In which I fly to the United States, travel out west and see my first TV program in color.
Monday 8 July
I caught the Green Line bus No. 704 to London Airport where I met up with the Canada Club and boarded KLM (Royal Dutch) flight No. 724 to new York - Douglas DC7-C "Bering Sea". The service was excellent but I didn't sleep very much.
Tuesday 9 July
We arrived at Idlewild Airport, New York at 08.00 US time. Our first impression of the new world was from the windows of a taxi. The traffic was quite frightening and the roads with many flyovers and flyunders were pretty confusing. From the bus station we caught a bus to Newark, New Jersey. New York doesn't look very much of a town. Five of us - myself, Tony Challis, Dave Barrett, Dave Pritchard and John Drew, have bought a 1951 Chevrolet IV for $150.00. We registered it - HUX 964 - and drove it out of the connurbation to a small place called Columbus. Saw many drive in cinemas - I didn't realize these were in the open air. After a visit to a local drug store we camped on a patch of grass. I saw fireflies for the first time. American money is quite easy. However, Tony tried to get 5 nickels (5 cents each) for one dime (10 cents).
Wednesday 10 July
All cars bought in New Jersey have to pass an inspection. We drove to Mount Holly where the car was passed. From there we went to the Salvatorian Seminary at Blackwood, N.J. (introduction from Brian Flanagan) for some advice about buying food etc. This is a really wonderful school, quite new and in a good setting with excellent facilities for the pupils. Father Edward gave us a meal and we then set off west. This area is better than Newark, much more residential, it was very warm. Our route lay through Camden, Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Expressway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We had some difficulty finding our way through Philadelphia because of the one-way streets. The Franklin Roosevelt bridge over the Delaware River is quite something - eight lanes. We travelled through the Appalachians until it was getting dark. We spent the night near Breezewood which is about half way between Harrisburg and Pittsburg. There was a Hillbilly-type programme on the wireless. We found a wild tortoise.
Thursday 11 July
We went into Breezewood to have breakfast and then back on to the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes. This is a pretty good road. It was the first road of its type in America. There are tunnels through the Appalachians which must have presented a very difficult barrier to the early settlers. We branched off near Lorain and had a bathe in Lake Erie. The water was very dirty and tasted really foul - it was filled with many dead fish. We carried on along the ordinary road to Maumee and camped close to a wood. We had great trouble from mosquitoes but Tony and I closed the tent securely and both had a cigarette to keep them away - successfully. (That was the one and only time I ever smoked).
Friday 12 July
We spent most of the day on the turnpike through Indiana to Chicago. Perhaps we saw only the worse part but there a great many oil refineries and factories. There were a large number of railroad crossings - we almost had the boom down on the bonnet. We took the Illinois Tollway right round Chicago and came off near Deerfield where I phoned Joe Canfield. Unfortunately his wife is seriously ill with a heart complaint. We have decided to go up to St. Nazianz to the Salvatorian Seminary. We saw a Milwaukee Road diesel hauled freight train consisting of four diesel units hauling 94 wagons - fantastic size and moving along at about 40 m.p.h. We had some food in a Deerfield cafe where we met some students who recommended that we should sleep in the University Campus. We eventually slept by the roadside.
Saturday 13 July
Heavy rain for most of the day as we made our way up north into Wisconsin through Fond du Lac to St. Nazianz. This is good farming country - dairy and fruit. The Salvatorian fathers made us very welcome and geatly cheered us up - we were in low spirits. Have been given a bed for the night and some food. We spent the evening with a very pleasant priest named Father Norbert who took a great interest in us and who showed us round the Seminary.
Sunday 14 July
We left the Seminary around 12.00 after the fathers had mended a flat for us and filled up the gas tank. Father Vincent, the Father Superior, offered us $10 for gas but we refused - a very kind offer. After visiting West Holstein, where there is a canning factory, we decided to head westwards (I would rather have stayed in Wisconsin for a bit). We went via Fond du Lac, Ripon and Mauston to camp on a farm close to Tomah. We passed Woodland Ranch which has a few bison, a covered wagon and a stage coach - rather doubtful about the authenticity of the latter two. Still they were the first bison we had seen so they warranted the use of my camera. The country is, on the whole, very flat with much woodland. The river valleys are shallow and wide, consequently the bridges over the rivers all need long approach roads.
