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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


"What shall we do this summer, Tim?"

That innocent question started it all. I am quite sure that in asking the question Charlie was not dreaming of a great adventure. Rather, he was expecting an answer something like, "Well, a few weeks at the lake, slow our schedules down here some, maybe have a chance to get to know some of the kids in the Gang better - while they're out of school."

But I chose a different direction. "Charlie, let's undertake some sort of grand adventure." And because of that sentence, I was given the task of planning the grand adventure, and two decades later of writing about it.

"You really want me to plan a grand adventure? You don't want to be in on the planning? You want me to go ahead and commit us without your being consulted?"

"Yes, on all counts. I leave it in your hands."

"You are very trusting, Charlie."

"I always have been very trusting of your ideas and planning. Have you got some ideas for this grand adventure, or are you starting from scratch?"

"Next you'll be asking what those ideas are."

"No, I'm just curious as to whether this has been rattling around in your little brain for a while, or whether you just dreamed it up."

"I hadn't thought about the summer at all until you asked your original question. Then it seemed like it was time for some kind of grand adventure, not just going to the lake and diving in the Iron River High School pool."

"Don't bother me with the details until we're ready to go. I take it that I should arrange things in the law school to be gone most of the summer on this grand adventure."

"July and August."

"That sounds like you've done some planning."

"No, I just decided. July and August. It starts on July 1."

I (Yes, this is Tim writing this episode.) went back to my office and thought, "Wow, did I ever put my foot in my mouth. I haven't got any idea what our grand adventure might be."

The two key pieces of the puzzle came together in my mind over the next week. First, I decided that Charlie and I had never really traveled much in the United States. It was time to take The Great Trip West. We'd see the national parks, the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, the Grand Canyon. You name it, in two months of travel we could see virtually all of the big sites and a lot of the lesser ones.

Then I got to thinking, "Going alone with Charlie would be fun. Lot's of time for sex as well as sightseeing. Time to be together." But somehow that didn't feel right. Who might we go with? The Gang? Too big; we could never arrange it. And how would that big a group travel? It would be like a big tour bus. We'd never enjoy that.

Who? The answer came out of the blue, and quite suddenly. Among the children of the Gang was a group of eight that were eight to ten years old. Born in 1975, 76, and 77 they were a separate cohort - there were no Gang births in 1974 or 78. We'd buy the biggest motor home that we could find, pile the eight kids into it (at least all whose parents would let them come; I suspected that would be all of them) and head toward Glacier Park. We'd make the grand tour and be back in two months.

I didn't tell Charlie a thing. I contacted all of the parents involved and they all agreed. This included Billy down in Bloomington, whose son Bob would be the oldest, but only by a few months. All said, "Yes," and promised not to give Charlie a clue what was up.

The next thing was to buy or rent a motor home. I looked into renting, but found that two months rent would be as much as the depreciation on a home we owned, provided we didn't buy it new. I chatted with Fred and he agreed that this was a great use for his Gang fund, and again he pointed out to me that Charlie and I didn't have to consult him on the use of the money. I replied, "Legally I don't Fred, but morally I do. Besides I value your advice. If you thought this was a stupid idea, I would've had second thoughts."

"Stupid idea? I think it's a great idea. You and Charlie will bond with the kids, and they will get to know each other better. They are the perfect age for a trip west. And they are all great kids; well behaved and smart. You'll have a wonderful time with them. And when it's over you get to give them back to their parents. It's the best of all worlds."

I found that there was, indeed, a large market in used motor homes. I'd have to go to a larger city, like Minneapolis, but that was easy. So I told Charlie that I needed to go to Minneapolis to work out details for our grand adventure and I was off.

Wow, what a strange trip to Minneapolis. Here I was heading "home" and I had no home to go to. My parents had moved to Grand Forks the previous summer, along with Hal's and Coach Johnson and his wife. So I decided to accept a long standing invitation from Jim and Alice Reasal, Mike Reasal's parents. Mike, still a sports photographer for Sports Illustrated, was based in New York. He moved around the country a lot, and got to Minneapolis to see his folks fairly regularly. For years they had invited both Charlie and me to stay with them when we were in town, and now that my parents were gone, I accepted the invitation.

Knowing I would be there, Mike flew into town for one of the nights I was there. He couldn't stay longer, as he was expected to be at some big event in Chicago the next evening. But we had a nice dinner with his parents and a wonderful conversation late into the night. Somewhere along the way in the conversation I asked, "Any girls in your life, Mike?"

"Not really. I really did love Tina, but she was right; it wouldn't have worked. I couldn't settle down, and she needed to. We see each other from time to time, and we talk on the phone. She's really happy with Merle. And I know about the children's fathers. I think that's wonderful. Back to your question: I've dated a few girls; none holds a candle to Tina. But more importantly, none really wants to travel the world chasing sporting events, and I still don't want to settle down."

"So there's not much sex in your life?"

"Not really. I won't buy it, and I'm not really into one night stands. There have been a few women that I have gotten to know well enough to have a sort of platonic relationship with, but none that has lasted."

"Ever explored your gay side?"

"What makes you think I have a gay side?"

"I'm convinced that almost everyone has a gay side, to some extent."

"Are you issuing an invitation?"

"I guess."

"What would Charlie think?"

"I don't know; why don't we call him up and ask him?"

"You'd never do anything behind his back, would you?"

"Of course not. Nor would he behind my back. That isn't to say that I'd have to call him up before you and I spent the night together, we know our rules and boundaries. But he'd hear all about it when I got back, and I know he'd approve. I suggested the phone call to put you at ease."

"It would be a totally new experience for me."

"That would probably add to my excitement. Being a teacher is fun."

"I guess I'm game. You mentioned rules and boundaries?"

"Charlie and I never fuck other men, nor do we let other men fuck us. That's about the only rule. It would have little impact on a first experience; fucking isn't likely in that case, regardless."

"I know this is a dumb question, but by fucking you mean penetrating the anus, right?"

"With a penis. Fingers can be fun, too, and our rules don't prohibit that kind of play."

"If we went upstairs and went to bed together, what would we do?"

"I'd probably push you as far as you were comfortable. I'd use my hands, and then my mouth. Any time you were uncomfortable, you'd let me know and I'd back off."

"I really don't believe I'm having this conversation. I'm not gay; I've never even considered sex with another man."

"That's your loss. Look, Mike. In two days I'll be back home with Charlie. I'm not pushing for sex with you. I opened the door because I know you have few opportunities with the life you lead. If you're uncomfortable, shut the door. Nobody should be pushed beyond their comfort zone."

"No, I'm glad you asked. I know what Tina would be telling me if she were here."

"What's that?"

"She'd say, 'Go for it, Mike. I know from experience that Tim's good in bed. And don't buy into that silliness about homosexuality being immoral. Try it; you might like it.'"

"Yes, I think that that is just about what she'd say. And I know for a fact that she's tried lesbian sex and enjoyed it."

"As part of your Gang in North Dakota. She told me."

"Have you had sex any of the times you've visited her."

"No. Merle couldn't cope with that. Of course, he's moved a lot since you and Charlie agreed to father his children. And Tina's told me of your evenings. But I haven't seen her since then - only talked on the phone."

"Let's go upstairs. Will we disturb your parents?"

"They are both a little deaf, and won't be disturbed by anything."

We climbed upstairs: me with pleasant anticipation; Mike, I think, with both uncertainty and anticipation. We went into the guest bedroom where I was staying; it had a double bed. I started to undress and asked Mike, "Do you want to take your clothes off, or would you like me to?"

Mike replied, "I'm in your hands. You decide."

"Get undressed." He did; surprisingly with no hesitation at all. He stood naked in front of me as I took my clothes off. We stared at each other, and I was harder than he was. I took his dick in my hand and that ended any lingering softness. I gently pulled him toward the bed, and we lay down beside each other. We kissed, and I explored his entire body, first with my hands and then with my tongue. Then I lay back and allowed him the same opportunity. He kissed me, but his hand moved with great hesitation.

"I've never had my hand on another man's body like this."

"It's a pleasant experience, isn't it? At least I hope it is." He was quiet as his hand explored down my front, finally touching my pubic hair and then my genitals. I said, "Kiss me." He started for my lips, but I said, "Down there." He did, very gently; then more forcefully. He finally seemed to let himself go. He started licking my dick more and more excitedly, and I had to warn him that I could go off at any time."

"Would that be bad?" he asked.

"It might end things sooner that you would like. I'd still bring you."

He backed off, leaning back and inviting me to do something to him. I knew that it would be unfair for me to bring him to climax before me - he shouldn't be expected to service me after he had had his first gay orgasm. I used my mouth all over his body, ending up teasing his balls and cock. Then I lay back and said, "It's time to push me. Do it any way you'd like."

"With my tongue?"

"That can be upsetting to some guys; are you ready?"

"I think so."

"Do your thing."

