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3_USA 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 8_Nostalgia travel

Bugged by Bugs in a Red Bug in Canada

north america map

Stage Three (in yellow on the map) of my Great North American Road Trip started in Cobleskill in upstate New York, where Stage Two had ended.

A red VW Bug swept up the drive and out poured three lovely Okies and an Aussie. Sherry Porter, owner of the Bug and twins Dottie and Dale Moffett. Sherry had been a favourite young high school teacher of the girls in Ardmore a few years prior, and involved in Rotary exchange student selection. Jonathan Kneebone was an Aussie, a dinkum character, say no more. Liked a beer.

We headed north to the Canadian border. Five laughing, happy peeps in a VW bug. It wasn’t a squeeze at all, we were having so much fun. At the border the man leaned in, asked “All American?” Yeah, we’re American, chimed Sherry, Dottie and Dale. He stepped back and was about to wave us through when Jonathan and I said “Um, no”.

“Australian” said Kneebone and the man made to step back again and wave us through when he registered what I had said.

“Uh, come with me please sir. I need to check your passport,” he said. An hour later we were off again – to Montreal. That’s where you see Dottie sitting on the grass.

On to Ottawa where we bumped into Indira Ghandi on a state visit to Pierre Trudeau. She chose to arrive while we were staring at some government building or other. That’s the only time I’ve seen a head of state in the flesh ever. And one’s enough.

Somewhere around here I dinged Sherry’s car! “I’ll drive!” I shouted as we headed for the pub. I promptly reversed out the driveway, swung, and BANG! I got out and saw to my great relief – how horrible was this!? – that I’d hit a huge Dodge pickup with a bumper a yard deep; not a scratch on it! We could hop back into the red bug and bug off to the pub. Poor Sherry’s prize red VW wasn’t so lucky. I wrecked her left rear fender and light and I had no money to pay for the damage. DAMN!! Sherry of course was an absolute star about it, bless her!

Dottie, Dale, Jonathan, me and Sherry in Sherry's Bug: Canada here we come!

Then Toronto, Waterloo and up around Lake Superior, Sudbury, Sault St Marie, Thunder Bay. What a sight Superior was! Biggest stretch of fresh water imaginable. For a Vrystater, awe-inspiring! We camped en route wherever we could squirrel away for free. Only once were we shoo-ed and told ‘I’m Sorry, You Can’t Camp Here,’ but by a Mountie with a big hat, so it was worth it!

Canada Mountie, Patrol Car

Here we used a rock for a mattress. We had just woken up but Kneebone was already being Australian!

Me, Dottie, Dale & Jonathan Kneebone (can you guess where from?) in Canada
– Me, Dottie, Dale & Jonathan Kneebone (can you guess where from?) –

Once we stayed in an old railway station converted to a sort of backpackers, the track ripped up and turned into a trail. Beautiful.

Then, suddenly, we needed to go canoeing. When in Canada, canoe! So we hired two boats in Quetico National Park, Lake of the Woods. All names may not be exact or current – these are 45yr-old memories!

We planned a three-night trip, but after one night we turned back and ran, tails between our legs! We had spent the day trying to dodge dark clouds of midges and no-see-ems, or black flies. When you ran your hand through your hair it came out covered in blood. That night we pitched the tents on an island in a cloud of mozzies. We lined up with our kit, zipped open, dived in and zipped up immediately. So fast that we only had fourteen million mosquitoes in the tent, a fraction of the hordes that were hovering and zeeeee-ing outside! Ama-azing! Canada sure has bugs!

But what beautiful country:

Lake Woods 3

As we’d cut our canoe trip short we decided to carry on into Manitoba, but Canada is vast, so we soon cut back and headed south for the US border at International Falls, into Minnesota, across the Mississippi River where it’s still quite small and headed south for Iowa, where I had to leave the gang.

They dropped me off and buzzed off into the sunset, three lovely ladies and an Aussie with who I had just spent one of the most unforgettable times of my life. That REALLY was special. So uncomplicated and relaxed and unstructured (unless Sherry was planning as we went – she was! I bet you she was!), and free and friendly. Wonderful people.

map Road Trip USA Home to Apache 1973

My host family from Apache Don & Jackie Lehnertz were up there and would be driving me back to Apache via Iowa, Missouri and Kansas on Stage Four. I’m afraid I slept a lot on this leg of the trip!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
3_USA 8_Nostalgia travel

Road Trip with Larry USA

My four-stage 1973 road trip started in Apache Oklahoma. Katie Patterson drove us down in her Ford LTD in Stage One to stay with her folks, Mama and Papa Hays, in Shreveport, Louisiana. There we ‘visited’ as Oklahomans say; We were spoiled – I was a third, honorary grandchild! We played golf – I recall smacking the ball into one inch ‘rough’ under big old trees draped in lichen, or old man’s beard; And we ate superbly.

