Log of the British Caravan, 1967 -- Author Jay? Johnston

[It is not known whether this report was published.]

June 3. First things first. The 48 British arrive at Dulles. It is a glorious June day, a Saturday, and the airport, though never crowded, is busier than it is on week days. British have flown non-stop from London. They have gained some six hours timewise, and though it is only 5:45 Washington actually it is close to midnight their time. They seem surprisingly alert and un-tired, however. Only a few -- five I believe -- have ever been in the U.S. before.

Quickly they are shepherded through customs and then step out on the apron between terminal and air strips to see their homes for the next 30 days. Twenty Airstream trailers, brand-new, with gleaming new air-conditioned Pontiac Bonnevilles to pull them. A party is in progress here, the guests of honor the British, the hostess Carolyn Patterson, chairman of the board of the Wally Byam Foundation which arranged the tour. A rock-and-roll band -- the Tangerine Flake -- blasts out Beetle-style music "to make the visitors feel at home". John Black, director of the U.S. Travel Service Bureau, extends a word of welcome. Blue berets emblazoned with CARAVAN AMERICA are given to each Britisher to wear across country. Excitedly the British explore the trailers and automobiles. "Much bigger than ours at home." "Never drove a car this big before." "You mean it's going to be hot enough that we'll need air-conditioning?" A bathtub yet." Members of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Wally Byam Club, experienced trailer travelers, have come to the airport to welcome the British, drive them to their first camp site in northern Virginia, and indoctrinate them in the operating of the hitches, etc. Chauffered by their new American friends, the British caravaners head for Bull Run Regional Park near Centerville, Virginia, about 6 miles from Dulles. That evening each of the American families prepares dinner in their trailer for a British family (the next evening they will treat them to a cook-out in the park).

June 4. Next day, a Sunday, British and Americans together rode a chartered bus into Washington. First stop, services at National Cathedral, then lunch at the National Geographic Society in downtown Washington and an opportunity to explore Explorers Hall on the ground floor of the Society's handsome new building, then sightseeing at the Washington Monument, Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, President Kennedy's grave, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a specially-arranged after-hours tour of Mount Vernon.

June 5. The following day, again by chartered bus, the two groups went on a special White House tour during which Mrs. Johnson dropped in to say hello and each of the visitors received an autographed reprint of Lynda Johnson's article on trailer travel in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE. At the Department of Agriculture the British were greeted personally by Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman and Edward Cliff, director of the U.S. Forest Service which comes under the Agriculture Department. To each British family Mr. Cliff presented a "Golden Eagle Passport" -- an automobile pass to all the national parks, forests, and recreation areas in the U.S.

Following lunch at the National Gallery of Art the British motored to a Super Giant supermarket in Fairfax, Virginia, to stock up on groceries, staples, etc. For many it was a first time in an American supermarket, or any supermarket, and all were amazed at the tremendous amount of merchandise available in a grocery store.

On Tuesday, June 6, the caravan, with motorcycle police escort, drove back into Washington at 9 a.m. At the Mall, near the Capitol, there was a brief ceremony. Senator Alan Bible of Nevada, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation, wished the travelers Godspeed, and at 11 a.m. the caravan departed for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, first stop on a 4,500-mile transcontinental holiday.

The Gettysburg camp was in the National Military Park, wood-ringed fields on the very grounds that witnessed the tragic battle between American armies a century ago. The rangers greeted the visitors and explained the significance of the park. Many Britishers unhitched and drove to a nearby park attraction, a panoramic portrayal of the Gettysburg battles.

June 7. Next morning, at 7:30 a.m. sharp, a police escort conveyed the British contingent into the little town of Gettysburg. On the campus of Gettysburg College General Eisenhower, a great favorite of the British, maintains his office. The general had graciously agreed to receive the visitors. TV and newsreel cameras whirred as Ike arrived, shook hands with leader Frank Collins and his wife, and then spoke to the group for almost half an hour. He told them he was delighted that they would be driving across America and have a real chance to see the land, just the way the early Americans had done in wagon trains, that he knew they would be wonderfully received whether ever they went, because Americans and British have such close common bonds. He said he only regretted that he couldn't go along.

