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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”