A car key belonging to a Cadillac dangled in front of dad’s eyes, and before us stood a long line of brand new Cadillac Sedan Devilles in different colours. It was June 1992 and me and my family had just landed in a sunny Los Angeles. The trip could commence for real and my adventure-thirsty 16 year-old mentality could scarcely have been given a more intense injection of happiness.
Three weeks of road trip through California, Nevada and Arizona laid before us. A monkey can understand that the wait was an enormous challenge for a 16-year old still wet behind his ears. I counted days, weeks, months, and the wait never seemed to end. But then suddenly, summer holiday finally arrived. It was surreal. I was happy.
The city of angels would show us enough adventure. The race riots had shocked a whole world some six months before, and during the drive from Disneyland back to Santa Monica one night dad took a somewhat terrifying wrong turn. The thirsty Caddy screamed for gasoline and dad had taken off into the ghetto for a refill.
The streets seemed like the aftermath of an African civil war, and the petrol station assistant was hiding behind bars thick as boa snakes. But gasoline we got and could hurl away in our shining Cadillac unhurt.
The Sedan Deville was in some way a last desperate breath from the old fashioned American car industry. The Japanese had all but taken over with cars that seemed a thousand years more contemporary; well-made, efficient. And it showed.
Our Caddy, however brand new it was, started to behave like a drunken Irishman already at 65 mph, and the 4.9 litre V8 offered as little power as a three-litre Japanese V6, but needed twice as much gas. But I liked it, it felt well-made and offered tons of character.
From L.A. the ride went North towards San Francisco, along the famous Highway 1 that creeps along the Pacific coast. Few if any roads are as breathtakingly beautiful! From San Francisco, that must be the coolest city on earth by the way, we went towards the dreamy national park of Yosemite, where the trees are thick as submarines and high as Empire State Building.
It was snowing and the Caddy was creeping slowly as a snail along the mountain road. The oil level was sinking and we had to stop to seek assistance at a small farm by the road. Out came a stringy old lady with a Winchester by her waist. But then she noticed our honest, touristy appearance, lowered the rifle and gave us oil.
Down from the mountains, into the desert. Death Valley. The rattlesnakes were in a rattle competition, the temperature reached 47 degrees celsius and road signs asked us to turn off the car’s AC. Then Las Vegas, ah Las vegas. As crazy as the reputation tells us. I won twenty bucks at a poker machine. The age limit of the casino was 21 so I sneaked up to my room fast like a weasel. The Hotel, the Flamingo Hilton, had 3000 of them.
Goodbye Las Vegas and our Cadillac turned towards the Hoover Dam. At the restaurant I had a strange feeling of being situated in a Cary Grant movie from 1959. But then they were in Mount Rushmore, a long way from Nevada.
Next stop was Grand Canyon, Arizona. I had brought a little toy aeroplane, a Boeing 747, that I buried under a tree. I wonder if it’s still there, today? And then hell broke loose – a convicted murderer had escaped from prison. He stole cars and kidnapped people along his route, and a huge police chase of course was set into motion.
At a roadblock, the state trooper in question flinched when dad’s unshaved, sunglassed face popped up in the car window. They searched the trunk, but didn’t find a hidden murderer. We could move on.
The next day we took off for Phoenix. I bought a scorpion tie from some indians. We stopped at a convenient store where I bought a cookie with too much glazing. It screwed up my stomach and dad had to hit the breaks right on the freeway so that I could throw it up, violently. So, I have thrown up from a Cadillac on the freeway in Phoenix, Arizona. That’s pretty cool!
After the Phoenix debacle we turned back towards California and Los Angeles, with a quick stop in Palm Springs. We had driven 4000 km and the trip was over. The trip of my life. I must do it again, and with my own son! In a Cadillac of course.