Travels with Fred

Dale, Cathy, Norm, Sue Ellen, and David traveled across country with an old Ford, one driver's license among them, precious little funds, and a lot of nerve.


I have a few words about growing up and I remember seeing Dad for the 1st time in 1971. We took Dale's car ( Fred I believe was the cars name) We, as in Dale, Cathy, Norm, Sue and myself left in "Fred" from 218th street in Mtlk. Terr. with a million pillows packed in the back of the car and proceeded to head out.

After an event-full time in Kit Carson Colorado in which the ditch seemed to swallow "Fred" and all occupants, we escaped with the clothes on our backs and I seem to remember a yellow or brown suitcase that Dale carried. We walked for miles and miles and miles. Was probably only 100 yards or so! Nice thriving metropolis Kit Carson is or was, gas station, post office and outhouse all rolled into 1. Oh yes I remember there seemed to be an uncountable number of flies. I think Sue can remember this about the flies.

Anyway's we got "Fred" back in 1 piece and away we went on our merry way (pillows included) only to have "Fred" meet his demise in Wakeeney Ks. We waited it seems in front of this truck-stop or whatever for what was an eternity for Dad to show up and rescue us. I was anxious to see Dad for the 1st time in my life and the only picture we had of him was this thin guy in front of some machinery or whatever. Anyway's after more waiting and waiting I looked around and saw Sue in the arms of this "really big" individual walking towards us and for the life of me couldn't make the connection. Then the "proverbial light bulb" went off. "That's my Dad"

I won't say exactly what the first thing I said to Dad or asked him, oh heck might as well. I asked him "Did you ever sneeze with food in your mouth?" Dad probably thought I was some hitchhiker they picked along the way. Well thanks for letting me share.


I don't remember carrying a suitcase when we left Fred in the ditch, but Dad was firmly convinced that younger children (he was one, remember) have better memories for some details than the older kids. But I do remember the flies in Kit Carson. Fred fell into the ditch (OK, so maybe it was driven there by Dave's oldest brother) midway between two cities. We randomly chose the southern city to head for (Kit Carson) and discovered the map was accurate: 20 miles away. We had probably walked a mile toward Kit Carson when a car already filled with five or six people made room for us five. Once the nice car disgorged us, we then discovered another truth: the only tow truck was in the northern city we hadn't gone to. So we had to pay for the 20 mile tow and the 60 additional miles the truck had to drive to and from its home base.

Part of the pillows Dave recalls were actually pillow cases stuffed with our clothing for the vacation. And yes, we just filled the trunk with what would fit and put the rest in the back seat. When we started out, the back seat was filled to the level of the top of the front seats. With people riding back there (and me sleeping there once while Cathy, without a license, drove so that we'd get to Kansas sooner), the pillows, etc., eventually were pressed down to seat level. Not only were there no seat belt laws in those days, I suppose there weren't even seat belts in Fred.


Gary wasn't actually with us, since he'd enlisted in the Navy at the beginning of the summer. But he has an interesting insight to share.

You guys had all the fun when I couldn't go along. I'm starting to see a pattern here...


You aren't forgetting the stop in Boise are you? We'd driven all night. be accurate...Sue, Dave and I rode...Cathy and Dale drove...We left Friday evening after the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family...this was to miss the traffic supposedly...So about 9:00 PM we left Mountlake Terrace...riding high on pillows, sandwiches, and Puerto Rican luggage...we also had a fat and squatty Thermos full of chocolate milk with chocolate milk ice cubes...We rolled into Boise about 7 in the morning...maybe 6...we went to a diner for breakfast....all of us ordered these humongous meals ... when it was served we all took a few bites and decided we weren't really all that hungry...somewhere along the way...Utah, I think...we discovered the chocolate ice cubes had not kept the chocolate milk as cold or fresh as we would have liked...this was discovered not by odor, but by an ill-advised gulp...Of course in Utah...that's where the Interstate turned into a dirt road...this is also where Dale gave me my first lesson in Industry vs. Ecology...after I made some crack about a smokestack being ugly...don't forget it was 1971 and we'd just celebrated our first Earth Day...something I celebrate now by strip mining my back yard...I'm kidding...we use dynamite...

