Looking back on the ultimate '70s road trip

By MIRIAM KING, BRADFORD WEST GWILLIMBURY TIMES

Eric Whitehead and Murray Jupe are the co-authors of "Then There Was One: The Ultimate '70s Road Trip" - a book that not only chronicles a personal journey in 1971, but also provides a snapshot of an era.

"Basically, in 1971 my friend and I graduated high school, and we decided to delay going to university - and go somewhere," says Whitehead.

They bought a $500 car in Toronto, and on January 2, 1971, left on a round trip to Acapulco, Mexico - with an old Kodak "Pony" camera, an instamatic, an endless supply of optimism and whatever money they could save up in six months.

It was a time when many young people took time off to backpack through Europe, but Whitehead and Jupe were concerned about the weather, language and "bottom line. It boiled down to dollars and cents... we knew if we were driving, it would be less expensive than flying somewhere and staying in hotels."

It turned out to be as much an exploration of North American culture, as a vacation. They were in Florida when Apollo 14 was ready to launch and were invited into the press room in Houston to see the lift off.

They were "appalled" and shocked by the blatant racism they found in a newly-desegregated U.S. South, and by the attitude of "Anglos" in Acapulco toward the native Mexicans.

Even so, Whitehead calls the time spent in Mexico the "highlight of the trip. We had never been somewhere like that before." Despite warnings to watch out for bandits in those pre-cartel days, despite being unable to speak the language, the young Canadians found the people friendly, helpful and fascinating.

"We were determined we were going to do something," Whitehead says. "We learned a lot about ourselves. We learned a lot about life."

It couldn't last, of course. Nothing puts stress on a friendship like travelling together, in close quarters - and in Las Vegas at the end of March, on their way home, they went their separate ways. "Arguments, endless discussions... it was worse than being married," says Whitehead.

Jupe travelled to Vancouver. Whitehead spent another six weeks on the road, heading back to Toronto. And, he says, "It took until 1977 until we spoke to each other again."

That's when they met again by chance - and "we've been best friends ever since."

All during the trip, Whitehead kept a journal. Those journal entries, combined with the colour photos restored from 35 mm slides, make up "Then There Was One."

"The text is basically what's in the journal," Whitehead says. "There's a real pop culture feel to it."

It was when he retired from the electrical distribution industry that he began transcribing everything to computer and began working on the slides.

Self-published, "Then There Was One: The Ultimate '70s Road Trip" sells for $22 and is available from the author, at ewhitehead@rogers.com. Whitehead admits that the price doesn't cover publishing costs - the first printing is in full color, on glossy paper - but then, he says, "It was a labour of love."

And now, on the 40th anniversary of the trip, he says, "I can't believe we made it from point A to point B, and made it alive." It's a trip that couldn't be done today. Great swaths of the U.S. and Mexico were sparsely settled, there wasn't the same level of tension or fear of terrorism. Even Disney World didn't exist at the time they drove through Florida; it opened at the end of '71.

Whitehead lives in Gilford, Ont. is an instructor at Delfs' Tae-kwon do and has 2 kids of his own. And yes, he has taken them on road trips.

 

 

Links to film clips of interviews with Eric and Murray on Roger's Daytime Television

Barrie #1

Barrie #2

Mississauga

Toronto

York

Bradford (Feb/2013)
Bradford (Dec/2013)
(also in .pdf format)
Bradford (Aug 7/2014)
The Innisfil Examiner (Sept 2/2016) (.pdf format)

 

Eric Whitehead

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Road Trip!

By Miriam King, QMI Agency Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer is associated with road trips - throwing the bags in the car, and heading off on the open road.

But if you really want to see the countryside, while avoiding the crowds and peak prices, try travelling at off-peak times.

That’s the advice of Eric Whitehead, and it’s based on experience. For 20 years, from 1984 to 2004, he took his family - wife Karen and sons Gavin and Adam - on an annual road trip, usually in October, to destinations across the U.S.

The boys were ages 6 and 3 when the adventures began. “At the time of their graduation from high school, they had been to all 48 States,” Whitehead says, travelling by van for 2 to 3 weeks at a time.

At every location and along the way, they took photos and videos of their travels - material that Whitehead has now transformed into a new book, The Holiday Road. Each chapter is a different year, each year a different road trip.

Whitehead says that only once did they change their travel plans at the last minute, and make a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was a year that the family had planned to head down to Florida - but on the way down from their Gilford home, they learned that a Hurricane watch had been issued. After checking the weather maps, they decided to head for the only sunny area: Colorado.

It turned out to be a great decision, travelling across (to them) new territory. “It was great because we had never been to any of the States in between,” Whitehead said. The only problem? They had packed for Florida. “It was a little cool at times.”

Asked about the best road trip, he says, “Probably the year we went to the Southwest.” Once through the flatlands of Kansas, it was a series of positive experiences, including horseback riding in the desert just after dawn, a trip to the Grand Canyon, visiting an Arizona movie studio where even First Aid providers were in costume, and coming back through Utah where “the canyons were spectacular. Not to belittle the Grand Canyon, but these were more spectacular.”

It also helped that both boys were baseball fans; working in a baseball game or two “was always a common denominator for every trip.”

There were no disasters - although, frequently after arriving at their reserved hotel, they would switch rooms or even hotels. “Usually when we did that, we ended up in a really great place!”

The experience has had an impact on his boys. Gavin, now 34, works for a company that provides travel packages for teens. “He’s been to Australia, he’s been to Europe several times. He’s now in Costa Rica... He’s officially in the travel industry.”

The younger son, Adam, who suffered from car sickness on the road trips, is now married with children and also takes his family travelling - but by air.

