This story is an excerpt from my memoirs, “Well here it is.” I’ve told and retold tales of my travels and experiences as a child and young man, amusing my family and friends at dinner tables, lunch breaks and campfires. Often heard: “you should write this stuff down.” Well, here it is.
"Well, here it is." as yet is an unpublished work. The excerpts I post online are a small portion of the book. Who knows if and when I would push it to print or e-reader... maybe your responses here will point me in that direction!
Now you see me retired in my armchair, or at my desk or backyard garden. It may be hard to accept that I was once an adventurer, a vagabond, a varsity athlete, and an outlaw! My stories come from those times in my life when I was inclined to put myself in challenging or risky situations. I am very settled now. I consider it a newsy day when I go out to clean my gutters. I’m in that passage of life when it’s expected I should examine and reflect, so here’s hoping that among my goofs and guffaws you’ll see I’ve gained a bit of wisdom.
Well, here it is.
They’ve always said I should write this stuff down.
©2022 Robert Sickles
Book 1. Wanders & Wonders
Around, Across and Beyond America, a Prologue
By the late sixties, at the end of my childhood, I had already traveled extensively with my parents. The desire to get out and see more of the world was gifted to me in my upbringing. Between my ages of 8 and 17, our family saw much of the United States and Eastern Canada in a series of family car trips, and had traveled to Europe three times.
On our American tours, we slept in motel cabins and ate in local diners, stopped at historic markers, toured museums, gardens, mansions and forts, and took the scenic routes whenever the road map so indicated. Once in a while Dad would have it in his mind that we should treat ourselves to a special hotel or famous restaurant. Honestly, I don’t have colorful memories of those, but I can easily recall the unexpected parts of travel—highway detours on back roads and getting wonderfully lost.
Dad ran a red light in a small Georgia town (it only turned green for a couple of seconds, a trap designed to create a nice cash flow for the town.) We were pulled over by a drawly deputy who told Dad that his best option was to pay the fine in cash on the spot. Mom and Dad put up some fussing and crabbing about the absurdity of this robbery but at that point our deputy calmly place his hand on his sidearm and leaned in close to Dad's face with a polite "Please don't make this difficult, sir." Dad handed over $10, and we were on our way. It was my favorite part of the drive through Georgia! Darn, though I wanted to stay there overnight so we could go to traffic court in the morning. Needless to say my folks and I had different points of view about a lot of things.
I enjoyed uncommon people and offbeat experiences. I talked with shopkeepers and gas station attendants, smiled at moms with babies in the park and waitresses on break in the alley, tipped street musicians and enjoyed people-watching everywhere. I greeted local residents who were relaxing on their porch swings, absorbing their dialects and manners. I loved old cobble streets, old brick buildings, trolley tracks, statues in parks, cemeteries, the smells and sounds of flea markets, art fairs, and local foods from street vendors. I liked to poke around old houses and barns, explore sections of haunted roads bypassed by progress, and wonder among ruins and ghost towns.
Some of the inns and guest houses we stayed in—whether by choice or by chance—provided rich memories of quaint or quirky settings and people. I called it serendipity travel! Renowned art galleries were very good, people-watching on the boulevard could be nice for an afternoon, but I also enjoyed watching guys working the canal locks and migrant families harvesting apples. And those quirky roadside attractions—I had to see the world’s oldest or largest believe-it-or-not whatever it was. Something drew me toward old book stalls and 2nd hand shops. My idea of souvenir shopping was more like beach combing, looking for that certain object that was meaningful only to me. I wanted us to drive down the alleys and look over the fences to see how kids played in other parts of the world and what folks raised in their coops and pens. (I’ve met a few unhappy dogs and seen a shotgun raised at me.) We might tour the fine old home of some Founding Father but I really wanted to experience where his slaves lived. A dinner at a sidewalk café across the square from a French cathedral was beautiful, but please, let’s stop and get a baguette, grapes & cheese and picnic by the river near ruins of a Roman villa.
Over the years, we drove all over New England, down the eastern seaboard, and on the old A1A coast highway to southern Florida, then over to the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans, along the Mississippi River and returned to our home in New Jersey through Appalachia and on the Blue Ridge Parkway. From our home, Niagara Falls, Montreal, New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Boston were easy in a day or two. We finally drove across the prairies and mountain ranges to the Pacific Ocean, visiting Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., Disneyland and San Diego.
Our first European trip was a fully-escorted group package. On the 2nd and 3rd trips we became more adventurous and independent—and things got exciting— even hectic and terrifying. Yay!
On my own and into adulthood, I’ve driven and flown across the USA several times, and have traveled back to Europe, Western Canada, Mexico, and Hawaii.
I know people who have traveled a lot more than I ever did, I do envy their ability to go to exotic and fascinating places. Nevertheless, I believe I’ve gained plenty of valuable memories and maybe some wisdom every time I set out, and in chapters to follow on this website I will show you, my readers, some of that.