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Travelling on a Shoestring
Night-Time Adventures
Sue-On and I first dated when she was 15. From then on we shared many dreams of seeing the world, making music . . . and just being together. We overcame many obstacles, but the start of our life-long journey began when she turned 18 and we were free to marry in the summer of 1966. Money was short since we were completing our education and our meagre source of income came from my permit teacher salary and our early music gigs. 

We travelled every summer during and after our music tours. A succession of vehicles provided our home away from home: Rambler station wagons, tent trailers, Volkswagen Westfalia camper, and Ford Econoline Funcraft. It's been fun to look back at the many strange places where we spent the night in these vehicles. In the early days it was much easier to find free places to park for the night -- we ran into very few hassles. 

In much more recent times we've taken to travelling in more sporty cars -- bidding for rooms a day in advance via Priceline -- or touring abroad. But we have wonderful memories of the good old days when we travelled on a much smaller budget.

Honeymoon in a Tent: Our honeymoon foreshadowed the travel adventures we were to take for the next 50 years. . .and counting. We packed our parent's large tent and camp cots into our old Rambler station wagon and left for Banff. We visited all the attractions along the way including the Drumheller Dinosaur museum and Calgary -- we even stayed in a few hotels along the way. We travelled into the Rockies as far as Lake Louise and the BC border and found many places to pitch our tent and unfold the camp cots. September nights in the higher elevations of Banff however, can be quite chilly. We froze that first night. Next day we found the perfect solution: air mattresses and double sleeping bags let us share each other's warmth and brought us much closer together. The start of a lifelong adventure.
Midway, Exhibition, Fair and Rodeo grounds: Since our summer tour stage was set up on the exhibition grounds -- often right in the midway or behind the grandstand -- this was a very busy and noisy place to spend a night.
Grandstand Shooting Range: We were camped behind a large grandstand on a Canadian prairie fair grounds after one of our shows. A group of off-duty mounties showed up in civies looking for a good time. They crawled through the enclosed area under the grandstand with flashlights looking for rats. Some of them had handguns and with which they were taking target practice on the rodents. Definitely something that wouldn't happen these days now that every round has to be accounted for. One of the guys lived in a house outside of town and they asked us if we wanted to join them for a party. We all piled into cars and headed out for the late-night party.  We soon left the party as we had to be up early to prepare our stage/float for the exhibition parade through the town. We were awakened the next morning by an RCMP cruiser with flashing lights emitting short siren bursts as it drove in circles around our van.The mounties inside were singing our "Federal Grain Train" theme song to wake us up. Later, during the parade we saw our mountie buddies standing at their posts on street intersections to direct traffic. They peered with bloodshot eyes over very dark sunglasses to give us knowing looks. Fun times.
Parks, roadside pull-offs and river banks: After driving all day we weren't too choosy as to where we parked for the night. We found some fascinating sites and mingled with many curious types of wildlife.
Ferry parking lots: Since our van with a raised up roof was sometimes considered oversize we sometimes were forced to spend the night in the BC Ferries parking lot.
Ferry onboard vehicle storage decks: On the Ferry to Newfoundland all the main deck seats/sofas were crowded. So we made our way down to where our station wagon was stowed. We grabbed a few winks before the security officer discovered us and ordered us up to the passenger area.
School Grounds: We were awakened by the police at a Corner Brook, Newfoundland school. There had been a series of vandalism and break-ins at that school. Once satisfied that we were just wandering prairie kids and hadn't planned any vandalism the police gave us permission to go back to sleep.
Signal Hill parking lot, Newfoundland: We were kept awake for much of the night by the noise of a "lapping dog." We discovered next morning that we were parked near a reservoir and the lapping was actually caused by waves breaking on the shore.
Vacant New Jersey lot on the Hudson River: After our day-long adventure in NYC we drove through the Lincoln Tunnel to the Jersy side where we found a vacant lot along the Hudson River.  We had a fine view of the lit-up Statue of Liberty through our windshield all night.
Vacant Lot in Flint Michigan: This was the only place in the urban area that we could find a place to park. Definitely would not be our choice today considering the run-down condition of the Flint and Detroit areas after the collapse of the auto industry and the rise of drug gangs.
Baptist Church Yard in the US deep South: It was a hot night so we slept on the open tailgate of our station wagon -- sans blankets and PJs. We had forgotten that we had pulled in on a Saturday night. We were awakened by the sound of gospel songs from the church and curious young black kids passing by us on their way to Sunday school.
Florida Orange Grove: We pulled off a country road to park under the shade of orange trees. We later learned that all these trees would soon be cleared to make way for Walt Disney World.
Beautiful, Quiet Cemetery Grounds: Not! Sue-On had a fear of cemeteries :)
