I graduated from St. Scholastica in Duluth, in 1980, with a degree in Nursing and started my first job as an OB/GYN nurse at St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center, now Regions. My good friend Kae Honeman graduated that same year. I had met her in the college dorm on my first day, in my first year of college, at St. Cloud State, where I had done my general education credits before transferring to St. Scholastica for Nursing. Kae was a fun loving soul. We were part of a dorm floor of fun loving girls in their first year of college. Back then we could drink in college and it was the 1970’s, so need I say more. We never got into any serious trouble, but I do recall a Friday night where Kae pierced my ear with a hot needle and an ice cube. There was some liquor involved. I still have that extra earring spot just on my left ear and I wear one earring proudly in it, as a daily remember of those wild and crazy years with my college girlfriends.
A few years after we both graduated we decide to go on a road trip adventure. We flew into San Francisco where Kae’s brother lived, and stayed with him touring around the city for a few days before renting a car and driving down the Pacific Coast Highway for 10 days. We had no agenda other than to end up in LA to fly back to Minnesota. It was good to be young and free. We had no worries, only 10 days to enjoy and meander our way through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. So off we went, tunes blaring and driving the cliff roads along the Pacific Ocean. I wish we had had cell phones in those days. We would have a lot more pictures of the beauty of that trip. Alas, technology was not as advanced. In fact we were gone for 10 days and not once in that time did we call our parents or any relatives and that was perfectly acceptable back then. That would be unheard of now, where we are used to communicating on almost a daily basis if we want to. Back then long distance phone calls were expensive.
Fairly quickly in our trip we ended up in Big Sur with its ocean cliffs and mountains. We stopped in a little town for lunch at a local bar restaurant among the large pines. I still remember the cool moist air and the smell of those trees. We ended up staying and talking with the locals and hanging out all day, playing pool, laughing and telling stories. People we had never met before became very close in those few hours. We ended up staying overnight and the next day hopped in our car and were off again on our adventure. When we saw beautiful beaches we stopped to swim, like in Monterey and Pismo beach. We stopped at the Hearst Mansion in San Simeon and toured Santa Barbara. We made our way stopping to eat when we were hungry, drinking wine and getting hotels when we were tired. We passed LA after stopping at a few beaches and Sea World, making our way toward San Diego to spend a few days.
We decided that we wanted to visit Tijuana Mexico. After all it was the 1980’s and you did not need a passport. However, I am not sure why we thought, as two women in their twenties, that this was the safest decision. Nothing bad happened, but it makes me judge our stupidity level. We were told not to bring purses because of pick pockets and we were told not to drink the water. With that information we walked across the border. We shopped and bought sea shell wind chimes and tequila, and poor Kae sprained her ankle walking around on the cobblestone streets. Of course me being the nurse, I said we can make this feel better if we just got an ace wrap and wrapped it up. We looked for a “drug store” (pharmacy). Imagine the looks we received from the locals when we Minnesota girls were asking for a “drug store.” It took us a few strange looks before we realized what we were asking for and changed our request to a “pharmacy.” We were lucky we did not get arrested, but we found our pharmacy and with a lot of gesturing to get over the language barrier, were able to buy an ace wrap and keep Kae going.
Having shopped as much as we wanted, we retreated to a local restaurant and bar and ordered margaritas. After all we had to try margaritas in Mexico. After drinking about half of them, we realized they were full of ice and we had been warned not to drink the water or the ice. By that time, we figured the tequila would kill anything in the water and we must have been right because we did not get ill.
On the way back across the border, as I was standing in line, tired from the days activities and with a little tequila under our belt, I suddenly realized as I saw everyone pulling out their drivers licenses for ID, that I only had a credit card on me and no ID of any kind. After all, we had been told not to bring a purse, so I only took cash and a credit card in my pockets. I was panicked as I thought I could not get back into our country without ID, and it was getting dark by now. Kae being the ever calm and reassuring one said “You don’t look Mexican. You will be fine.” At the time, I thought the statement was ridiculous, but it turned out to be true in the 1980’s. I got to the border guard and explained that we had come shopping for the day and were told about the pick pockets and that is why I had no ID. I am sure I was sweating by this time and looking real nervous. These are all bad things around border guards. The guard laughed and said “no problem” and let us through.
I entered the US without any ID of any kind and on top of it all, I had a shopping bag full of crap, like a Mexican blanket and the shell wind chime all neatly wrapped in paper by the Mexican shop owners. The border guards did not even bother unwrapping or looking into the packages. I could have had 10 pounds of hash or cocaine in there and they would not have known. They checked nothing and let me through on my word. It was clearly a different time.
We finished our trip and had dinner in LA on our last night in California. We flew back tired, but having a real taste for more travel and more adventure. Even though we both became busy over the years with our careers and then families, we shared that road trip in the 1980’s that we can reflect upon fondly. It wove courage, problem solving skills, fun and a taste for adventure in the fabric of our very being. We did not have a lot of money back then, being just out of college, but I am glad we took the time and money to explore our world together.