By 9 a.m. the caravan was rolling again, through the beautiful wooded hills of Pennsylvania. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike and its many tunnels, around to the north of Pittsburgh, across the Ohio border onto the Ohio Turnpike. The stop that night: Punderson State Park, near Burton. And soon after we arrived it began to rain, the first of six straight days in which some rain fell and which the British claimed had been "laid on to make us feel at home." Because of the rain the campfire program scheduled for that evening had to be moved indoors. Here at Punderson and at the next stop, East Harbor State Park near Toledo, the hosts were members of Ohio's Dept. of Natural Resources. Five employees -- John Robbins, Nerv Hall, Laurie Martin, Joe Williams, and Bob Shanaman -- had motored up from the state capital at Columbus to greet the visitors and remained with them for that night, the next day, and the following night. They were charming people, intent on making the British like Ohio and Ohioans, and they succeeded admirably.

June 8, only a short run from Punderson to East Harbor State Park, on the shores of Lake Erie. This is one of the finest, best-kept, trailer parks we encountered on our entire trip. Shower rooms with plenty of hot water, a washing room, a picnic table beside every trailer parking spot. TV cameramen from Sandusky came out to film the British visitors, and Fred Moore (spelling?), the chief of the Dept. of Natural Resources, flew up from Columbus to welcome the British and to spend the day with them. He arranged with a private airline nearby which has 3 old Ford Trimotors to take those who wished to go on an aerial sightseeing tour of Lake Erie, and about a dozen accepted, including journalist John Yoxall and his wife, Lillian. John had flown a Trimotor years before. Two small cruise boats had been chartered for a ride out into Lake Erie to the islands that dot the waters near the south shore. But as we were about to board a fierce thunderstorm broke. Huge waves whipped up on the lake; the rain was like a cloudburst. "Yes we do have rain back home, but really this is too much!" Too rough for the small boats, so Fred Moore (Mohr) chartered a ferry, and off we went to the islands, rain and wave notwithstanding. At an island called Put-in-Bay the visitors went to the top of lofty Perry Monument, were guests of an island winery (of which there are several) and many bought bottles of the sweet fruit wines which they enjoyed all across the country. That evening, after dinner, the entire contingent were guests at nearby Cedar Point Amusement Park, which calls itself the Disneyland of the East and is indeed much like that west coast showplace with its beautiful landscaped grounds and ingenious rIdes and shows.

I remember at the Perry Monument everyone was in the little bus train waiting to go to the winery, when Laurie Simmons decided he had to get out and take a picture of the train and the group aboard. He had to walk about a half-block to get the proper view of train and monument. Everyone waits patiently, but when he starts back the shouting (good-natured) begins, the British accents, "Hurry up, Laurie", "Come on, Laurie, shake it a bit." He walks fast but does not run. "My motto is never run after a bus or a woman", he calls out, and everyone roars. This group has been together for a week now, and already there is extraordinary camaraderie. Some of the friendships made on this trip, I realize, will last through life.

Back at the trailer park George Stamp is due for a surprise. His wife, Mary, realizing they they would be here on his birthday, had baked a cake at home in England, the type of cake she knew he liked but which she doubted she could buy in the U.S. She had carried it from England in a hat box; George in fact had carried it some of the time; and she had never told him what was in it. Now all the Britishers gather for the surprise party at the Stamp trailer, each carrying his own cup of tea brewed in his own trailer. Mary opens the box and cuts the cake, or rather George cuts it. He is is a quiet, shy man, and he is blushing at the attention. All sing Happy Birthday. George and Mary are one of two families with children on the trip. Their son Glenn is 20. The Jeffreys. John end Betty, have 18-year-old David along. !n Chicago the Secretts, Bill and Georgie, anticipated a reunion with their daughter, Margaret, who had been living in Vancouver, British Columbia, for two years. She planned to fly in to O'Hare and accompany her parents on the remainder of the trip from Chicago to Santa Rosa.

June 9. Ohio Turnpike and Indiana Turnpike to Indiana Dunes State Park near Chesterton, Indiana. This park, at the tip of Lake Michigan, is reputedly Indiana's finest state park. Unfortunately, we arrived in a drenching rain and found the wooded park ankle-deep in water. Impossible to cook out or visit between trailers, so everyone pretty much stuck to their own trailers; few ventured out to walk to the dunes (about ½ mile away).

