[January 12, 1964]
[Green River Campground, Green River, UT - morning]
Molly and Bill woke to the sounds of the campground coming to life. At around midnight, a large vehicle had pulled in to the site next to them. The people were polite, but still the opening and closing of doors woke them briefly. Now, they could hear the sounds of children running around next to them. When something bounced against the outside of the bus with a thump, Bill sat up and groaned.
“What the hell? It’s way too early for this.”
He eased out of the warm cocoon of their double sleeping bag, grimaced when his feet hit the cold floor, and pulled on his shoes. Wrapping himself up in his coat over pajamas, he hustled over to the communal bathroom. When he returned, Molly was stirring. She looked a bit better.
“Hi, Honey. How do you feel?” He asked quietly.
“Considering all the yelling and screaming going on next door, I’m fine. A couple of the kids had a fight and now they’ve all run off to eat breakfast. Let me get dressed and maybe we can do the same.”
“Sounds good to me.” Bill said, taking off his coat and running a little water into the sink. “I’m going to do a very short wash-up. You might want to take a hot shower. The women’s washroom is just over that way.”
“Oooh. I can use a hot shower.” She said, smiling at him.
Molly gathered up her toilet stuff and hustled over to the wash room in the chilly air. Bill continued to dress and then broke down the bedding, folded the blankets, and collapsed the bed back into a seat. When Molly pulled the door open, he had a hot cup of coffee ready for her.
“One milk, two sugars; right?”
“Oh, thank you. I need this. Someone was sick in one of the stalls and it smelled terrible in there. I took a fast shower.” She sipped the hot brew. “Mmmmm. Good.”
“Do you want to try and eat here, or pick up some doughnuts or something as we go out of town. The next stretch is just over a hundred miles with nothing in between.”
“Really? Another long run with nothing but desert?”
Bill nodded. “Yup.”
“Yes. Then let’s stop on the way out and see what we can find to eat. Please.” This was punctuated by a growl from Molly’s stomach. She chuckled. “See, even this agrees.”
“Right! Let’s get this boat ready to sail then.”
They busily cleaned up things, washing the coffee pot and stowing it. Molly gathered up her cast-off clothing and stuffed it into a bag. “We’re going to need to wash things out soon, Bill.”
“We can probably do that in Salina - or in Delta if we stop there.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“You want to drive?”
Molly shuddered. “No. You go ahead. I’ll try and wake up some more.”
They unhooked the cable from the power box and stowed it and then fired up the engine to let it begin to warm things up. When ready, he drove over to the office, got out and went in to return the key to the power box.
When he came back, he had good news. “The guy in there said there was a Safeway on the west side of town. We can buy some goodies there.” He glanced at the gas gauge. “We might also top off again.”
Molly belted herself into the seat and sipped the remainder of her coffee in silence while Bill navigated down the main street of town. They located the grocery store easily and found a gas station right next to it. Prices at both places were a bit high.
[January 12, 1964]
[US 6/50, west of Green River, UT - morning]
Once on the road again, fortified by two sticky buns each and a big container of hot chocolate, they began to feel human again. Bill turned on the radio but got nothing but a couple of stations giving stock reports. Pretty boring stuff. When that ended, the nasal twang of country music began. He turned it back off again. “Can’t stand that stuff,” he remarked to himself.
The highway stretched out in front of them, narrowing to a dot at the horizon. They drove along in silence. Molly was reading her book, but found that the road was too bumpy to concentrate and gave up. She lay her head back on the headrest and closed her eyes.
* * *
‘This is truly a great country,’ she thought. ‘We’ve been driving for three days now and have just been in two states besides this one. I don’t know where we will eventually settle down, but living here would certainly be an experience. Everyone is so friendly.’ She paused to belch softly. ‘Ooh, too many sweet things. My stomach is upset.’ She smiled at herself.
* * *
Bill noticed the smile out of the corner of his eye and wondered if she was indeed feeling better. He voiced the question.
“Yes. Actually, I do feel better this morning. I have to confess that it was I who was sick in the bathroom. I tried to clean it up as best as I could. I don’t think anyone saw me. I feel bad about it though.”
“Don’t worry. It’ll air out soon enough. The men’s side had an exhaust fan so yours probably did also. No problem.” He turned to smile at her.
She smiled back and pushed her empty coffee cup into the trash bag.
They drove on silently. Molly drowsed in her seat while Bill thought about many things. First and foremost he wondered if they should turn back. Molly seemed confident that the sickness would pass, but he wasn’t so sure. Running around the countryside in a bouncy bus was probably not the best thing to do when you were pregnant. He would ask Molly if she wanted to go back to Great Falls by way of Salt Lake City. He drove on.
[January 12, 1964]
[Salina, Utah – noon]
They reached Salina, Utah shortly after noon. Bill parked the bus in a slot beside the municipal park and they got out to stretch. He put his arm around Molly’s waist and guided her to a picnic table. They sat down.
“Molly, I think it would be a good idea to cut this trip short…” He paused when her face clouded up. “Wait. Hear me out. We can still have a great trip, but instead of California we just go north through Salt Lake City and back up to Great Falls through Idaho. On the way, we can go through my stomping grounds of Missoula. How about that?”
