Just before we sold our home we bought a bigger motorhome from Mr Isamonger in Bergvleit and thereafter spent our time travelling in it or at the Kuilsriver Caravan Park, when we were not house sitting for various people. We also stayed in Margaret Robertson's house in Gordon's Bay for a month or two. Lift off of 'Columbia' was on Sunday 12.4.1981 and landed Tuesday 14th at 8.30 (South African time) so we watched it fly low over Gordons Bay on 14th at 7.15 p.m. from Margaret's house.
We spent the winter of 1980 in Barberton and returned there the following year to look after a house while the owners went to Scotland. It was while we were there that Phillip read in the Caravan Magazine that a 'caravan of American tourists' was due to call there on their way to the Kruger National Park. So Phillip wrote to the editor, Sonny Taylor, whom he knew in Cape Town and received a reply saying that he would provide us with an introduction to their leader. The weekend the Americans and their caravans arrived, there was a party on the Saturday evening and Phillip met Fred Grimm, who was too busy to say more than a couple of words but suggested they have a discussion on Sunday morning after the others left as he would then have a little time to spare, which is what happened. Phillip told him we wished to obtain an RV (Recreational Vehicle) in America in order to travel around the country and would like his advice. It was arranged we would communicate with him when the time came and he offered to search out something suitable for us prior to our arrival in USA, providing we started our peregrinations in Phoenix, Arizona, near where he lived. In November we left for Johannesburg, staying with Dorrie on the way to UK, to Cardiff, where we spent Christmas with Peter and Heather after a quick visit to Andrew and Christine in Melton Mowbray. It was in January we contacted Fred Grimm and he phoned to say he had found a suitable van, then after a couple of hitches he said he had put down the deposit of $1000 for us! (This was quite amazing - after an acquaintanceship of only an hour or two!). He and his wife met us at the airport in Phoenix and took us to their home, giving us their bedroom for a couple of nights. Then, he helped with the transfer of the RV, which was quite an eye-opener to us because we had a bank draft to use for payment, but the small Copper State Bank in Apache Junction had never heard of Barclays Bank! In the end, the manager phoned Barclays in New York and they confirmed there was no problem and that, apparently, made it acceptable! The Grimms helped us in every way possible from obtaining an American driving licence for Phillip, to purchasing equipment for the van at a wholesale supplier and swap meet markets. They had even booked us into a caravan park (in Tomahawk Avenue) anticipating the enormous influx of 'snowbirds', that is, people from the colder northern states, who winter in Arizona, causing the population of Apache Junction through to Phoenix to rise from 25,000 to 250,000 for the season! We were so impressed by all the kindness and generosity shown to us by all Americans and the efficiency of, for instance, the licensing of driver and vehicle, the American Automobile Association provision of maps and information, also the cleanliness and convenience of all public facilities and supermarkets.
Because Phillip was not accustomed to driving in snowy conditions or on the right hand side of the road, we decided to take two shorter trips in the south before driving up the west coast as far as Canada, so we first went to Tucson for a few days with a couple from Denver (Frankie & Leland Rimer) who had befriended us and then across to New Orleans for about a week. On the way to the latter we had to cross Texas and on going over the border we found a complex called a 'Welcome station' where an assistant gave me an illustrated book on the State and informed me that we could park overnight anywhere in Texas in safety, so from that time on we free parked wherever we went in USA, (with the exception of along the seashore in California, where parking is not allowed from midnight until 6 a.m. to prevent the coast becoming one long caravan park and one night in a park in Anaheim where the town was crowded out) and we never experienced the slightest problem of any kind. Very often we parked overnight outside supermarkets where R.V. owners are always welcome.
