First Midwest Trip to the West Coast-The Return
December 5, 1980 Day 1 Summary of California and First Day Back
The trips up and down the coast of california blog fills in between this and the previous entry of my first trip to the west coast. Now after those side trips I have prepared to head back east. I ended my trip south along the coast in haste as I came down with some malady, possibly toxosplasmosis. After a couple of weeks recovering I started doing some yard work for my cousin, I sold him a painting from my trip and he commisioned me to do a painting. Growing up he had become attached to one of those furniture store prints that are large and was hung over the fireplace. It was called "Village by the Lake" and it was starting to flake off and deterioate so he asked me to copy it for him. I did it same size of 24x30 inches and think it came out pretty well. I'm not sure where it is now but his parents had wanted the copy instead of the print.
I also got a couple of mums that I put on the floor of my van and painted then I took them and planted them in my aunt's garden, so I have the picture which at sometime I may be able to sell for someone else to enjoy and my aunt was able to enjoy the original mums in her yard for some time.
The preparations of the van were the usual things-I changed the oil and filter,cleaned the spark plugs, new points, cap and rotor, cleaned the carburator, and I had to put a petcock on my heater hose because you could no longer turn the heat on and off with the regular control. When it got cold the petcock would allow me to open up the hose to the heater, however I found that when it was really cold this didn't help much. I would close the curtain right behind me to help keep the heat up front and I would have to put a heavy coat over my legs while I was driving or they would get numb. I even made my own radiator cover like you see on diesel rigs to help keep the engine from running too cold. Finally I lubed the chassis. You use to be able to do all those things back then, now you are a victim of progress and when something goes wrong about all you can do is cuss.
I didn't want to take any unecessary chances, I had enough money to make the trip, in fact I was going back to maryland via south florida to visit my grandmother, but there wasn't enough if there were any major repairs. The trip wouldn't be like I normally like to travel, but bacause of the cold, the shorter daylight hours and the fact that I wanted to get home for christmas I would be putting a lot more daily miles on road and I would have to travel after dark. At 107807.8 on the odometer I had covered 13,779 miles since I had left home last summer for the first northeast trip and was about to put on several more thousand miles.
"Village by the Lake" copy
After about two months in California I was heading back east. Because of
the time of year and shortness of daylight plus now having some
semblance of a schedule-wanting to be home by christmas, I was breaking
some of my travel rules. I was going faster then 40 to 45 miles per hour,
but not by much and I was taking the interstates, something really hard to
avoid out west. Not much sightseeing other than spectacular views of the
terrain, most of my stops being either rest areas or gas stations. First rest
area near Cactus City, California. Then about 50 miles west of Phoenix.
After getting gas near Phoenix I drove a few more miles and stopped for
the night at a rest area south of Phoenix near Sacaton. 276.5 miles for the
December 6,1980 Day2 Deadheading about a 15 Hour Day on the Road
Up and going at 8:15, first stop at 11:12 at rest area east of Benson. I added a quart of oil. Next I got gas at The Thing Trading Post but I didn't see the Thing. On to the rest area near the New Mexico line and then stoped at the New Mexico weigh station to watch the sunset. Gas in El Paso and a couple more stops with a final stop for the day at the rest area near Van Horn at 11:37 pm-long day and I covered a lot of territory. Not too interesting to write about but it was great to see-all unexplored territory to me, hoping to get back some day to see it at a more leisurely pace. I covered 522.7 miles.
December 7-8,1980 Day 3&4 Stopover in Austin, Texas
I made it the rest of the way to Austin for a stopover with my sister
and brother-in-law who was out there now. Minimum of stops on the
way, gas at Fort Stockton (you definitely have to plan ahead for gas in
Texas because if you didn't get it in one of the far flung cities you would
get stuck paying a lot more at the in between stations), hour stop at a
scenic view area east of Sheffield, a shorter stop at a rest area on 290,
I stayed in town the 8th. I saw in the paper that there was a life
drawing session open to all so I went and got some practise. The woman
that posed had just had a baby the week before and had to take a break
tending to it and then did a pose holding the baby. I got some supplies
and made a stop at Dunkin Donuts. that was enough of a break for me
and planned to continue on to florida the next day.
December 9, 1980 Day 5 Just Driving
If I could or knew how I would just enter in the night stop locations
because there isn't much to write about some days, but I want to show a
record of my route. And actually I haven't figured out how to show
multiple stops in one day like it says you can because just showing one
stop each night isn't too accurate to show the complete trip I have been
on. Sometimes I may circle a large area in one day, but the two spots on
the map only shows a short distance from beginning and end. Today I
only covered a couple hundred miles going east on 10 and stopped about
dark at a picnic area a short distance west of Winnie.