June 10. In the morning it had cleared and some families drove over to see the dunes before they departed for their next stop, Goose Island County Park, near LaCrosse, Wisconsin. However, this was to be a long day's drive -- across the northeast tip of Illinois, skirting Chicago (supposedly), and on across south central Wisconsin to the Mississippi River, which splits Wis. and Minnesota -- so an early start was in order. We hit the Chicago mess just at rush hour. It was the first big city driving -- without police escort -- that the visitors had done. They told me later that they were admittedly nervous but at the same time fascinated by the incredible web of traffic that meshes Chicago and its suburbs. Some families, including me, took the least desirable of two routes and went practically through the Loop. At least we were in close proximity to the loop as we barreled through the nation's second largest city at 9 a.m. Fortunately, it did not rain. That came later. About noon, driving north into Wisconsin, ugly clouds gathered. "Tornado weather," I told the photographers, and sure enough, the car radio shortly announced that a twister had just touched down at Beloit -- less than 5 miles from our position at the time -- and had done considerable damage.

A word about car radios. The British played them constantly while they drove, as most American do, and they were absolutely fascinated by the inane commercials. Some, indeed, were so bad they were truly funny. During our trip across the eastern part of the country the six-day Israeli-Arab war was in progress. I found the British naturally vitally interested in the happenings. They listened avidly to all the news broadcasts.

Although it had been a long day's drive, everyone seemed remarkably energetic when we arrived at Goose Island County Park. A LaCrosse newspaperman was awaiting the group, along with other city and civic dignitaries, and the British posed for a group picture that appeared on the front page of the local daily the next morning. The park itself is an attractive one, some 5 miles out of LaCrosse and right on the Mississippi River. The rain ended and the sunset was spectacular on the river. The British hurried through dinner and drove en masse into town where they were to be guests on a paddleboat cruise up the Mississippi. Townspeople welcomed them aboard; there was free beer and cheeses, locally made, and even Miss Wisconsin Cheese was along. The British obviously enjoyed the evening; it was really a high spot of the trip thus far, from Washington on, that is. This was perhaps the first chance thy had to meet and mingle with a large number of Americans. The pleasure was mutual.

June 11 took us across the entire state of Minnesota, very close to the southern border with Iowa; as a matter of fact we drove within 5 miles of northern Iowa. It was raining again, but the land was a brilliant emerald green, the farms looking like picturebook fields. The young corn was only a few inches high. The road was a two-laner, curving, not made for speed. It was a long day's drive, and we didn't pull into Newton Hills State park, near Canton, South Dakota, until about 6. This was a most attractive park, nestled in rolling wooded hills in the southeast corner of the state. We were surprised to find many South Dakotans gathered to greet us. They had read about the British coming in the local papers; some had driven as far as 75 miles to meet them. Of course to those westerners that drive is a mere nothing, but the British were impressed, and pleased. John Vickerman, editor of Canton's weekly paper, took some of the British back to their home for the evening. So did some of the other local folk. Vickerman told me that he was sorry they hadn't planned to do more, that they had already decided to do a pleasant cookout for the French.

June 12 was a sparkling day, the first we had had thus far. We drove across southern South Dakota; and the British were surprised that the state was so fertile, so green. They had anticipated its being arid, more desertlike. Instead it was much like southern Minnesota with handsome farms and farmhouses; with a look of prosperity. At noon we crossed the Missouri River; many families lunched at the beautiful spot where a bridge crosses the Fort Randall dam on the river.

And now began a succession of signs that we would see for the next 100 miles, all advertising a "drug store" in the town of Mission. This store, the signs claimed, sold positively everything and cheaper than anywhere in the west, and if we didn't stop to call, we would really miss the chance of a lifetime. Many of the signs were humorous, some with political connotations. One, I remember, said: THIS IS GOD'S COUNTRY, DON'T DRIVE THROUGH IT LIKE HELL. When I arrived in Mission in mid-afternoon the one street in town was almost blocked with trailers parked at all angles in front of the "drug store". While I waited for the photographers to shoot the British inside, a local man came up and introduced himself. He had his own plane, he said, and wouldn't we like to photograph the British camped from the air. Great, we said, and off we flew with the 3 photographers. The British meanwhile had driven to the Rosebud Indian Reservation just west of town. We had asked the authorities there to park the trailers in a ring, wagon trail style, to get a bit of western flavor in the photographs. The aerial photos turned out very well. It was here that the visitors met and talked with their first Indians, a family recruited by the ranger. They appeared that evening and did a little dance and sold some Indian jewelry to the British. I moved about and made some tape recordings of the conversations between the Britishers and the Sioux Indians.

Incidentally, there was a building with toilets and showers here, but it was locked during our overnight visit. As one British remarked, "You can take a shower at Rosebud but first you have to find the Indian with the key." We never did.

