The silver heart necklace was shining in the Wyoming late afternoon sun on my September 18th birthday in 1987. Mike and I were driving across the country from New York to California – everyone wanted to do it, but we actually were.
We had spent the past week engaging in a variety of adventures with family and friends.
We left New York and after a few hours needed to take a break in Pennsylvania. It had been a busy time the night before, saying goodbye to our respective New York friends. We were leaving. We were making a life together and taking a big leap – all the way across the country.
We arrived late in south Detroit, took the monorail around the city and into Windsor, Canada, then stayed with my cousin. We all went to dinner and talked far into the night about life, dreams and our futures.
Our next stop was Madison, Wisconsin. We stayed in the city and listened to a singer in the hotel lounge. I was impressed with how clean the city was and I know I loved the cheese .
Driving west we planned to camp in South Dakota and visit Mount Rushmore and that Devil’s Tower from the movie “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”. We must have left later than we should have because we arrived at the camp ground in the Badlands late at night.
There were no street lights. We found what we thought could be a spot on the side of the road and started to set up a tent.
Soon we heard the howls of coyotes and could even see the glowing eyes in the dark. Felt much safer once safely inside our secure fabric tent. When we woke up the next morning it seemed like we had arrived on the planet Mars. The Badlands of South Dakota are desolate, bare and mysterious.
Mount Rushmore was fun to visit and we traveled west toward Yellowstone National Park. We opted to stay in a modest motel in Montana and enjoyed driving into the park early in the morning to see Old Faithful Geyser and wild elk on the road.
Next was a visit to the Grand Tetons and a horseback riding climb into mountains. I used to ride horses quite a bit but I believe that this was our first (and last) time ever riding together. The views in the mountains were amazing.
We arrived into Jackson Hole, Wyoming on my birthday. I had the best spinach and feta cheese omelette and Mike bought me a silver heart necklace. I wore it for a long time.
After Jackson Hole, we went to visit relatives in Denver. We did laundry and had a fun drive in the Model T car then continued on to Aspen where I had spent the previous ski season waitressing, skiing and making new friends. I gathered the rest of my belongings I had left with coworkers then we got back on the road to California.
We headed south following our Rand McNally map book of the USA. I convinced Mike we should see the Grand Canyon so that was the next stop. We did not stay long, just long enough to take a few photos
Next stop was Nevada. We did not see Las Vegas on this trip but did manage to find a diner that had slot machines we could try.
We arrived in California late one September evening. The smog was heavy. The heat was unbearable, 108 degrees and then … we experienced a huge earthquake on October 1, 1987 with its epicenter in Whittier, Ca.
The next morning we drove my red Ford Mustang down to San Diego. The highway had red and yellow flowers blooming on the median. The apartments with pools and tennis courts were affordable and the beaches with the 3 mile long boardwalk beckoned us. We moved into a small one bedroom place with a dark orange rug and my U-haul box filled with photo albums and some clothes.
That was all we needed to get started on our life together.
I still remember our innocence, hope and that pretty little silver necklace from Wyoming. This will be my 3rd birthday without him as a widow. While I am moving forward with out him with lots of support, he will always be in my heart and missed.
Finding that necklace brought all the fond memories of that September back to me. One of my favorite gifts ever.
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