Driving the brand new VW Westphalia across country the summer of ’66 seemed like a great idea. We were newly married school teachers and had the summer off. We left our Michigan home after stopping at the Bank of the Commonwealth to withdraw $500 for the 12 week trip. We headed West on the new I-80, having no itinerary, but lots of maps. After an exciting, but slow 8 weeks, we reached L.A. and then onto Vegas. Since our lovely VW did not have a/c, we splurged on a hotel: The Riviera for $14 a night. They were building this huge place across the strip called “Circus Circus” and I thought why would they build a place that big?
We decided to head “home”; that was to our respective homes to visit parents (Knoxville, TN and Augusta, ME). It was so hot we decided to “hurry”- a difficult task in the VW camper. But, we left Las Vegas, headed East, turned North at Williams, for a quick trip past the Grand Canyon, then back down to Flagstaff (and Route 66). I-40 was under construction (much like I-80), not that it mattered much to us, as we could not go over 60 , at best. By the time we got to Amarillo, TX there was a bad storm brewing, and it was late (midnight). I noticed a rest area (West of Amarillo) and pulled in. It was raining, pitch black, and no one else around. We drew the curtains and went to sleep right away.
As dawn broke I awoke and opened the side door to exit the vehicle. As I did this a locomotive (pulling a freight train) passed within 3 feet of the door I was holding to exit. I was petrified. We had parked next to the tracks and did not know it.
Two years ago, upon returning to the area, I looked for that spot, but was told they moved that rest area, as it was too close to the tracks; no kidding!
Submitted by Bob Lilienthal of Gilbert, AZ as a part of the RV Centennial Celebration “Share Your Favorite RV Memory” contest.
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