The Holiday Road is Whitehead’s 4th book, available on his website, www.thatroadtripbook.com for $25 plus shipping. He will also have a booth at Carrotfest, August 16, where he’ll be selling and autographing copies - and chatting about hitting the open road.

“One thing is for certain, travelling gives children an education that cannot be equalled in any book, movie or classroom,” he says.

Eric Whitehead

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Author Eric Whitehead with his latest book - chronicling 20 years of road trips with his wife and two sons, across the U.S.
Whitehead is a resident of Gilford, Innisfil.
MIRIAM KING/BRADFORD TIMES/SUNMEDIA

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Travels to Vietnam, and The Rock

By Miriam King, Bradford Times Thursday, August 13, 2015

Eric Whitehead started his travels in 1971, when he and friend Murray Jupe took a road trip across the U.S., at a time of cultural change and turmoil. Nixon was president; America was shaken by race divisions, and by demonstrations against the war in Vietnam.

It may not have been the most relaxing “vacation”, but it left Whitehead with a life-long passion for travel. Each year, from 1984 to 2003, he and wife Karen took their sons Gavin and Adam on a road trip to a different destination in North America. Since the boys have grown up, Eric and Karen have travelled the world on their own - and Whitehead, taking photographs and keeping journals of each trip, has transformed the personal journeys into a series of travel books.

The couple's 2013 trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, and 2014 travels in Newfoundland, are the basis of his latest books.

“Emerging from the Shadows: Exploring Vietnam and Cambodia” chronicles their first time in Asia. They chose Vietnam and Cambodia primarily because the cost was one-third that of a visit to China.

Whitehead admits he expected to see more signs of the impact of the Vietnam War. “I went thinking that there was going to be a real attitude about Americans... There wasn't that at all. They have no animosity at all about the Americans – they have more animosity to the French,” who started the conflict in 1955.

Working with a U.S. Tour company, the Whiteheads customized their 3 week adventure, adding the Mekong Delta to the proposed trip, as well as a side journey into Cambodia. There were moments when thoughts of the Vietnam War intruded: travelling on an open sampan, through tunnels of vegetation in the Delta, the boat motor sounded eerily like a helicopter – bringing to mind the images in every movie on the war. It was “unnerving,” Whitehead says.

And during a hike in the Sapa Valley, in northern Vietnam, their guide led them to a guest house for lunch, where they sat down with the family. “They didn't speak a word of English, we didn't speak Vietnamese,” and Whitehead couldn't help but wonder if the family had been Viet Cong during the war.

There were moments of culture shock. Hanoi is a city of 6 and a half million people, “and there are that many motorcycles. It was just something I wasn't used to,” he says. And then there was the heat – 38C in Vietnam, 42C in Cambodia.

They visited in March, during the off-season – which meant they weren't jostling other tourists, even on visits to some of Cambodia's 450 temples, dating back 1000 years or more. “The people were fantastic, and we felt very safe everywhere we went... I would go back to Vietnam again, in an instant.”

The following year, the Whiteheads travelled to Newfoundland.

“We needed something that would be a little more cost-effective for us,” Whitehead says. “That was the only province we've never been to” - and the first time the couple were able to use their air mile points.

The Whiteheads spent a month on the Island, again travelling off-peak in May and June, and renting a car to make their way from outport to outport, starting in Gros Morne National Park wilderness area.

They did a lot of hiking, and logged about 6,000 km on the rental vehicle. Even so, Whitehead says, “A month is not enough. We saw only half of Newfoundland.” The result is his book, “Exploring the Rock.”

Among the stops: L'Anse aux Meadows world heritage site, a settlement established by the Vikings; and the capitol city of St. John's – but they didn't make it to Labrador. Due to thick ice and icebergs, calving from the melting Greenland ice sheet, the ferry wasn't running.

“We wanted to see icebergs,” Whitehead says, and they did – including a huge berg in the harbour at St. John's, a sight that impressed even the Newfoundlanders. “They had never seen so many icebergs.”

The Whiteheads stayed mostly in housekeeping cottages, scattered around the coast. “Beautiful, incredibly well-kept – it was just like you were at home,” he says, but found the outports “a little depressing... You could tell there was nothing in the town. Although the town was dying, people were still taking care of their property.

“There were no 'dumpy' areas; that's kind of what strikes me more than anything.”

Most memorable, though, were the friendly people – and the moose.

Newfoundland has thousands of moose, who pose a hazard for motorists, especially at night. Infrared detectors have been installed around the major cities and towns that flash a warning light when moose are detected, and there are cautionary signs everywhere.

The first time the Whiteheads spotted a moose, standing beside the road, they were surprised by its size, and fearlessness. The animal stood for a moment, and then ambled across the road. “It's no wonder they get hit!”

“Emerging from the Shadows” and “Exploring the Rock” are $25 each, available online at www. thatroadtripbook.com Whitehead will also be selling copies of his books at Bradford's CarrotFest street festival, August 15.

The Gilford resident is retired, and plans to continue travelling, and writing. He has stepped foot on 5 continents, with only Antarctica and Australia left to visit – but cost and time will determine the next journey, especially since wife Karen is still working.

Whitehead shares the key to successful travel: Don't expect perfection. “I'm very open-minded when I travel,” he says. “I hear people complaining in hotels, people expecting it to be just like home... If you want that, stay home.”

His books, written in a personal, casual style, give would-be travellers a taste of what they might find on their journeys.

Eric Whitehead

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Author Eric Whitehead, Gilford resident, with his latest books.
He will be at Carrotfest in Bradford, Ont., August 15.
Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

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