I’m sure that many of you are looking at the title of this post and are saying, “A look back? If this is a look back, what were the previous seven or eight posts?” Yeah, I get it. Calling this The Wrap-Up, or something similar would make more sense, but I think today’s picture goes better with A Look Back. Plus Cindy hadn’t appeared in any of the other photos that I used in this series of posts.
When we got back to Lafayette, and the house where we were going to live as a family, we found the grass had been recently cut by Lee, my new step-son. It was the first time he had cut it, and if memory serves me correctly, the last time he cut it while living with us. I hadn’t cut grass for many years since I had been renting apartments in Auburn and then Lafayette. I was kind of looking forward to getting back in the habit. I had been a bachelor for more than forty years; now I had a ready-made family. Maybe the honeymoon had served as a cushion to help us rest before jumping into a new lifestyle.
We came back with a load of memories. Many of them still come up in conversation with friends, especially stories about Dallas, Ciudad Juarez, and Paige. Cindy and I can laugh about them now. I’m sure that over the years some of the stories have become embellished. And it has been so long since the actual events that we believe some of the embellishments. Cindy had visited some of the same places with her previous husband, and would comment on those visits. I remember saying at one point, after hearing one of those stories, that this trip was for us to make our own memories, not go over old ones. Maybe the honeymoon was a method of giving us happy memories that we can share through the years.
But I think that the most valuable thing that we got from the honeymoon was the opportunity to learn about each other on a different level. Two weeks together in an automobile can either solidify a friendship or utterly destroy it. After that first night’s rocky start, we learned to adapt and our friendship and love just got stronger. In my mind, that’s what the honeymoon was for.
As for Cindy, she would probably say that the biggest thing she got from the honeymoon was to never follow a man on a bicycle.
So to those of you who said that our marriage wouldn’t last…you might want to re-think that idea. It’s twenty-five and counting.
We were headed back home after leaving The Grand Canyon. I must once more blame my faulty memory for forgetting much of the trip back to Indiana. A few things do come to mind when looking at pictures from the trip and also from talking to Cindy and friends we have verbally told about our honeymoon.
For instance, we made a stop at Four Corners, where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. I know because we have a picture of me standing on the site. I didn’t choose to use that picture because it once again shows that I should never allow my picture to be taken when I’m wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I think that I still have the sandals that I’m wearing in the picture.
I remember that Cindy freaked out when we were driving down the mountain from Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado. Something similar happened in Nevada last year. I love the mountains, but I’m not sure that it is worth seeing them when they have such a traumatic effect on my wife.
Of course I remember Hannibal, Missouri, the site of our first major blowup as a married couple. I don’t remember the incident that started everything, but it had to do with my driving. Cindy was not liking the way I was driving, and was letting me know it. Finally I got very irritated with what I considered back-seat driving and said, “Face it! You’re just like my mother!” Friends, that was the wrong thing to say.
Cindy snapped, “Pull over and stop the car.” I did so, thinking that she wanted my full attention. In a way she did, because she got out of the car and started walking.
Now I had options. 1) I could park the car and walk to catch up to her and try to cajole her back to the car. Or 2) I could drive slowly along beside her, incurring the wrath of the people in the cars behind me, while I tried to get her back in the car. Or 3) I could take the bridge across the river to Illinois and wait for her on the other side. While option 3 had a strong appeal, I chose option 2. She settled down enough after a couple of blocks to get back in the car. I learned my lesson. I don’t believe that I have ever again compared her to my mother…at least when I’m driving.
We left Farmington, NM and headed west to The Grand Canyon in Arizona. We left fairly early, and with a stop for breakfast, made it to the canyon in around five hours. We travelled the south rim and drank in the gorgeous views. I love Yellowstone National Park and Niagara Falls among other places, but for sheer “knock you back on your heels” grandeur, nothing beats The Grand Canyon. It was the first time that I had been there, but it won’t be the last.
I wish that we had been able to spend more time there, but it was not to be. We knew that we couldn’t go any further west or spend more time at the canyon without running the risk of not getting back to Indiana before our honeymoon time was up. So after spending a few hours at the canyon we headed back east and then north in search of a place to spend the night. After around two hours on the road we came to Paige, Arizona. And now we enter a somewhat surrealistic portion of our trip.
Paige is on the border between Arizona and Utah, and it appeared to be our best chance of finding a place to stay before nightfall. We passed two or three motels, all of which had NO VACANCY neon signs lit. Then, on the eastern edge of town there was a motel without a NO VACANCY sign. Hurrah!
