We had made the decision to move back east and with my parents now living in upstate New York, that seemed like the most practical destination. We had a VW bus that we prepped for travel. I attached edges to the table in the back that stuck up above the surface to keep any crayons or other toys from rolling off. It was already set up with curtains and beds. I sewed pockets into the curtains to make drinks, snacks and other necessary items for children easily accessible. There were still no seatbelts or car seats at that time, but I knew I didn’t want them running all over the bus. I had also learned by then what kinds of food traveled easily. I remember thinking that I should write a book on safe and reliable traveling with children because I had already done so much of it.
We were finally packed and ready for our exciting adventure. We hosted our final Open Mic and said a tearful goodbye to all of our wonderful friends. Just as I was getting into the bus, an artist friend handed me a jar of old barn nails saying, “You never know what you might need along the way.” That turned out to be a very prophetic statement. We left in late April and planned to travel for a week. We didn’t consider the fact that we were traveling in a VW bus loaded down with all of our possessions, two children, two adults and a cat.
The first leg of our journey took us southeast toward Salt Lake City. We almost didn’t make it up the highest point we would have to climb when our bus just stopped. We could see the summit but couldn’t get there. We jumped out of the bus around to the back to look at the engine and see if we could figure out the problem. There it was, right in front of our eyes. The fly wheel was shifting back and forth and had widened the slot that held the two pieces together. We looked at it for a while when I remembered the jar of barn nails. We pounded a few of the largest ones in there, but it wasn’t quite enough. A year earlier, Paul had repaired the brakes on our Plymouth Valiant and had one small piece left over, he took them apart a few more times and still couldn’t figure out where it went, so he threw it in the toolbox, hoping for the best. That old brake part fit perfectly with the nails in the leftover space in the flywheel, and that repair took us all the way to Ohio … but not without many stops along the way.
Although we thought we had fixed it, the car now only ran during the daytime, so we slept the first night in the bus. We also stopped frequently to let the kids run around. And I did make them run – literally. Every stop, we ran circles around each other and the rest areas. By the time we stopped running, they were happy to sit back down in the bus. The next day, we drove into Salt Lake City just as night was falling and, as the car died, we coasted into a motel right off the exit and went in to see if we could afford a room. The attendant took one look at us with our long hair, hippie van with curtains in the window and our kids trailing along behind us and asked if we had any pot. At first, in our paranoia, we denied having any. He kept at it, insisting that we must have something and explaining that Salt Lake was the driest town in the US. We finally took pity on him. He offered to trade us a room for a few joints then threw us the master keys, turned on the No Vacancy sign and asked us to keep an eye on the place while he was off partying with his friends. No problem! We got nice soft beds, showers, and the kids even got TV, a rare treat. This wasn’t going so badly after all. The young man came back the next morning looking a little bedraggled but with a big grin. We tipped him well, in weed of course, and went on our way. We still had a long way to go.