We're getting close to real time.
After high school came college. I attended a place called Kutztown State College as a commuter student, at first majoring in secondary ed history, figuring I'd become a history teacher. And maybe that would have been a good choice if I could have gotten over my stage fright. To this day I become petrified whenever I have to talk to more than a table full of people.
And I even had a public speaking class, for all the good it did. What a teacher I would have been.
One of the good things about Kutztown was that I reacquainted myself with a friend from junior high school, back in the Bethlehem days. George was a commuter, too, and we bumped into each other in a parking lot at Kutztown one day. We stayed fast friends through the entire four years of college.
And after college, we fulfilled a dream we shared. We hopped in my Volkswagen Beetle, took along a tent, a Coleman lantern and stove, and went on a seven-week odyssey across the country.
This was back in 1973, when gas was around 30 cents per gallon. I vowed that when we got to California, I'd make my first coast-to-coast telephone call.
Meanwhile, we saw stuff. Lots of stuff. We first went to Virginia Beach, then cut right in North Carolina and headed to the Smoky Mountains. Along the way, we drove through Winston-Salem. How could I know when we did that I'd be within 20 miles of my future wife? I was 22 at the time, and she was — 13? Yikes. If we had met then I'd probably would have been arrested.
Anyway, other stops included Key Largo (where I swam with barracuda), Key West, Houston, San Antonio, Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, the great Meteor Crater, Las Vegas (played the slots), Hoover Dam, San Francisco (where I made my coast-to-coast call from a pay phone in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge), Yosemite and its redwoods, Crater Lake, the Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone National Park, to name some highlights.
It took us six weeks to reach California. It took us one week to get back. George was out of money, I was down to my last $100, and the VW was in need of a tune-up. It had gone 10,000 miles without an oil change and could barely climb even small grades anymore.
The trip was the great adventure of my life to that point, but it was time to enter the real world. After a job in a tile factory driving a fork lift and loading rail cars, thus putting my bachelor's degree to good use, I ended up working for a newspaper.
It was only a matter of time before North Carolina beckoned.