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 . . .
. . 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.