Off-Road Wooded Areas: Our Ford Econoline was a great travel vehicle and there were many pull-off areas off wooded country roads. However, the engine cowling jutted into the interior between the driver and passenger seats. It would take a long time for the engine to cool down after a long day of travel in hot summer conditions.
Grand Canyon: Camping wasn't allowed in the area but we found a secluded small clearing well into the wooded area. All was well until a biker gang moved in closeby to have a loud midnight party. The rangers moved in to evict them. On their way out they spotted our vehicle . . . we went the way of the bikers.
On the bare desert: Outside Las Vegas we sometimes parked out in the desert for the night. When the heat of the day hit us we drove into the city for early check-in at a motel. Back in the '60s there were many motels along the strip and large open areas of desert behind the motels and casinos. Quite different from today's overhead freeways, parkades, and dense populations.
Queen Mary: Street Parking Metre: After a long day at Long Beach and touring the Queen Mary ocean liner and Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose we decided to park on  a nearby street by a parking metre -- curtains drawn. In the morning, I had to rush to throw a shirt on before reaching out the window to put money in the metre.
Fisherman's Wharf: The night at the Queen Mary street parking metre worked so well that we tried it again in San Francisco. . . without incident.
Roadside park near Porterville, CA: This seemed like a quiet peaceful choice but through the night the wind direction changed. The worst, all encompassing foul smell woke us. Apparently we were surrounded by cattle feedlots and the stench was horrendous -- even for a boy raised on a farm. We hit the road and moved well down the road toward Bakersfield to find cleaner air.
Wal-Mart Hotel: One summer we had battery problems with our Econoline. We notice one night that our battery wasn't charging and the lights were dimming. Time for a new one -- but everything was closed for the night. Luckly, we found a Mall with a large parking lot -- some of it on a slope. We parked on the top of the slope above Wal-Mart and Sears Automotive. After a good sleep we released the hand brake, put the vehicle in neutral, and rolled down the hill to the Sears store. We were soon on our way with a brand new battery.
Meteor Crater: This was an interesting place to set up for the night in Northern Arizona. This 50,000-year-old, mile-wide crater is world’s best preserved meteorite impact site. We parked near the rim beside an abandoned Navaho hogan.
Montana US/Canada Border Crossing: On our way back to Canada after the last night of our tour of NW USA Grandstand shows we reached the border crossing after it had closed for the night. Our night in the Customs parking lot was a bit of an ordeal. We had brought a large, white, Great Pyrenees dog back with us.She slept on the floor of the camper but she was in heat and panted loudly and shook the van all night. We were glad to see morning and were soon allowed back into Canada wheeling our way across the Prairies to home.
Mammoth Caves: After a day exploring Mammoth Caves and the Green River area in Kentucky we pulled into a nearby small city, probably Cave City, just as a terrific thunderstorm hit. We found an open space in a parking lot on sort of a rock outcrop and settled in for the night. We were bombarded by wind, rain, thunder and lightning and tried to sleep as the van was buffeted by the storm.  In the middle of all this came a rapping on the van window and an eerie Darth Vader sounding voice. Pulling back the curtain we looked into the face of a policeman. He wanted to know who we were and why we were there. The officer was very polite and gave us permission to stay for the night. We learned that he'd lost his larnyx resulting from a shot in the throat while on duty and had to speak through a voice box. A very bizare and weird experience.
Hollywood Nights: We had spent the day exploring the wonders of Hollywood. We were still there long after dark and rather short of funds when we passed by a rarity in the LA area on Sunset Boulevard, even in the late '60s: the rubble of a vacant lot. After a bumpy drive over the sidewalk we made our way to the back of the lot where we settled in for the night -- surrounded by the lights and sounds of Tinseltown.
Pacific Coast Beaches: Driving north from LA along the scenic Pacific Highway we were too late to visit the Hearst Castle so we spent the night on the beach near San Simeon. Next morning the fog obscured the "Castle" on the highlands above, but we left the coastal fog behind as we climbed to the Hearst complex.
Redwoods: Another memorable Califonia experience were the nights we spent under the towering Redwood trees in Northern California. The majestic Redwoods are some of the worlds' oldest and tallest trees and driving along the wooded trails to a secluded place for the night was an unforgettable experience.
Yellowstone Park Fire: We've visited Yellowstone Park a number of times. The most memorial one, however, involved setting up for the night in a wooded area and being awakened in the middle of the night by brilliant flashing lights and the smell of smoke -- forest fire. We backed onto a trail and made it to the main road where we sped north, hopefully out of harms way. We made it.
RV Park - Somewhere In America: We paid to stay in an RV park once. Facilities weren't too impressive or well kept. We were surrouned by fellow travellers -- some very interesting, others rather annoying and loud and in various states of drunkeness. After that experience we decided to save the money for a few days and check into the relative luxury of a motel for a night.


