Trip memorable for more than breakdowns

Good times plentiful for couple, grandson on cross-country trek

Miner Photo/TERRY ORGAN
Carolyn Parks shows pictures of the 1999 Cardinal fifth-wheel she crossed the United States in with her late husband and grandson. The photo at left was taken in Arizona and shows the 1990 Ford pickup, which broke down four times during their trip. The picture at right was taken near Bodega Bay, Calif., when the fifth-wheel was being towed by the 2000 Ford dually 1-ton they purchased during their journey.

Miner Photo/TERRY ORGAN Carolyn Parks shows pictures of the 1999 Cardinal fifth-wheel she crossed the United States in with her late husband and grandson. The photo at left was taken in Arizona and shows the 1990 Ford pickup, which broke down four times during their trip. The picture at right was taken near Bodega Bay, Calif., when the fifth-wheel was being towed by the 2000 Ford dually 1-ton they purchased during their journey.

KINGMAN ­ Most people whose vehicle breaks down four times in a month's period would probably go through a heavy bout of depression.

But Carolyn Parks was too busy enjoying the trip of a lifetime with her husband Richard and grandson Phillip Holman to complain about the mechanical problems they experienced with their 1990 Ford pickup.

Phillip, who was 14 at the time, flew from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco to meet his grandparents. They had just sold their home in Concord, Calif., and moved into a 1999 Cardinal fifth-wheel they had purchased and kept in Martinez, Calif.

"We had to take the fifth-wheel back to Indiana for warranty work, so we decided to make it the trip of a lifetime and take Phillip home (to Fredericksburg, Va.)," Parks said.

The trio began their trip Aug. 8, 2000, from Martinez with the Parks' 1990 Ford pickup towing the fifth-wheel. They got only as far as Bakersfield when the pickup experienced its first mechanical problems.

After getting it repaired, they continued the following day along Interstate 40. They reached the outskirts of Barstow, where the pickup broke down again.

"The second time we broke down, Phillip said 'I'm a jinx, put me on a plane and ship me home,''' Parks said. "I said, 'Not on your life. We're going to have fun.'''

Obtaining the necessary parts for repairs in Barstow took six days. Richard Parks and Phillip filled up much of the time by picking up rocks while walking in the mountains and in the nearby desert.

When the journey resumed, the trio stopped at a trailer park in Bullhead City to spend a night. They went to Lake Havasu City and visited London Bridge the following day, and then got back on I-40 and headed for Williams.

In Williams, they detached the fifth-wheel and drove to the Grand Canyon. Phillip was impressed with the majesty of the Grand Canyon, and they enjoyed a beautiful sunset, Parks said.

Their trip continued the following day with stops at the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Each stop for gas had to leave some time for Phillip to play video games, a favorite pastime.

The next significant sight was a huge cross beside I-40 near Amarillo, Texas.

"When we first saw it in the distance, we figured maybe it wasn't so big," Parks said. "But when we reached it, there were a number of 16-wheel trucks parked at its base and they looked like match box toys in comparison to its size.

"That blew Phillip away."

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis was another stop. Parks said one of her husband's cousins helped construct it.

They saw an old paddle wheeler as they crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois.

Upon reaching Elkhart, Ind., they left the fifth-wheeler at the dealer where they had bought it for warranty work that would take two weeks. The trio continued east in the pickup, passing through Ohio and making an overnight stop at a motel in Bedford, Pa.

"It was the worst motel I'd ever seen in my life," Parks said.

"It was sleazy, dirty, had bugs everywhere, and the air conditioning didn't work. Phillip walked across the carpet in our room wearing white socks. When he sat down and put his feet up, the bottoms of the socks were black."

Phillip's father is the ex-son-in-law of Parks and he has custody of Phillip and a daughter, Taylor Holman, who was 5 when they reached Fredericksburg. He was in the process of building a new house, and the Parks had some time to spend with their granddaughter before they got back on the road to begin the trip home.

The Parks got to Nashville, Tenn., before their pickup broke down for the third time.

Richard, who worked many years for United Airlines beginning as a mechanic, was able to get the parts necessary and affect repairs himself. The couple got back on the road in five hours.

Heading north, they reached Bowling Green, Ky., where they broke down again the very same day. They were towed to a gas station garage and left their pickup there overnight while they stayed at a nearby motel.

Richard was up early the next morning and went to get coffee. On the other side of the coffee shop was a Ford dealership, where he saw a 2000 Ford Dually 1-ton pickup.

He was excited when he returned to the motel room with coffee.

"'Carolyn, you have got to come and see this,'" Parks said in recounting what happened. "'I think if I offer them 25 grand, they'll take it.'

"We walked over to see the truck. Before we went inside (the office), Richard said to the salesman, 'How about 25 grand and my old truck,' and the guy said, 'It's yours.'"

Parks jokingly said afterward, "I think you could have got it cheaper."

They picked up the fifth-wheel in Elkhart and continued west. But upon reaching Des Moines, Iowa, Richard observed a broken-off part on the fifth-wheel, so they returned to Elkhart.

"They didn't know how to fix it, so Richard showed them," Parks said. "He spent 40 years working on aircraft, so if it was wood, glass or metal, he knew how to make or fix it."

Once repairs to the fifth-wheel were completed, they resumed the trip. They stopped off in Bountiful, Utah, to visit friends before arriving back in Martinez on Sept. 6, 2000.

They moved to Bullhead City and from there to Kingman in Feb. 2002 as Kingman is not as hot, Parks said. Richard died on Jan. 9, 2004.

Neighbors is a feature that appears Mondays in the Kingman Daily Miner. If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397, ext. 225.