My First Long Road Trip
My first long road trip was a trip I and a cousin made to San Diego, California in 1952. I was sixteen coming on seventeen years old, and had just purchased my first car. The prior year, at age fifteen, Dad had leased me 80 acres of land, my share of which, would be my pay for helping him on the farm. In return for staking me to seed, fuel, and equipment for planting and harvesting my crop, he took half.
The crop came in good that year, and I was pretty flush. I asked Dad if it was okay with him if I were to buy myself a car. I was thinking in terms of a good used one, but he nixed that idea. He said, “Son, you’ll probably have to drive that car for quite a few years, so I think it would be wise if you bought a new one.” No argument from me. I had the money, and what teenager would balk at having a new car. If the next two crops came in as good as this one, I’d still have money enough for college. Tuition in those days, even at University of Utah, including out of state tuition, was only ninety dollars a quarter. Room and board was also very reasonable.
So, I went down to the local Ford dealership and ordered my new car. It arrived in early spring, and after the crops were planted, I decided I wanted to take a rather long trip to properly break in my new car. Those who remember new cars of that era also remember that it was recommended that an engine be “broken in.” During the first 500 miles, the engine was babied, so to speak. Not to drive over 40 or 45 miles per hour, after which time, the oil was dropped and replaced with new. During the next 1000 miles, speed was increased to 50 or 55. From then on, the car could be driven at any speed up to the speed limit which back then was 60 mph—in some states, 65.
I had my own theory about breaking in a new engine. I babied mine for the first 500 miles, according to the factory recommendation, but then, I reasoned the longer you drove at a sustained speed of 60 mph or more, the better everything would seat in and you’d have a longer lasting, more powerful engine. That’s why I wanted to take a long trip that summer. I also wanted to see California, and this seemed as good an excuse as any to fulfill both desires. Kill two birds with one stone was my logic.
One of my jobs on the farm was to keep the weeds down on the summer fallow. I asked Dad if I got my weeds under control, could I take a couple weeks and go to California to visit a cousin. He wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, but later decided maybe it was time I spread my wings a bit, so he acquiesced, and agreed I could go if I were able find a companion to accompany me. I asked another cousin who was about my same age, if he could go. His dad owned a grocery store in a nearby town and this cousin clerked for him in the store. He arranged to get the time off, and we became two vagabonds similar to the two young men in the old “Route 66” television show. Only we were going to California; not away from, and we didn’t have to work along the way for money to finance the trip.
If my memory serves me, our route took us down U.S. highway 91. It, too, like old route 66, was a two lane road. The journey from Soda Springs and Lava Hot Springs to St. George, Utah, was a day and a half trip; not because of the distance, but because of a number of hills and curves in southern Utah that slowed the traveler down immensely.
As with any trip, there are memories that stand out above all others. I have one such memory, but not pleasant. During our time in San Diego, we visited the beach. It was an overcast day, and due to the foolishness of youth, I spent a large portion of the afternoon on the beach in a bathing suit; some of that time napping. I can’t begin to describe the sunburn I acquired. For the next week I literally lived on aspirin. It got to the point that I had to take four 5 grain aspirin per dose to feel any effect. When the outer layer of burned skin peeled, the layer underneath was tanned, and stayed that way well into the winter nearly to the next spring. And for those who may be wondering, no, I’ve never developed skin cancer as a result of that experience. 🙂
Go to the “free download” button on my homepage and get your free copy(while they last) of the prologue and first three complete adventures of Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, a book that may bring back some old childhood memories of your own.