The Honeymooners – October 1983 – By William Brown

Welcome to my time-travelogue. The event will be my honeymoon with my beautiful bride Marie. Now, this isn’t your everyday honeymoon story but our travelogue documenting our trip to Washington D.C. from Dallas, Texas… on a motorcycle of all things!

The title shot was taken by my mentor, and friend Jim Law. When Jim learned of our upcoming marriage he volunteered to photograph our wedding. I will always be indebted to this man.

The next day we loaded up the motorcycle, a Honda Aspencade, and our trailer. Yes, we would be pulling a trailer. I had attached a luggage rack to the lid and this is where the chaise lounger would reside. Why would we need a chaise lounger? Well, my bride already knew that she would need a place to read and nap whilst her hubby was shooting photos. My camera kit consisted of a Canon A-1 plus various Canon lenses. My film stock, probably my all-time favorite, Kodachrome 64!

I had made a travel plan to get us to D.C. in a few days. As the sun was setting on the second day we decided to stop at a KOA campground in Benton, Arkansas. It was a beautiful fall day and evening. We ate supper at Browns Country Store and then headed back to our campsite. I found a nice location at the back of the campground and we had a little photoshoot. I set up the camera on my tripod and we did our first kissing self-portrait. I had painted a just married sign that I attached to the trailer, so when we pulled in to the campsite everyone knew we were newlyweds on our honeymoon. As the older folks in their travel trailers looked on we proceeded to take our photos. I thought it was a PERFECT end to the day.

Marie with motorcycle at the KOA campground in Benton, Arkansas.
The happy couple.
Our first kissing self-portrait.
My beautiful bride.

We had set up the tent and my wife was getting everything ready for our first night to camp. I was outside starting to put all my camera equipment away when a drop of rain hit my arm. Within a few minutes it was pouring! Not wanting to leave my camera equipment on the motorcycle I detached the boot from the bike and lugged it into the tent. At this point it actually began to rain harder and the tent started to flood. I was getting furious that this was happening as this was the last thing I wanted on our honeymoon. In an effort to keep everything dry we started stacking it up in the center of the tent and then I made a campers worst mistake in a situation like this. I said, the only thing worse would be if the wind was blowing. As the last word left my lips the tent hit me square in the face. The rain started blowing through the tent fabric and the tent, with us inside, seemed at any moment on its way to OZ.

Marie had already changed clothes for the night so as we hurriedly moved everything to the center of the tent we came to the realization that she would have to change again, pack up and leave in the downpour. This meant she would have to get dressed in the midst of all that was happening and I would need to get our rain gear out of the trailer and start getting everything loaded up. Our little campsite came with a picnic table under a small metal canopy so I decided to stand on the table to get my rain gear on. In the frenzy of the moment I had grabbed up her helmet, which was oversized for me. As I stood up on the table my view of the cross beam was impaired by the helmet. BAM! I struck my helmeted head against the beam. I proceeded to put on my rain pants and stood up. BAM! I hit the beam again. At this point I’m so mad it seems I may burst a blood vessel in my forehead. As all this is happening to me Marie has hastily finished putting on the bare essentials and is now outside the tent. As she bends down to zip up the tent I look over from my position on the table and burst into uncontrolled laughter. In her haste getting dressed she had missed zipping up the back of her gaucho pants. She was mooning not only me but the campground full of RV’ers. It still makes us laugh. We call this story “ the moon over Benton”. We left the campground and located a hotel just down the road. After hanging all of our soaked gear up to dry we nestled into the warm, dry bed.

Needless to say we didn’t camp out again until we reached Bull Run State Park in Virginia.

With the dawn of the third day the previous nights disaster was already looking like a great story we could remember and tell. It’s at this point that Marie located a pay phone and called her folks to give them an update on our progress. I stood there whispering for her not to tell them where we were but the next thing I know she is saying we are in Benton, Arkansas. Marie related to me that as her mom relayed the information to the rest of the family, telling them we were in Benton, the whole group howled with laughter. You see, Benton, Arkansas is about a five hour drive from Dallas.

