Born a travelin’ man

On his Route 89 journey, Cash’s 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. Photo by Jon Tatting

On his Route 89 journey, Cash’s 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. Photo by Jon Tatting

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.

That’s not your ordinary refrigerator magnet that Bob Cash is holding. It’s actually a fun keepsake he treasures from a road trip on historic U.S. 66 some years ago. Photo by Jon Tatting

That’s not your ordinary refrigerator magnet that Bob Cash is holding. It’s actually a fun keepsake he treasures from a road trip on historic U.S. 66 some years ago. Photo by Jon Tatting

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.

Cash has been to all 50 states and prefers taking the back roads in his journeys. Pictured in his full-size van at home in Stacy, he can't wait to get going on yet another road trip one day. Photo by Jon Tatting

Cash has been to all 50 states and prefers taking the back roads in his journeys. Pictured in his full-size van at home in Stacy, he can’t wait to get going on yet another road trip one day. Photo by Jon Tatting

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.

Bob keeps a special rock collection in his yard. The pile consists of a rock from each state he has traveled through. Photo by Jon Tatting

Bob keeps a special rock collection in his yard. The pile consists of a rock from each state he has traveled through. Photo by Jon Tatting

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.”

  • MaryHelen Swanson

    Thanks for following up on this Jon. It’s a great story as I knew it would be. Good job. Again, thanks.

  • Jon Tatting

    Thanks so much, MaryHelen. It was a pleasure getting to know Bob — a great guy with a fun sense of humor. Keep the story ideas coming :)

  • Samantha

    I heard about this story from my Aunt, who is good friends with Bob. I remember going to visit him when I was younger and reading this just reminded me of what a great guy Bob is. Thank you for doing a story on him, it truly touched my heart to see that he is doing well.

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