He did. He was licking my dick from underneath when I came; it all shot out on my stomach. I wasn't sure whether that would disappoint him or not, but I took a chance and grabbed the back of his head and pulled him down with his face in my stomach and in my cum. He didn't resist, and I gently rubbed his face back and forth. And then I slowly guided him into changing positions with me. I picked up where we had left off before, and took him in my mouth and sucked him pretty hard. With my tongue working and my head going up and down he had an orgasm very quickly. I ate most of it, but kissed him while there was still some to push into his mouth. I wasn't sure what to expect, but he accepted it gladly.

Nothing more was said. He slid into my arms and we drifted off to sleep hugging each other. The next morning, with the remains of my cum on our faces and bodies, he looked at me and said, "That was wonderful, Tim. Thank you."

I said, "Let's shower."

The guest room had it's own tub - shower and there we went. We washed each other, and as I was rinsing him I got down on my knees and again took him in my mouth. He came very quickly, and then he did the same for me. It wasn't the same as the loving experience of the night before, but we both enjoyed it.

His clothes were in his room - he still used the same room that he had used when he was in high school living at home with his parents. The room was essentially unchanged from more than two decades before. It was covered with his photographs - mostly ones taken in high school. But on his dresser were two albums. One was very thick, and in it his his mother had placed every published picture she had been aware of. I think it was actually volume two of the set. The other was limited to his cover pictures. The first page was the original SI cover, with the montage of pictures of me; Mike's picture of The Kiss was the featured photo. His first full cover was the picture of Billy and me doing tandem dives with the twinkle in our eyes. Oh my, did those pictures bring back memories. I could hardly look at them without tears coming to my eyes.

I drove him to the airport about noon. I said, "It's going to be lonely for us both tonight, Mike. Come visit Charlie and me in Grand Forks; I can promise you that between Charlie and me, and Tina and Merle, you won't be lonely."

"Thanks for last night, Tim. You have no idea how wonderful that was for me."

I didn't get the significance of that remark when I first heard it. But I understood about six months later, when Mike did visit Grand Forks - with his partner. He had spent the first half of his life denying his homosexuality. That night with me the dam burst. That fall at a track meet at Duke University he met a TV cameraman about his age. I don't know what made him think that the guy might be gay, but something triggered his thoughts. He took a chance and asked the guy - Brian Weeks - if he'd like to go to dinner with him after the meet. One thing led to another, and before dinner was over they were discussing whose hotel room they should spend the night in. Brian was in the closet, and had only had two or three affairs in his life - all of which were totally unsatisfactory. It was some time before he was able to trust Mike enough to consider any kind of real relationship, but that came. They were both on the move a lot, but managed to frequently be assigned to the same sporting events. By the time they visited us in Grand Forks they were partners, and were debating how this would work out in their lives, and whether to come out. The final arrangements weren't difficult: Brian had been thinking about becoming a freelance videographer, but had been afraid to take the leap. With Mike's encouragement, and Mike's income stream to cover the transition, that's what he did. They left Grand Forks after their visit promising to keep us posted on how their plans were working out.

For the record, they were so much in love on that visit that it never occurred to anybody that they would stir out of their Dakota House guest room for sex with anybody else.

To get back to my story, I left Mike at the airport and headed for the Edina area where I had been told was the largest motor home lot in the area.

After avoiding one pushy salesman who almost forced me to go to another dealer in order to avoid him, I got connected to Frank Silverman, a delightful salesman who knew his business, was willing to give me all kinds of advice, and figured the way to make the sale was to let me fall in love with one of his motor homes all by myself.

I knew it was going to have to be big - probably as big as they made them. There would be eight kids, plus Charlie and me. Frank showed me a number of models, both new and used. He said, "The most important thing to consider is whether you are buying this for the one trip, or whether you expect to use this for a number of trips through the years. If it is likely to be a one - trip deal, then buy used and sell immediately after the trip. It will be cheaper than renting, and you'll have a nicer vehicle that you can modify as you wish. For use over time, buy new or at most a unit that has had only one owner and not a lot of use."

I wasn't sure. If this trip was a success, I could see repeating it, or some other members of the Gang taking the same or different kids on other trips. I decided that we needed to buy for this trip, but plan to keep the motor home for future use. After all, it was being bought with Gang funds, so anyone in the Gang would be free to use it.

As Frank and I walked around his huge lot, and I shared these thoughts with him, I saw IT. My realization came at almost exactly the same moment that Frank figured out who I was. As he opened the door to IT, he exclaimed, "My God, you're that Tim!"

I was used to that kind of reaction and avoided the obvious comeback, "And which Tim is that?" I'd worn it out. So I said, "Yes, I think I'm that Tim. It really shouldn't affect this transaction."

"Oh, no. Not at all."

Obviously it did, but not in an unpleasant way. Frank resisted telling anyone else who I was until we were back in the showroom taking care of the paperwork for the purchase of IT.

