[January 11, 1964]
[Parker’s B&B, Frisco, Colorado - Early morning]
Snow had fallen overnight. Bill noticed this the second he looked out the window from the bed. The whole valley was coated with it. “Molly. Wake up, Honey.” He called softly. “We’ve got to get moving pretty soon. It snowed last night.”
“Huh? Wazzat? Snow?” She mumbled from deep with the coverlets and turning to face me. “How much did we get?”
“I don’t know. I’ll check.” He hopped out of bed and tiptoed over to the window. Based on how much was now sitting on the roof of the bus he judged that about two inches had fallen. “Maybe two inches. Looks like something local though. At least I hope so. I want to get over the pass and into Grand Junction today. If we’re lucky, it will take us about five hours. More snow makes us slower.”
Bill took a quick shower and then shooed Molly in for hers. He thought it was his imagination after their little conversation last night, but now thought he saw a little more fullness to her stomach. ‘Could she be starting to show already?’ He wondered.
They newlyweds ate breakfast almost by themselves. Just one other couple joined them at the table when they were about halfway done. The couple was from Des Moines and was headed back that way now. Bill told them to take it easy over Loveland Pass and they said they would. In just over an hour Molly and Bill were backing out of their parking spot and moving down the road.
[January 11, 1964]
[US 6, west from Frisco, Colorado – morning]
They continued their trip west on highway 6. Slowly they climbed back up to Vail Pass which, surprisingly, had blown almost clean of snow. Using the brakes sparingly, Bill drifted down the other side in third gear. They made the mistake of stopping in Edwards to have a hot meal in a diner that had seen better days. Molly just picked at her hamburger and didn’t touch her greasy fries. She took on a slightly glassy look which Bill noticed when he got into the bus again.
“You feeling badly, Honey?”
“Oh, not really. It was just that I looked at those fries with all that fat dripping from them and I felt a little ill. I’m okay now that I’m out in the fresh air. That place was horrible.”
“Agreed. It’s probably a long way from a health inspector.”
She tittered and buckled up. Bill pulled out into traffic and continued down the road. Eagle came and went, along with Gypsum. They crossed the Colorado River at Dotsero. There they pulled into a tiny roadside stop and made coffee on their little stove. Bill explained the significance of the name ‘Dotsero’ to Molly as the starting point for mapping companies back when Colorado was still a territory. Mileage was measured from the river so that was the ‘dot zero’ point.
“How do you know all this stuff?” She asked with a perplexed look. “Do you just read it somewhere or what?”
“That particular one my dad told me when we crossed the river years ago on our trip down from Alaska.”
“Now there’s a place where you have to be extra hardy to survive. The thought of Alaska brings to mind wolves, bears, dogsleds and the like.”
“Funny you should mention that. I know how to drive a dogsled. I was taught by the best driver in Fairbanks.”
She leaned into him and kissed his cheek with grape jam stickiness on her lips. “Somehow I just knew that, my talented husband.”
Refresh from their short break, they continued downhill towards Grand Junction. Glenwood Springs wrinkled Molly’s nose. “What’s that horrible smell?”
“That’s the springs that the town is named for. It’s supposed to have healing powers. They believed that years ago but now it’s mostly just for the hot springs and not for anything else. There is one place here in town where you can go from almost cold water to steamy hot in a series of pools. It’s a place where the sexes are separated by a translucent divider down the middle of the pools. You swim in the nude.”
“Really! I’ve always thought that would be deliciously decadent to do sometime; swim in the nude. But, it’s much more fun if everyone swims together.”
“Mmmm,” he acknowledged with a noncommittal grunt. “But think of all the man handles around you. Wouldn’t that make you nervous?”
“Only if you weren’t there, my love. Then it wouldn’t matter to me one bit.”
Thoughts of nude bathing accompanied Bill for the next ten miles. Going downhill was much faster than going uphill and they made good time. The drawback to this was that the engine wasn’t working very hard and didn’t produce much heat. It got a bit cold.
A final huge bend in the road revealed the town of Grand Junction out before them. “Goodness! Look how far you can see out there!” Molly exclaimed.
“That’s where we’re headed,” said Bill. “Right out that direction.” He pointed through the front window. “We should probably stop and fill up with gas before we leave Grand Junction. There isn’t anything between here and Green River for over ninety miles.”
Molly turned to look at him with eyes wide. “Nothing? As in empty?”
* * *
‘Surely there must be something.’ She thought.