I went into the motel office and enquired about a room. The fellow behind the desk looked somewhat startled and said that they had no vacancies, and then realized that he had not turned on their neon sign. I told him that I was surprised that there were no vacancies in the entire town. He explained that a movie was being shot on location just across the State line and the movie crew had taken all of the rooms in town.
He then said that he had a friend who occasionally rented rooms in her house. Would he like me to call her to see if she was willing to take us in? She would only charge as much as the motel would charge us. I knew that Cindy was tired, and I didn’t want to drive strange roads for hours after dark, so I said I would be grateful if he would call his friend. So he called her and was told that the rooms she normally rented were filled, but that she would give up her master bedroom and bath to us. She could spend the night with her boyfriend. I told him that we would take it.
He told me to get in our car and that he would lead us to the house. When I got in the car and explained what was happening to Cindy, she was dubious, but agreed that we didn’t want to get back on the road. She almost changed her mind when the fellow came out of the office and climbed on his bicycle to lead us to the house.Shades of Ciudad Juarez!
The house was just a few blocks from the motel, in a nice section of town. It was a new, two-story house. Like all of the other houses in that area, there was no grass, but landscaped gravel and succulent plants. The motel/bicycle guy took me in to meet the owner and to see the room. She was a pleasant person. I looked at the room and bath on the second floor and was pleased. There was large, comfortable looking bed in the room, as well as a love seat and chair, and a largish television. The bathroom had both a shower and a tub. I paid for the room and in return was handed two keys, one for the front door of the house and one for the bedroom. She explained that the other two bedrooms were rented to a couple of construction workers who were in town for a few months. They would be coming in later. They were usually very tired and didn’t make much noise.
So I went to the car to collect Cindy and our luggage. The motel guy came out, climbed on his bicycle and rode away. The owner got into her car and drove away before I could introduce Cindy to her. We went into the house and settled in. Cindy wanted to call home to check on how the kids were doing, and since this was a time before we had cell phones, we went out in search of a telephone booth.
We drove back to the west side of town where we had noticed a large supermarket and drug store. Sure enough, in front of the store was a phone booth. Cindy got out of the car to make the call, while I stayed in the car and read the local newspaper. After a few minutes Cindy came back to the car in an agitated state. It seems that while she was in the booth she had looked over at some men sitting at a nearby picnic table. One of them looked back at her and licked his lips, and made other suggestive gestures with his lips and tongue. Of course I should have been there to protect her honor, but instead I was reading a newspaper.
She calmed down a bit over dinner, but her calm evaporated after returning to our rented room. Cindy decided to open the French doors in our room and to step out onto the balcony. Luckily it wasn’t yet dark so she saw that when she opened the doors there was no balcony. Disaster averted. We tried the TV, but there was nothing on that either of us wanted to watch. We started talking about our trip so far, and that we would be getting home soon. We talked about how strange things had been in Paige. (Here’s the foreshadowing) The strangeness wasn’t over completely.
We were ready to go to bed when we heard the other renters enter the house and come upstairs to their rooms. That’s when Cindy decided that they weren’t construction workers, but were really drug dealers who would attack and kill us in our sleep. I don’t know; maybe she thought they had trailed us from Mexico and wanted the purse she had brought through customs. At any rate, we couldn’t go to bed. We must stay up and be vigilant in order to protect ourselves. She broke out a deck of cards and we played Rummy until early in the morning.
Around sunrise the next morning, while the construction workers were still sleeping soundly, I lugged our luggage to the car. When I stepped out of the front door I was greeted by the owner of the house. She was holding a hose and was watering the gravel. She said good morning and then explained that she was having sod laid in the next week. I was pretty sure that the water would be evaporated by then, but what did I know? Besides, I didn’t have to pay her water bill. I returned the keys to her and thanked her for letting us rent to bedroom and bath.
Cindy came down, got into the car, and we drove away. We shall never forget that stop in Paige, AZ.
We left Santa Fe fairly early by our standards. Cindy’s legs were aching from her sprint through the caverns, so we decided to make it a short driving day.
You’ll remember from my post about our wedding and reception, that I had made a few mixed tapes to be played. For the most part they were ignored by our DJ, but I made sure that I brought them with us on the trip. We played those tapes and many more that I had packed all through the trip. One of the songs that I particularly like is my favorite cover of a Beatles tune. It is by Blood, Sweat & tears. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fnNIvIQp58 It seemed appropriate for our wedding day, and just about every other day.
While we were driving in and around the Santa Fe national Forest and the Carson National Forest, another favorite of mine started playing. Frank Sinatra, of course. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XCVnV5CGh0. Why couldn’t they have played this at our reception? I just don’t get it.
