Road Trip across the U.S.A. and a heart necklace

The silver heart necklace was shining in the Wyoming late afternoon sun on my September 18th birthday in 1987.  Mike and I were driving across the country from New York to California – everyone wanted to do it, but we actually were.

We had spent the past week engaging in a variety of adventures with family and friends.

We left New York and after a few hours needed to take a break in Pennsylvania. It had been a busy time the night before, saying goodbye to our respective New York friends.  We were leaving.  We were making a life together and taking a big leap – all the way across the country.

We arrived late in south Detroit, took the monorail around the city and into Windsor, Canada, then stayed with my cousin.  We all went to dinner and talked far into the night about life, dreams and our futures.

Our next stop was Madison, Wisconsin.  We stayed in the city and listened to a singer in the hotel lounge.  I was impressed with how clean the city was and I know I loved the cheese .

Driving west we planned to camp in South Dakota and visit Mount Rushmore and that Devil’s Tower from the movie “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”.  We must have left later than we should have because we arrived at the camp ground in the Badlands late at night.

There were no street lights.  We found what we thought could be a spot on the side of the road and started to set up a tent.

Soon we heard the howls of coyotes and could even see the glowing eyes in the dark.  Felt much safer once safely inside our secure fabric tent. When we woke up the next morning it seemed like we had arrived on the planet Mars.  The Badlands of South Dakota are desolate, bare and mysterious.

Badlands South Dakota

Badlands, South Dakota

Badlands South Dakota

Badlands South Dakota

Mount Rushmore was fun to visit and  we traveled west toward Yellowstone National Park.  We opted to stay in a modest motel in Montana and enjoyed driving into the park early in the morning to see Old Faithful Geyser and wild elk on the road.

Next was a visit to the Grand Tetons and a horseback riding climb into mountains. I used to ride horses quite a bit but I believe that this was our first (and last) time ever riding together.  The views in the mountains were amazing.

Mount Rushmore South Dakota

Mount Rushmore

Old Faithful Yellowstone National park

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Grand tetons Wyoming road trip

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

We arrived into Jackson Hole, Wyoming on my birthday.  I had the best spinach and feta cheese omelette and Mike bought me a silver heart necklace.  I wore it for a long time.

road trip across the USA WyomingIMG_2728

After Jackson Hole, we went to visit relatives in Denver.  We did laundry and had a fun drive in the Model T car then continued on to Aspen where I had spent the previous ski season waitressing, skiing and making new friends. I gathered the rest of my belongings I had left with coworkers then we got back on the road to California.

Road trip USA Aspen Colorado

Maroon Bells, Aspen

We headed south following our Rand McNally map book of the USA.  I convinced Mike we should see the Grand Canyon so that was the next stop.  We did not stay long, just long enough to take a few photos

road trip across the USA Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Next stop was Nevada.  We did not see Las Vegas on this trip but did manage to find a diner that had slot machines we could try.

We arrived in California late one September evening.  The smog was heavy.  The heat was unbearable, 108 degrees and then … we experienced a huge earthquake on October 1, 1987 with its epicenter in Whittier, Ca.

The next morning we drove my red Ford Mustang down to San Diego.  The highway had red and yellow flowers blooming on the median.  The apartments with pools and tennis courts were affordable and the beaches with the 3 mile long boardwalk beckoned us.  We moved into a small one bedroom place with a dark orange rug and my U-haul box filled with photo albums and some clothes.

That was all we needed to get started on our life together.

I still remember our innocence, hope and that pretty little silver necklace from Wyoming. This will be my 3rd birthday without him as a widow. While I am moving forward with out him with lots of support, he will always be in my heart and missed.

Finding that necklace brought all the fond memories of that September back to me. One of my favorite gifts ever.

Amazon Gift Cards


At the age of 51 I unexpectedly became a widow. For the first 6 months after my husband died, I was in shock and numb. I journaled and with the help of friends, family and therapists was able to get back to living my old life, even if it is now very different. Before I was married, I had spent a semester in England and backpacked around Europe. My husband and I moved from New York to California for 8 years and started a family. Travelling took a back seat to raising a family and going to work everyday. Since the loss of my husband I have visited a lot of places with family and friends and took a solo trip to Thailand. I am enjoying sharing my stories and adventures as well as some of my insights to how I am traveling the path of being a widow. I hope to share my stories and adventures as well as some thoughts on being a middle aged widow. While I have some great experiences traveling to Thailand and cruising to Central America, some of my adventures involve a trip to see a Broadway show in nearby Manhattan and a shopping trip at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I can inspire anyone to go out and continue to live a good life that would be my greatest accomplishment.

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18 Responses

  1. Leslie says:

    I love looking at the old photos! I want to hear the story of finding the necklace. I think i had a similar necklace. Did you keep a journal? Your memory is uncanny!

  2. cedar51 says:

    when I was sifting/sorting up last year to move, found some entertaining things…and now I’ve nearly been here one year, and 3 old suitcases still haven’t been unpacked – mostly because there isn’t anywhere to put most of things. But I plan on the w/end closest to my anniversary date to at least open the cases…

  3. cece365 says:

    WOW thanks for sharing

  4. Tracy C says:

    What great memories of an amazing adventure! So glad you found the necklace. Sending you positive thoughts.

  5. My husband and I were married for 6 years before we had kids. We had several adventures like this. I will always treasure those memories. Thank you for sharing these. Happy belated birthday. I hope you felt a sense of comfort and peace.

  6. Karen says:

    I loved reading this and enjoyed all the photos. As I embark on my own journey cross country, I’ll be sure to reference this.

  1. February 11, 2018

    […] The summer before Mike and I drove to California my mother helped me dye my hair blonde. After putting Nice and Easy on my hair, it turned platinum white. I cried and my mom cried.  She took me to her hairstylist friend who lived down the street to help fix the color. I don’t think she was able to fix it very well.  Driving across the USA with Mike we stopped at a few landmarks like Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.  Here is me with my blonde mullet.   Haha  Cross country trip with Mike […]

  2. July 25, 2018

    […] driving across the country and finding jobs Mike and I settled in San Diego.  About a year later we drove to Las Vegas to […]

  3. February 5, 2019

    […] I am grateful every day to have had him in my life.  I can’t let myself dwell on the fact that he is gone.  I like to focus on the fact that we had it good.  We were one of the lucky ones. […]

  4. February 13, 2021

    […] waitressing and even a few days I substitute taught at the local high school. After the ski season, I reunited with boyfriend Mike, who I later married, and moved to San Diego. I still had the travel bug and was not quite ready to […]

  5. July 26, 2022

    […] waitressing and even a few days I substitute taught at the local high school. After the ski season, I reunited with boyfriend Mike, who I later married, and moved to San Diego. I still had the travel bug and was not quite ready to […]

  6. February 13, 2023

    […] with the U-Haul carrier on the roof. We had stopped in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and he bought me a silver heart necklace for my birthday. It was so pretty and we eventually moved to San Diego, married and lived happily […]

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