Like everyone who sees the Grand Canyon, we found it heart-stopping and decided to view it from a helicopter, as a ride of that kind would be an experience we were unlikely to be able to repeat. The drive up the west coast couldn't have been planned better because, travelling north we found that on each stage we reached we had followed the beginning of spring and the early flowers were just coming into full bloom. It gave me so much pleasure seeing the spring blooms along the roadside in the south, roses in L.A. and fields of Spanish irises and foxgloves much further up the coast and then banks of Broom bushes; also the trees in Northern California and Origan were really awe inspiring. On the return journey, after driving from Vancouver, through Alberta and taking in the spectacle of Lake Louise, we went through Salt Lake City (where I hoped to trace some family records, but we had to leave urgently because the snows were melting and floods expected in the city). However, it was while we were staying at Walnut Creek that we called at the Mormon Tabernacle in San Francisco, where we found the initial connection of the 1820 Settler, Richard Freemantle to the Southampton district, with his marriage to Elizabeth Mitchell in Portsea; we visited John and Mary Knight (whom we met at the South African Embassy in Los Angeles) in Las Vegas, (and there we gained our first impression of a gambling cassino!), spent some time at Laguna Beach, then began our homeward journey, travelling over the Rocky mountains and through the Eisenhower tunnel (over 11000 feet elevation and very chilly) towards Denver and Estes Park, where we left the RV with the Rimers and caught the Greyhound coach to Philadelphia to see Irma Embree (living, since Spence's death, in a retirement complex near there); then by bus to New York and to the airport. There to our dismay we were informed that the reduced fares on our tickets 'had run out' but so had our American money! Eventually we talked our way through this problem and flew back to UK, to Cardiff, to Johannesburg and the Cape.
In May 1983, we returned to Denver via Boston, flying through heavy cloud cover reaching down to ground level, which caused delays and much consternation. We landed to find the Rimers awaiting our late arrival and filled with doubts we would be able to drive through the heavy snowfalls. However, the highways had been cleared and their neighbours had swept the driveway and bridge leading to their home, so we 'swished' up to the foundations of their house and found our motor home under several feet of snow! But by the time we got up the following morning, Leland had cleared it all away for us! After leaving them we renewed our acquaintance with an interesting and welcoming couple in Laramie whom we had met in 1882 in Apache Junction, but on this visit to USA we spent most of our time at Laguna Beach (parked at Aliso Creek), where we were joined by Warwick, who arrived with his friend, Bruce, on 8/7; together we visited 'Sea World' and 'Disneyland' at Anaheim, then he left to go to San Francisco on 4/9. We continued looking into the possibility of immigrating to America, with various offers of assistance from kindly and concerned Americans, but nothing came of these and when we made enquiries about insurance for health cover and learnt that it would cost $300 per month each, for hospital charges, without surgery etc., it was evident we could not afford to attempt this. While at Aliso Creek, we met a couple (Hope & Bud) in the parking lot who invited us to an apartment belonging to his sister, a Mrs Singer, who lived in Pasadena and she offered us the use of their bathroom, telephone etc. even when the apartment was not being used by the family, which proved invaluable when the time came for us to sell the motor home. We also accompanied Hope and Bud in response to their pressing invitation, through Palm Desert to their home in Palm Springs for a few days. We sold the van on 18th October and finalising the finances on that proved unexpectedly chaotic. As was necessary, the buyer had carefully advised the Bank three days before settlement was due (which was the day of our departure) to have the cash ready but there was still a delay getting 'green backs' which we had been advised to insist on getting rather than a cheque. With a bit of fear and trembling we divided these between Phillip and the acquaintance who was driving us during our last day in USA and took them to the stockbroker in order to deposit them to our account there, only to be told that they could not accept cash. Back to a Bank to learn that they, too, could not accept such a large sum in cash! (Presumably these regulations were to prevent the 'laundering of black market money') In hindsight, we should have suggested the Bank accept half on my account and half on Phillip's, but this didn't occur to any of us. In the end, with much filling in of forms and waste of precious time, we talked the lady bank clerk into accepting the cash and providing a cheque, which we hurriedly gave to the stockbroker, rushed back to my cousin, Veronica Jones' home in La Canada to collect our luggage and she drove us to the airport only just in time to catch our plane.