Eventually we stopped driving north, and turned to the west. Cindy was curtailing most of her discomfort with pain pills, but I knew that we couldn’t keep driving indefinitely. I decided that we would stop at the next fair sized town, and that was Farmington, NM.
Since Cindy had stopped thinking about an annulment, and we had shared some good laughs, I decided that it was time to put in a tape that we hadn’t listened to before. I told Cindy that it had a song that I thought was perfect for our honeymoon. It was Lyle Lovett https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdLCFjPjr_k. Cindy has something of a feminist streak, so she was torn between laughter and outrage. Lucky for me, she had stood by me for 25 years so far. Maybe it was an omen.
We found a motel in Farmington, but I don’t remember if it was a Motel 6. Cindy was still in pain, but it wasn’t as bad. While she rested, I started reading a book that I had brought along. It was a Tony Hillerman mystery, the first that I read, and part of it was set in Farmington, New Mexico. I found that to be quite a coincidence.
Eventually we started getting hungry and went out to eat dinner. On the way back to the motel we stopped at a drug store and picked up a few needed items. As we checked out, the cashier said to us, “Have fun tonight.” Gosh, I hoped so too.
I should probably speed up the narrative of our honeymoon trip. Today is Part 4 and we’re only nearing the half way point. Yes, compression is in order. But I don’t want to skip any of the interesting points. Bear with me.
Luckily the next day’s drive was a short one, so starting late was not a problem. We started very late, like around noon. We were only on the road for around three hours when we got to Carlsbad, New Mexico. We both wanted to visit Carlsbad Caverns. Cindy had been there before, but I had not. It was one of the places on my wish list. Since we arrived in Carlsbad in mid-afternoon, we opted to get a motel room and spend the night before going to the caverns. Cindy was happy to find a Motel 6. It wasn’t nearly as nice as the one in El Paso, but Cindy was pleased.
Cindy told me that it was always cool on the caverns, and that I would need a jacket. I hadn’t packed a jacket. We decide to go shopping while we were out finding a restaurant for dinner. As luck would have it, we found a small shopping mall wherein a J.C. Penny store was the anchor. So we went into the store and bought me a lightweight jacket. Then it was off to dinner.
We returned to the motel after dark. The light at our door was lit and had attracted around a hundred moths. People think that bats are the most numerous in Carlsbad. Nope, it is the moths. I tried to shoo the moths away from the door while we entered, but a dozen or more made it into the room with us. They were our companions for the night.
The next day we went to the caverns and signed on for a guided tour. As we started the tour Cindy found that a few things had changed since she was last there. For instance, smoking was not allowed. Cindy’s attitude toward the tour changed completely. We had been at the back of the pack, but she started double-timing and soon passed the guide. I started regretting wearing the jacket since I was trying to keep up with her. Soon I was bathed in sweat. So much for a cool cavern.
Some of the trail through the caverns was pretty steep. Cindy bent into her walking, and at times looked like Groucho Marx in an early film with his brothers. Occasionally she would come to a panting halt and I would be able to take a picture like the one above. I am proud of the pictures I took in the cavern, because I had no flash and was only using the light supplied by the park.
We arrived at the bottom area where there was a food stand. I think smoking must have been allowed there, because we stayed long enough to eat a hot dog and drink a soft drink. Rather than walk out of the cavern, Cindy chose to ride the elevator to the top.
Since we had a truncated trip in the caverns, we climbed into the car and drove to just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we spent the night…with no moths.
I remember taking this picture in Texas while Cindy was driving. It looked ominous up ahead, but we couldn’t drive out of the storm’s path. We were lucky in that it turned out to be only a brief downpour.
We left Dallas the next day and moseyed on down to El Paso, encountering no problems. I remember that at one point I looked over at Cindy and saw a sombre face. It was then that I realized that neither of us had smiled in the past three days. I mentioned it to Cindy and she agreed. That seemed to loosen the mood, and soon we were actually enjoying the trip.
When we got to El Paso we found and checked into a Motel 6, Cindy’s favorite motel chain. This was actually a pretty nice Motel 6, clean rooms and an outdoor pool. Cindy inveigled me into going to the pool with her. We spent a long time soaking in the water and setting in deck chairs. After a while we went back to our room to change for dinner.
We went searching for a restaurant that we found in the Yellow Pages, but gave up after driving around for a half hour or more. We settled on stopping at a German restaurant that was just down the street from our motel. I wish I could remember the name of the place, because it was the best German food that I had been able to find since I got out of the Army. It was great!