December 10, 1980 Day 6 A New Orleans Stop This Time
After an early stop the night before I got a late start, which may be a
reflection of the weather-if it was cold I would often stay in bed until the
sun hit the van and warmed it up. I checked the tire pressure which I
recorded but won't write down probably being of little interest. After
getting gas in Winnie I headed on east stopping at the rest area just over
the Louisiana line and then again east of Lafayette. I didn't reach New
Orleans until after dark. My sister still complains that I wouldn't stop there
on the way out, which I didn't really want to do in the summer heat and
pulling a u-haul through the narrow streets trying to find parking. And I
can also justify it as not being safe. The night I arrived there had been a
sniper shooting at people on one of the main roads in town. Well the radio
reports were not enough to scare me off and I managed to get a parking
place by Armstrong Park. I didn't do anything real exciting-no bars or
shows. I just spent a couple of hours walking around and looking at things
and people. Then on to Mississippi where I spent the rest of the night at
the Welcome Center. My sister has since been to New Orleans, more than
once, and seen and done a lot more there than I did. She even took my
December 11, 1980 Day 7 South into Florida-East of Orlando
Headed out a little after 8:00 and reached the Florida Welcome Center
about 11:30, my 29th state for the year. I left 10 at Tallahassee and went
south on 19/27. I was driving late into the night so I could make my
grandmother's at a decent hour the next day. I reached Ocala bout 11:30
pm and stopped to eat at a Waffle House. My van had been stumbling so I
took the rotor and distributor cap off and cleaned them up with sandpaper.
Continued on south to Orlando and headed east on the Bee Line Highway
where I stopped at the central interchange about three in the morning to
get some sleep. 634.3 miles for the day. One of the highest mileage days
that I did. Back then it wasn't a toll road. I had been to Orlando once
before the winter I lived in Cocoa Beach surfing. I went to a professionla
wrestling match with a group that had a guy that wanted to become a
professional wrestler and one who had been on years before. There is a lot
of debate about it being real or fake-the word from the pro-you know who
is supposed to win going into the match but other than that it is real.
December 12, 1980 Day 8 Visit Cocoa Beach then Down to My Grandmother's in Jensen Beach
When I got up I headed for the coast-Cocoa Beach and Canaveral Pier. I lived down here the first year out of high school so I could surf and I wanted to see some of the places I had been, especially the pier.
That was a trip coming down from delaware. I hitchhiked most of the way and the only problem I had was in Daytona Beach and I'd like to insert my negative take on that place, and if I convince one person to avoid the place I will have achieved something. I got off of the interstate and was walking into town when I got stopped the first time. A cop stopped me and and went through my suitcase and told me to keep moving, go to the bus station and leave town. Well I proceeded to the bus station and as no buses were leaving I planned to spend the night there as it was getting late and try to catch a ride the next morning. In the middle of the night a cop came in and made me buy a tickect and told me to get out of town in the morning when the bus came through. The next experience was the next spring when I had friends going up there for spring break and I went along. I had a friend that had a major diasability and couldn't carry anything, but he was of age and did drink beer and he also had a legal letter explaining his condition and that people were allowed to carry his alcohol for him. Anyway we got back from the liquor store and I was carrying his package for him to the hotel. As we approached the door a worker inside made a jesture and we were surrounded by cops in a matter of seconds. They found out that they couldn't do anything legally but my friend was kicked out of the hotel and we all went back to Cocoa Beach. They put on a good face in their adds because they want your money but they really hate tourists and will back it up with their police state mentality. If you are thinking of going to Daytona Beach-don't.
Now back to the current story. After checking out some of the old spots in Cocoa Beach I followed the coast on down to Jensen Beach where my grandmother lived. I'll combine all the days blog I stayed there into the next post.
One other thought. They changed the name of Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy to honor the former president . Then years later they changed it back. What's with that? I've seen things all over named after presidents but I have never seen them change it again anywhere else. Maybe they should have installed one of those flashing roadside signs that you can change the letters on.
This entry will cover the time I spent in Jensen Beach before I left to head
back north on December 21st. December was the nicest month when I lived
in Cocoa Beach for the winter, not too hot and the water was a nice
temperature, before the winter storms. Just like california, the weather in
florida is not always warm and sunny. In fact the winter I stayed it did
snow a little to the west of Cocoa Beach. Stormy, rainy and cold during
much of january and february, with march being real nice again, but by the
end of april into may it starts getting too hot for anybody that has to
actually work outside down here and can't go to the beach every day. The
other thing it did to me living down here was the fresh oranges and
grapefruit were so good that any where else I get them they never measure
up. I seldom buy "fresh" fruit any more because it is so disapppointing. It
was really nice years ago when you could only get certain fruits and
vegetables in season-why? because now tht you can get them any time of
year they always seem to be lousy especially if you've had the real thing
right from the grove.
Anyway I had a nice week , taking care of some van problems-alignment,
replacing a couple of tires that had started to separate, spending time on
the beach which was a short walk from my grandmother's. I did two
paintings, one near the House of Refuge-that is for turtles and another in
the savannas. My grandmother bought a couple of paintings. I also did a
number of sketches in the area. Then it was time to go if I was going to
make it home by Christmas.