Monday 15 July
We were given coffee and toast at the farm as well as being shown around. They have a few sheep but their main livelihood is gained from growing corn ((i.e. maize or Indian corn) which fattens the hogs who live in a patch of woodland. We left quite late and carried on along route 16 into Minnesota - a stretch of very pleasant, well wooded country just after crossing into Minnesota at La Crosse. After this, the country flattened out to become gently undulating - the corn belt proper. Each farm has its own wind pump and corn storage bins. Big granaries are also a great feature of the landscape. We bought two second hand tyres for the front wheels. About 18.00 the oil pressure suddenly dropped. We put in a gallon of oil and managed to limp the two miles into the next town which was Lucerne. It looks as though the oil seal in the engine has gone which will mean abandoning it. We were standing around not knowing what to do when a man came up and gave us a great deal of help. He bought us coffee and took us out to a state campground where he paid our overnight fee. Considering the situation everybody is very cheerful. Tomorrow we may be hitchhiking.
Tuesday 16 July
The County Agricultural Agent came out and brought us into town. We took the car into a Chevrolet dealer. The trouble was only a fractured oil lead which was quickly repaired. We also had a reconditioned fuel pump put in. We carried on west through Mitchell (very hot) and Chamberlain where we crossed the Missouri River. After Chamberlain the land changes from farming to ranching - much more open landscape with virtually no trees. The grass is quite green this year - apparently this is unusual. We reached the Badlands National Monument and camped there. This area is subject to ridge and gully erosion with steep sided valleys. We arrived at about four o'clock when the sun was getting a bit low. This brings out the type of scenery even better because of the shadows. We passed close to a thunderstorm this morning and there was one to the south when we went to bed. These seem to be very localized indeed, measuring only a couple of miles across. We missed the worst part but did get some rain. At one time the wind was so strong that we had to hold the tent down.
Wednesday 17 July
The weather caused us to wake up early so we decided to get an early start. We went through a very small township called Interior which is in the Badlands National Monument. We then took a wrong turn and found ourselves with about 50 miles to cover over an unmade, very dusty road. You could see any vehicle miles away by the dust cloud. We then saw a real cowboy on a horse who was not posing for tourists. Dead cow. We had breakfast at Rapid City which isn't a particularly pleasant place. I watched two diesels of the Chicago NorthWestern Railroad shunting across a road. A track circuit activates a bell and a red light when a train is approaching. However, it is surprising how many cars run the gauntlet.
From Rapid City we drove to Mount Rushmore. The road is spoilt by the fantastic amount of advertising, particularly the Reptile Gardens and Gravity City. A bit further on we came into the Black Hills of South Dakota National Forest. This is very hilly, heavily forested country. The air is thick with the scent of pine trees. Mount Rushmore is very impressive. The heads of four US presidents are carved in the rock. The US Parks Dept have the viewing area very well laid out indeed. I bought a facsimile copy of the Declaration of Independence for 25¢ - a good souvenir. From Mount Rushmore we took a heavily wooded road, swam in a lake, on to Custer. The road winds through several tunnels which are cut in the solid rock. There isn't much clearance and alternative routes have been laid out for caravans. There are many hairpin bends. The road has a habit of doubling back on itself and crossing over itself on a trestle bridge. We bought supplies in Custer and made our way on route 16 through Newcastle and Gillette to Buffalo, crossing into Wyoming. The country changes just past Custer and opens out to the wide open spaces, incidentally with some oil wells. This is also indian country although we didn't see any. There are many historic markers, many of which indicate indian raids and massacres, e.g. Fetterman Massacre in which 76 men, 3 officers and 4 civilians were wiped out by the Sioux. We saw the grave of Sod House Sam - amusing. We went to a camping ground in Buffalo but they wanted $2 so we went on and luckily found a free campground which was on the shores of Lake DeSmet. The reservoir is very pleasant indeed - quite deserted. We pitched tent and cooked up some beans. the Big Horn Mountains were a solid wall to the west. Again there were very strong winds at night.