We took the late check-out and hit the road again. We had decided to retrace a tour of mine from 1978 so we stayed on the Interstate until reaching Memphis,Tennessee.

A friendly wave from passers by-photo by Marie.

As we motored across the bridge spanning the Mississippi River we were treated to a spectacular sunset. It seemed all was right with the world again but as we exited onto Tennessee Hwy15/US64, a two lane back road that would take us to Smoky Mountain National Park, the rain started up again. Being a seasoned rider I had driven in every kind of weather you can imagine. The big difference now was I had a trailer attached and my new bride to consider. We talked about it and determined we should stop upon our next available opportunity. We eventually came to a little roadside set of cabins located in the town of Somerville, Tennessee. The place was deserted. (cue music from Psycho)

As we pulled up to the check-in cabin we were a little apprehensive about it all. As we talked with the woman behind the counter I quickly loosened up and told her we were newlyweds on our honeymoon and I was a photographer. My wife, having much more common sense than I, stated in a raised voice, she hoped they took travelers cheques because we had NO CASH on us. I drove the bike over to our cabin and tried to get my rig through the door. It wouldn’t fit. With this reality I made the decision to park right up against the wall in front of our cabins’ window.

We pushed the bed over to the wall with the window and I would sleep on that side. I could then pull back the curtain and check on our bike right from the bed. Since we hadn’t had supper we dug into our supply of snacks and breakfast cereal that we were carrying. We then pushed every piece of movable furniture against the door. It was quite a sight and I wish I had a photo of it. We settled in with our snacks and cereal and turned on the tv. We would realize later this stop had the best tv reception of any place we stayed.

As the night progressed the little motor park filled up with other travelers. We eventually calmed down and fell asleep. The next morning we awakened to beautiful blue skies and a wonderful fall day. After putting all the furniture back where it belonged we loaded up and set off again on our adventure. Before going any distance I spotted a photo op. I parked, got out my camera, then walked up to the gentleman and introduced myself. I explained I was interested in photographing him. Like most people he wondered what in the world I saw that was interesting enough to warrant a photograph. I have to say here that I owe so much to another photographic mentor, Bank Langmore. He taught me how to see and hopefully photograph moments like this.

Somerville, Tennessee
A Coke and a smile .

The weather remained beautiful and as the days and miles passed it started to become a relaxing and enjoyable trip. We stopped in front of a southern mansion and imagined it was our home. We did another self- portrait kissing photo. Eventually I amassed a fair amount of those shots and it kind of became the shot we had to shoot when we stopped somewhere.

Our imagined southern mansion.
The beauty of Kodachrome 64.
Marie posing with our rig next to the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This area of the U.S. has much to see and in 1983 the tourist attraction barn billboard was still a part of the everyday landscape. We did stop and see Rock City as the barn billboard had prompted us to do. It was the typical tourist trap but it did have a beautiful view and we shot some photos to commemorate our visit.

Bill at Rock City/Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.
Marie at Lovers Leap. Rock City/Lookout Mountain,Tennessee.
Fall leaves in the morning light.
Marie and friend.

On another occasion of me pulling off the road to photograph a bridge I turned around and got this shot of my dear wife asleep in that chaise lounger I mentioned. I think the photo of her was better than the shot I stopped for.

It was prettier in person.
Marie asleep on chaise lounger while I photograph a bridge.
Bill and Marie in Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee.

