plane en route to Texas and the Gulf I read in the newspaper that I’d scooped up where someone had abandoned it, that the one thing I did NOT want to be doing was flying over Easter.
When is Easter? I asked the stewardess. ‘Tomorrow’ she chirped brightly.
Change of plan Aitch, I announced: We’re going to Oklahoma instead of the Gulf. I explained and showed her the newspaper (airport congestion, overbooked flights – us on a cheap Delta pass). Aitch had been dreading going to Apache: ‘They’ll all know you and I won’t know anyone and I’ll feel left out and . . ‘
But now she had to face her fears. As soon as we landed at Dallas-Fort Worth we booked the next flight to Lawton Oklahoma, heading back north instead of carrying on south. There was just enough time if we scurried. Aitch decided she’d skip the loo and go once we were airborne. Mistake. It was a narrow little propeller plane like this, two seats a side, a narrow aisle, no airhostess, no loo. Ooh!
We landed in Lawton after dark and she made it. We set off further north for Apache in a rental car. Apache: My hometown for a year as a Rotary exchange student in 1973. Arriving on the Patterson’s farm outside town we saw a ‘yuge’ SA flag waving from the flagpole! Jim had borrowed an oversize flag from the SA consulate in Houston to welcome us!
Jim & Katie Patterson, the loveliest couple in the whole of the USA were just the same as ever!
They welcomed us with open arms to their beautiful and comfortable ranch house and it was as though we hadn’t been apart for fifteen years (during which time I had received exactly two letters from them. ‘Well, Peter’ said Jim with his crooked grin and twinkling eyes, ‘We didn’t want to flood you with correspondence’).
Katie took Aitch on a night drive in the pickup looking for owls. Both girls were suitably lubricated plus they took extra stocks of their tipple. They had the windows down and were hooting weird owl calls and hosing themselves. When they returned they were laughing uncontrollably, leaning against each other for support. They had seen a possum snuffling around and Aitch was fascinated – she always LOVED the little night creatures. Katie followed it offroad into the fields, keeping it in the headlights. When it stopped she manoeuvred so it could best be seen and whispered to Aitch “Shall I kill it?” She was surprised at Aitch’s distraught look of horror. Then she twigged: “No, no, not the possum! I meant the engine!”
They collapsed laughing when they both “saw it” and were still laughing helplessly when they got back home where Jim and I were watching ‘the ballgame’ – Basketball I think; OU I think.
One morning I woke up to breakfast in bed. It was 1st April, my birthday – thirty three young today – and Aitch delivered a tray of goodies!
Jim n Katie arranged a lovely barbecue poolside and invited my best mates from high school back in 1973. Jay Wood and Robbie Swanda had made the year unforgettable and here they were again, also with wives now; Robbie wearing the Optometry rugby jersey I had given him in 1984 when I visited after kayaking down the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon.
Jim even unwrapped the Caddy convertible from its winter covering weeks earlier than usual and presented Aitch with the keys. She drove as far as the gate and then said ‘I think you must drive now Koos.’
All I got was this old tractor that I had driven for Jim back in ’73.
OK, in fairness, he also gave me the keys to the Chevy Suburban you can see in the background with the door open. Which was so much fun I missed the Rotary meeting! Now THAT was embarrassing! Unforgivable! Everyone was forgiving / understanding (‘well, you ARE on honeymoon, after all’) but that REALLY was a major gaffe! Damn! Fifteen years later and ten thousand miles away I have ONE meeting to remember and I forget it! *blush!!* We were out in the countryside looking for a Vermilion Flycatcher and I just clean forgot. We did see a lot of birds that day.
Well, our five day trip to Apache stretched to a week. Wherever we went all I got was an elbow in the ribs as the local inhabitants shoved me aside and crowded around Aitch. Every now and then one would mutter over his shoulder at me: “Now you look after this gal, boy! Y’hear?” Aitch’s dread of going to “my” hometown had turned into a reluctance to leave “her” hometown!
After ten days I sat Aitch down and said “Now listen girl, we still have things to do, places to go and people to meet. We can’t stay in Apache forever!” She was having a ball, reveling in the attention and she and Katie were getting on like a house on fire. I suspect on all their jaunts when they would breeze off in the Lincoln saying “Ya’ll stay home and watch the ballgame, y’hear?” that Katie was teaching her how to manage me and telling her how she managed Jim. Aitch obviously soaked up the lessons! It was Katie who had asked me as a seventeen year old back in 1973: “Peter, who do you think chooses the marriage partner?” Following my confident (wrong) answer she put me straight, telling me how, when Jim arrived for his first day of work at the bank in Oklahoma City she had turned to her friend and announced “I’m going to marry that man!”
So it was very reluctantly that Aitch agreed that I could book for the next leg of our extended honeymoon.
