“Yesterday’s Memories Tomorrow’s Dreams” by Carmen Tom – A Late Wedding Trip

A Late Wedding Trip

Donna and I were married June 19, 1949. We used Donna’s dad’s old ‘41 Studebaker to go on our honeymoon to the Black Hills. We had talked of taking a motorcycle trip to Milwaukee and across Lake Michigan to Michigan, so the 1 week of August we took off on our 194845” no windshield. How could I of done such a stupid thing. I wouldn’t ride across Seattle now without a windshield. But before I began the trip we needed a little more money. I had been selling ice cold pop at the baseball games. Baseball was a really big sport then as it is today. In those days all small towns had teams and on Sunday they always had a game on. I needed extra money so I started selling pop at the games. Why no one else did I still can’t figure it out. I had a 39 Ford Coupe, big trunk. I’d haul my pop in this car. I’d buy it wholesale in Britton 3 cents a bottle that’s hard to believe today and sell it for 10 cents. I used a large water tub to put the pop in. I’d buy big chunks of ice in the morning, drive to the ball park and set up behind our local team. I painted a sign “Ice Cold Pop. Which I put on the top of my car so people all over could see it. I would buy all the pop I had money for and my car would hold. I would always sell out. I made good money for a days work. So the Sunday before Donna and I left on our motorcycle trip I sold pop. I can still remember I made $90 that Sunday, which was twice as much I could usually make working for 2 weeks, I was always a saver so we had a few dollars. I can’t remember how much, Donna probably can. Came Monday we left old Britton early in the morning. We had an old suitcase tied to the luggage rack. In one saddle bag I always carried tools, all I could get into the bag, extra can of oil, 2 spark plugs, set of points and condenser, extra chain links and master links. The other saddle bags gloves, jackets, extra. In those days there were very few motorcycle shops, only in the larger cities and North and South Dakota didn’t have many big cities. There were no freeways, almost all roads were two lane until you got to a large city then it was usually 4-lane thru the town. We hadn’t gone very far and we had a flat tire on the front. I’d stop pump it up go a few miles stop and pump it up again. We finally got to Webster and found a service station but the attendant could not change the tire, but he let me use the tools, etc. I got the tire off the rim in those days nothing as a bead breaker you either stomped on the tire or put into a large vice, I finally got the tube fixed, most of wasted 2 hours. We left on the Highway 12 into Minnesota. We stopped in Ortonville, Minnesota just across the border. We ate at a small café, ham and eggs for .59. It’s hard now to believe prices were so cheap.

We rode on Highway 12 into Minneapolis. Minneapolis is a big city. We crossed over the Mississippi River into Wisconsin. I’ve looked at the maps we have today could not find the road we rode on but we made it almost to Black River Falls, Wisconsin. It was real dark out all of a sudden the engine quit, the bike came to a halt. We parked along the side of the road. I checked the bike over, I had broken the primary chain. When it broke it beat the chain guard up real bad. Finally a nice man came along in a truck that wonderful man hauled us to Black River Falls he unloaded us in front of some cabins so we got a cabin for the night, $2.00. Next morning we walked into town, found a telephone and book and found a dealer in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. I called him he mailed a chain out C.O.D. on the train so we went and ate breakfast. I forgot what we had we ate, we walked down to the railroad depot. We waited for the train to come. We got our chain walked back to our cabin. I finally got the old broken chain off. I had a hammer along so I sat there beating the steel chain guard back into shape good enough to put back on. After a couple hours we were on the road again headed toward Milwaukee, it started to rain near Wisconsin Dells. We pulled over side of the road under some apple trees. After a few minutes a man came out invited us into his house. He was such a nice man he gave us some hot apple cider after hour or two it quit raining so we thanked that wonderful man and off we went. I can’t remember when we got into Milwaukee, but it was late in the afternoon we found a small cabin court got a cabin for $2.00 had a good nights sleep, made love. No only kidding. Next day we ate at a small café, asked directions to the Harley Factory on Vienna Ave. We rode to the Factory took some pictures right in front of the factory, I was really excited just the thought of going thru the factory. We had to sign in wait for a few others that were also there to see the Harleys being made. In those days Harley made most of the parts to build their bike, not like today. Motorcycle and all car manufactures buy most of the parts from parts suppliers. This was August the factory was working on the 1950 models, we seen the large presses, punching out fenders, gas tanks oil tanks frames, wheels, spokes, etc. Sure was interesting to see the workers welding the tanks etc. with what we would call today old fashion. Welding the frames were brazed together. What changes that have come about the last 50 some years. We seen the painting being done with old fashion spray guns. I remember watching the front fork bottom legs being polished, they looked just like chrome. 1949 Models had bottom legs painted black. After few hours of seeing the Harleys made we left. It was in the afternoon. I always wanted a chrome speed-o-meter dash chromed, so we found the local Harley Dealer. Really nice store, they had exchange dash, $5.00 so I paid the $5.00 at once. We road around Milwaukee, asked direction to the ferries, The ferries did not leave till next morning so we rode till we found a nice cabin, café stores near by. We got nice cabin again only $2.00 that night we rode all over the city, ate at a nice café, went back to our cabin had a good nights sleep, next day, ate, then road down to the ferries. Finally we were on the water headed for Muskegon, Michigan. We had never been this far east, so it was really exciting to us. Boy those Great Lakes are large couple hours out it reminded me of the ocean. You could not see land for many hours. That big ferry was like a big ocean liner. Big, nice places to eat, even watch a movie, can’t remember the movie, but I’m sure Donna could. When we got off the ferry, we found the highway to Detroit, rode for few miles got a nice cabin, still only $2.00. I would of liked to stayed in Muskegon a big Hill Climb just a week away. They always put on Big Hill Climbs, but I didn’t want to stay in that area for a week. So we had a good nights sleep, left early in the morning, beautiful day sunny and warm. I had a sister living in Ann, Arbor. She was married and about to have her 2nd child, so we stayed with her. She had a beautiful boy, already had a nice little girl. We rode all over Ann Arbor seen the University took pictures, I always wanted chrome handle bars. No such thing in the Dakotas. So we found the Harley Dealer, what wonderful people. They removed my bars, took Donna and I a three-wheeler to the chrome shop they plated the bars while we waited, took couple hours, the fellow left us at the shop, told me call when the bars are done, I’ll come and get you. This I will never forget I walked around the area while our handle bars were being plated. We walked by this one large store, they had a TV in the window this was the first TV we had ever seen. We must of stood there 1/2 hour just watching. Couple hours went by so we walked back to the chrome shop. Our bars were done, they looked so beautiful. I called the Harley store, the man came and got us. He put the bars back on, checked the bike over all for $10.00 We thanked those wonderful Dealers and rode back to my sister place. It’s a good thing I had Donna, she always acts as my navigator, she can remember directions like no one else I know. We stayed a day or so more, bid my sis good by, we rode into Big Detroit, did some eye shopping, found the road to the bridge across into Windsor Canada. We found the road that goes toward Buffalo New York. Still don’t know why we didn’t ride to Niagara Falls, it was not that far off. We rode a for few hours, found a nice town, St. Thomas. We got a nice cabin, found a place that sold fish and chips, and I’d heard how good Canadian Fish and Chips were, and I can tell you they were good. The Canadian Chips, big pieces cut-up of baked potatoes just like the ones I get on the Seattle Waterfront Alaska Way and University St. If you have not ate there check them out, they are the best. After eating we rode around for awhile went back to our cabin, wishing we had TV but the cabin had a good radio. We really enjoyed the different programs they had, and the good music. We just about have that in the Dakotas. Next day got up early, nice part with Donna she likes to get up early so I never have a problem with leaving early in the mornings. We rode for couple hours, Donna taps me on the shoulder let’s eat, so I watched for a nice small town, Simcoe, Canada road went right thru the town, nice place, I seen a sign Betty’s Cafe, so I pulled the Harley into the parking lot. It’s always nice to get off the bike. It’s especially nice for the passenger, as there was no such thing as back rest.

It’s really nice today we rode bikes, they have big wide seats, back rests for both riders and passengers. Air shocks, bikes today ride as good as a good passenger car. Our 1945 RD was a hard tail, (no shocks), buddy seat, thank God for the polo seat and extra passenger springs on the seat and that old Springer front end, 2 ‘/2 “of travel. After eating we left next stop Danville we got a nice cabin prices still good. Gas prices were higher, until I realized we were getting 5 QT gal. Next morning we got up early I wanted to get to Buffalo mid day- so we could head back west, we were both getting a little tired it would be nice to spend 1/2 day or so and just goof off. The weather had been good since leaving Wisconsin. Around Buffalo it rained a little, sort of like in Seattle some times it rains but not hard enough to put your rain gear on. At least in the east it is almost always hot in August so if you do get a little wet when the sun comes out you dry out in a hurry. We got thru Buffalo no problem. With Donna as my navigator it’s a not problem. We got on the correct road heading west out of Buffalo I can’t remember the road, maps today show only the freeways, not the old 2 lane small highways of yesterday. We rode for 2-3 hours seen a sign cabins $1.5 0 so we checked them out. We just could not believe how nice they were. One even had a fan and radio for $1.75 so we took that one. We cleaned up rested turned the radio on, there was a big ball game coming on, game time 7 o’clock so Donna just loving ball games, said let’s eat early so we can listen to the ball game. There was lots of stores with in walking distance, we seen this one drive in restaurant. It was a big root beer place can’t seem to remember the name. But we decided to try it. Big cheese burgers, homemade fries $.25, big root beer only .05. We ate went back to our cabin turned that radio on. I remember the ball game was really good. New York Yankees, playing Chicago, can’t remember if it was the cubs or White socks. Doesn’t really matter, it was a really good game. The game was on till around 10:30 was dark out, we were happy to get that cabin it started raining out. It seemed like it rained all night and you all know how hard it rains in the east. We played music for an hour or so and fell asleep.

Donna got up early 6:30 she said Carmen look outside the rain had stopped the sun was out real bright the sky’s as clear as a bell. I said it’s going to be a beautiful day to ride. We got up early packed our gear and left, Donna reading the map. When we had to turn from one highway to another, she would tap me on the shoulder, say something like 2 miles turn left on highway 16. Whatever I always did what she said, never got lost. She’s still that way today. We rode out of town feeling good. The sun was out nice and warm, Harley running beautiful those old 45” flat heads were always a good bike. I still have one. 1942 Army 45” all restored Russ rode it on the Bone Head endure couple times, Brock rode his 45”, I rode my 200” Yam. I remember both Russ and Brock getting stuck in the sand crossing the river plenty of riders to push the bikes a few feet to get out of the sand. Only bad part of a 45” it’s too close to the ground, no ground clearance. But that’s life, we got to have a few obstacles in life. We rode to a small town Riley, we found a cabin. I would always look for cabins, prices were always the best and you can park your bike near the door, less worry about someone stealing the bike. I always carried a heavy chain and lock I’d put the chain around a pole or something, make it as hard for someone to steal the bike. I remember on time going east thru Helena Montana I chained the bike to a big pole. When I got up in the morning packed my gear on the bike, big gloves on heavy jacket started the bike, I took off forgot to unchain the bike, I cut a big donut felt like a big foul I had to get those heavy gloves off unlock, put the chain and lock into the saddle bags, and ride away. I can’t remember ever getting up in Montana in the morning and it not be just freezing cold. I rode through Montana for over 50 years. It’s still cold there.

Donna and I had a good nites sleep in Ripley. Left the next morning 6:30 if you leave early you all know you can cover a lot of road by night fall. It was a good thing roads were narrow and went through all the towns, it made it interesting riding and on a 45” riding 5055 one could get good gas mileage and the bike would run for years, no problem. We crossed into Ohio. We rode for couple hours. Stopped at yes, small café, had ham and eggs, .50 each. We ate and was about to leave all of a sudden it started raining we took cover bike was getting all wet, but if the sun comes out the bike dries out in a hurry. We were held up couple hours. Sun came out we left. If 1 remember correct on old 20 going west. We got to a town called Oberlin, filled the bike up gas only. 17 gallon. We had been gone from our home in Britton S.D. and had only spent $35.00 or so. You may wonder how I remember so much of trip being it’s 55 years ago. I always had a small book I would write down all I could remember during the day at night I still do this. Only now I have so many books I could start a book store. We stayed on old 20 rode all day must have covered 400 miles that day. We were both getting tired so we stopped at I believe Fayette, Ohio nice small city, we found a nice cabin, café just next door. We had a good hamburger steak dinner for .50 each. Next morning nice out we packed up and rode out of town. We rode into the big city of Hammond, Indiana. Stopped at a big Harley store, had our oil changed checked the chain adjusted it and oiled it. I still have a decal from that Harley store. We got on a road headed for Chicago, I remember I wanted to stay on the out skins, I didn’t like riding through large cities. We got thru Chicago no problems, stopped filled the tank, 1 gallon. Our 45” was getting around 50 miles to the gallon. Got on highway 30 stayed on it all the way in Illinois. We crossed over into Iowa at Clinton stopped filled up, yes I seen a small café stopped had cheese burger and fries and root beer .30 each. We rode on into Wheatland, Iowa. Got a nice cabin still only $2.00 but no radio no TV so whats a young couple to do. You guessed it. Got up early, packed up, we both wanted to get back to S.D. so I rode hard turned that 45” up to 60 mph on most of the roads that day. We stopped on the edge of Cedar Rapids, had a good meal, filled that Harley up gas still only .17 to .20 gallon. We left Cedar Rapids heading west weather still nice hot and dry. T-shirt riding. Was getting close to Ames, Iowa.

It happened the rear chain broke. When I finally stopped I had to walk back 1/2 mile to pick the chain up. Boy it looked bad rollers all worn lots of rollers gone. I knew I’d had to get a new chain fast, the thing that made it worse it had started raining 50-60 miles back. We had on cheap clear plastic long coats on that’s all we were able to find, we had bought these at a cheap army-Navy surplus store either in Indiana or Illinois. Donna and I were parked along side this 2-lane road very little shoulders. I work hard patching the chain together. I got the chain back on, it was raining hard poor Donna standing alongside the Harley trying to keep the cars away, some would come by so close you could stick your arm out and touch them. By time we got going we were both wet. I told Donna I got to find a farm supply store as no motorcycle stores for miles. I found a John Deer Dealer, went into the store to the parts department. I could see they had big rolls of chain. They use lots of them in combines. I asked the fellow you got #50 chain, sure do, I said cut me off 102 links, he did give me two master links, said that will be $4,80/ so I went out side put the Harley on the rear stand. Removed the master link, hooked the new chain to the old chain pulled it thru, hooked the new master link, I then adjusted the new chain. It really not hard to do. Only outside in the parking lot gravel. Lots, no one ever thinks of black top there lots like we do out west. Donna says if we get going ride little harder we could make Sioux Falls, S.D. before dark. We rode offal! wet, still raining out. At Carol, Iowa I turned north on old 71 road not bad good black top road north far as Spencer then turn west on old 18. Take several roads finally got to Sioux Falls. It was dark out must have been 8:30-9 o’clock, could find no cabins near so I found this old hotel got a room $2.50 no nothing toilet down the hall, no fans you get the picture. If it had not been so late I’d looked for a cabin. I chained the Harley to a pole. We walked few blocks found a café. Forgot what we ate, we went back to the old beat up hotel, tried to sleep, the rain had stopped 50-60 miles out of Sioux Falls and it turned hot, those of you that have been to S.D. in August know how hot it can get. We got few hours sleep got up early rode off toward Mitchell, we ate at a nice café. The weather was nice and hot out. We got to the corn Palace. It something worth seeing, they cover the building with corn. You really have to see it, just too hard to explain, go see it for yourself. We left for Huron nice size town, they have a large Packing plant big college so the towns a busy place. I found the Harley shop nice people, I seen this nice shop sold English bikes, this was really rare. Really nice guy running the store had quite a few bikes on display, we talked for awhile, and Donna says Cannen we got to go so we can get home to Britton before dark. We rode off on old 281 toward Aberdeen. Took 2 hours we knew now it was only 60 miles to Britton. Took 1 hour 1 5 minutes we were finally home. We were to leave in couple days for North Dakota where I would sign up for school for the fall. We rested up, seen a lot of family and friends. Donna worked couple days. On the next Monday we left again on the Harley that was our only transportation. We left old Britton east on 10, 6 miles turn north to farmer small towns every 15-20 miles got to Windermere, 25 miles to Wahpeton, got there early went right to the school. I signed up, you know the rules. We rode around looking at apartments the so we rented. We had lots of time left so we found Donna job dry cleaners .65 hour. Donna really loved that job. We met other couples fast but let’s get back to story. We found a nice café in a bowling alley, big steak dinner .65 each. Donna being a bowler, asked about teams, they said 2” week of September they start. We rode around Wahpeton and crossed over into Breckenridge, Minn. We both said we are going to love Wahpeton, so we rode home that afternoon. Donna went back to work at the Drugstore, I worked at Fanns for a couple weeks, then we moved to North Dakota. They had two motorcycle stores plus the Harley store across the Red River in Breckenridge. Donna and I fell in love with Wahpeton. We had many wonderful times, I meet lots of riders, I could write a story just on those times alone. But that will wait for another time. We had covered over 7,000 miles on this trip Donna claims we only spent $90.00 for all the time we were gone. I just can’t remember.

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