Bayard Lawes was my first newspaper boss. He hired me in 1958 at The Daily Royal Oak Tribune. A lot of employees don’t like their boss, but I admire this man. He was a great teacher, and became one of my most trusted friends.
Iron Man? Oh yes. Bayard is days short of turning 89 years old, and he has the stamina of a man forty years younger. He was a WW11 Air Force fighter pilot.
Bayard once again fueled up his old "hippy van", and drove nearly 4,000 miles to escape the Northern Michigan winter. I asked him to write a little story about his trip in his 27 year old Van and his beloved three legged dog China.
An old man in an old van
By Bayard Lawes
"My trip out West is an excuse for me to escape the cold grip of winter in
Traverse City--a paradise in the summer, but a good place to escape in the
winter. I'm always a little leary in the Fall when I crank up my old van,
wondering where I'll break down first. In all past years, my dog China has been quite patient riding behind the wrecker while we hunt for a garage stocking 27 year
Once on the road and I see the countryside rolling by, I relax and enjoy
the ever-changing scenery as each mile takes me closer to the California
sunshine and my friend, Amalia. Rest areas are my motels, and I'm quite
comfortable in my van with its stove, sink and heater (when it works). China, never a complaint, holds off on her dinner until she gets my few scraps.
The roads from Traverse City, Michigan are as varied as the countryside
overall, although in pretty good shape Route 44 outside of St. Louis takes me
through Mo. and Texas. Crossing the Mississippi at 5 am rewarded me with a
breathtaking view of the Arch highlighted by the rising sun. The weather at 3 am is cold and dark.
We pick up route 40 outside of Okalahoma City through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona to 15 at Barstow , CA. Passing through Flagstaff, AZ. Things get a little cool at night in Texas, and I invited my dog China into my sleeping bag to keep us both warm.
I usually quit driving around 5 or 6 pm, find a rest area or truck stop
to bed down in. After a sip of scotch, I cook a chop or steak on my stove, open
a can of veggies then chow down. Hitting the sack at 7 pm makes me wide awake
around 3 am, so I get on the road which is quite peaceful at that hour. As I don't drive over 60-65 mph, I don't pass many trucks, but they sure zoom by me. I love the sun rise and the awakening of life around me. China, on her couch sleeps through it all. I manage to get 11-12mpg, after all the van is a 1982 Dodge Voyager.
On the way, I stop off in Vegas to visit my son, and my hippy van feels
right at home there. My son and I drive out to the desert and up some trails I
wouldn't even walk on. A trip to the valley of fire offered some great photo opportunities plus a bonus seeing mountain goats and old Indian writings on some canyon walls. Passing through the Mohave Desert and dropping down into the valleys was thrilling and challenging with all the curves, steep grades, snow showers, and hundreds of trucks.
Naturally a trip down Las Vegas Blvd. to the casinos was
inevitable as was stuffing myself at the many buffets. I left Vegas a winner, I
came out a winner only losing $20 at the slots. On to California, down highway
15--a weekend commute for many Californians who can't resist the casinos..
A side trip to Death Valley was unique, and driving the sun baked lake
bottom was something.
Bright sunny days and a continuing panorama of changing scenery kept me on the road 12 hours a day. I logged 760 miles in one long leg. Continuing west, the sun followed me illuminating fields and back lighting herds of Black Angus cattle feeding on the vast fields of grass. Ghosts of the past appeared as I passed the disintegrating relics of old route 66. Motels with their musty 8x10 cabins, deserted gas stations and gas pumps that worked on gravity. Crossing the mountain passes into California was the final curtain to a 2425 mile journey over some of America's most historical country. Now the fun begins as I enter their notorious freeway system. On a wing and a prayer, I make it!
As you can see, I love my Hippy Van, especially now that I have replaced most of its parts. Hope I can do it again next winter. Sure beats the old rocker.