As we passed through the Smoky Mountains towards our destination of Gatlinburg, Tennessee we couldn’t have imagined what was in store for us. We had just passed a mileage sign stating Gatlinburg was about 23 miles when we came upon a traffic jam. Being in a car during this type of slow moving traffic is no big deal but driving a big tour bike with a trailer behind is quite a different story. You’re moving at a speed where you can’t quite lift your feet or keep them down. The balancing act becomes exhausting. This continued all the way into Gatlinburg. As we drove into town we read a large banner draped over the street. It welcomed everyone to the annual craft fair. It’s the longest traffic jam I’ve ever been in. The craft fair also meant there wasn’t a hotel room within 90 miles. We had to drive all the way to Knoxville. By the time we got settled in it was about 1am and they had a 10 am checkout that they would not relax for us. That was our shortest hotel stay and the most expensive.

Another chance to kiss my sweetheart.
Hungry Mother State Park off of Interstate Hwy.81 near Marion, Virginia-photo by Marie.
Marie posing with tree ablaze with fall color. That wonderful Kodachrome again!

Our next stop before reaching the D.C. area was a hotel in Roanoke, Virginia. We cooked ourselves some soup for supper and as we started settling in for the evening we realized the room had fleas. Marie knew what to do though. She placed a white pillow out in the middle of the floor. This seemed to attract the little buggers and we made it through the night. One more story for the memory book.

Bill and Marie on motorcycle leaving Bull run State Park
Cover photo for imagined touring magazine article- Bull Run , Virginia.

We finally arrived in the D.C. region and decided to use a campground at Bull Run State Park as our home base. We did day trips into Washington and alot of the typical tourist type stuff. We had no idea there were so many Smithsonian buildings and even after several days of visiting sites we no where near scratched the surface of all there was to see. We have always thought we would someday return for another visit but after 38 years it doesn’t seem like it will happen.

Just for fun.
Marie posing for portrait in Washington, D.C.
Marie standing at the entrance to the Lincoln Memorial.
One last kissing portrait.
Us in fifty err…twelve years? Nice instamatic.

Our time in D.C. came to an end so we started planning our trip home. We hit the Interstate highways and I drove pretty much straight through.

A passengers view.

Because of the way Marie was sandwiched between me and the back boot of the motorcycle there was no danger of falling off so she had no problem sleeping. Besides, I could always stop and set up that chaise lounger.

The real adventure begins. Our first Christmas and no mistletoe needed.

Thanks Hamish for this opportunity to share my time-travelogue story and remember why I take photographs. A shout out to Tyler at Photographique Dallas for my beautiful slide scans as well. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip back to 1983 and I want to encourage anyone else with a story of their own time-travelogue adventure to consider writing and submitting it.

Olim meminisse juvabit -Virgil, Aeneid,1

“Someday it will be pleasant to remember”

-Bill Brown

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22 thoughts on “The Honeymooners – October 1983 – By William Brown”

    1. Well Martin, as the old saying goes, the cobblers children have no shoes and so it is with us in a photo. Marie isn’t one to have her photo taken and she has final say in what photos I post if she is in it. We gave up motorcycling in the late 1980’s but film photography has remained a constant. Now she just reclines the seat in the van to sleep while I’m standing on the roof to get that perfect angle. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Best.

  1. Hey baby brother Bill! Was a great walk down memory lane. You had relayed your honeymoon stories, and other bike treks, to me in years past, but age has a way of taking those memories away. Loved the article!! You have such a God given creative ability and I love the pictures you take as you see things that I do not. You come alive explaining to me just what it was you were trying to capture. So thankful you have been able to have a life working with what you love!

    1. Hey sis, thanks for your kind words. Living so far apart I never can remember what I’ve talked about but I’ve always considered photography as my alternate memory stream. The other aspect of photography that you mentioned, the seeing, is also quite meaningful to me. Life passes so quickly and my negs, trannies and prints are a cherished thread to so many ephemeral moments. And yes, I am thankful also for all the people, places and moments that I have enjoyed because of photography.

    1. Gandhi, thanks for those kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed my story and photos. It was fun for me to recall our trip all those years ago and to have my Kodachromes scanned. Even my family have never seen most of these photos. Thanks again.

