New Hampshire to California, Fall 2005

Part 1 Even a 400-day journey needs a start date

Part 2 Traveling west across the United States; Albany (New York) to Joliet (Illinois)

Part 3 Two cities, twice the fun: Chicago and Minneapolis

Part 4 South Dakota: From the Prairie to the Palace

Part 5 South Dakota: The Badlands National Park is a Must See

Part 6 South Dakota: Spectacular Crazy Horse, the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore

Part 7 South Dakota: Crystal Caves and Bear Country USA led the way to Wyoming

Part 8 Wyoming: Spectacular Beauty in Every Direction, including a cattle drive

Part 9 Utah: Zion National Park

Part 10 Destination Long Beach with a stop in Las Vegas


Driving across the United States was a great way to see parts of the country we only flew over in the past. We learned a lot by taking an entire month to decompress and enjoy some of the lesser known places of interest as well as some of areas we had been told not to miss.

We have driven more than 4,700 miles and still have errands to attend to before leaving. It is Monday and we got the call that the ship was making good time and we need to be ready to board at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

With only two days left, we need to do something about the car. Fast!  Rob talked to the motel’s day manager, asking about used car lots and such, and he says he knows of someone who might be interested in a car, someone who needs one to get to work.  The two of us discuss this alone and agree what to do. Later, when the man says that actually, he would be interested in buying the car – to give to his sister – we say, in unison, “That’s great, but let us give it to her.” 

He is amazed, but we let him know we were looking to donate the car to someone in need and if his sister, who has recently come to the area from the Midwest, needs a vehicle to get to work, we will be happy to give her one.  We explain the car’s foibles but acknowledge that, for all its drawbacks, it has just brought us across country.  He makes arrangements to have his sister come look at the car and we head off for a walk to get acclimated a bit before catching up with nephew, Eric, who is expecting us.

Just as we said farewell to our NY family when we left, it was fun to have the opportunity for a quick hello and a celebratory dinner with my nephew, Eric, in Long Beach on the night before leaving on the freighter for New Zealand. It was especially fun to watch the far off lights of freighter traffic coming and going from the port.

On Tuesday, we ended up putting another 120 miles on the car to pick up our freighter tickets in Silverado, at another General Delivery drop.  The travel people where none too sure about this because they are used to sending things to people’s homes, but we picked this town because it (A) had a post office and (B) it was a tiny circle on the map, meaning it would have only one post office.  Eric had never even heard of Silverado and thinks we are nuts, but he travels so much we didn’t know if he’d even be in CA when we arrived so it was safer this way and it would provide a nice ride around sunny California.

The ride, in fact, turned out to be interesting as Silverado is in a canyon (or is a canyon?). Not dramatically scenic, but pleasant.  We got to the Post Office at 1:55 p.m. to stand in a line of two people and are then informed that General Delivery pick-ups are not available until 2:30 – or at the very least, 2:15.  Okay, is there some place nearby we could get lunch, perhaps, while we wait?  Oh, and could we have some tape to seal this box, perhaps?  Only if we are shipping it Priority Mail; otherwise we can buy a roll for some three bucks.  Hmm…not quite as friendly to foreigners out here in the boonies of California as the postmistress in Jean, Nevada, we’re thinking, until we are informed it is Taco-Tuesday at the Café across the street.  

So we help another patron corral a few things into a box and saunter across for tacos.  Now this is where the hospitality abounds.  Tuesday Tacos come for $1 each and we split a bunch and gobble down some of the typical stuff; talk travel with the waitress (owner maybe?) when we told her why were in the café — and before we know it, it is 2:30.  Rob ran across the street to the Post Office, and came back with our tickets.  Another couple had arrived by then and it turned out they are travelers too, so we all enjoyed a rousing talk about travel and were speeded on our way with much well wishing.  That other patron, by the way, says the Silverado Café serves a delicious steak, so we put it on our list of things to do on another trip.

