1954 Cross-Country Road Trip
(1953 Chevy Bel Air 2-door Sedan)
Jul 31 (Sat)
We departed the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn (after getting my photo taken in
one of those automated booths in the lobby - and where a Rand McNally US Road
Atlas was purchased - to the slight distress of my Dad who figured on mainly
using the free state maps from the gas stations along the way). Some military
vehicle (with a truncheon on the back seat!) took us to a building on the eastern
edge of NY Bay. It was then onto some sort of cabin cruiser going across the wide
Bay (and someone on there pointing out the USNS Patch - our Feb 1952 transport to
the UK - docked to the north along the Brooklyn side). It was really too hot to
stay in the cabin section (which had an open door into the darker, deeper innards).
It was a late start after waiting to pick up the vehicle (pre-shipped from the UK)
at a depot on the west side of New York Bay. We spent a lot of that time in some
snack-bar-like facility which may have been on a floating wharf. Several bottles
of (orange ?) soft drink were consumed and an attempt to play some game machine
(torpedoing ships thru a periscope) which seemed to be busted (score wouldn't change).
It was then down the NJ turnpike in the late afternoon sun. We stopped for a late
meal at some place (in PA) which was situated in a grove of heavy shade trees. It'd
been a while since breakfast in Brooklyn.
After dark a good chunk of the PA Turnpike was covered - with me mostly asleep in
the back seat. I'm told that numerous exits were taken trying to find lodging
for the night (with a toll paid on each return to the Turnpike) - also a vehicle
following us was doing much the same thing.
Finally, well after midnight, the Graystone Hotel in Bedford was found with a vacancy.
All I can recall of entering there is being carried over my Dad's shoulder up some
stairs and being referred to as "part of the luggage". There may have been a portable
bed placed in the room for me.
Aug 1 (Sun)
The next day I finally got to see the rest of the PA Turnpike. However, near
Pittsburgh my Dad managed to miss the turn off to US 40 and maybe ended up halfway
to Cleveland before that was "corrected". That required backtracking along the Ohio
River (it seemed rather small and almost stagnant in spots) on the Ohio side of the
That evening's stop was at the Shamrock Plaza Courts and Grille at Etna, OH - not far
east of Columbus. It was warm, and the fan cooling in the room was inadequate. The
windows seemed to have been recently painted and were difficult to properly open. There
was a TV set, but the reception was perhaps marred by all of the auto ignition from the
heavy traffic going along nearby US 40. I'm not sure of the channels that we tried to
watch, so some tropospheric or even late-season Es CCI might have also been involved!
Aug 2 (Mon)
The next morning we went thru downtown Columbus, past their Capitol building. Lunch was
balogna sandwiches and potato chips (bought at an Indianopolis supermarket in the rain)
eaten in the car while stopped by the rural roadside. By late afternoon we crossed the
Wabash River before entering Illinois and onto overnight at someplace in Universal City,
just west of St. Louis, where the rattling air conditioner system was a definite distraction.
Aug 3 (Tue)
Hays, KS was the next stop - an area which reportedly had had some recent nearby tornado
activity. I ended up tripping on some of the gravel there with skinned knees resulting.
Aug 4 (Wed)
The next morning a little side trip just west of Hays was made to Grainfield to visit an
old friend of my Mom from Australia (who by that time had perhaps 7 children, and more in
later years before divorce in the 1960s). There were lots of heat mirages (on and off the
road) across the rest of Kansas. It was overcast by that afternoon in Denver (going by the
US Mint and State Capitol on Colfax/US 40) - and then into the Rockies where I got my first
acquaitence with major switchbacks.
The overnight was at Hotel Harbor in Steamboat Springs, CO. The room that they put us three
in there was not actually a "regular" rental room - perhaps one that a family member, who
was away at that time, normally used. On US 40 in the mountains a wheel-flung rock from a
vehicle ahead slightly chipped our car windshield.
Aug 5 (Thu)
The next day was thru the rest of the Colorado Rockies and across Utah (crossing
the Bonneville Salt Flats may've been the only time that the car's radio was used
during the entire trip). We overnighted at Jay's Cottages in Elko, NV. It was
there, likely under a bed, that a cheap toy spyglass (bought while in Scotland
waiting to leave the UK in late July) was accidentally left behind.
Aug 6 (Fri)
By afternoon we stopped at the California Agricultural Inspection Station (Truckee ?)
to rid ourselves of any "contraband" (there were benches and tables for those who
wished to consume any such that they had). We may have accidentally forgotten about
some small remnants of a watermellon from Kansas.
Ariving at my Dad's parents' house in Hayward in twilight it was learned that his
father was hospitalized (and would pass away a month later).
This trip was made at age 7, but a small diary and many postcards have kept the
memories intact. The family a had a Kodak Brownie (127 film), but it went unused.
At many places along this transcontinental trip there were those ubiquitous Berma
Shave signs. We also collected several state road maps from the gas stations -
which actually may have been more up-to-date than that Road Atlas.