Mike's . . . I noticed that a Highway Patrol vehicle was following me.
This is probably the last trip I am going to write about and was from Montreal to Miami in the mid 1960s.
I worked for a US company's Canadian branch, Aviquipo Canada Ltd. As the name implies we sold aviation equipment, mostly to the Canadian government but also to individual airlines.
One of the items we sold was aircraft stairs for the larger commercial jets, in this case we had competed and won a small contract to supply one of the American airlines. We bought the trucks from Toronto and had arranged for the stairs to be fitted by a small company in Miami, Florida.
My boss drove down the first truck and a couple of weeks later I took down the next one. One of the strange things was that we had no license plates because they were going to be licensed in the US. However, we had written permission to drive through the US without the plates.
I was excited about the drive, which I think was a couple of thousand miles, maybe less, but a long trip. You had to drive vehicles 'in' 40 years ago, unlike today's cars. That meant driving slowly for the first 500 miles, getting it serviced and then going on for the rest of the trip.
It was uneventful for the first couple of hundred miles until I noticed that a Highway Patrol vehicle was following me. He followed me for a few miles then put on his siren. I pulled in pretty quickly, my heart beating a little bit faster.
I got out of the truck and he came over and pointed to where my plates should have been. I told him where I was going and said I had papers to authorize the trip. He raised an eyebrow and held out his hand. I said I would just get them from the cab. I did that and gave them to him. He looked through the couple of sheets, said "wait" and walked over to his car. I sat on the verge and had a fag. This guy really was the quiet American!
About 10 minutes later, he came back, handed me the papers and nodded.
I had never driven through New York City before and decided to go through during the middle of the night. It was great! The roads were quiet and driving over bridges, I had seen in the movies; seeing skyscrapers and just going through this famous city was just awesome. I know that today we could do this and think, "What's the big deal?" but I can only say that in the 1960s we were not so blasé and it was a big deal.
I found a motel the other side of the city and in the morning had the truck serviced. It gave me the chance to look around and spend some time seeing how they lived in the US. I don't remember driving through Philadelphia or Baltimore so perhaps I went on a by-pass!!
The US is such a beautiful country and the changes you can see during a 500-mile drive is amazing. New York state had some wonderful stretches of forest with small towns dotted all along the route. I had been to some of them before particularly in upstate NY. The people were always friendly and inquisitive since when I spoke it was obvious to anyone that I was not local.
I had taken an interest in Horse Racing when I was in Vancouver and I made a detour to Saratoga to see the track there. As far as I can remember now, it had closed down when I arrived so that was a disappointment.
Further down on the trip it was thrilling to drive through the states of Virginia and the Carolinas. I made many stops along the way but I cannot recall the details so have to skip though this section. What I do remember is some of the scenery; going over the crest of a hill and seeing vast forests in the valley below.
In Florida I stopped at St Augustine and spent a night there. Some years later (c1977) I had an American working for me in the UK, he hailed from St Augustine. He left my business and with his wife returned to his hometown intending to settle there. Six months later, he came back to the UK saying he could not live in St Augustine because of the violence.
Driving through parts of Florida, you were alongside the coast with the sea to your left. I purposely spent some time at Daytona Beach, because I'd read about it, seen it in films and knew about the famous speed runs. However, as far as I could tell it was just another beach!
I made a stop along the way at a Dolphin Park and I remember it well. It's great to watch their speed, grace and agility as well as their seemingly friendly smile.
Then into Miami. I dropped off the truck and was driven to my hotel where I was booked in for three days of sightseeing and relaxation.
I spent a day doing the regular tour guide bus through swamps etc. but spent the rest of the time at the hotel, or the beach that was just out the back door.
The one exception was a trip into the town. I walked for quite a while and it was such a searing heat that I found this exhausting. During a pit stop to have a drink, I got talking to a girl and she suggested we visit the local movie house because it was air-conditioned. We did that and spent a very pleasant hour together. A great way to relax and unwind. I never saw her again once we left the theatre.
The flight back to New York was uninspiring, however, the flight from there to Montreal was great! It was a propeller aircraft and we were only flying at 10,000 feet so you were able to look out the window and see the forests and lakes as you flew over them. I don't like flying but having something to watch other than a bunch of clouds is not too bad a thing.
And that was that!
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