* * *
“Yup. Totally nothing but sand, rocks and a few jackrabbits.”
“Gosh. That sounds really scary. I’m so used to having towns – even small towns – nearby. What if something breaks down? Can you fix it?”
“Well, unless the engine drops to the ground I can. I’ve got a full toolbox back there and a couple spare parts if we need them. We have the camper itself if we need shelter. And, if the weather cooperates, we can stay at the campgrounds in Green River.”
“Not a motel?”
“Nope. Tonight we can rough it.”
Molly smiled at Bill uncertainly. He reached over and patted her on the knee. “We’ll be fine.”
They found a nice gas station on the western edge of town. Bill filled the tank and also a military-style jerrican he’d bought at a surplus store. It was never a mistake to have more gas than you needed. He lashed the can to the luggage rack on top.
While Bill was doing this, Molly took the opportunity to stretch her legs. She got into a conversation with a family of four who had just left Green River this morning. They told her that the road was clear of ice and snow and that the view was wonderful. The wife confirmed that there was nothing out there. “Not even a road leaving the main road except for small pull-outs where people have camped.”
“Gosh! That’s hard to believe.”
“Believe it, Honey.” The woman patted Molly’s arm. “Say, what kind of camper is that you’re driving? Looks kinda small.”
“It’s big enough for the two of us. It is a Volkswagen – from Germany.”
“Looks strange. I can’t put my finger on it but… Ah! I got it. Where’s the engine? The front seats are right over the wheels.”
“Oh,” Molly chuckled. “It’s in back.”
“In back? Well, I’ll be danged. Pretty clever. Stick shift?”
“Yeah. I’m still getting used to it. My husband lets be drive for a while every day. I didn’t want to in the mountains though. He drove all the way through them.”
“Don’t blame you. We’re headed east right after lunch. You both take care now. We’re ready to go, I guess.”
Her husband and two kids were waving at her from their car. The woman left to join them. In the meantime, Bill arrived from paying the gas bill. “Who was that?” He asked.
“Just a woman. They’re headed east. She said the road is clean and clear all the way to Green River.”
“Thanks, Babe. Good intelligence is always nice to have.” He kissed her cheek. “We’d better get going too. You want to drive?”
“Um … sure. I’ll drive. But not for too long though.”
“No problem. I’ll fix sandwiches while you drive.”
[January 11, 1964]
[US 6/50, west of Grand Junction, CO – afternoon]
Molly drove. When they got out on the road, Bill watched her handle the bus for a moment. She was doing well, but when the wind, which was steadily blowing from the northwest, got interrupted by a small hill, she tended to creep towards the side of the road. When the wind reappeared after the hill, she moved to the left.
“Honey. When you see we’re coming up on the next hill, be prepared for the wind to stop. That way, when it does, you won’t move to the right. Then, when it starts again, you can be ready for it and not drift to the left.”
“Oh. I thought it was me that was doing it. I’ll watch for that.”
She did too. After several more little wind-blocking hills, she got the knack of compensating for it. Bill relaxed, unbuckled, and slipped back to make lunch.
He worked fast, not wanting to be unbuckled too long. In no time, he’d produced two lunchmeat sandwiches, a soda each, and a big bag of chips. He put the chips between the front seats and crawled back into his own. “I’ll hold your sandwich while you drive. Munch now?”
Molly nodded and Bill handed her the sandwich. She took a big bite and handed it back to him. “Mmmm. Good. I like the deli mustard.”
“So do I.” He let her take another bite.
Feeding himself between occasional bites of her sandwich and sips of her soda for Molly, they finished their lunch. Molly was now anticipating the wind and kept the bus straight down the road. And it was straight too. Not a degree of variance was showing as they topped a small hill and looked out across the valley below them. The road ran straight across and climbed the far hill.
Bill began to drowse and soon was drifting off to sleep.
* * *
‘Well, I guess Bill trusts me. He’s asleep over there. I never realized just how far forward I’m sitting here. I can look right down at the road just in front of me. How strange.’
Molly chuckled to herself as she piloted the bus down the road. ‘He could probably look at the mileage and tell me within five miles how close we are to Green River. I hope I never lose my fascination at just what he can do.’
* * *
The sun began to sink down into the far hills in front of Molly. She began to squint in the glare. Bill woke up and looked over at her.
“Ready for some relief? That sun has to be murder on your eyes.”