“Oh, Bill. You wanted to go visit friends in California. I don’t want to hold you back. We can go on.”
“No. I really think you need to get back home where we can take better care of you … and little junior too.” He chuckled and patted her tummy. “Now, put on a happy smile and we’ll go get some food.”
* * *
‘I feel so bad that I’m causing him to miss out on his friends. Even as sick as I am, I’m having fun just being alone with him. Mon dieu, I love him so.’
* * *
Molly put her arms around Bill’s neck and drew him close. “Okay. We can go back, but I would like to sometime visit your friends in California. Promets-tu?”
“Je vous promets.” He said solemnly. “I love you so much, Molly, that it hurts deep inside to see you feeling badly.”
They walked around the square and found a nice little place to get a hot meal. They were surprised to find French onion soup on the menu. They both ordered it – along with two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. It was delicious. When they left, the both felt much better; Bill because he thought he’d done right, and Molly because her stomach was quiet for a change.
Bill did the math and figured it would take them a little over three hours to get to Ogden. He didn’t want to stop in Salt Lake City because he knew the prices would be higher. So, after walking another fifteen minutes, they got back into the bus and started out. With a stop on the outskirts of Salina for gas, they were on their way north, leaving highway 50 behind.
[January 12, 1964]
[North of Salina, Utah – afternoon]
Their new direction took them upwards through towns such as Gunnison, Nephi, and Santaquin until they stopped yet again in Provo to stretch. They’d passed a sign pointing to Utah Lake State Park and decided to eat a little bit of food. The gate was open, but the little guard shack was locked up. They found a nice picnic table near the shore of the lake and spread out their food.
“I though we were near Salt Lake. Is that up ahead of us?” Molly asked.
“Yes. Provo is a few miles south of the big city. This lake is just a smaller one around the big lake. You’ll know it when we get there. Flocks and flocks of seagulls hang around it all the time.”
“Seagulls? Here? In the middle of the country?”
“Yup. They migrate over the Sierras from the west coast and settle down here. Strange, eh?”
“Sure is. I’ve never seen a seagull. Are they big?”
“Pretty big.” He indicated a bird the size of a small chicken with his hands. “They make a lot of noise too.” He chuckled.
They cleaned up their trash, tossed it into the nearest trash can, and left the park. As they were heading northwards, Bill filled Molly in on the extent of the salt flats. She was very impressed, but he seemed to think he might be exaggerating a bit. It wasn’t until they passed over the main portion of Salt Lake City on an overhead causeway that she saw the endless stretches of blindingly white salt flats to the west.
“My goodness! Is all that salt?”
“Sure is. Extends west for around a hundred twenty miles. All the way to Wendover – on the Nevada border.”
* * *
‘That is almost too much to comprehend. All that salt! Bill told me that it is so flat that they race cars on it and that some of those cars get up to two hundred miles an hour. This country – my new country – never stops amazing me.’
* * *
Eventually Bill saw another sign. He’d known the base was here, but hadn’t thought of it until now. “Say, Honey. How about a good meal in the Officer’s Club here at Hill?”
“Hill? Is that another base like Malmstrom?”
“Sure is. We can have a good meal and then be ready to stop when we get to Ogden. No plastic food in a diner tonight.”
Molly reached over and touched his arm. “Oh, that sounds so good. Do we have good enough clothes?”
“I think so. We can park near the back of the lot and pull down shades if we want while we freshen up. It’ll be fun!”
“Okay. A tasty meal would go nicely right now. Let’s do it.”
He drove on until he reached the entrance to the base. He drove up, prepared to show his ID card, but the guard simply saluted and waved him through. Up ahead, he saw a large sign with various destinations listed. He drove slowly enough to spot the arrow pointing to the O-Club and turned that way. Presently, they pulled into the lot.
Today being a Sunday, Bill figured there would be some sort of buffet. They changed into cleaner clothes, washed up a little, and Bill brushed Molly’s hair. In ten minutes, they stepped out of the bus and headed for the main entrance.
They went directly to the front desk and talked to the person seated there. She asked them for a club card, but Bill didn’t have one. He did tell her that his dad was stationed at Malmstrom and that he was a member in good standing of that one. She smiled up at him as she passed over a clipboard.
“Just sign here as a guest. Are you here for the buffet?”
“Definitely,” Bill replied. We’ve been on the road all day and are very hungry.”
“Really? Where did you come from?” She asked.
“Salina. We’re on our honeymoon.” He added, perhaps unnecessarily, as he put his arm around Molly’s waist.
“Oh. Congratulations. I hope you enjoy our club.”
Bill handed her back the clipboard and she made a notation on it as to the time they arrived. Bill thanked her and he and Molly entered the club proper. Everyone seemed to be dressed as casually as they were so Molly didn’t feel too uncomfortable. Some women had dressed up more elegantly, but Bill told her that they probably had just left evening church services.
They found their way to the dining room and the greeter found them a table. “If another couple comes in and doesn’t mind sharing, you can put them here with us. We don’t mind. We’ve been cooped up in a car all day and some talk would be nice.