Papa Hays gave me a beautiful old book:

– Ginny, Katie, Mama Hays, Papa Hays, Jimmy, Larry, Mary-Kate – in Shreveport Louisiana –

Larry and his sister Ginny joined us, having driven down from Cobleskill NY and we got ready for Stage Two of my Great North American Road Trip: Heading north-east in a light greenish-grey Volkswagen Bug.

– Larry, his ‘red’ VW and the U-Haul –

Larry and Ginny had packed their camping kit on the back seat; One more passenger meant we now needed a U-Haul carrier on the roof.

I remember surprisingly little about this trip north-east! We left the Red River and crossed the Arkansas River near Little Rock; I remember camping:

Larry VW Bug Camping
– Larry, Boy Scout! –

I remember crossing the mighty Mississippi River in or near St Louis, where the Missouri joins it;

The only thing I remember clearly is hoping my ID would be checked at the door when we went for my very first legal beer at a TGIF bar in Missouri. I had drank in Oklahoma, aged seventeen in a 21 state, I had drank in Louisiana and Arkansas, but now at last I was eighteen in an 18 state! Legal at last!

I held my SA passport ready . . I now know it was a Sunday; Richard Nixon was the President; We were listening to Killing Me Softly With His Song, and Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree; and NOW, at last, I would be checked and blessed for the first time . .

But the man at the door just waved me through. ** sigh! ** why have I always looked much older than I am? Nowadays people think I’m a hundred in the shade. Next they’ll be wanting to take away my drivers licence . . .

Oh, well, at least some other world-firsts happened that week: The first cellphone call; The World Trade Center twin towers opened; the first international rugby sevens tournament took place; the last American soldier ignominiously left Vietnam; and Pablo Picasso died.

I also remember getting to Larry’s hometown Cobleskill, a beautiful little town in upstate New York, and meeting his parents. I’d heard about Cobleskill since 1969 when Larry breezed into Harrismith and we spent a fun year making memories and amok; early experiments mixing beer and petrol – which he called gas. Well, we had a gas! Fun times!

The Wingert's place in Cobleskill NY

That’s a really vague and sketchy recollection of a magic route! Larry doesn’t remember much more. In fact he confidently remembered the VW Bug as being red! ‘Tis not only my memory glands that are dodgy, I’m relieved to tell.

He’s going to ask his sister Virginia. She’ll know more. I know we went here, cos my trusty Olympus trip 35 camera recorded it, but where is it?

– someone will know where this is – Missouri River? Mississippi River? –

~~~oo0oo~~~

A few days later, another VW Bug arrived, full of gorgeous Oklahomans; and one less-than-glamorous Aussie . . and this Bug was red.

– l to r – gorgeous Oklahomans Dottie Moffett, Sherry Porter-Steele and Dale Moffett –

We were headed for Canada!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Here’s our my correspondence to Larry in 2017 went:

Subject: Lost in the USA.
Hey Larry – Help a lost Vrystater who can’t remember where he has been!
I know we left Shreveport in your lil grey VW Bug and headed up to Little Rock (I guess on highways 49 and then 30) but after that I’ve hit a blank.
And I know you took us to some interesting places. Do you remember the route you took? I’d love to hear it. Sort of a trip down Forgettery Lane. Cheers – Koos

…..

Larry: Forgettery Lane? You’re talking to someone who’s pretty much strolling down Alzheimer’s Avenue! (at least where 40+-year-old memories are concerned). BTW, if we traveled in a VW Beetle, it must have been red.

Fortunately for us both, Ginny tends to be much better in the recall department than I am. I believe we started the trip as a way for me to check out some law schools (which I was sort of seriously considering at the time, but — fortunately — never pursued). She was good enough to volunteer to come along as a companion/navigator, though I’m afraid I was a bit tough on her in that latter capacity, especially when I got freaked out driving in Washington, D.C., where the traffic was a bit intense for a kid from the country and the city center is famously laid out like the spokes of a wheel, as opposed to the more traditional grid pattern. Not what I’d call intuitive.

Thankfully we’re still on speaking terms, which I fear I put in jeopardy there for a while, so I’ll ask her (by means of CC-ing her on this e-mail) for any details she may recall. Unless I traumatized her so badly that she’s repressed the entire experience! Or perhaps it had the opposite effect and seared it into her memory — let’s hope for that. We were just together (in Roanoke) over the Easter holiday; wish I could have asked her about it directly.

That’s a very long way of saying no, I don’t really remember our route — sorry. I’m still hopeful Ginny may be able to save my bacon.

~~~oo0oo~~~