Look at that title, will you? What do YOU think of when you hear the word wheels? Those of you who know me well have always been amused by my lifelong love affair with wheels.
AUTOMOBILES HAVE WHEELS. Memories of: At the wheel of a Mercedes yclept Hannah from Utah to Phoenix; nine or ten cross country trips; snowy, icy streets sending me into space; highways under construction, including landslides. Dodging forest fires and watching flames reach several hundred feet in the air.
TENT CAMPING HAS WHEELS. We had a series of VW Buses. Memories of: Yes, we slept in tents! Sleeping under a VW “bus” until chased by a skunk that was trying to eat my bra. Bird watching through clouds of mosquitos in summer at wildlife refuges; and sliding off the same auto trail in icy weather. Up Pike’s Peak, up Mount Washington, up Yellowstone roads – but, of course, then one has to drive down. Driving all over Arizona presenting Have Rocks – Will Travel for the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum in all six corners of Arizona. Side visits to Utah and New Mexico.
IN MY DAYS OF YOUTH: Running away from home in my teens several times, and hitchhiking with truckers. And driving a sixteen wheeler, too. Learning to ride a bicycle on rutted dirt roads and managing to sail into space to land in a swamp. Yes, I was rescued from the mud. Come to think of it, swamp visits still go on.
So you see, ALL MY WHEELS ARE NOT CONFINED TO AUTOMOBILES. Roller skating the streets of New York City – a place of hills, curves, heavy traffic. Pulling myself out of the Hudson River. Jumping freight trains to parts unknown. Riding buses and subway trains the width and breadth of the greatest city on Earth until I got married. Then we expanded to the rest of the country.
Did I mention cog railways? Yes, I learned to drive trolley cars, and even subways. Then at the ag of eighteen, I dated a railroad conductor. Just think! Free transportation in exchange for a few kisses. Later on, I dated a crop duster – now, THAT’s scary.
Eventually, because I believe in paying it forward, I became a First Aid Squad volunteer and learned how to drive an ambulance on the trails and isolated sections of northern New Jersey’s hills. Only one person died. No! not because of my driving, I was trying to resuscitate him while we careened down a mountain trail.
MORE WHEELS: Elevated – and sometimes heart stopping – cog railroads – monorails – provided verrrrry interesting experiences in Disneyland; mountainous areas throughout the the United States. It was a great deal of fun. When I drove up Mount Washington, I never breathed ONCE on the way down. Evntually just took the bus or cog railway up.
OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES there were those rail/cog adventures, too. I rode on rickety splickety non-grounded trains in China, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Kenya and Tanzania. Buses and local drivers. Army vehicles. Police vehicles – but I was always released.
And this brings me back to 1941 in the United States. Mom and I rode cross country on a Greyhound Bus from New York City to California by way of Chicago and Arizona. I was sea-sick for five days. Incidently, ten years ago, I found the very road we had travelled on at the Arizona / California border. The bus stop is still there. And their food is still good.
We returned by railroad from New York City to California. Eventually we came back through Nebraska and Chicago.
In 2009, I visited what I thought were the last two of the fifty states I had never set foot in: Nebraska and North Dakota.
It was seventy-fifth birthday trip lasting seventy-nine hours.
Surprise! I had been in Nebraska in 1971.The gigantic Union Station in Omaha is a museum now. I immediately recognized the interior. Within half an hour, I walked onto a train in the train exhibit section. There was the very same train Sleeping Car compartment Mom and I had travelled in to return home! When I walked into the compartment, its two bunk beds, which were set up at night were there.I immediately saw a two inch doodle which had been carved on the wood of the wall. I remembered it!
In the morning, the bunks were dismantled into regular train seats for daytime use, All these seventy five years of my life I thought I had never been in Nebraska. And here I was. I had been wrong.
By the way, Enterprise Rental gave me my automobile and found out the purpose of the trip, they took one hundred dollars off the rental fee.
Now sing with me: Oh the wheels on the bus go round and round. Round and round. Do you remember the rest of the words?