Thursday 18 July
We left the lake quite early and had breakfast in Buffalo and then crossed the Bighorn Mountains. These put an abrupt edge to the eastern plain which is very flat indeed. I managed to get the key locked in the boot. We had to take the back seat out to get in from the inside! The ride down the other side of the mountains is much better than the eastern slope. This was through a very steep sided valley which was sheer in some places. Down this flowed Shell Creek - hence the name Shell Canyon. The country then flattens out again but is even drier. At Greybull we saw a filling station which had its own oil well and refinery in the back yard. They advertised "fresh gas". We passed through Cody, supposed to be the dwelling place of Buffalo Bill. We then passed through Shoshone State Park to Yellowstone National Park which was, on the whole, rather disappointing. The forest is very close and thick and there are large numbers of tourists. We passed a patch of snow close by the roadside which shows how high up we were. We saw the "traditional" bears which beg by the roadside but we were not prepared to see them ambling through the camping area. They are certainly not tame. We spent the night at West Thumb at 7,000 - 8,000 feet above sea level and it was very cold. Neither Tony nor I managed to get much sleep.
Friday 19 July
We broke camp early and motored towards Geyser Hill. Old Faithful was not due to erupt for 35 minutes so Tony and I went on a self guided tour of the geyser basin. The Chinaman Spring is interesting. The story goes that a Chinaman erected his laundry over the spring which one day turned into a geyser and blew the whole lot, including the Chinaman, sky high. Many of the trickles have caused prettily coloured deposits on the rocks. Everywhere there is steam escaping and the occasional gurgling. Old Faithful is quite impressive, but, on the whole, not terribly spectacular. We left the Park at West Yellowstone where Dave and John managed to get jobs. Tony and I decided to carry on so they bought our shares in the car ($30) and we carried on hitching. We had to wait 1½ hours but then a man stopped who was going 700 miles to Wenatchee in Washington State. Del Adams took us through Butte, Missoula and Spokane, arriving at Wenatchee at 05.15. We spent most of the early hours of the morning trying to keep Del awake.
Saturday 20 July
We managed to get a couple of hours sleep by the river Columbia and then went into town to get some breakfast. We later learned that this was East Wenatchee and not Wenatchee proper. The whole area is good fruit country. Fruit farmer, Fred Marker has let us camp in his orchard and we were taken out to the boat club on the Columbia River. Fred has a very fine launch and we even had a go at water skiing - not very succesfully. Tony was dragged under for some distance - until he thought to let go. This part of the valley is irrigated. There is qite a difference between those area which are watered and those which are not. The former are a lush green while the latter are dried brown. The mountains are partially covered in pine forest and are running alive with rattlers we have been told. It was early in the morning that I remember hearing a train whistle and seeing the Empire Builder on the other side of the valley a green and orange line snaking along the side of the valley.
Sunday 21 July
Spent most of the morning with Fred Marker listening to his stereo. He gave us a lift into town in the afternoon. We watched TV in the evening.
Monday 22 July
broke camp this morning. Fred introduced us to Jerry Webb who originally came from Petts Wood while his wife comes from Tunbridge Wells. We are going to stay with them for a while, sleeping in their cabin. Its a bit primitive but will do. the only trouble is that it is inhabited by venomous Black Widow spiders Jerry and margaret have a pure white cat with one green eye and one blue, she has a very small kitten called Measles. The dog, patches, is scared stiff of the kitten. We saw our first colour (color!) TV programme this evening. Jerry has just bought a set.
Tuesday 23 July
Saw Laramie in colour this evening - one episode that I had seen at home.
Friday 26 July
Jerry threw a party this evening. It was good fun but I didn't like the beer - my kidnys gave out before my brain did. We went into a tavern and had to produc identification to prove we were over 21.
Saturday 27 July
We were taken to see Charles and Mary Ellen today. Went out to a Rock Shop this afternoon - I bought an Indian arrowhead and a rattlesnakes rattle.
Sunday 28 July
Went up to lake Chelan today, about 40 miles from Wenatchee. Passed some hydroplane racing. A lot of Jerry's friends were there and ther were a great many guitars. We had a great time. The water was quite warm and a wonderful colour blue but it was filthy dirty.
Wednesday 31 July
I went into the town this morning and bought a bolo tie. I also had a lok in at the railroad depot. I managed to get permission to look around the small diesel depot. There were four diesels on shed, all Bo-Bo but of several different classes. The Great Northern Railroad diesels are painted a rather pleasing scheme of dark green and orange-yellow. The passenger coaches are painted in the same way to make the whole train very pleasant to look at. I watched two diesels coupling up. They just come together until the two knuckles clamp together - rather like the buck-eye couplings.
This afternoon I had a look at the steam engine which is preserved, behind railings, on a green close to the Columbia River road bridge. There is a notice which reads: