Red Eye Trips

by kfrego

In December of 1966 I took a leave from El Toro to return home to Lyon Mt, NY. The body repairs were complete on my car from my summer visit. I would fly to New York and drive back to California. My flight out of Los Angeles was a red eye around midnight. The late night flights always had room for servicemen flying stand-by. We boarded the flight and there were only about a dozen regular passengers and three of us in uniform. The plane was deserted. The five stewardesses moved all the civilian passengers into the first class area and closed the rear curtain. They came and got myself and the other two servicemen and set us up in the area where the crew seats faced the passenger seats. They set up the beverage cart close to us and offered to fix anything we wanted to eat. We sat in a small circle as we ate, drank, and chatted with them all the way to our descent into Detroit. Even the cabin crew came back and said hello on their breaks. It was the best flight ever. They treated us like heroes and it was appreciated.

A couple weeks at home and it was time to head west. The nearly new summer tires on my car were good enough to get me back to California. The morning I left Lyon Mt was overcast, fairly warm for December, and a light snow was falling. The Thruway in Syracuse had a few inches of new snow, but driving was normal speeds. Between Buffalo and Erie, PA the wet snow was falling hard and there was a foot of snow on Interstate 90. The plows were keeping up with the slow lane, but not hitting the fast lane. Traffic was light and it was possible to pass real slow cars. From Illinois thru the midwest the roads were good, but wind blown powdery snow made for bad visibility. My second night put me on the Nebraska Wyoming border on Interstate 80. There was several inches of new powder snow.

I had slept a couple hours in a truck stop parking lot. As my car was pulling out onto the highway there was a tractor trailer just ahead of me. As we gained speed the only thing I could see was a bar of four red marker lights on the top of the trailer ahead of me. The truck driver could see over the blowing powder snow, but I was blind. For the next five hours my eyes never left that set of lights. Followed him right into a truck stop parking lot, filled up with gas, slept a couple hours and woke up to daybreak and clear sky. I really wanted to buy that trucker some breakfast, but he crawled in his sleeper and went to bed. Only twelve hours to California.

Driving across the states alone gets real boring……………..unless all you can see is four little red lights.