A life journey that opened vistas beyond my wildest dreams began in a small Klamath County farming community in Southern Oregon. Several trips to Portland, a couple of visits to San Francisco, summer junkets to Yachats on the Oregon Coast, and back to Salem where I was born…the sum total of my travels until I was twenty-one. Dad was a farmer. The notion of a vacation, when there were sprinkler pipes to be moved, gardens to be tended, lambs to be birthed, potatoes to sort simply did not exist in his mind set. He hated to leave his beloved farm.
In 1961 when I married Lt. Ronald Kaylor, a former farm boy himself, and moved to our first home in Sacramento, California the winds of travel began to fill the sails of my life. My journey moved in directions I could never have imagined. We had been in Sacramento just four months when the Air Force sent us to New Jersey. I had a vision of New Jersey that was of concrete and heavy traffic. We arrived in the Piney Woods of Lakewood, near where the Von Hindenburg had flamed out. I thought I had gone to the end of the earth. Driving on narrow winding roads through skinny pine tree woods with next-to-no road signs, I found myself lost in the middle of a firing range at Ft. Dix Army base. It was the first time I had driven to find the Commissary at the base. Nervous Military Police escorted me to safer territory and pointed me in the direction of my destination. I could see them shaking their heads as I glanced in the rear view mirror and drove on my way.
I learned through the years to ask for directions, not to fear getting lost, to engage people everywhere in conversations regardless of language barriers, and that I have an innate sense of direction when traveling. (Ironic, yes, when you read what follows.But some of you followers MUST vouch for me on that statement.) I have had some wonderful misadventures along the way.
My first trip out of the United States was to Germany in 1966. Ron and I planned a September vacation along the Rhine River, then on to Barcelona and Madrid. The night before our departure, he called from Hawaii to say his flight home from a mission was delayed, (long-distance pay phone for you readers who know nothing but cell phones), I should go ahead without him, and he would catch a hop on a military plane from McGuire AFB to Wiesbaden. Meaning that when I landed in Luxembourg, I had to rent a car and drive to Wiesbaden on my own. Gulp. I remember the questions after Ron arrived and we were settled in the Officer’s’ Quarters at the base. “How fast did you drive?” My response: “I kept up with the traffic on the Autobahn. It was in kilometers so I have no idea how fast I was going… more than 150 kmph, though.” There was a reaction! “What kind of a car did you drive? “A Telefunken!” (Those were the only words written anywhere on the car). “I learned what an einbienstrasse is!” Ron: “And how did you know that?” “I went the wrong way on a street.” I distinctly remember the worst part of the trip. I had to pee so badly and I was afraid to slow down enough to get off that speedway thinking I would be run over by the cars that were following on my tail. When I finally did, the bathroom guardian at the rest stop scolded me in German so badly I almost wet my pants. Without understanding a word she said, I had no doubt I had done something wrong. Little did I know one had to pay to get toilet paper and apparently tip the woman as well.
On another adventure I ended up in the totally filled parking lot of Versailles Palace the night before July 14th (Bastille Day) thinking I was still on the six-lane bumper-to-bumper expressway leading out of Paris. Don’t know how I got there. It took nearly forty-five minutes to find a way out. I ordered a kilo of cookies at a well-known fancy Parisian patisserie only to feel my jaw drop when I saw the quantity in the box AND paid the bill. I quickly learned that a kilo is 2.2 pounds. I was too embarrassed by my ignorance to change the order. My friend and I handed out the extra cookies in the Luxembourg Gardens.
I have walked along a riverbank in a part of Ocho Rios, Jamaica where, at that time, no white girl should have been seen; was gently reminded of that by the men sitting in rocking chairs on a porch near the river. “Watcha doin’ down HERE, girls?”. On that same trip, I missed a turn in the road. Friend Jan and I found ourselves lost in a banana plantation, like being lost in a tall midwestern cornfield. The only person we saw was sleeping in the dirt beside the rutted lane we were driving along; we thought it best not to stop and ask him for directions. When we found our way back to our hotel the manager said to us, “So…..you girls got lost today”. How did she know, we asked. “The bush network”, was her response. Later on that trip, Jan and I were wined and dined by two very tall and handsome Jamaican dudes who later sent exotic outfits to our hotel and invited us to come watch them “film a travel movie at a distant location”. Antennas up, we politely declined and could not sleep most of the night for laughing about the brightly colored Jamaican costumes, the gifts that we modeled for each other, and about the purported intent of the gifts and the invitation.
Cannot tell you how many times I circled the round-abouts in England until we figured out which of the exits would take us to our desired destination. A wallet with credit cards, driver’s license, military ID, and cash was taken out of my handbag on an Underground ride to our hotel from the theatre in London, just after I had warned my companion about pickpockets. My friend Betty and I picked up hitchhikers in Ireland, young college kids, one American and one who was from a land-rich Irish family and knew the back country so well. We had a great adventure with them and learned only later that Bernadette Devlin had escaped from prison and there was a huge hunt going on throughout Ireland to track and re-arrest her. We had skirted trouble. My car was broken into not once, but twice on a trip to France…the only time I had ever rented a sports car for a trip. My daughter Patty and I experiened a typhoon-like storm while driving to dinner at the home of our cooking instructor deep in the Provence countryside. It totally stripped all the vegetation from vineyards and gardens, flooded roads, including the one we were on. We were terrified, shouting at each other in the car in order to be heard above the cacophony of rat a tat hail-on-tin-roof. With no place to pull aside, I stopped in the middle of the road.
A young Patty and Greg and I took a wild taxi ride along Italian canal banks, through fields and country farm roads with a slightly wine-saturated Italian driver who assured me in French and with many hand gestures that he was taking a shortcut to save us money. Our car windshield had been shattered during a drive on the Autostrada between Venice and Aviano, Italy where Ron was working at the time, disabling the car until the windshield could be replaced. Traveling angels have accompanied our trips!
to be continued.….with the good-time stories