There were torrential rains that night. The next morning the whole camp site -- a field -- was a sea of water and mud. Practically every trailer was stuck. Fortunately, the head ranger rounded up a gang of Sioux, and they pushed the trailers out to the road. The whole episode took on a fun aspect; the British loved it.

I should also note that the evening before the head ranger, Harold Shunk o/c Indian affairs, had sat on the hood of a car and gave a talk to the British, seated in chairs before him. It was a good talk, all about the Indians of the area, the lore, the legends. "It made history come alive," a Britisher told me.

June 13. Soon after leaving Rosebud, we are in Badlands National Monument. Everyone stops and gets out and takes many pictures. This is really the first view of the west as the British anticipated the west. Then we drive on into Rapid City and on up into the Black Hills. The mountain roads are terrible, all torn up and being rebuilt. Miraculously, everyone finds the campground beside beautiful Sheridan Lake, high in the Black Hills. A quick dinner and then the group is off to see Mount Rushmore and the faces lighted by night. Several families also drive a bit south to Custer State Park in hopes of seeing the buffalo and big horn sheep there. There is a wish to stay longer here.

June 14. Across the South Dakota border into Wyoming. Off and on showers and everything here rolling and green, too. Some families detour to a view of Devil's Tower Monument. Others keep rolling to Sheridan and on up into the Bighorn Mountains to camp in the Bighorn National Forest west of Sheridan. Now we are truly in the Rockies and though the group had been warned we would be doing some mountain driving today, no one was quite prepared for the twisting, hairpin curves of the road that climbed several thousand feet up the Bighorns. Most families arrived as darkness neared, and a thunderstorm was in progress. Up on top the mountains, in the natl. forest, the rain became mixed with snow. But that didn't stop the Dry Gulchers from Sheridan, Wyoming. This energetic civic group got all dressed up in western garb and drove 30 miles out of Sheridan to play hosts at a cocktail party for the British. The rain poured, thunder crashed, but with a big fire in the campground cabin and the Dry Gulchers shooting their blanks, the scene was a merry one. The party continued until after midnight -- and of course then the Dry Gulchers had to drive all that way home. The British were touched at this display of western hospitality.

June 15. Now we had to drive down the Bighorns, twisting, ever twisting, but at least the rains had stopped. West across Wyoming to Cody. Many families stop and visit the Buffalo Bill Museum and Whitney Museum of Western Art in Cody. The camp for that night was in beautiful Wapiti Valley, just west of Cody, a narrow 40-mile defile that leads to the eastern entrance of Yellowstone Natl. Park. We camped beside a glorious little river, flanked on the far side by steep rock walls from which little waterfalls cascaded. Here the British had decided they would play hosts at a party for the Americans traveling with the party. Each family contributed a dish to the buffet; there were cocktails, beer, and wine. Rangers of Shoshone Natl. Forest, where we were camped, dropped in to answer questions about the flora and fauna of the region. Delightful evening.

June 16. On up the rest of the Wapiti Valley and into Yellowstone. Just after crossing into the park we encounter deep snow banks on both sides of the road. British pile out of cars and begin having snowball battles. We drive on, across the Fishing Bridge, circle Yellowstone Lake, and move out of the park at the south entrance to reach our campsite in Teton Natl. Forest, located just below the Yellowstone Park and Grand Tetons Natl. Park. We will be here for 3 days and 3 nights, our first stop of more than 1 night. Everyone in high spirits at the prospect. The spot we were scheduled to camp in, a field in the national forest, is ankle-deep in water, so the forest rangers arrange with a private camp ground operator to have us park in his camp. He graciously permits us to do so without charge; it is early in the season and visitors have not yet started arriving, so he has plenty of parking places. He runs a little store and has washing machines and the British spend a good bit of time here in the next 3 days. He also has a swimming pool which has hot water, heated by the many springs in the area. Many British go swimming here.

