In June of 1978 I was an eighteen year old punk kid fresh out of high school with an overwhelming urge to explore the world. My best friend at the time Rich, my step brother Daryl and I decided to take the entire summer and slowly drive all the way to California. This journey would be the nascent voyage in what would become a lifetime of road trips for me. We made our plan to head west along the trans Canada highway through northern Ontario and then out into the plains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the prairies of Alberta and on out to the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. Once there we would turn south down into the U.S. and on to California. So, in early July we packed up our stuff and climbed into Rich's green Mazda and headed out. Along the way we stopped in various places like Banff and Jasper National Parks to camp, do a little hiking, and take some photographs. Daryl had previously made the decision to stay in Alberta and search for work in the oil fields so we dropped him off just north of Jasper and Rich and I carried on toward B.C. Once in Vancouver we met up with and were hosted for an evening in the home of a former co-worker and friend we knew from a restaurant we had all worked at together. Then we turned south and crossed the border into Washington where we caught highway one and followed it along the gorgeous coast through Oregon and then on into northern California. We took our time as we passed through the scenic Redwood Forest alley known as the "Avenue of the Giants.". After exploring San Fransisco we turned east so we could tour through Yosemite National park and view the incredible rock monoliths there. Being the young daredevil fools that we were, we rock climbed up the lower section of Yosemite Falls, (the highest waterfall in North America) passing all of the signs that warned: "DANGER. NO CLIMBING PAST THIS POINT." I look back on that stunt now and shake my head at the complete lack of sense we showed. We had no ropes, harnesses or climbing equipment as we scrambled up the very steep, rocky and dangerous face. At one point we met up with another group of climbers who were fully geared out with harnesses, ropes, climbing shoes, hammers, pitons, carabiners, arrester and helmets who looked us with stunned disdain as we casually made our way past them in our running shoes and torn jean shorts. We were just lucky we didn't fall and I swore to myself afterward that I would never again repeat a foolish stunt like that in my travels. After seeing Yosemite we carried on into Los Angeles and spent a few days exploring the beaches and other touristy locations. Just outside of L.A. we stumbled across a group of young women camp counsellors in a kids camp who befriended us and offered us a place to camp for a couple of days. We stayed and partied out with them and after leaving that camp we headed eastward along I-10 into Arizona and stopped to spend a couple of weeks in the family home of a friend and former next door neighbour of Rich's named Dan Simpson. Dan's family had moved to Arizona City, a small town about half way between Phoenix and Tucson and they were happy to host us. While staying at Dan's we ventured out to make a three day hike down to the Colorado River of the Grand Canyon via the "Hermit Trail" at the western edge of the south rim park. We also made a day trip into Mexico and wandered around Nogales checking out the local scenery and drinking tequila shots at one of the local bars. We also met up with some very cute girls that worked in a jeans shop and we all had a lot of good laughs trying to understand each other. When our time at Dan's had come to an end we made our plans to head back home and we made the drive from Arizona to Toronto in two days. The road trip was six weeks and if I remember correctly I spent a grand total of $350 on the entire trip. Unfortunately, Rich and I were literally flat broke at the end of our stay in Arizona but Dan's family came to our rescue and loaned us $50 for gas and food to get us back home. I remember that first road trip of my life like it was yesterday. It was an absolute milestone for me that ignited my passion for adventure travel that still burns to this day.
© Steve Tambosso - "The Wandering Fireman"