PS: I forget if it was on honeymoon in 1988 or after the Grand Canyon trip in 1984, but I needed a haircut and went to the local barber, Rotarian Oscar Caldwell. He and his wife Sonia ran the shop. I had dodged them back in 1973, letting my hair drop down onto my shoulders. Their son Dallas was in my second senior class (I did three matrics: HS, second half of one in Apache, then first half of the next one in Apache).
Oscar and Sonia (both pronounced Oh! – Oh! scir and S Oh! nyuh) were full of beans and shit and could stir.
I walked into the barber shop and said to him while he slaved over some oke’s scalp – in my best Okie accent – ‘I have a complaint! I had my hair cut here in 1973 and I’ve never bin satisfied!’
He stopped snipping, stared at me over his specs, eyes widened and he said “Peedir!”
That I remembered. What I hadn’t remembered was a prank I played on Oscar back in 1973. Sister Sheila recently (2020) returned the letters I had written the family back then.
Oscar loaned me a projector to give a slide show and I asked if he wanted it back tomorrow. ‘No,’ he said, ‘That’s too late.’
I said How’s midnight tonight? ‘No,’ he said, ‘I’d prefer 4 in the mornin’.
We left it at that. I gave my talk. With me was my good Apache mate Robbie and fellow Rotary students Eve from Durban and Helen from Zim. We went back to Robbie’s house and jol’d. Then at 3.15am, we drove out to Oscar and Sonia’s farm outside town in Robbie’s Mustang. I knocked persistently and Oscar dragged himself to the door where I said Hope I’m in time! I thought you might be wanting to show some home movies?
He blinked, gulped, then fell right in: ‘Yes, Yes,’ he says ‘I did. Come right in.’ He led us in shaking his head muttering ‘This Boy’s Alright, isn’t he?’
He and Sonia then insisted we sat down and proceeded to show us way too many slides with total bullshit commentary : ‘This is a picture of Mars taken on our second trip there . . ‘
Robbie and I were hosing ourselves, Eve and Helen were falling asleep. Sonia then announced it was actually Oscars birthday, so we sang him HBD and left after 4am!
. . into Deepest Darkest America, we go kitted out in readiness . .
Eight weeks; Yep, lo-ong leave; Seven destinations in the USA and one week in England;
I got these details from Aitch’s diary
FLORIDA – Miami airport – 3rd March 1988; Fly on to Orlando, Florida – Sheraton Hotel Disney World Epcot Centre Rent a car and drive east to Merritt Island – sparrows and mosquitoes Kennedy Space Centre
Fly back to Miami and rent a car Titusville (Town Motel $28.90 for the room) Biscayne Nature Reserve Florida City (Town Motel) Everglades – Long Pine Key; Mrazek Lake; Mahogany Hammock
Flamingo Lodge in the Everglades
On Saturday, 12 March we drive to Big Cypress along the Tamiami Trail and on to Everglade City – The Rod & Gun Club – 2 nights
CALIFORNIA – San Francisco, California – Tuesday, 15th March
Aitch said “I want to see an American city, not just nature reserves! so we walked , bussed and rode trams in the city. Stay in a Howard Johnson’s Motel, where I use the phone book to enquire about hiring a camping van. Its more expensive than a small car and motels, so . . we hire a Ford 351 cubic inch V8 RecVee from Western RV Rentals! The first night near Escalon we sleep in a parking lot – maybe illegal, but free!
Yosemite National Park We walk to Mirror Lake Badger Pass Ski Resort Wawona Rail Creek Camp in Wawona campground (pay $6 in a box – honour system) Maraposa Grove Paso Robles Atascadero Santa Marguerita – Campground ($8) Rinconada Santa Marguerita Lake Los Osos; Baywood Park Morro Bay Cayucos Beach San Simeon Los Padres National Forest Plaskett Creek camp ($8) – Van loo overflowed – Big clean up delayed departure! Carmel town Sunset Beach KOA camp ($20.95, ‘all amenities’) Santa Cruz Natural Bridges Park Halfmoon Bay We return the RecVee – and pay $59 damage for a fender scrape in Yosemite! Ouch! Total $679 for 7 nights – more than car hire + motels, it’s true. But much more fun!
Hired a car (from Snappy!) and drove around San Francisco – Lombard Street, Chinatown, over Golden Gate bridge to Muirwoods Rec area & beach Marin – Fountain Motel Downtown San Francisco – Macy’s, Sears, JC Penney – Aitch finally saw a few shops! I bought a telescope – not a good buy! Slept in the airport; Aitch wrote postcards;
WYOMING – Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Tuesday, 24th March (via Salt Lake City) Toyota Tercel 4WD – I loved it! Antler Motel ($28 for the room); Dinner at The Blue Lion (delish. Aitch: “Like St Geran”) Breakfast at Vernet Cafe Wilson (saw a Dipper underwater!) Dinner at Anthony’s Turned back before Teton Village – road blocked due to thick snow on the Moose/Jenny Lake road; Yellowstone south gate closed!