Because we are so conveniently located between two of America's most beautiful and famous national parks, the 3 days are spent in visiting the wonders of both. Everyone goes to see Old Faithful erupt at least once. Some go fishing for speckled trout in Yellowstone Lake. Others drive up to Mammoth Hot Springs near the northern border of the park. Everyone drives down to Jackson Lake and the Grand Tetons. Through the courtesy of Ray Lillie and Andy Lane at Jackson Lake Lodge, all the British were guests of the Lodge on the spectacular float trip down the Snake River. This trip begins at 8 a.m., stops for lunch on the river banks, and finishes at about 2 p.m. some 30 miles south of the Lodge. Visitors are then bussed back from there to the lodge. College boys man the big rubber rafts, usually one in the bow, who does a running comment on the natural history of the area, and two in the stern. The boats go swiftly, particular if the river is high, and it was from recent rains and melting mountain snows. Throughout the trip the Grand Tetons provide a sparkling backdrop. Still heavy with snow they looked like a painting on the horizon. The British were enchanted with the college boys, their intelligence, their mannerliness, their skill at maneuvering the boats through rapids and around sharp curves. The box lunch, a delicious one, and hot coffee provided one of the most satisfying meals imaginable, eaten as it was in what is probably the [most] spectacularly beautiful acreage in the United States. This, too, was a highlight of the trip for the British. I made tape recordings of their comments and impressions in the boat. They were overwhelmed. Because only 18 could ride on one boat, the party was split in 3 sections. On one boat a young boatman fell overboard as the raft was docking; whether deliberately planned or not it gave the British a thrill. On the boat I was on we crashed into a fallen tree as we sped through some twisting rapids; everyone had to fall down into the boat to avoid its branches, but no one was hurt. Again a tonic of excitement. The bears of Yellowstone lent a touch of adventure, too. The British had all expressed a hope of seeing a bear; they saw dozens. Frank and Maisie Cam, driving with Frank and Edie Collins, driving through Yellowstone, stopped to photograph a brown bear on the side of the road. He lumbered over and stuck his head in the car. Maisie, terrified, couldn't get the window rolled up fast enough; she caught the bruin's nose in the top.

John and Lillian Yoxall had an adventure here too. One evening they drove west from our campground in Teton Natl Forest to see Grassy Lake, about 9 miles away on a very rough dirt road. Just as they reached the lake a section of the road gave way beneath the right rear wheel of John's car. The car slid down the bank and despite all his efforts John could not get it back up. Nothing to do but walk. Both in their sandals. Both in their 60's. Off they head back toward camp. It is getting dark. They walk 5 miles and then by some miracle a car comes up; they explain their dilemma and get a ride back to camp. The next day I got a tow truck from Jackson to drive up and pull the car out and drive it back to camp. Only then did I learn from the young Jackson mechanics who drove the truck (Steve Francis and Howard Ashmont) that a week earlier a grizzly had attacked a man and his two sons on that very road traveled by the Yoxalls on foot. The grizzly had not been antagonized; it was surmised he was hurt, perhaps half-crazed by pain. The man survived but had to have more than 200 stitches taken in his back and legs. The sons courageously drove the bear off before it could kill their father.

Moose and elk are frequent visitors to our campground. They browse in a marshy field only a few hundred feet from the trailers. The British gleefully take off their shoes and wade out into the muck to get as close as possible for photos.

Here Barney and Irma Wilkins - he is the Pontiac mechanic traveling with the group -- give a farewell party for the British. The Wilkins must leave the group to head directly to Santa Rosa for the rally. It is a good party; the forest rangers are special guests and mingle with the British, answering their myriad questions about the birds and animals and flowers and trees. The British, I have discovered, are true nature lovers, at least this group is.

June 20. As the old Fitzpatrick travelogues used to say, it is with reluctance that we bid goodbye to Yellowstone and the Tetons. We drive down through the little town of Jackson, dip west across the Wyoming border into Idaho and then southward through glorious mountain and lake country to the town of Brigham City in northern Utah. We arrive to find reporters and photographers from Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Brigham City awaiting the British. We park on the grounds of the largest Indian school (Navajo) in the U.S.

Here again, as he does at every stop, Frank Collins tells newsmen and local officials how impressed he and the other British are with the cleanliness of America, its cities, its highways, its roadside rests, and the wonderful sanitation facilities available for campers. Not so in England, he ruefully admits. Frank is also, as always, generous with his praise for the hospitality of Americans thy have met and for their excellent driving on the highways.

(Brigham City by the way won the 1966 award as cleanest city in America, and a delegation went to the White House to accept the award from Lady Bird).

There are 2,200 Navajos attending the school here. That night many of them invite the British to the church on the school grounds to see them dance. They are excellent dancers, the best we have seen. At the end of the program they invite the British to step up, join hands, and participate in the dance. Everyone does.

June 21. We arrive in Salt Lake City at noon. We are parking in our first private trailer park, right in the middle of the city. The trailer next to the Stamps is occupied by a trapeze team that is appearing locally with a circus. The girl members of the team are out in the driveway, playing badminton in bikinis. Glenn Stamp, 20 years old, can hardly be persuaded to go off to see the Mormon Temple. Everyone does go to the Temple that afternoon. Television cameramen photograph them there and also come to the trailer park for interviews. Later that afternoon we watch a telecast of the Yoxalls.

That evening we are guests of the Council of International Visitors, which numbers among its members many of the top business and professional people in Salt Lake City. Mr. Horace Sorrenson, owner of Pioneer Village, invites the entire party there as his dinner guests. Following dinner we tour the Village, a re-created Old West town, join in singing before a giant bonfire, and watch Indian dancers. Again this is a splendid opportunity for Britishers to meet Americans, to exchange opinions and small talk.

That night, at midnight, there is a violent thunderstorm. Fortunately, everyone has returned from PIoneer Village and are in their trailers. Fantastic lightning, and gale winds. The trailers shudder and sway, but there is no damage. I am lying in my bunk, absorbed by the lightning, when I suddenly remember that the day that just passed was my birthday.

June 22. On the move, south to Bryce Canyon. It is a long drive but a beautiful day and beautiful country. The green gives way to brown now; we are nearing the desert country.

At Bryce Canyon National Park we have our best camp site to date -- right on the lip of the canyon. We need walk only a few feet to gaze down on its brilliantly hued sandstone spires. Paths lead down into the heart of the canyon, and practically every Britisher walks down at least once. They are enchanted by Bryce; several told me later they considered it the most beautiful park of all. Many got up before dawn to see the sun break over the fantastic eroded gorge. It chanced that on the day we arrived a busload of teenage Americans pulled in. They were on the beginning of a nationwide trip to see the sights of America. They were grand kids, the cream of California teenagers I suspect. They were thrilled to meet the British, and vice versa, and they talked together at length. If the British visitors imagine that all U.S. teens are polite and well-mannered, it might be because of this group. Wish it were so.

June 23. It is only a short drive to the southern border of Utah and a few miles into Arizona to Kaibab National Forest where we camp at Jacobs Lake. The north rim of the Grand Canyon is 40 miles to the south. The Colorado River and Marble Gorge are about 50 miles east and Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell about 70 miles northeast. We will camp here for two days and two nights, allowing time to see them all. At Lee's Ferry, just north of Navajo Bridge, which crosses the Colorado River, several British families get a dividend. Here they are making a movie, McKenna's Gold, and the location company has set up a tent city in the desert. Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif are the stars, and the day we are there Peck is doing a solo scene. He must ride a horse around an outcropping of rocks. The scene will last not more than two minutes in the movie, but it requires a whole afternoon of shooting. Again and again Peck rides around the rocks. Between each take technicians rake smooth the sand to remove hoofprints and hose it down to lay the dust. Huge klieg lights blaze, though it is dazzlingly bright and the temperature close to 100.

Just a half-mile away, at Lee's Ferry boat landing, Britishers see another famed personality (at least some did, though they may not have been aware of the fact). Georgie White, long known as the Woman of the River (Colorado), is readying her float rafts to take another batch of visitors through the Colorado rapids.

June 25. We are heading west again now. First back up to Utah border, across into the state, and westward to Zion National Park. Through the many tunnels and around the hairpin turns down into the valley that is Zion. It is hot, close to 100, and no breath of wind. We arrive shortly after noon. We camp close to the little river that runs through the valley. Several of the British quickly change into bathing suits and proceed to build a dam in the shallow stream. Having created a 3-foot-deep pool, they frolic in the cold, sparkling water.

June 26. Driving westward to the Utah border, Britishers are delighted to find countless fresh fruit stands along the highway, for this is Utah's fruit bowl. Plums, cherries, watermelon. Then we cross into Nevada and the fertile fields give way to the desert. A back route to Lake Mead bypasses Las Vegas and leads through some of the most desolate, yet beautiful, country imaginable. It is even hotter here, close to 120, and at Lake Mead the British hastily get out onto the blue lake. The Park Service has kindly made a boat available, and Fran Belknap and her son Buzzie are here too with their jet boat to take British on sightseeing tours of the lake and Boulder Dam. Then, early that evening, into the city of Las Vegas for what is indeed a surprise. Two Las Vegas families, reading of the impending British visit, decided to give them a party. They enlisted the service of their neighbors, and thus several families living on a quiet cul de sac in Las Vegas, of all places, played host at a delightful luau in the backyard of one of the families. There was a swimming pool, and the British brought their swim suits and quickly changed into them and dived into the pool. Lanterns lighted the yard; the food was superb. TV and newspaper cameramen filmed the proceedings. Then about 10 the British drive into the city to see the fabulous lights and on out to the strip. The L.V. Chamber of Commerce had arranged for the British to be guests at several of the midnight shows in the Strip hotels -- Thunderbird, Flamingo, Caesar's Palace, Sahara, etc. Everything on the house -- except the gambling. Many did not get back to the Lake Mead campground until 3 a.m. It had earlier been decided to make a 4 a.m. leave from the camp in order to cross the Nevada desert before the heat of the day and arrive early in Los Angeles. Several didn't go to bed at all, simply got organized and pulled out. Others needed a few hours sleep.

June 27-28. Another two day, two night stop. We are camped at our second private trailer park, Trailerland Park on South Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim, right next door to Disneyland. In fact, the spire of the Matterhorn looms over our park. It is a clean, neat park with clean, neat facilities, and a charming couple as managers. A couple of L.A.'s much publicized freeways run right past the park and, yes, it is noisy and it is smoggy, but there is excitement mingled. Today was the Britishers' first experience with freeways. They encountered them from San Bernardino on in, and they managed wonderfully well.

Some of the British arrive early in L.A., and though they had little sleep the previous night, quickly they disconnect cars and trailers and head across the sprawling city -- a good 40 miles -- to see the Pacific at Santa Monica, and some even to swim in it. Indefatigable, these people. Where do they get their limitless energy?

That evening we are guests at dinner. The host: Airstream. The place, a popular restaurant near the Airstream factory in Santa Fe Springs, a suburb of L.A. not far from Anaheim. The next morning we have an inspection tour of the Airstream factory. The British are fascinated. They are, of course, veteran caravaners. Also they have now been in their Airstream homes for more than 3 weeks and have grown well acquainted with them. And this is the only opportunity they will have to see how an American manufacturing plant operates.

That afternoon and evening are devoted to Disneyland. The British expected much here, and they were not disappointed. Many stayed until the last minute before the park closed. They were lavish in their praise the next day.

June 29. On the road again. A police escort out of Anaheim to the valley highway. Lunch stop at Bakersfield to meet the employees of the Wally Byam Foundation office there and to picnic with them. Overnight stop at Fresno. It is torrid, the temperature over 100. But the officials of Kearney Park have been thoughtful enough to turn on all the sprinklers. British throw on bathing suits and frolic in the sprinklers like kids. The park is a beautiful one, all abloom in oleanders.

June 30. Off for a two-day stop in Yosemite National Park. The road is rugged leading into the park and up to the lofty camp #7. Snow still patches the ground around the ski run and chair lift beside the camp. That afternoon and evening and following day are spent sightseeing in the huge park. A few of the British decide to leave the next day and go into San Francisco and Oakland, but they are told to rendezvous on the highway north of S.F. on July 2 in order to enter the rally grounds en masse. Fiery and Mary Watson, for instance, want to go into S.F. and see their son who lives there and works as an accountant.

At about 3 p.m. on July 2, miracle of miracles, all 20 British trailers rendezvous on the highway at a point about 20 miles south of Santa Rosa. Together they drive to the rally, and then, with flags flying, roll in caravan down the airstrip to their assigned spots. That evening they are invited to the rally ball in downtown Santa Rosa as guests of Wally Byam Club members.

July 3. The next day, by charter bus, the contingent motors into S.F. early in the morning. Fog still shrouds all but the tips of the Golden Gate bridge, but the weather in the city is superb. Best in weeks, locals say. First stop Fisherman's Wharf and a visit to the sailing ship Balclutha. Thence to the St. Francis Yacht Club for luncheon as guests of James Wilson and the People to People Program. By bus again to Union Square in the heart of S.F. and a quick shopping spree. Then by bus through the Haight-Ashbury district to see the hippies, on through Golden Gate Park, to Cliff House and seal rocks. Back again to Chinatown for dinner and then up to the Top of the Fairmont just at sunset -- a glorious one -- to look down and see the lights wink on the city below and the fog roll in past Golden Gate to engulf the city. By bus back to Santa Rosa. It is late, nearing midnight, but the visitors are not too tired to sing all the way home. The buses ring with laughter.

On July 4, final day of the rally, all hands turn out for the big parade. The French arrive, the British move out of their trailers, and Wally Byam clubbers invite them into their trailers to spend a last afternoon. Now the chartered bus has arrived to whisk them to the S.F. airport and the flight to New York and then a last one to London. There are tearful goodbyes, the bus roars off, and Caravan America, part 1, has come to an end.

Afterthoughts. The British were among the most appreciative people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. And of course, when I say British I do not mean to omit the two wonderful Scottish families we had along. The entire group recognized that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip -- trailers, automobiles, gas and oil all provided free because Britain allows a person only $150 in U.S. money when they visit the U.S. They realized that much planning had been done in advance, otherwise such a trip could never have been carried off so smoothly. I watched Hylda Knight, for example, personally thank every policemen, ranger, or local official along the way who contributed in any fashion, no matter how small, to the caravan's welfare. Once, at Yellowstone Falls, the photographers lured Hylda out to a rocky ledge a sheer 2,000 feet above Yellowstone Canyon for pictures. Hylda is afraid of heights; she didn't want to go but good sport that she is, she agreed. Then along came a ranger, and he paled at the sight. Very politely he told her when she came in from the ledge that every summer several people did exactly what she did and ended up falling into the canyon, that the rangers didn't relish the task of having to go down there and retrieve the bodies. Hylda thanked him so effusively for thinking of her well-being that he blushed bright red and when she ended by kissing him on the cheek it was scarlet.

I had asked every member of the caravan in advance to collect gasoline receipts across the country and give me an exact accounting at trip's end. I got an exact accounting from every one, and only one had neglected -- on one occasion alone -- to get a receipt. They added it up to the last penny, checked and double-checked their figures, to be sure they were not being dishonest in the slightest by overcharging.

Considering that few of these families knew one another before the trip, it was amazing how congenial the group was. There was not one snob. There was no petty cliquishness. True, some families paired off at times, but this was good; it meant driving 1 car instead of 2 and a saving of gasoline.

An the British were wonderful campers. There are some things about camping, for instance, that require a certain amount of stamina and occasionally a strong stomach. Sometimes there is no water available, sometimes the stove or hot water heater won't light, sometimes the ice box goes off and the ice cubes all melt (though the British never seemed bothered by the shortage of ice). The dumping problem is an ever persisting one, and the actual task itself one that calls for strong hand and weak nose. I never heard a complaint. The visitors kept their trailers immaculate, inside and out, and washed their new cars at every opportunity. They were proud of these big, powerful, shiny new Pontiacs and determined to keep them in the condition they found them originally. In all the some 6,000 miles of driving -- 4,500 with trailer. 1,500 or more without -- there was only one minor automobile accident. BBC commentator Bertram Mycock crumpled his left front fender in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

There was never any grumbling about the early rising. When caravan leader Pete Peterson went around the camp each morning shouting "RISE AND SHINE, CARAVANERS, IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY, LET'S NOT WASTE IT" most of the British are already up, dressed, washed, breakfasted, and just about ready to go.

I know the British must have seen things that disappointed them or not seen things that they thought they would see. I recall, for instance, a horrible auto junkyard defacing the beautiful green hills of South Dakota. But I heard no criticism of America or America's way. They realized that there are things in this country that we are not proud of and hope one day to do away with or to rectify.

I have already mentioned some of the highlights of the tour. I would say that a consensus among the British would probably turn up the following list of trip high spots, though not necessarily in this order: (1) Meeting with Ike, (2) Mississippi River cruise with LaCrosse people, (3) Snake River float trip, (4) Bryce Canyon, (5) Las Vegas cookout and midnight shows on the strip, (6) Disneyland, (7) tour of Airstream factory, (8) San Francisco at sunset from the top of the Fairmont, (9) Santa Rosa rally. But I am equally sure that there are many little things that they saw or did that gave them great pleasure: an American eagle nesting atop a tree beside the Snake River; lilac bushes in full bloom and growing as high as the house tops in Idaho and western Wyoming; a ride on the famous cable cars; sunset at the Grand Canyon; the colony of ground squirrels in Yellowstone Park; the western bolos presented to each of the men at Pioneer Village; the taste for bourbon that many a Britisher acquired after being introduced to it.

Presentation compiled by
Duncan S. Campbell