When planning a wedding anniversary trip, most people envision a Caribbean cruise–a flight to far-off countries–a week at a fancy resort–or some other extravagant adventure.
After all, when we were married April 25, 1964 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we had a one-night honeymoon–ONE NIGHT–and we spent it in Iowa City in a motel. The following morning, we drove out to West Branch, where we visited the Herbert Hoover House (he was a bit before our time!) And then we returned to Cedar Rapids where Howard went to work on his night job at Collins Radio, and where I spent my first night alone in a great big house away from my family. A terrible storm erupted that night: lightning–thunder (extremely LOUD thunder)–pelting (and I mean PELTING) rain–and I bawled my head off!
“WHY DID I DO THIS? I WANNA GO HOME!”
We made up for it in May 1965–a back and forth road trip between Iowa and Maryland to visit some of Howard’s relatives. We had a week that time!
On the way back to Iowa, we drove through Cambridge, Ohio where an armed robbery was apparently underway in a jewelry store! It was late at night. The alarm blared. A police officer was about to enter the store with his gun drawn, and we left town immediately. After that, whenever we saw a hitchhiker–he HAD to be the robber! Right?
Our torment didn’t end for the night. We landed in Zanesville, Ohio, and the only place we could find available was a “Motor Lodge” downtown. It should have been called The Bates Motel! We took a creaking elevator to the top floor, where we were probably the only people that night. (I’m not counting the ghosts!) The bathroom was at the end of the hallway. I remember creeping down that hallway with Psycho in mind, wondering whether Norman Bates lurked in the shadows–waiting! Lobby newspapers blared headlines about vicious stabbings in New York, propelling my imagination. And I won’t describe the bathroom. It was rather unique! The bed was another adventure–an ancient mattress plopped across creaking springs. We clanked together like two barrels. (That part wasn’t so bad). By the grace of God, we made it back to Iowa in one piece.
That was in 1965. Fast forward thirty years later to Summer 1995.
Howard and I spent our summers in Indiana, Pennsylvania from 1992-1998 where I worked on my doctorate at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Our first summer there, we lived in the attic of an old house, listening to bawdy female students below who partied all night long. I remember slamming the door loudly upon my departure one morning. The remaining summers were not so horrific. We leased a studio apartment on campus. But Summer 1995 provided a new adventure: the Summer Music Festival in Cumberland, Maryland.
We were on our return trip to Colorado at the time. We drove to Hagerstown, Maryland first where Howard was chasing an ancestor. The motel clerk warned us: “Book two nights if you plan to stay more than one night.”
“There is a music festival in Cumberland, Maryland. All the hotels and motels for 60 to 100 miles around are booked solid!”
“That’s okay. We’ll find something!”
We arrived in Cumberland, Maryland where nothing was available. So then we drove to Granville, West Virginia. It’s in the Morgantown area. I thought we would surely find a room in Granville. After all, my second great grandparents (William Stillians and Catherine Lee) were married there in 1848. Right?
Next stop–Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.
Oh this would be easy, I told Howard. I had all sorts of ancestors who settled that region: Inghram–Stillians–and many others.
Even Washington, Pennsylvania provided no relief. More ancestors and no vacancies!
So we headed up the road to Pittsburgh and stopped in a rest area. I climbed into the back seat of the car; Howard leaned back. We were going to get some sleep, or so we thought.
As I recall, I had just dozed off when I heard, “Honey! Honey! Quick!”
I sat up.
“Get up here!”
“We’re getting out of here–that’s why!”
I slipped up front. Howard started the car, and we headed out of the rest stop.
“What happened?” I asked
What happened? Howard did not go to sleep; he couldn’t. So he sat watching the shelter, wondering why he hadn’t listened to the motel clerk back in Hagerstown. Then he saw it–a strange little man twirling like a top on a bench. The twirler would sit down, take a drag on whatever, jump up and spin in air. That’s when Howard decided to get out of there, and we did.
About 2:30 A.M., we crossed the bridge into Pittsburgh and passed Three Rivers Stadium (something I would share with our son–an incorrigible Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan), and we drove down avenues lined with towering buildings–some of the largest structures I had ever seen. Our reason for traveling to Pittsburgh? Howard wanted to visit the Allegheny Cemetery there. A police officer in a filling station advised us not to go to the cemetery until daylight–doing so would be a great danger. Since it was Sunday, the cemetery would not open until 11:00 AM. But there was a diner a block away from it that opened at 6:00. If we could stay out of trouble until then, we could wait at the diner until the cemetery opened.
Taking his advice, we parked at the diner and enjoyed a decent breakfast there. At 11:00 AM, we were inside the cemetery. And by noon, we were on our way across Ohio where by 4:00 PM, we checked into a motel–yes, a real one–where we crashed and slept soundly through the night. This brings us to the present.
As you can see, our travel experiences have not been without adventure. However, I don’t recall a trip specifically devoted to a wedding anniversary, including our 50th Anniversary last year. We hosted an open-house for our 25th. Our kids and their spouses sent us to a B & B in Manitou Springs for our 40th. The other anniversaries were eating-out expeditions at places like the Cracker Barrel or at our favorite 1950s diner here in town: Great Scott’s Eatery!
Not so this year–our 51st.
We haven’t been able to do a lot the last four years. Howard suffered a rear-end collision in 2011 and has been having neck and heart treatments since then. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and recently underwent treatment for that. I hadn’t been planning on a trip this year but one day, Howard made an announcement:
“We’re going to spend our anniversary out of town!”
“Let’s go down to San Luis.”
I stopped and thought about it. San Luis is in the southern part of Colorado and about a full day’s drive. We had been there several times over the years, the most recent trip five years ago. San Luis is like stepping back 150 years into the past. The oldest town in Colorado, it lured us five years ago, and it still casts its spell. We would stay there a couple of nights and then return home. So we booked two nights at the San Luis Inn.
But my concern returned quickly.
“Can you drive it?” I asked.
(I don’t drive–can’t see over the steering wheel and hate driving–the result of a horrific trip from Iowa City, Iowa to Denver in 2007. My sister passed away, and we had to clean out her apartment in Iowa City. The drive back to Colorado placed Howard behind the wheel of her car and me behind the wheel of ours. We spent the night in a motel in Adair, Iowa on that return trip home. The movie showing on TV that night? Psycho! Labeling that trip a nightmare is an understatement!)
“I’m going to try!” Howard told me.
The truth is, we both had a severe case of cabin fever. It was time to get on the road.
And so with reservations in hand, new tires on the car, and the car packed to the brim for three days of excitement, we set out Saturday, April 25, 2015–our 51st Wedding Anniversary– heading south on I-25 out of Denver.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO