Looking back on the ultimate '70s road trip


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 US 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




Bradford (Feb/2013)
Bradford (Dec/2013)
(also in .pdf format)
Bradford (Aug 7/2014)
The Innisfil Examiner (Sept 2/2016) (.pdf format)
Innisfil Journal (Mar 23/2019)


Eric Whitehead


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 US

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


Author Eric Whitehead with his latest book - chronicling 20 years of road trips with his wife and two sons, across the US
Whitehead is a resident of Gilford, Innisfil.


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 US, 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 US 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


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


An Antarctic Road Trip

By Miriam King, Bradford Times Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eric Whitehead and his wife Karen have been working their way around the planet — building on their initial “road trips” with their kids, across North America, to now travel on their own to countries as diverse as Vietnam, and Peru.

And everywhere they’ve gone, Eric has taken photos and kept a journal, transforming the experience into a book — something more personal than the usual travel guide, and much more inspiring.

His latest has just been released — Antarctica: An Expedition Cruise.

Antarctica was their sixth continent, but that wasn’t the primary reason for taking the journey. “It really is truly a wilderness,” says Eric — an opportunity to see one of the last wild places on earth, a place without people, except for the odd scientific outpost, and cruise ships.

The Whiteheads opted for an expedition ship, rather than a cruise, because there would be only 80 passengers onboard.

Unfortunately, the smaller ship lacked the ballast and stability of a larger vessel — as they discovered on the crossing from Argentina to Antarctica. “It’s notorious for being one of the roughest passages on earth, and it didn’t disappoint,” says Eric.

During the two-day crossing, both Eric who is “somewhat susceptible” and Karen, who is “very susceptible” to sea-sickness had a tough time. In fact, “it was wicked.” Both were impressed by the crew, who were unfazed by the ship’s rolling.

“They literally walk down the passageways at a 45 degree angle ... We never handled it,” Eric admits. The return passage was even wilder, with the ship pitching up and down as well as rolling from side to side. On that voyage, one third of the crew succumbed to seasickness.

“You wonder, why am I doing this? But the 12 days in between were fantastic.”

For 12 days, the group explored the iceberg-filled waters surrounding Antarctica, observing penguins, whales and seals, and the rugged coastline in their zodiaks. “We were in Newfoundland two years before and we saw hundreds of icebergs for the first time ... We saw thousands of icebergs a day in Antarctica,” he said. It was also an “eye-opener,” as to the impact of global climate change.

Warming temperatures are causing the ice sheets to “calve,” creating the growing flotilla of icebergs. And scientists blamed changes in water temperature for the death of hundreds of penguins in Neko Harbour.

At the penguin colony, the visitors found that 1 in 10 penguins had died. Biologists aboard the ship explained that the deaths were likely due to starvation: warmer water temperatures killed off the krill, tiny shrimp-like creatures on which penguin feed.

“That was very disheartening,” Whitehead says. That said, “every day was different, each place had something unique about it.” The visitors even had an opportunity to take a “polar bear dip” in the frigid waters of the Antarctic.

The book is filled with Eric’s observations and experiences, and brilliant colour photos, for anyone thinking of making the voyage to the south polar region. It was a big expense, especially since the trip was in US dollars, but he says, “It was a real eye-opener, just to see something that spectacularly beautiful.”

Antarctica: an expedition cruise can be purchased for $25 on Whitehead’s website, thatroadtripbook.com, under “Related Reading” — or catch him at Bradford’s Carrotfest on Aug. 19, for a signed copy.

There’s only one continent remaining for the Whiteheads to explore, and that’s Australia — but that’s a story for another book.

Eric Whitehead


Author Eric Whitehead, Gilford resident, with his latest book.

Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network


LABRADOR: A Great Canadian Road Trip

By Janis Ramsay, Innisfil Journal July 18, 2018

Innisfil travel author is at it again with tales from Labrador

Gilford author Eric Whitehead has released another self-published travel book, this time about his adventures through Labrador on many gravel roads and isolated hiking trails. - Janis Ramsay/Metroland

Gilford author Eric Whitehead knew he'd be leaving bits of his rusty Ford van behind on his latest adventure.

Whitehead is nicknamed 'that road trip guy' and has written several books about his journeys. The latest is called Labrador: A Great Canadian Road Trip, where he and wife Karen travelled almost 8,000 kilometres to the east coast - 1,100 of it on dirt or gravel road.

"We're not big resort people so when we take a holiday, we like to get away from everything," Whitehead said. "We were away a month."

The old van was full of rust, which is why they took it on the trip. "We were expecting to leave the van somewhere and catch a train or something. I was shocked every day. Bits of it fell off because the rust got sandblasted, so there were holes in the vehicle."

Whitehead's latest self-published book talks about the dirt road potholes, the mossy ground of backwood trails, an unbelievable sunrise and people they met along the way.
His favourite memory was a three-hour hike in Port Hope Simpson. "It was a backwoods trail but it was a spongy, mossy ground. It was rocky and steep and the trail went to an overlook where you could see the lake," he said. They never found the lookout, but being surrounded by nature was a thrill.

Whitehead has already written about trips to South America, Antarctica, Asia and the one that started it all, Then There Was One, about his ultimate road trip in the 70s. Through his journeys, Whitehead has learned how fantastic people are, offering their homes and their food to help strangers.

"The more remote you get, the better the people are. The people who have the least, will give you the most," he said.

But his best-selling book so far is about his mother-in-law Helga, who made it out of Berlin weeks before the Second World War, with the Kindertransport.

The couple has already planned their next trip in August, to Whitehorse and Tuktoyaktuk.

For more information, visit thatroadtripbook.com or email Whitehead at ewhitehead@rogers.com.

Eric Whitehead


Author Eric Whitehead, Gilford resident, with his latest book.

Janis Ramsay/Innisfil Journal


Destination Dempster

By Janis Ramsay, Innisfil Journal March 23, 2019

Innisfil road trip author rolls through another adventure

'Destination Dempster' on the northern countryside is Whitehead's 11th book about taking the road less travelled. - Janis Ramsay/Metroland

Gilford author Eric Whitehead is back from the dusty trail again and has a new book describing his journey along the Dempster Highway up to the Northwest Territories. Destination Dempster is Whitehead's 11th book exploring while taking the road less travelled.

"The Dempster Highway runs from just outside of Dawson City in the Yukon, to Inuvik," Whitehead said. "It's roughly 750 kilometres of dirt road, and the condition varies from terrible to as good as a paved road in some places."
He and his wife flew to Whitehorse, Yukon, last August for a two-week trip to Inuvik, N.W.T., and Tuktoyaktuk, NWT

"I had never been to the Northwest Territories before, and I enjoy being away from people; I like to get away and see real things, not things created for tourists," he said.

Whitehead purposely plans remote vacations seen by car - even if that means not having cellphone service or radio music.
Their trip didn't start off so well, after the luggage containing their rain and winter gear was misplaced by the airline.
"We had to buy coats, tuques and gloves," he said.

They spent a few days in Whitehorse before travelling to Eagle Plains, Yukon, a small town with an abundance of wildlife such as caribou, deer and bears.

"It was an 1,800-kilometre trip in the wilderness, and we didn't see any wildlife at all. That shocked me. When we got back to Whitehorse, they had a wildlife refuge, and we made a point of going there," Whitehead said.

One fun part of the trip was getting to ride along with a group of Siberian husky dogs exercising while tethered to an all-terrain vehicle.

But the rest of the drive saw the couple overcoming snowstorms, a jackknifed tractor-trailer, a possible cancelled ferry ride and hours of isolation.

"This is an experience very few people will have had. Even people who go to Dawson City won't do this," Whitehead said.
He has written several other books about his road trip experiences to Labrador, Antarctica, Newfoundland, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The books sell for $25 and are available at thatroadtripbook.com or by emailing ewhitehead@rogers.com.

Eric Whitehead


Author Eric Whitehead, Gilford resident, with his latest book.

Janis Ramsay/Innisfil Journal

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