Surrounded by a national forest, Jerelyn and Ron live about as far north in California as you can get without being in Oregon. After years as California Highway patrolmen in the Los Angeles area, they retired to rural living.
When they arrived in Georgia last week, they had been in 22 states and seen three of the great lakes. First they flew to Texas where they stayed with their son and his wife for a few days.
Then, in a rental car, they started following their noses. Mid-afternoon, they call ahead and make a reservation for an overnight stay in the area where they are. Only once did they make a mistake. They described that hotel as an absolute flea bag.
But that was not as bad as another they passed. Its marquee said, “Three hours — $24.” They were surprised it was in the Bible Belt as were many porn shops.
By the time they arrived in Waleska, they had driven 9,000 plus miles and had been away from home for about two months.
Now you may be thinking that you and your mate might have done bodily harm to one another cooped up in a car together for 9,000 miles. In their case, they had a good idea of what to expect. Plus, they are seasoned travelers.
They met after Jerelyn became a highway patrolman. Ron was already on the force. For eight years they rode together on the job before they married.
They developed well defined roles on the job that carried over into their retirement years.
Since he gets “car sick” when trying to read in the car, whether driving leisurely or on a high speed chase, he did all of the driving. She did all the paperwork.
He still does all the driving. She is the guide. Referring to maps and travel guides, each night they decide where they want to go the next day.
They are traveling on back roads seeing rural America. Ron says all you see on interstate highways is crazy drivers.
Another of their traveling rules is never eat in a restaurant where they can eat at home.
In Minnesota, they ate elk steaks and walleye. Ron had his first fried pie at The Varsity in downtown Atlanta. He tried and liked Brunswick stew. Jerelyn says they will eat anything except bugs and snakes. Jerelyn has been to Georgia many times. Spending summers with her middle Georgia grandparents, she is well acquainted with Brunswick Stew and fried pies. Ron has roots in Chicago and Rockford, Ill. There they visited cousins he had not seen for 40 years. Later they visited Georgia and Alabama relatives.
Since Ron is a history buff, they have been to many historical sites. Those include Abraham Lincoln’s tomb, the Cahokia Mounds, Atlanta’s Cyclorama, the place where Sitting Bull was killed and the covered bridges featured in the movie “The Bridges of Madison County.”
Another stop was The Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa built in 1885. It has rotating cells.
They visited gravesites of some of the most dangerous criminals in the history of our country — Al Capone, Ma Barker, John Dillinger, Jesse James and Cole Younger.
They encountered a problem when they got to the cemetery where Baby Face Nelson was buried. The cemetery would be closing in a few minutes. Ron told a huge fib. He said Baby Face Nelson was a distant relative of Jerelyn’s mother. Believing him, the attendant gave them an extra ten minutes.
They also went to the gravesite of one of our country’s most revered lawmen, Eliot Ness.
When I saw a picture of Jerelyn beside a monument with the name Raymond Johnson Chapman on it, I had no idea who he was.
Google enlightened me. Ray Chapman was the only professional baseball player ever killed during a game by a pitched ball. As a result, the “spit ball” was outlawed.
While visiting Alabama cousins, they all traipsed through fields and woods to see carnivorous plants — sundews and pitcher plants — and then to Enterprise, Ala., to see the monument to the boll weevil.
When I last heard from Ron and Jerelyn, they had eaten seafood in New Orleans and were following their noses toward Houston.
I am just a little envious. How about you?
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.