Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Travels with Chuck

             My apologies to John Steinbeck for the title of this week’s column, Travels with Chuck. Steinbeck wrote a book about his travels across America in the early to mid-1960s. Driving his old pickup with a camper, his companion for this extended cruise over the highways and back roads of America was his dog Charley, a French Poodle. His book was a travelogue entitled, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America.”

As of this writing Isaura and I are in Atlanta, Georgia where we have spent the last two nights with our friends Bob and Lori Page. The reason behind this particular trip centers on a family reunion. Next week (around the time you read this in the Ripon Record) the Roots side of the family will be making its way to Williamsburg, Virginia where we will participate in this annual pilgrimage of reuniting those who are of the Coppage/Coppedge Clan. My mother is a Lake. But her mother was Mage (rhymes with sage) Lake, née Coppedge. This side of the family came over from England to the New World early in the 1600s.

So last Sunday we spent a couple of days in Monterey celebrating our son-in-law Ken’s 40th birthday with our daughters and grandkids. Tuesday morning Isaura and I slid into our newly acquired set of wheels which we bought from Jenny & Josh (our youngest daughter and her hubby) a couple of months ago, and headed for the east coast. Packed to the gills, it was a kick to get out on the open road, what poets and singers euphemistically call a “ribbon of highway.” The BMW 330i took to this road trip like a fish to water.

Because we were sandwiched for time, we chose to consume long stretches of road each day so we could get back to Virginia for some time spent with friends and family. Tuesday morning we drove from Monterey, California to Williams, Arizona. My hotel of choice when traveling like this is Best Western because they are focused on the traveler. They are always accommodating and I have never been disappointed with their rooms and other amenities. Williams, in case you’re not familiar with the territory, is the small town in Arizona known as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, which Isaura and I visited a year and a half ago when I performed a wedding for a Marine friend in the Scottsdale area.

Driving through Bakersfield on our way into the desert is always a reminder of just how diverse the topography in California can be. I must confess to not being a big fan of the desert, even though I spent many summers at the Marine Corps Base at 29 Palms with an artillery battalion. Besides desert tortoises, jack rabbits, Gila monsters, and more sand and tumble weed than you can imagine, I was glad to see this region of the country in my rear view mirror.

On Day 2 we drove on Highway 40 across the northern sectors of Arizona and New Mexico. What a beautiful stretch of landscape! The table top upthrusts of earth formations is mesmerizing in its beauty, color and form. We stopped for lunch with a friend in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Shenandoah Brown is the widow of RP1 Jim Brown, U.S. Navy (Retired) whom I had the distinct privilege of serving with in the lead-up to the Iraq War. He and Shenandoah drove out to California in 2008 for my retirement from the Navy. It was good to see her and catch up on all that has been happening in our lives. We ended up rolling through the Texas panhandle and into El Reno, Oklahoma that evening. El Reno is just west of Oklahoma City.

The third day we drove through the remainder of Oklahoma, then across Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and into the Atlanta suburbs of Georgia where we were able to catch our breath at the Page’s before driving the last eastward leg of this trip to my brother’s in Virginia. Bob and I served together from the outset of the Iraq War until my retirement. He and his family have been great friends. While in the Atlanta area I wanted to also see my Marine Corps boot camp buddy (45 years ago!), Joe Harden and his wife, Susan. So last night the Roots’, Page’s and Harden’s met for dinner at a local restaurant. What a wonderful time we had! It all ended much too soon.  

Allow me to make some observations garnered from this trip.

1) America is an amazing country! The abundance of its bounty is simply amazing. And the beauty of this land is stunning. You simply have to take the time to drive through and appreciate its incredible majesty. God must surely have enjoyed being the Creator when he formed this land.

2) Everywhere you look there are vast stretches of land. Isaura looked at me and asked, “Why are we always being told that we are over-populated?” Good question.

3) The interconnectedness of our highway system is impressive. Rolling along from state-to-state is a breeze. There are no required stops, and the navigation is very doable if you plan your trip ahead of time.

4) Trucks! My word, what a lot of trucks there are on our highways! I’ve known this, of course, as my step father was a vice president for DSI, the trucking division of Del Monte Foods. But what a reminder of the importance that trucks play in providing you and me with goods and services. Ditto trains. We saw numerous trains along the landscape hauling who knows what to whatever destinations were on their bill of lading.

5) People. I love the American people! More on this next week.

I’m out of time and space. More next week!

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