The Wongs Superfine Road Trip…By Deb Wong

Story by Deb Wong
Hi June,
We wish we could have spent another week, but had a lot of pressing appointments & obligations to get back to (you know how it is).  Here is a link to some of our photos:
First stop we made was to visit our friends, the Johnsons, in Truckee.  Lloyd & Lissa Johnson used to climb mountains & go rock climbing with Michael, back in the day.  Now, Lissa is a teacher and Lloyd is a carpenter who is also an artist. He uses anything he can find to create sculptures, custom bicycles, wagons, and….helmets:
Car-camped two of the nights – the first night in the midst of the Nevada desert, and on the 3rd night, in Grand Tetons National Park. Here is Michael using the Coleman stove that he has had since the 1970s:
Other than that, and the cabin we stayed in while in Yellowstone, we stayed in hotels/motels…I discovered that I simply MUST have proper bathroom facilities nearby.  Bu that’s just me.
We traveled through California, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Washington & Oregon.  Some of the best things were unexpected.
We went to Rock Springs to check out Michael’s maternal grandparent’s old restaurant, the building of which is still there. We were able to find out some history about Michael’s grandmother that his mom didn’t know, with the help of some researchers at the museum there. Here is Michael in front of the building where his grandparent’s restaurant/market was:

When we entered Wyoming, we were startled to see large billboards advertising the sale of fireworks.  Wyoming sells fireworks all year ’round! Not only that, but Michael’s grandmother sold fireworks back in the late 1920s-early 1930s, and shot some off of the roof of their restaurant every “International Day”, which is still celebrated in Wyoming.

History:  Michael’s grandmother was a Chinese movie actress, who then married Michael’s grandfather, who came from China through Angel Island (he was kept for 6 months at Angel Island, part of their “quarrantine” of Chinese at the time). After he was released from Angel Island, he wanted to get away from San Francisco, and went as far as his money would take him – which was to Rock Springs.  They had 5 children(one of whom was Michael’s mom), and moved back to San Francisco in the ’40s.

More stuff we learned….

In Oregon, you can’t pump your own gas.  That is the law.  Oregon & New Jersey are the only states in the union where customers are not allowed to pump their own gas.  Maybe you already knew this, but we didn’t, when we rolled into our first Oregon gas station. Three young attendants rushed out to the van, to pump the gas and wash the windows, etc.  Michael tipped them! We thought that it was some special full-service feature of that particular station.

Washington has huge highway on-ramps, and the best rest areas. Montana is just a huge state, quite beautiful, but goes on forever. At a Chinese restaurant near Butte, we met the owner, originally from San Francisco, who says that it is “very lonely” out there in the vastness of Montana.  The people were all very nice.  Yes, it truly is “big sky” country.  There is a lot of fishing in their many lakes & streams.  In fact, during a thunderstorm, Montana fishermen were wading in the water with fishing rods held high.  Nothing would keep them from hooking their trout.

Idaho has the most beautiful trees, and the absolute WORST Chinese food ever, if the restaurant we went to is any indication.  As far as Utah goes, we have been there before, but the southern end of Utah, which is more stunning, I think, than its north end, which we visited this time.  We drove past Salt Lake City, which was the most conjested road of our trip, until we came back to the Bay Area, which was hellish – backed up on the freeway for miles & miles.

In Montana, we visited the Lewis & Clark Caverns. Awesome! We had to walk half a mile up a steep, narrow trail just to get to the entrance of the caverns, then walked up & down (& slid down through a narrow chute at one point) to get through the passsageways.
When we got back home and Michael was looking at what he had shot, he was surprised to see this apparition in one of his cave photos:
We have no explanation for it, but it makes a great Halloween story. We certainly didn’t see it there when we were in the caverns.

Back home, to the “real world”, we had bad news that Michael’s Uncle Calvin died. He was the oldest of the family members who were left who could have remembered many of the things that we learned in Rock Springs, and perhaps filled in some blanks about it all.  We had been looking forward to sharing it with him. Just goes to show that we can’t take anything (or anyone) for granted.  Uncle Calvin had the full Chinese funeral, along with a parade & band, all over Chinatown, out to Colma & back.  That was an experience in itself.  I had to bow three times at the grave site after throwing in the flower & dirt.

In any event, that trip is just what we needed!  Oh…and one more thing – we did not see one bear or wolf.  Not one.   Yogi and Boo-Boo were in hiding.  I don’t blame them, though. We tourists could be somewhat obnoxious!
Anyway, I have to get back to work now! Take care, & our best to you & Burt,
Deb
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About June Morrall

1947 - 2010
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