At age 81, Bob Cash is a true drop-everything-and-go kind of guy when it comes to traveling by automobile across the United States.
Just last year, the Stacy resident crossed out a major bucket list item when just he and his trusty van drove the country’s most western highway. Known as Route 89, it stretches from Canada to Mexico past seven national parks and 1,700 miles of some of the country’s most treasured land.
The roadway is unlike any other, but it was worth the wait for a man who originally decided on the trip three years before. “It was something to do, and I like to follow the back roads. I like the idea of one road and no exits,” he said from his kitchen table last week.
Cash said he and his wife Joanne first learned about the Route 89 road trip through an in-depth article complete with map and suggested attractions along the way in a National Geographic publication dated April 2007. They were quite the travelers.
“My wife and I have been in all 50 states together; the dog only 48,” joked Cash in his playful sense of humor.
But it wasn’t meant to be for the couple, who enjoyed 55 years together. Joanne’s Alzheimer’s took a turn for the worse, while Bob cared for her. One more long road trip was out of the question. She died Oct. 31, 2010. She lived three years longer than Joanne, a former nurse, had estimated some years before.
Yet she encouraged Bob to make the journey without her. And so he did late last August and followed the route as planned. “I thought, if I’m going to do it, I better do it now,” he said. “The travel papers were always by the chair in the living room. That’s the way to travel. Just do it or you never will.”
On Aug. 25, Cash reached the “trailhead” close to Glacier National Park in Montana near the Canadian border. From there he experienced contrasting weather while heading down to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in Wyoming. “I love driving through the mountains in Montana,” he noted.
Cash marveled over Utah’s canyonland country with the likes of Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks. Travelers also like the 41-mile scenic stretch that passes 19 fossil-packed trails by Wasatch Range, and the road south of Salt Lake City where mineral waters await. He experienced even more promised land through Arizona before reaching Tucson and Saguaro National Park near the Mexican border.
His companion was his full-size 2002 Ford van, which served as his sleeping quarters and oftentimes dining room where he ate instant oatmeal for breakfast, cheese and crackers for lunch and a can of cold soup for dinner.
“I love seeing another part of the country,” he said. “It took me five years to do this trip, and I took the road clear to the end. I felt satisfaction when I was done. But I’m ready to do it again.”
Next on Cash’s list is Highway 61 to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “It’s the only capitol building I haven’t visited,” he said.
Otherwise, he recalls wonderful trips with Joanne on historic U.S. 66, Lincoln Memorial Highway from California to New York City, Highway 83 from North Dakota to Texas and so many others.
Cash has a special collection from his travels, too. He keeps a rock pile consisting of rocks from all 50 states in his yard. Why, someone might ask? “Just because,” he replied.
He also will not conform to the electronic age with devices that help show and tell the way.
“I’m not a GPS guy,” he proudly confessed. “I prefer a map in my hands.”
Still, on his journeys, he has wondered why people from tourism folks to gas station clerks will ask, “Why not take the main freeway? It’s faster and a more direct route,” when he might stop for a quick direction or two.
His answer: “Because this is what I like to do — take the back roads. I don’t like freeways. At 81 years old, you better enjoy life and do what you can with it.”