We have spent nights in a great variety of places during our trips through Malaysia, Indochina, China and India. They ranged from 5-star hotels in China to converted palaces and temples to jungle cabins to rustic homestays. The two nights we spent in a Chinese Junk on Vietnam's Halong Bay were a great experience, as were our stays in the cabin of longboat and in the remote villages on the Mekong River through Lao.
Homestay Panic: We had an unusual experience in one of the rustic homestays Lao. Our hostess was nine months pregnant and was expecting delivery at any time. We were awakened at daybreak by horrible screams just outside our window. We thought we were hearing the sound of a woman in childbirth, or worse still, someone being beaten, but as we hurried out of our hut for breakfast we saw the cause of the screams. Villagers had slaughtered a pig just on the grassy area just below our window and were butchering the carcass on a tarp spread out on the ground  -- fresh meat for the morning market.
Call of the Wild: It was a different type of scream that kept us awake for much of the night in our jungle cabin in India. Our digs were in the middle of a tiger reserve and the night sounds were a cacophony of roars, hoots, cackles and screams. There were no screens on the windows and we were entertained by the sounds of creatures that slithered and scurried into our room through the gap under our door.
Indian Wedding: One of our nights in a hotel in Northern India proved to be rather sleepless. Our first room had a strong sewer smell so the staff moved us to a room on the other side of the building overlooking  a huge garden that specialized in wedding celebrations. India weddings are very long, spectacular and noisy affairs. Just below our window were huge PA speakers pumping Bollywood-type music into the party crowd that crowded around a large well-lit and ornately decorated stage. The bride and groom made regular appearances on this rotating carousel type stage where they were feted and went through traditional ceremonies/ There was no sleep for us until well after midnight when the music and partying started to die down.
Indian Palace Luxury: During our North India Adventure we were assigned the Maharaja's suite of rooms. It featured glass doors to two balconies overlooking the village, dunes and mountainside. Another door opened into a huge games room with billiard table and more doors opened to a dressing room and bathroom. Showcased in the middle of our main room was an ornately carved bed. We had just spent the first day touring the Kama Sutra Temples covered with huge erotic carvings so this bed was especially appropriate since it was surrounded by mirrors. We slept well on our last night in these digs as we had spent much of the day riding camels to the local sand dunes from which we viewed the sunset.
Sleeping on the Rails: We had a number of overnight trips on trains in Thailand, Vietnam and India. The most unforgettable night was the night journey across Southern India. It was festival time and trains were overbooked. We were lucky to share a sleeper berth with two of our fellow travellers. Others in our party were assigned seats out with the masses whose unrelenting stares made them uncomfortable. Our tour guide led some of them into our cabin where we all doubled up on the narrow bunks and on the floor. The conductor pounded on our locked door periodically through the night to make sure there were only four in the cabin and that we all had tickets. We ignored the noise and discomfort and tried to sleep through it all. As the train rocked through the night, Sue-On and I tried to keep from falling off the narrow bunk we shared in reverse position with each others feet in our faces.
Freezing in Thailand: The temperatures were approaching 40 degrees outside but the A/C on our overnight train was out of control. We huddled and froze for much of the night and were glad when the stewards started to deliver trays of hot breakfasts. But we didn't expect the unusual delivery of our meal. The train car was rocking over a rough stretch of rail, the steward entered the far end of our car balancing heaping trays of food while he tried to keep his balance. As he came near he started to move faster and faster until he was in a near gallop when he reached our table. As he slammed down the heavy trays his trousers fell to his ankles. He was a bit embarrassed as we all burst into laughter.
A Room Below Sea Level: One of our final nights in South India was in a homestay in the delta lakes and swamps. Delta waters were kept back from flooding this below sea level house by constantly maintained dykes.






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