Friday, May 18, 2007

Itchy Feet

I have always had an urge to travel ... be on the move. When I was in the seventh grade, an eight grader took off and hitch hiked to Miami from Rhode Island. When he was found and returned , he became an unlikely hero with his stories of the adventure. I was not as daring and also not willing to incur my fathers ire. As soon as school was finished I planned my "adventure". We as a family often went to visit my mother's sister near Hartford, Ct. I knew route 44 ran from my home town deep into Connecticut. It was not unusual for my brother and I to spend summer days out of the house until supper time. I decided I would hitch hike to Hartford and back. I happily accepted rides and stayed with them until they turned off the route. I easily made the outskirts of Hartford in less than three hours. Then I crossed over and hitched back to Greenville. I had interesting conversations with the people who picked me up, and had to assure more than one driver that I was not running away. I did make it home before supper and no one was ever the wiser. When I got my drivers license and my own car, it was not uncommon for me to drive a few hundred miles in a day.

These itchy feet and and a keen hatred of a slide rule and engineering classes resulted in my dropping out of college after one semester and joining the U. S. Navy. I still have the slide rule (somewhere) as it was the very best that my Dad could buy. Bamboo, I believe as I was told they were the best, in a black leather case. My mom gave it back to me after my Dad passed. I have been told that it is a collector item. I won't sell it but I don't want to look at it.

I easily passed the test and was guaranteed a service school. I ended in Jet Mechanic school, my second choice. My eyes were not up to snuff for Air Traffic Controller. I was lucky that way, Reagan probably would have fired me, and I ended up in a sea going squadron. My school was in Memphis, Tennessee and I was there for the annual Cotton Carnival. Great party! It was also my first exposure to segregation (summer 1960). I also kind of met Elvis Presley. Often he would hold court in his drive way in his convertible. As you can imagine there would be lots of girls. Several of us were there in our sailor suits, and he spoke to us and asked what we were doing, and one of the guys responded "hoping for overflow". He chuckled.

I was flown over seas to catch my squadron. After a few weeks stuck on a NATO base in Morrocco (another story) I was flown aboard The U S S Saratoga. A carrier landing ... I was on a natural high. I loved being out at sea. I became a plane captain and worked the night shift on the flight deck for the best part of 3 Mediterranean Cruises and several more Caribbean carrier qualifications. (New pilots getting their carrier certification) Before I was twenty, I had climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, visited great art museums in several countries, attended a bull fight in Barcelona. It was not all cultural, I loved the drinking and the women. By the time my enlistment was up, I had been part of the Cuban blockade, I had been part of a group that lived in the hills of Greece while some of our pilots worked with the Greek Air Force. I've seen the monkees of Gibralter. I have memories! I made the best and dearest friends of my life. I am still close to several of them. My wife refers to those years as the "best four years of my life". Yes ,I was young and free and invincible and blessed with outstanding buddies.

I have had great adventures since. I've always tried to travel with the family. My children have all been to Europe. Either with me or on their own.

My wife and I always did rode trips. Marie does not do boats ... no way ever! Marie was a big fan of Anne of Green Gables. She saw that a bridge had been completed to Prince Edward Island and mentioned it to me. That was the destination of my next vacation. It is a beautiful place. The lighthouses, the red soil, the Anne places. We did it all. We have been to some great places, the Rockies, the Badlands, Yellowstone and all the attractions in that area.

With Marie's current ongoing battle with cancer, I have used the Internet to satisfy my itchy feet. I have visited the web sites for a number of National Parks that we have yet to visit. Marie wants to see Brice Canyon and Needles National Parks. I want to do the Columbia River Gorge and associated Lewis and Clark sites on the west coast. Number one on the list when Marie is healthy, will be to Folkston, Georgia. The Folkston Funnel is a train watchers paradise. Marie loves trains. We were going to stop there on our way to Florida last December. This will be our next trip together.


the youngest said...

When I was a senior in high school I'd calculate how far I could get on one tank of gas and where that would place me, in all directions (this is what I did instead of pay attention in class). Oh, how I wanted to run away, far far away.
--your apple

the oldest said...

I never heard the Hartford story before! I didn't inherit the wanderlust. I like to travel but I love home. Even though I love to see new places, I get fussy & restless after a while. There's something ungrounded and dizzying about being away.