“Thank you, Sir. I’ll keep that in mind. Wait for your server and then just go up to the steam tables. Bon appétit!”
“Merci,” said Molly in reflex.
Their server arrived and set them up with plates, utensils, and water. He indicated where the steam tables were and told them to just go ahead and get whatever they wanted. When he left, they did just that.
* * *
‘Just look at all this food! I don’t know where to begin. Bread, I suppose. Oh, wait – those hard rolls look delicious. I’ll get one of those. This is roast beef and that is ham. Maybe the beef. Oh! A sweet potato! I love sweet potatoes; I have to have one. Now a spoon of green beans. And one of corn. I hope I can eat all of this!’
* * *
Bill watched Molly with relief. It seemed as if she had regained some of her appetite. He had been beginning to worry about her. If she ate everything on her plate, she would certainly be full. ‘Good for her,’ he thought.
Molly did indeed eat everything on her plate and polished it off with a small wedge of cherry pie. Bill had chocolate cake with a spoon of ice cream on it. When they were finished, they paused over a second cup of coffee.
“You must be feeling better now, my love. You ate quite a bit.”
“Oh, I am – feeling better, that is. Such good food. Do they always serve this much at these clubs?”
“I don’t know about this one, but the one back home is great. Those pilots demand a great deal from their club and they get it. The club is a membership club. They each pay an amount into the club depending on their rank.”
She nodded to herself. “That seems fair. How much will this meal cost us?”
“I haven’t a clue, but I bet it won’t be much. Drink up. We’d better get on the road. It’s past four now.”
“I kind of hate to leave. It’s so nice in here.”
“Sure is, but we should try to get a motel in Ogden before too late.”
They finished their coffee and Bill left a tip for the server. It wasn’t required, but he did anyway. He took Molly’s hand and led her back to the front door. On the way past the desk he complimented the woman on the club; telling her it was every bit as good as the one at Malmstrom – maybe better. She smiled and thanked him. “Come back soon,” she said. Bill waved on the way out.
Bill didn’t realize it, but Hill AFB was immediately south of Ogden anyway. They had barely left the front gate when they saw the city limits sign. He chuckled.
“What?” Molly asked.
“I guess we could have lingered for a while longer. We’re already in Ogden now.”
“Good. Do we want a motel or a hotel? I would kind of like a hotel if we can find a good one.”
“Hotel it is, then.” Bill announced, turning down a street that would take them towards the center of town. They didn’t find anything that appealed to them and were about resigned to going back to the Best Western they spotted earlier when Bill saw the marquee for the Marion Hotel. They drove past.
“It’s perfect!” Cried Molly. “It looks just fine to me.”
Bill parked and walked back to the hotel. He came back to the bus ten minutes later and announced they had a room. Molly clapped her hand like a kid. “Wonderful! I hope they have hot water. I need a bath desperately. No showers for me tonight.”
“I didn’t ask, but they probably do have bathtubs seeing as they’re pretty old. We’ll muddle through. Let me park in the hotel parking garage and get off the street. They gave me a punched plastic card to raise the gate.” He held it up.
“Ooh. Drive! Drive!”
He did just that. When the bar rose, he drove upwards to find a spot and then parked. They each grabbed a small bag and went into the hotel. The clerk had told Bill that the card was also the key for opening the door. He’d never seen anything like that before and wondered just how it worked. They found their room and settled down.
[January 12, 1964]
[Marion Hotel, Ogden, Utah – evening]
Molly collapsed on the bed and sighed. “Long day!”
“Definitely! I don’t know if I could have driven further than this. That meal made me very sleepy. How about you?”
“Me also, but first – a bath. I hope.” She rose and went into the bathroom. She poked her head back around the doorjamb and announced that there was indeed a tub – a big one. “Big enough for two – if you’re so inclined.”
“I’m not inclined at the moment, but that can be remedied in no time at all.” He snickered.
“You’re terrible.” She responded, but with a wrinkled nose.
“You get started and I’ll join you later. Bubbles?”
“Oh, yes! Ummmm, none in here so bring mine, please. They’re in my brand new makeup kit, bottom drawer.”
Bill located the small tin and brought it to her. She was already running hot water and partially undressed. He nuzzled her ear and patted her on the butt. “Oh! Go away until I’m washed up a little. I want to be nice for you.”
“You’re always ‘nice for me’, but I’ll wait.” He left.
* * *
‘Right now I feel very undesirable. I smell from all that sitting in the bus. I suppose that doesn’t bother him at all, but it does bother me. I think I’ll add a little more salts than usual. They don’t seem to be foaming up as much as before. Maybe it’s the water. I’ll ask Bill. I bet he knows. What a wonderful meal we had. I can’t believe I ate that much! And the pie! So sweet but tasty. I guess I have to watch my weight now with this child growing in me. I can’t feel anything, but I know he’s there. He? Oh, I hope it is a boy! So many things are going to happen to me – to us – while he grows. I hope with all my heart I won’t look ugly to Bill.’
* * *
Following a leisurely, and hot, bubble bath, the two of them, their ardor suitably sated, piled into bed even though it was relatively early – only nine-thirty. It was a race to see who went to sleep first.