Thursday, November 15, 2012

50 + 50 = 100 (part 1)

50 years ago, on Friday, July 13 1962 at 2:30 p.m., my 7-year-old self hopped into our 1960 Buick Special station wagon (white, with cherry red interior) (and no seat-belts) with my Dad at the wheel, and we drove off into the sunset for a 4 1/2 day x-country road trip to Pennsylvania to visit my grandparents. The impetus for the trip was a Bubnash family reunion in honor of my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. Along for the ride was my Mom and my siblings, David (5 1/2), Alice (2 1/2) and Nancy (1 1/2).  

 Ours was white

I remember our x-c trip well; it was exciting to travel the breadth of the entire United States, from Sepulveda, CA as far as NYC. My folks involved me in the planning, even taking me to the Auto Club with them on June 1, 1962, to pick up a Triptik, a skinny a spiral bound notebook that included a page for every section of road, all 2829 miles of it. My folks picked up some Auto Club books that listed motels in select towns they chose for overnight stops. The Triptik also included handy information such as the peculiarities of desert or mountain driving, a list of radio stations in metro areas, and what to do in case of accident.

That's my handwriting on the front

Back in the day we had car games to distract us from the 12-hour days in the car. So many folks journeyed via automobile in the 60s that it was easy to spot license plates from other states; that was one of our games. Another one involved guessing how many hours or minutes it would be until I threw up again. Not really, but it could have been. Mom could have awarded a nice prize to the winner: a seat by an open window. Car sickness was my own personal curse.

We traveled on Route 66 all the way to the Chicago area, passing through Needles, Kingman, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Joplin, St. Louis, Springfield, and Joliet.  We survived Mojave Desert heat with no AC in the Buick. We lunched at the Painted Desert. We passed primitive native Arizona wikiups sprouting TV antennas from their tops. I remember the thrill of crossing the state line into Texas; the welcome sign was a very large "puzzle piece" in the odd Texas shape. In Tulsa my brother shamed us all by pointing to a tall dark man walking past us in a coffee shop, loudly saying, "Dad! is that an Indian??"  He was, but . . .  not kosher in the early 60s to call out someone's race.  Crossing the mighty Mississippi River was a big deal.

 sample page from Triptik

 In Chicago we departed from Route 66 and headed for Gary, Indiana via the turnpike.  On through Toledo, Akron and Youngstown, then on to Pittsburgh and south to our destination: Perryopolis, PA.  We pulled up in my grandparents' one-car-wide driveway.  Our cousins were gathered awaiting our arrival!

On that trip we drove about 6500 miles, which included side trips to New York and Massachusetts to see Mom's family. We used 320 gallons of gas, average price 33.2 cents per gallon, and we averaged 16.9 miles-per-gallon. About $108 was spent on gas. On the return trip we saved 259 miles by taking Route 40 partway; the car used 22 gallons less gas, but the driving hours remained the same. We spent roughly $55 for food on the road, and 8 nights of lodging on the road cost $116.  The highs and lows for one night were $17 and one night $12. I wonder what that $12 motel was like?? My folks were very picky and always asked to see a room before committing. I recall that more than once we drove to another motel after looking at a room. These were the old motor-court style of motel.

One more highlight about this trip. In my memory everything went pretty well, except the time we lost a bunch of possessions. Somewhere in the Midwest a fellow auto traveler pulled up beside us, gesturing up to the roof of our car. We left the road and discovered one or more of our duffel bags tied on top had come undone.  Our possessions had been flying off the roof of the car for a mile or so. We walked through a grassy roadside ditch gathering up what we could, but we never found my First Communion dress or Mom's address book.

 Tomorrow: Who was naughtier, my cousins or me?


  1. Did I miss it? Where did you start?

    We never did such a thing. Growing up our vacations were to visit my grandparents - in either SC or FL. My parents are cheap. Or my dad is.

  2. Oh yeah, thanks--I meant to say that & left it out. We started from our driveway in Sepulveda California. It's in the San Fernando Valley.