IT was a converted Greyhound Scenicruiser that had originally been built by GMC in 1955, making it 31 years old - a slightly more used vehicle than I had intended to buy. However, by 1961, according to the papers furnished with the bus, Greyhound had retired this bus as the company transitioned to busses manufactured by MCI Corp. which it had purchased and which it now operated as its manufacturing division. IT had been purchased by a couple who planned to convert it to a "house on wheels" for their retirement. They couldn't afford the conversion at the time, so they parked it in a rented garage, and there it sat for a dozen years. The man died and the bus was sold to a man with a car restoration business. He spent the next 5 years lovingly converting the bus to what was now being called a motor home instead of a "house on wheels." So by 1978 it had been carefully and creatively converted to a luxury motor home and it was ready for its maiden cruise with the now retired man and his wife. That was a cross country trip, starting in Virginia where the conversion had taken place. A year later it, and they, had made it to Mankato, Minnesota, when the man had a heart attack. He was rushed to the local hospital and eventually was transferred to the Mayo Clinic. He recovered after pretty major surgery and returned home without the Scenicruiser. It was garaged in Mankato until its owner finally had to admit that he would never be able to drive it again. That was 1980, and it was bought by the owner of the present recreational vehicle sales business. He took a few short trips in it, used it to entertain clients, and basically stored it on his lot, where his employees kept it in tip top condition. About a year ago he had decided to sell it, but it was in such wonderful condition that the selling price had to be beyond the range of most people looking for a motor home.

And there IT stood, magnificent before me. A combination lock keypad next to the original bus door opened it magically.

You may not remember a Scenicruiser. It was a huge bus operated by Greyhound in the fifties and sixties. It was forty feet long, the first of the busses of that length on the road. It was the height of a standard bus for about the first fifteen feet, but then it rose, much like the dome of the dome railroad cars popular in the era. The lower front portion seated 10 plus the driver and housed a bathroom. In the upper level, to the rear, were 33 seats with a wonderful view all around.

I got in, and it looked like an ordinary bus. The original seating, with all new upholstery, was in place in the lower section. Then I climbed the stairs. It looked like I had entered a luxurious home. Today we would call it a great room - kitchen, dining room, and living room all combined. The galley looked like a small modern kitchen, with a dining table that was designed to seat eight, but the bench along the side of the bus could seat five ten - year olds instead of three adults. The space contained a comfortable living room, with comfortable chairs, a small table, cushions everywhere, and a bedroom beyond. The tiny bathroom, with a small shower, was tucked between the bedroom and the living room. A trap door in the room let you drop down to the lower deck, which had been for cargo and luggage when it was a Greyhound bus. Now it was carefully designed storage, generator, spare refrigerator/freezer capacity, water storage, and room for two little motor scooters which you could use to get around when the huge thing was parked in a campground. The scooters came with the deal. A more perfect vehicle for my purposes couldn't have been created!

Trying to suppress my glee in order to preserve some bargaining capability, I looked around almost in awe. My salesman, Frank, saw instantly that I was in love with it. I had told him my requirements and he had known immediately that this was IT. He had shown me some other homes just to let me know that something that would meet my needs was going to be hard to find. He smiled. "Forget about bargaining. My boss is asking $72,000 for it, and he isn't going to budge. He's turned down $70,000 from a guy that could have afforded more but got his back up because we wouldn't bargain. That would make it the most expensive motor home I've ever sold, but I do believe that it's worth every penny."

I sensed that he was speaking the truth. I didn't see any reason to enter into a drawn out bargaining session, just to get everybody hostile. I wanted some minor modifications, delivery to North Dakota, and decent service. Why not start out on the right foot? I said, "I'll take it. Make out an invoice and I'll have my bank in Grand Forks wire the money tomorrow morning. We need to talk about some minor changes, repainting, complete servicing for the road, and delivery to Grand Forks. All that needs to be on the invoice. It's to be licensed in North Dakota, so we have to pay the taxes there and not in Minnesota. I assume that you can take care of all of that." Frank had just told me that this would be the most expensive vehicle he had ever sold, and it must have been the easiest sale he'd ever made! He fell all over himself for the rest of the afternoon and the next morning seeing to my every need. I think that the fact that I was paying cash for his biggest sale ever was a more important factor than the fact that I was Tim, which he seemed to forget - until he had to make out the invoice in the name of "'Tim,' just 'Tim.' See, here's my drivers license."

I was so excited I could hardly drive home. My - our - grand adventure was really going to happen! I could hardly keep from blurting the whole thing out to Charlie, but suppressed that urge by telling him the story of my night with Mike.