Back in town, we again spend the evening with dinner before packing it in … it has been a long day and tomorrow we’ll be embarking on one of the ships in the harbor.  We can hardly believe it has finally happened and everything is falling into place so nicely.  Lizbeth has seen the car and is happy to have it, so we make all the arrangements to turn over the papers tomorrow at noon and her younger brother will drive us to the Guard Shack so we don’t need to get a cab.  These are nice people and so we go to sleep happy and excited, both.

Our brush with California Law and Order

Wednesday, at 3:33 a.m.: There is a bright red light flashing between the drawn drapes of our ground floor motel room.  Just as I said, “I think there are cops outside,” there was a loud THUNK-THUNK-THUNK. Three raps on OUR door and a voice saying, “Police.” 

We have seen “COPS” one too many times, apparently. If anyone could have seen us, they’d say our eyes were “as big as saucers,” for sure.  We both frantically fumble for clothes and Rob calls out, “Give us a minute to dress.”  Ever the cautious one, I said to Rob with hand on doorknob, “Of course, we are assuming it really is the police,” so he pulls the drape back a bit and we are eyeball-to-eyeball with one of Long Beach’s finest and see two police cars, blocking the motel exit.  This guy at our door is straight out of the TV show:  dressed in dark navy or black, he is all beef and ready for whatever might pounce on him in the night.

We crack open the door and the officer says, “We have just arrested a young woman and she says her boyfriend, Darnell, lives here, in apartment 110,” pointing to our room number on the door.  We, in comic unison, move our eyes to the right as he points to the numbers and then to the left six inches, to stare at the glass-enclosed, well-lighted motel office lobby just across the drive from us, and then back to the cop and say, “This is a motel room.”

“So,” he persists, “you saying you don’t know Darnell?”  In unison, we reply, “No. This is a motel room.”  I admit to being the dramatic one, so I’m thinking this fellow could be straight out of Central Casting and this is practically LA – we don’t want any TV show antics here.  Not to be deterred, the cop tries again, “So, how long have you been living here?” 

Okay, it clearly is time to clarify the situation and one more round of “this is a motel room” won’t do.  “We are from Albany, New York. We arrived two days ago to wait for our ship to come in” (ignoring the fact that is considered a trite phrase by some grammar checkers and simultaneously pointing to the right and the harbor lights behind the cars in the lot), “and we will be leaving for New Zealand by noon.”  It was only when pointing to the harbor that we turn enough to see the second officer standing in the shadows to the right of the door.  He gave a very slight nod which, we later believe was an indication he had seen our car in the lot before they had knocked – the one with the New York plates and the sign saying we were moving to Manchester by going west, around the world.

The more senior officer, the one who had questioned us, said he hoped we understood they needed to follow-up on their case; we said, no problem; and we all bid each other good night.  Now our goal was to try to go back to sleep! 

Some five hours later, we sit in the morning sun on Ocean Boulevard in front of a café with free, wireless access.  A panhandler alias vagrant was standing here as we arrived.  Apparently one of the young women who staff the place had called for assistance, because a Long Beach cop was there, as well, although he moved off to the side to speak on a cell phone.

There was no confrontation, as the panhandler had moved back toward the sidewalk, obviously aware of, and not wishing to test his legal limits.  As the waitress delivered our bagels to a table about three feet from the fellow, she had said something, very quiet, like “leave these people alone” and then just turned and left.  She practically skipped back into the café because someone had actually heeded HER warning. 

The cop went inside, they spoke a bit and he left.  This was no night-cop, all muscle and beef.  This was the day-cop: the 6’2” eyes-of-blue cop, dressed in a crisp white shirt and blue Bermuda shorts and – we kid you not – motoring away on a bicycle.  What a difference a few hours make in downtown Long Beach!

Back to our new reality we actually begin our journey across the Pacific

We were packed and delivered to the Guard Shack around 1:30 p.m.  We had no idea how long a drive it is or if we’ll have to wait for a shuttle (we don’t) but we surely did not want to be the ones to be holding anyone up.  It is fine…we have plenty of time and are allowed to board the “CP Tui” immediately. 

All told, we drove nearly 4,900 miles. And we toured five museums, saw four national forests and parks, and drove two of the most scenic routes in the United States. Not bad for the first month!

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