December 21, 1980 Heading North to Home
Time to head north and hoping for good weather because I wanted to
check out some cosastal spots along the way. I grew up at the beach but
where I am from had become way overbuilt and not as appealing so I
became interested in finding that ideal beach spot which had more of the
character of what it was like when I was growing up. I checked the air in my
tires and then I was on my way. I made a couple of short stops along the
road but my first meal was at a Waffle House in Jacksonville on the airport
It was going to be a long night so I stopped again at a Waffle House at the
Richmond Hill, Georgia, exit on I 95. I was following I 95 until I reached the
Route 17 in South Carolina. Backtracking the route I hitchhiked on many
years before this. After making a short stop at the South Carolina Welcome
Center I took off on Route 17 North. I passed a church right before Gardens
Corner that I had taken refuge for the night that fall I had hitchhiked down
from Delaware. I was let out in the middle of the night by a guy going to
Beaufort there at Garden Corners and realized I was out in the middle of
nowhere, with the late fall day's temperature falling drastically and not
much chance of getting another ride before morning. I started walking by
the feel of the macadam on my feet in the pitch dark imagining that there
might be crocodiles or something that could be lurking along the side of the
road. But I didn't imagine the cold, as I could start seeing my breath and
figured it was in the low thirties. Then I saw a light up ahead. As I drew
closer I could see it was a small church by the side of the road. I tried the
front door knowing that in the past churches were often unlocked for people
who wanted to meditate. No luck, it was locked. I was about to keep
walking but then decided to look for a back door. I made my way around to
the back and there was a door and thankfully it was unlocked. So I went in
and tried to sleep on the bench but then found the rug on the floor although
thin, was more comfortable. I made it through the night and in the morning
walked on to I 95 where I was able to get a ride.
I made a longer stop in Mount Pleasant when I got gas. I had been having
some stumbling problems with the van and I cleaned up the distributor cap
and end of the condensor wire. I probably needed new spark plug wires but
tried to make due. After a short rest I took off again and stopped by the road
at the boat launch on the Northern Santee River. This was ideal because it
was close to the beach area I wanted to visit the next day.
I climbed a tree and picked some mistletoe to take home and then headed for
Pawley's Island. I've mentioned that I had been wanting to find a nice beach
location to move to. Growing up at the beach a block from the ocean it's
something I always miss when I am inland but the growth and atmosphere of
Rehoboth Beach had become quite unattractive to me. When I joined the
army I went to Fort Jackson in Colombia, South Carolina for basic training
starting in early january until I left in april. It was definitely cold when I got
there and at we even camped out in the snow, but the winter was shorter
than where I was from but there was still definite seasons which I liked. I
figured it would be milder down by the ocean and so South Carolina became a
An aside about the weather and the army experience. The day we were
issued all our military gear and clothes I saw a sign on the wall of the
distribution center saying something to the effect that we were in the best
dressed military in the world. Unfortuneatly they didn't have my size boots,
they were a half size too small. In order for my feet to fit in them I had to
remove the insole that acted as an insulator. My feet got mighty cold that
winter, especially standing in line outside the mess hall in sub freezing
weather. A few weeks later those of us who needed to exchange things were
scheduled to go back an get the right sizes. However the way things worked
out they sent me to a special meeting that I was not allowed to miss. So I had
boots that didn't fit for the next three years in the best dressed military in the
I am always lookin at maps, whether I am traveling or looking at where I've
been or looking at places I would like to go. So I had looked at maps of the
coast of South Carolina for years wondering what it was like. I deterined that
Pawleys Island might be the ideal spot and after three years in the army and
several more years back in the states I was finally going to see it first hand.
And when I got there I liked it. Big old houses, no commercial development.
A small barrier island with views of both the ocean and the bay from pretty
much everywhere on the island. The only problem was how to afford it and
support myself there. I still haven't figured that out and for most of the years
since I haved lived up here in Michigan.
Anyway after sitting on the south end of the island and eating my lunch then
driving around the rest of it I continued on north. I checked out some more of
the coast but for the most part just kept driving and arrived back in Salisbury
at 10:16 pm ending some 6 months of travel and exploration spending over
100 days on the road living in my green van and usually sleeping in it even
when I was staying somewhere. They say you always sleep better in your
own bed and I was able to travel all over and still have my own bed.
So that is the end of my first big trip in the green van. My next blog will
follow the next trip in 1982 taking a northerly route out west hitting most of
the states I missed the first time, hitting the pacific ocean in northern Oregon
and following the coast down to San Francisco then inland and south to
Claremont again. I would be stranded in California for about a year living in
my van parked in my cousin's garage. There will be a lot more photos and
paintings on location from that trip.
December 22, 1980 Last Day of Travel for this Year