Moran Junction to Jackson Lake Sleigh ride at Teton Village – see a white grouse in a tree Kelly (NE of Jackson Hole)
WASHINGTON – Seattle, Washington (via Salt Lake City) – Sunday 27th March 1988 Puget Sound San Juan Islands We hire another all-wheel-drive Toyota Tercel and drive north to Anacortes – San Juan Motel Ferry crossing to Guernes (Guemes?) Orcas Island Capt Cook’s Resort
Drive up Mt Constitution until snow blocks road Walk around Mountain Lake East Sound Doe Bay Resort – stay in a rustic cabin (very rustic! but its cheap, Aitch!) called Decatur; hot tubs, ‘suits optional’
Back on the ferry – 30th March; In Seattle we handed back the little Tercel – our 2nd-best vehicle on honeymoon;
OKLAHOMA – Fly south to Dallas / Fort Worth, planning to go to the gulf; But we change our plans and head back north to Lawton, Oklahoma – 30th March; This because the newspaper said: ‘You don’t want to be flying over Easter’ and we asked our air hostess ‘When’s Easter?’ and she said ‘Easter? That’s tomorrow;’ We drive to the farm outside Apache – Apache Oklahoma – 31st March; Only Jimmy there when we arrive after dark; Jim & Katie arrive – 4yrs since my last visit; 15yrs since I stayed with them;
Jim gives me the Chevy Suburban 4X4 keys – ours to drive – our best vehicle on honeymoon!
1st April, my birthday – Breakfast in bed!
Lunch with Granma (Patterson)
Mary Kate arrives from OU
Big family gathering at Plantation Restaurant in Wichita Wildlife Reserve, near Meers. We drive past the old Patterson Ranch;
Jim gives Aitch the Cadillac convertible keys – hers to drive!
Tuesday 5 Apr – We take the Cadillac convertible to town to the First National Bank of Apache’s drive-in window Lawton to the drive-thru liquor store Porter Hill Clung’s Store
I forget to go to my Rotary meeting! Damn! That really was a bad slip-up! BIG BAD!! We were searching for a Vermillion Flycatcher and I forgot!
Jim and I settle in front of the TV to watch a ballgame. Oklahoma U playing someone. Katie and Trish decide that’s way too boring so they load up on Bloody Marys internally and in a hebcooler and drive off in the night looking for owls. They spot a possum and tail it in the headlights. It shuffles onto the dirt road in front of them and Trish is watching in awesome wonder when Katie asks, ‘Shall I kill it?’ Trish is horrified and gasps ‘No!’ and Katie, seeing what she’s thinking exclaims, ‘Not the possum! The engine!’
They collapsed with laughter as they repeatedly regaled us with the tale when they got home, giggling and unmanageable.
OHIO – Fly away!! Lawton/Dallas/Ft Worth/Little Rock Arkansas/Cincinatti – Akron Akron, Ohio – Friday 8 April Dave “Z” picked us up and took us to his condominium and fed us (Larry busy) On to Larry’s beautiful old home on North Portage Path Cuyahoga River State Park (Quarry area) Shopping at a great Deli Larry cooks delicious steaks and he and Trish hit the piano. They ask me not to sing so loud;
Cleveland Lake Erie Supper at a French restaurant on Larry; Home to liquers and piano and song; They ask me not to sing so loud; Bed 2am, rise 5.30am
MASSACHUSETTS – Boston, Massachusetts – 13 April – we rent a car and drive on the busiest highway to date – thru Boston in traffic Hingham (stay in motel $39) Cohasset Cape Cod
Daniel Webster Inn for supper Sandwich (stay in Country Acres Motel $33) Wellfleet Bay Orleans Meadows Motel ($35) Back in Boston its late and we have to return the car so we stay in the most convenient place, a Ramada Inn ($89 for the room! Most expensive night in the USA)
Boston/ JFK New York/ London – 18 April 1988
Last flight: Our 30-day Delta pass expired, but we still had a free return ticket we got for giving up our seat on an overbooked flight earlier on; So we use it to get from Boston to JFK
On to England: A week in England – to Paddock Wood in Kent where Val & Pete Excell, oldtime friends of Trish from Cape Town, host us; Then they take us on a road tip to Cornwall, through Dartmoor to stay with Mel Spaggiari’s folks Den & Mary Blewett on their farm outside Bodmin. Where we saw a newt and a hedgehog!
Then home – HOME to our Marriott Road flat in Durban.