We got to Rock Springs, Wyoming in time for supper... the sky was so big ... I know that's was still pretty was also amazing that anyone would live in Rock Springs, Wyoming... So many mobile homes...the old curved we used to deliver papers to...The thunderstorm was in Colorado right? Then we hit the ditch...and as I recall the people who gave us a ride were just 'going up the road apiece'...about 100 miles...and, oh yeah, there were flies...and heat as we waited for the car...ah good times...


Look, it's my web page, and if I want to make extra comments, I can!

Boise is also where Fred lost reverse. We might have made it out of the Colorado ditch if we'd been able to back up. And the thunderstorm was definitely Colorado. The interstate highway system wasn't quite complete yet, as evidenced by the dirt portion in Utah, and during the thunderstorm Norm's oldest brother missed the turnoff at Lyman Junction that would have put us back on I-70. (In case you're missing the age structure in our family, my oldest brother is Gary; but for everybody else, the oldest brother is me.) So we continued on through the night until the road I was on dead-ended.

Having awakened everybody by screeching to a halt at the sudden barrier (perhaps Colorado knew that Lyman Junction wasn't well marked), we looked at the road map again and determined the best thing to do was head straight north through Eastern Colorado (with no mountains there, the roads were all straight) and re-join I-70. The map, however, did not indicate that Utah wasn't the only spot with non-paved roads. We had one, that's right, one unpaved road in Mountlake Terrace, and it wasn't on any maps because no one in their right mind would drive on it. But Colorado didn't give any hints that the pavement ran out before the road did, so once we hit dirt the car did what cars have always enjoyed doing: Fred ditched us.

On a more serious note, while we were walking, I noticed that none of the others were as obviously disturbed by the events as I was. Rightly or wrongly, in my mind I associated their calmness with the fact that they were all regular church-goers and I was not. Since then, I've learned that there's more to inner calmness than sitting in a pew once in a while, but the experience did make me re-evaluate my position on Christianity. Norm:

Let's not forget the trip home ...because like Dave said to Dad, as he sat next to him in the Buick Special Delooxe, (that's right...Delooxe, but for some reason the folks at GM spelled it d-e-l-u-x-e) Any way Dave said to Dad, "Traveling is so pleasant, isn't it?" To which Dad laughed and replied, "Certainly, traveling is pleasant." Sue and I just rolled our eyes and sarcastically mouthed the words "traveling is so pleasant" to each other. We thought adding the word "so" to a sentence was kind of hoidy toidy. Along the lines of adding the word "very" into the mix when it wasn't necessary.

It was on the trip home, as we were climbing through the Rockies (not the Bullwinkles) that Dave turned to me and uttered the infamous line, "Hey Norm, remember when we were going higher and higher and I said Hey, let's go higher and higher." Blank stare from me. Dad got a chuckle out of that too. To this day, I have no idea what Dave was talking about.

Sandee, not part of the journey at all, still added her own comment at this point: ROFLOL!


I seem to remember traveling back to Washington from our short visit to see the folks back "east" as mom would have put it. We hadn't got too terribly far and Dad said we was running out of gas and I believed him hook line and sinker, I was for sure we was gonna have to hike again looking for help, maybe it's to this day I still don't let my gas drop below 1/4 full if I can help it ( just kidding) many times I've walked the mile with the gas can and it's not for the lawn mower I can assure you! Anyway's on our return home we stopped somewhere's ( I believe in Idaho) and got a bite to eat and I familiariized myself with a jukebox the best I could and somehow-someway in this little ole town of tough cowboys and such I enlightened their listening ears to "Moon River" by Andy Williams. I can't really remember the look on everyone's face but it was one of "what-in-the-[world]*" is that nonsense. I also seemed to have gotten Sue's hair in a real mess with a comb, seems as though she spent the rest of the ride home fixing it back.

Now we're waiting for the girls to add their recollections. It might also be instructive to know what take, if any, the Kansas folks had on our road trip. Surely, surely, Uncle Bob had something to say about the wisdom of letting five kids (I had just turned 21 and Dave was 9) drive themselves for 2000 miles. Even Grandma Conrow might have said something when Uncle Milton and Dad had to drive from Clay Center to Wakeeney to pick us up.

*I also reserve the right to edit my web pages to language I might use!
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