Getting our Kicks on Route 66
By Metty Pellicer UPCM ’67
Flushed with more cash than we ever had, our first year in the USA was a baptism in consumerism. In a spending frenzy, our men couldn’t wait to strut in their new cars, and the women stocked up on Dior, Louis Vuitton and Chanel No. 5. I plunked down a whole month’s salary on a Jensen stereo music system to listen to my LP collection of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Elvis.
Alvin had a new gleaming silver Impala, we had two weeks vacation, and we were eager to see America, the beautiful. So in the spring of 1968, Alvin, Noy and Lito drove down from Milwaukee to pick me up in Chicago for our grand road trip West, on Route 66. I had lofty notions of driving down on this legendary road to witness the poetry of a dawn’s early light, shining on a field of golden grain, to marvel at the majesty and enormity of the Grand Canyon, to listen to the echo of ourselves across the chasm as we called hello. We imagined the strut and aplomb of cowboys and the glories of adventure in the Wild Wild West. Yeah, yeah, but Lito was with us, what was I thinking?
Lito’s imprimatur was stamped on our first stop, at the Meramec Caverns, in Missouri. After a long wait, we demanded an explanation from Lito why it took him so long to return. While we were exploring the subterranean marvel, and he was doing his business, a #2, two kids entered the men’s room and sniffed and announced, “Geez, it smells nasty in here!”, and proceeded to look under the stalls to expose the perpetrator. Lito quickly drew his feet from the floor and perched on the toilet and waited with abated breath. He said he wanted to be sure the kids were gone before he could emerge from hiding, that was why it took him so long.
In New Mexico, we left Lito to pump gas while the three of us made our pit stop. When we returned Lito announced that the gas station attendant examined our tires and told him we needed a whole new set which they could install immediately, that we couldn’t drive a hundred miles without busting our rubbers. Alvin ignored the warning, disbelieving the information as the car was new and the tires that went with it. We fastened our seat belts and Alvin drove carefully, and we prayed. We figured the gas station people must have assumed Lito was gullible and could be taken for a ride. Think how Lito, wearing shorts and T-shirt, would appear to a stranger in 1968. As it happened, the car was driven with its original tires to its natural life span.
On the other hand, Lito was very entrepreneurial in cost-cutting. In Las Vegas, we wanted to save money to try our luck in the casino. Having saved on hotels by booking only one room for the four of us, Lito further stretched our food budget by using our rice cooker as a complete kitchen by boiling eggs with the rice, then when the water had been absorbed, dropping the contents of a can of Vienna sausage on top until the rice was soft. As a can of Vienna sausages has seven pieces in it, we had two each and Alvin had one. Fair division, we thought.
The details of this road Odyssey had been recalled by Noy and Alvin, and I recalled, nothing happened between Lito and me on this trip.