“Yes. It does bother me a little. I am a bit tired also in my arms from the wind.” She lifted her foot off the gas pedal and let the bus drift to a stop. There was no traffic in either direction so she felt no need to get off the road. Unbuckling, she dropped to the pavement and stretched to the sky. “Ooooh. That feels good.”
Bill, on the opposite side, did the same and then came around to take over from Molly. When they settled down in their seats, Bill started off. He had his sunglasses on now and the sunshade pulled down low.
“How far do we have to go now?” Molly asked.
Bill looked at the odometer, did some calculations, and replied: “About fifteen miles now. Green River will pop out of the ground as we get near the valley. It sits kind of low.”
“Oh. Okay. I’m closing my eyes now for a while. The sun is bright.”
“Mm-mmm.” Bill replied.
They drove onwards across the seemingly limitless plains now beginning to show deep shadows behind each clump of grass or hillock. It was getting late now. As he expected, Green River began showing as a smudge on the horizon. He glanced at Molly, but saw she was dozing and kept quiet.
When he turned off the highway to go into town, Molly woke. "We here already?"
"Already? You closed your eyes a half-hour ago, Sweetie." Bill chuckled.
"Oh." She rubbed her eyes. "My eyes burn."
"That's probably due to the humidity. It's very dry out here. We'll stop at a market and buy something to soothe them after we get to the campground."
He drove down near the river and pulled through an arch proclaiming the Green River Campground. A 'spaces available' sign hung on a nail on one side of the wooden arch. Bill pulled up to the office and got out. Still a bit sleepy, Molly didn't.
[January 11, 1964]
[Green River Campground, Green River, UT - evening]
Duly registered now, Bill drove to his assigned slot and parked. He'd opted for a powered spot so that he could run a plug from the bus to an outlet under a locked cover. He'd been given the key for it. Once power was applied, the larger lights would work and they could save the battery.
Bundled against the light breeze, which had tapered off when the sun set, Molly went around to each window and loosened the curtains to let them fall. Bill got out the curtain frame for the front window and fitted it. Soon, they had their own little space. To make sure, Molly got out and walked all around the bus to check.
Bill pulled out pots, pans, and a can opener to fix some supper. Neither one of them was very hungry, but he thought they should eat something. Molly stopped him.
"Maybe we could find a diner close-by. I'd like something really nice before we go to sleep."
"Sure, Baby. Put your coat back on and we'll see what there is to see."
They locked up the bus and went over to the office. The woman there told them there was a nice restaurant just up the road a block or so. Bill thanked her and they headed that way.
Molly didn't order much, and then only picked at what she did order. Clearly, she was off her feed. When he finished his meal, he asked the waitress if she would wrap up Molly's dinner. She said she would and came back from the kitchen with a paper bag.
"I added a carton of milk for you, wife."
Molly looked up at her gratefully. "Thank you very much. My stomach is a bit upset right now. The milk will help."
Bill put some cash on the table to cover the bill and added a tip. They got up and left the restaurant. When they got back to the bus, Bill ran the engine a little while to make some heat and then switched it off. They went around checking windows again to make sure the curtains were closed.
Cuddling together under a blanket, they sat on the convertible seat and read for a while. Bill eventually glanced at his watch and proclaimed that it was getting late. Molly agreed. They stood and pulled the seat out to make their bed. It was the first time Molly had seen it done.
"Pretty nice," she exclaimed. "Looks soft enough."
"The pad is under here," Bill said, reaching through the door under the bed and pulling it out. He spread it over the bed. Then he pulled out their sleeping bags and joined them together, catching Molly’s smile as he did. Another cubbyhole produced two pillows. By the time the bed was made, Molly was ready for it. Bill held things steady as she crawled into the bag; then he joined her.
When Bill turned off the remaining light, the bus went dark. There was enough residual light to be able to see, but nothing bright enough to be bothersome. The campground was quiet now. He kissed Molly gently.
"Good night, Mon Cher. Sleep tight"
She kissed him back sleepily. "You too, my love. I hope I am feeling better in the morning."
"Me too, Honey. I worry about you. Maybe we should go back."
"Shush," she said, putting finger on his lips. "I'll be fine. Maybe tomorrow we can stop early and find a good motel or something. It would be nice to just rest for a while."
"Oui. Je Suis d'accord, my love." He kissed her again. She began kissing back. They didn’t go too far however as Molly’s eyelids began to droop. They spooned; Molly at Bill’s back. Rapidly, they fell asleep.