    1. Kurt, thanks so much. It was my joy to present it. Motorcycling was a strong influence on my dedication to photography. When I began to start touring in 1978 I wanted to document my travels and experiences. I worked at a large pro lab in Dallas and one of the darkroom printers, Willis Parker, was an avid touring enthusiast. He photographed his trips and when I saw 8×10 prints of his travel destinations, with his motorcycle included, I wanted nothing more than to do the same. He was updating his camera so I purchased his Canon FTb and I was good to go. I only toured for three summers,’78-’79 & ’80 but the die was cast when it came to photography. Our honeymoon trip was my last big road adventure so it was great to relive it again.

  2. Bill & Marie,
    A lovely story and many relatable moments from the 1980’s. We were married in 1981. There were some issues with our families, so we decided to elope. My future father-in-law got wind of our plan and locked up our wedding certificate. That put an end to those plans! I caught the ‘gaucho’ pants reference! How many others remember them?
    We just celebrated our 40th!
    So, thank you both for a heartwarming story. I wish you many more years of adventures and wedded bliss.

    1. Daniel, thanks for taking the time to read our story. It sounds like you also have a great story to tell. Locking up the marriage certificate, now that’s one I haven’t heard. Being a parent is its own crazy journey that’s for sure. Congrats on 40 years and thank you for the well wishes to us. I do look forward to photographing many more life experiences that we will share but I don’t foresee any more motorcycle tours. Best to you and yours.

    1. Thanks Lindy. As we look back and remember we just say “what were we thinking”. It was one of those once in a lifetime experiences that we are glad we were young and crazy enough to take on. Having the wonderful Kodachromes is icing on the cake.

  3. Patricia Thompson

    Bill and Marie, it’s been many years and many miles between so really enjoyed your honeymoon story and the beautiful photography! I’ve sent the link to my children – I know they will enjoy it also. Debbie mentioned remembering little Billie Brown ????. Thanks again. Patty (Vanous) Thompson

    1. Patty, thanks for your comment. It was fun or me to pen the story and look at the slides again. When I was little Billy I remember taking a ride on a motorcycle when we visited you and your family. It was one of those moments where I was excited and terrified at the same time as I hung on for dear life. Ultimately though I wanted to experience moments like that again and when I turned 14 I got my motorcycle license. I eventually toured much of the U.S. and Canada and it all culminated with the honeymoon tour. A camera was my constant companion on my trips before Marie came into the picture and thankfully she was fine with my other love always tagging along. I still have many pictures in my mind from the days before I discovered photography but I love my physical remembrances that help me hold on to so many days and family long passed.

    1. Thanks Mike. Yes, I’m a firm believer in photographs preserving memories. I’m always amazed at the memories I have that are related to temperature, weather conditions or smells that I associate with certain images. I feel like life passes by so quickly that I want to do whatever I can to help me savor ephemeral moments in time. It was a joy for me create this story, thanks again for your kind words.

    1. I really like that one too Nicho. I don’t remember how many times I set up the chaise for her but this was the only one that I photographed. There were times when she would fall asleep while we were driving down the highway and then all of sudden she would awake with a start and grab me around the waist. I startle easily so it always gave me a fright. Makes me smile even now as I write this. Great memories that I was happy to share.

    1. Robyn, thanks for your kind words. I have to say that I personally enjoyed putting this together. My wife and I have shared many other adventures over the years but this was our first so it holds a special place in our memories.

  4. Harold & Linda Lightfoot

    Bill And Marie,
    Wow! Linda & I really laughed at your story. We could just picture y’all in that rain storm. We are so glad your marriage survived the trip!

    1. I told Marie that you had commented and she asked if Linda mentioned the cake she made for our wedding shower at the church. I should have put that photo in my story! Remember,the cake had a motorcycle and a tent next to a road. Marie said she still has that tent in our keepsakes. What great memories.

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