The next morning I awoke with one of the most uncomfortable sunburns that I have ever had. I knew that there was no way that I would be able to sit in a car all day, so we extended our stay in El Paso for another day. I could however stand a short drive across the border into Ciudad Juarez. So off we went.
Once we crossed the bridge I was desperately driving, looking for a shopping district where we could pick up some souvenirs for the kids and friends back home. As we were sitting at a stop light, a little man riding a bicycle pulled up beside us and asked Cindy if we were looking for a place to buy souvenirs. She waffled a bit, but said yes. He then told us to follow him, and he would lead us to a good shop.
I followed his bicycle as he weaved through the traffic leading us further from the main streets. Finally he pulled into a dirt parking area and stopped beside a nondescript building. It looked like a very small house. He escorted us into what appeared to be a side entrance. Inside were tables with typical souvenir knickknacks, T-shirts, etc. I chose a T-shirt for me, Cindy found a leather purse, and we picked up a few things for the folks in Indiana. We paid and left the building.
In the parking area the man with the bike came up to us with his hand out. He told us that we were expected to give him 20% of what we had spent. That seemed too much. Cindy told him that people don’t expect that much in the U.S. He started to get angry. I thought of telling him that he was probably getting a decent kickback from the shop owner, but decide that he might not understand that much English, and that there was no need in angering him.
At that point Cindy glanced around and saw two men staring at us. She started to get nervous. She was certain that the men were getting ready to attack us. I looked at them and didn’t feel that they would. I think they were just curious. But Cindy wanted to give the man some money to get rid of him. So I gave him some bills from my wallet (not as much as he wanted), and told him that it was all that we had. He scowled. We got in the car and I drove away. Luckily I remembered how to get back to the main thoroughfare.
When we got to line of cars lined up for border customs I made the mistake of pulling up too close to the car ahead of us. The border guard got upset and ordered me to back up, so I did. I felt foolish. When our turn came, he asked if we had bought anything in Mexico. We told him what we had bought. When Cindy said that she had bought a purse, he said that often drug runners would put drugs into purses and then rob the innocent people who brought them across the border; sometime killing the people.
As we pulled away, Cindy took the purse and opened it. She tore out all of the paper that was stuffed in the purse to give it shape. She was frantic. It didn’t occur to either of us that if the border guard was concerned he would have asked to see the purse. He hadn’t. But we weren’t thinking coherently. As we headed back to the motel Cindy saw a Denny’s Restaurant. Back then Denny’s was Cindy’s comfort restaurant. She begged me to pull in, so I did. The food wasn’t as good as at the German restaurant. But we ate and then drove back to the motel. Tomorrow we were leaving El Paso.
I don’t know if we were in Missouri, Arkansas or Oklahoma when I took this picture. I do know that I took it because of the clouds and the person in the lower left corner. I wanted him in the picture for scale. I was using my Minolta 35mm camera back then.
I should have written all of my memories from our honeymoon a long time ago, because I’m sure that I have forgotten a lot of things that happened. As late as ten years ago I could probably have traced our route on road maps, but now I just know general directions and some of the high points of the trip. I can only offer truncated versions of the journey.
So when I stopped writing the other day, we had stopped and spent the night somewhere in western Illinois, about a half hour drive to St. Louis, Missouri. We safely negotiated St. Louis and started angling south and west. The weather was fine and we were making good time. Then we had a tire blowout. Well, why not? Things had been going too smoothly. I changed the tire, but realized that my spare was old and smooth, so we found a tire repair shop to get the blowout repaired. I was afraid that the entire honeymoon was going to be plagued by unforseen expenses and delays.
The tire was repaired, we ate lunch in a nearby restaurant, and got back on the road in a reasonable amount of time. We continued heading south and west. Now my memory fuzzes over, so bear with me. I know that we travelled through a portion of the Ozark mountains, probably in Arkansas. And I know we went through Oklahoma Hill country, but I’m not sure if we did that all in one day.
The next stop that I remember is when we stopped for the night in Dallas, Texas. We got in late and found a motel somewhat off the beaten track. By off the beaten track I mean that we had to go searching for a restaurant where we could eat dinner. There was nothing near by. We did find a family style restaurant where they served breakfast all day. It was very busy. We ordered and ate. While we were waiting for our bill, the restaurant manager came into the room and announced that the place had been robbed by a person who came in and demanded all of the money in the cash register. We all had to wait until the police arrived. Somewhere between a half hour and an hour later the police still hadn’t shown up. The manager returned and announced that he had gone through all of the paid bills and had determined how much money had been taken, so we could leave. I doubt if the police ever did show up.
In the next installment: More fun in Texas and Old Mexico.