A road trip taken more than five decades ago still resonates for this Sequim author.
Sandy Frykholm sees “The Drive in ’65,” her memoir of a 14-week, 22,000-mile, 26-state international family sojourn official hit the bookshelves — real and virtual — on July 31.
The book details the travels of eight Alaskans packed into a nine-passenger, air conditioning-less van as they trekked across country (and parts of Canada and Mexico, too) to see family on the East Coast.
Frykholm, who wrote “The Drive in ’65” under her pen name Sandra Lynne Reed, was 13 that summer. Led by her mother Winnie and aunt Phyllis and her grandmother, the road trip was a formative experience for her as well as her sister, brother and two cousins.
Frykholm said this was a book Winnie and Phyllis were going to write. After spending 20 years in Alaska, the duo yearned to see a younger sister and other family members back on the East Coast. Since they were going to drive all that way, why not see the country, take in some of the natural wonders and show the youngsters some of the Lower 48 states?
“It kind of grew, like these ideas do, to be a bigger animal than they first envisioned,” Frykholm said.
“I was very excited about going; I’d only been outside of Alaska once at that point.”
But as years passed — and Phyllis passed away — the project fell into her hands, her first memoir.
From the very outset, the sisters insisted the family members remaining in Alaska to “save every letter and piece of mail we sent home.”
The price of everything, Frykholm said, got written down somewhere. Gas was $0.30 a gallon, a full tank between $4 and $5. A meal for the eight of them was rarely more than $15.
The sticker-shock shocker? Cost for the eight to enter and eat at Disneyland was $50, with some change left over. Today, Frykholm said, that would cost $900 for admission only.
Frykholm and two siblings — Marlie Johnson, living in Kenai, Alaska, and Glenn Reed of Seattle — are the lone surviving members of that eight-person road trip. The pair helped fill in accounts where the treasure trove of photos, letters, postcards, maps, brochures and receipts left gaps.
And though it wasn’t exactly the point of the trip, Frykholm said she and the younger family members got their eyes opened to a nation that looked so different than their Alaska home. Culturally, that meant the impact of the then-raging Vietnam War and corresponding protests, and the burgeoning civil rights movement.
“I had no context for understanding the kind of things we saw in the news, the demonstrations and rioting, the violence,” Frykholm said. “I didn’t understand what people were experiencing … with any depth, of the racial differences.”
She recalled seeing “Whites Only” signs at restrooms.
“When we traveled to the South, that became painfully clear,” Frykholm said.
Other memories were significantly more light-hearted. Many of the younger travelers experienced their first sunburns, fresh-picked fruit, ocean swimming (on both coasts), historical sights and more, all set to the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Bob Dylan and the like.
In one unfortunate memory, the octet found themselves accidentally setting up camp in the dark over a sewer drain.
In Frykholm’s memory, that happened in California, but her siblings noted it happened in Texas.
“It was a good reminder to me how fickle a memory can be,” she said.
Though neither of her parents were writers, Frykholm said, “I loved writing from when I was very young,” and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
And while she’s had various jobs over the years, as a travel agent, sales rep for a freight bill auditing company and as office manager and real estate appraiser in a family business, she’s kept her hand in the writing game for years. Frykholm has worked as a freelance writer for the Sequim Gazette and other publications, and has done writing and editing for several nonprofit organizations. She’s also an award-winning poet and co-wrote two plays with her mother; both were produced in Sequim.
She and her husband Vern have lived in Sequim since 1991.
“The Drive in ’65,” already an award-winning book after it took a Cascade Award by the Oregon Christian Writers organization for unpublished memoir, is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, from major retailers and independent bookstores. Get a discount for pre-ordered books (prior to July 31).
Frykholm is also planning a virtual launch party for the book from 11 a.m.-noon on Friday, July 31, on Facebook, and a drive-by book-signing sometime in August.
Learn more about the book and the author at sandralynnereed.com.