I had a hard time getting through the month of June without bursting, or breaking down and telling Charlie what was going on. The kids had it easy; they didn't have to sleep with Charlie every night. Finally Tuesday the first of July approached. The day started with Jim, Andy, Amy, and Kara appearing at our door with Gary and Louise in tow. I let Charlie answer the door, and he was a little surprised to see the six of them. "Are you all involved in this grand adventure that is supposed to start today?"

Jim said, "Just Gary and Louise. Here they are. Enjoy your two months." With that the four parents said goodbye to the two kids and Charlie was left standing at the door with Gary and Louise smiling at him. He headed back to the kitchen where I had breakfast ready.

Next arrived Carl, bringing Nels. Carol had stayed home with Bert. Carl kissed Nels goodbye and handed him over to Charlie. "Take good care of him, Charlie. And don't let Tim play favorites with his blood nephew." And Carl was gone; Nels headed for the kitchen and breakfast.

Jerry, Judy, Jude, and Jennie arrived next, and I think Charlie thought that both Jude and Jennie might be part of the deal. But after saying goodbye to Judy, her parents took Jennie home with them. Before they were gone Tom, Nancy and the threesome arrived, with all their kids. It turned out that only Nancy's Noreen and Sharon's Kevin would be staying, and they headed for the kitchen along with Jude.

Charlie came out to the kitchen and asked, "Tim, just exactly what are you planning with all these kids?"

"I thought we'd have them join us for the summer."

"I guessed that much. What other surprises await me. Bob is about the same age, I suppose he'll be here next."

"Oh, I do hope he makes it before we leave."

"Leave? Where are we going, and just exactly how are we going to get there with all these kids? They won't exactly fit into our car."

"Charlie, all in good time. Now eat breakfast." When he was finished eating I said, "OK, Charlie, go upstairs and finish packing."


"I started a duffle bag for you. It's going to be informal, but check to make sure you have what you need. Pack a few books as well. I already have a typewriter packed so that we can write letters and take care of those business items that can't wait until the end of the summer."

Charlie had been upstairs about a half hour when a loud horn started honking out front. He looked out the window, as did all of the kids downstairs as they raced from the kitchen into the living room. Out front was the biggest bus the street had ever seen. It had been painted green, and in white lettering all over the side was "Tim and Charlie's Grand Adventure." It honked again and we all ran out to the street. There in the driver's seat sat Bob, grinning from ear to ear. He said, "All aboard, everybody. We're almost ready to go." He looked like he was ready to drive it away. But in the back of the lower section was the driver that had brought it from Minneapolis. It had been arranged that he would pick up Bob in Fargo and bring him up to Grand Forks with him. It had been his idea to put Bob in the driver's seat after he had parked the bus in front of Dakota House!

The kids scrambled all over the bus, exploring every nook and cranny. Charlie just looked around in a mild state of shock. He finally said, "And just where are we going in this thing?"

"All points west. We have a good map set for the entire western half of the United States, and we will see everything we possibly can and still be back here on August 31st."

"I don't believe it. Where did you get this bus?"

I said, "Charlie, this is not a bus. It is a motor home. For the next two months it is our home. And Bob's, Nels', Junior's, Gary's, Louise', Jude's, Kevin's, and Noreen's. There will be ten of us, and we are off to see the world. Or at least that part of it that lies between the Great Plains and the Pacific Ocean."

"My God."

"I knew you'd love it." With that I picked up a package that I had brought into IT with me. I ripped open the paper wrapping, and out came a couple of dozen green tee shirts, each with "Tim and Charlie's Grand Adventure" in white lettering on the front. On the back was simply, "IT." And that is how IT became IT. The kids all pulled off their shirts and put on the new green ones. I looked at Charlie and handed him his large and I picked up my medium. We changed as well. The words were written in an attractive script, and they looked great. Ours were pocket tees, so they looked a step up from a standard tee shirt.

The kids were all talking at once, and you couldn't make out a word. Charlie just came over to me, gave me a big hug and a kiss, and said, "It's going to be quite a summer. When do we leave?"

"We need to get every body settled in. They need to unpack into the drawers in the motor home and leave their suit cases in the house. I have several piles of things that need to be loaded in - they're in the basement where you wouldn't see them. Then we need to go to the supermarket to stock the larder - I have a detailed shopping list. I've had bus driving lessons, but we don't need special licenses, because this isn't a commercial vehicle. So we're off. I'll give you driving lessons as we go along. And Bob can drive if we get tired."

I got a slap on the wrist for that one!

I had to enforce one rule. When the bus was moving, everybody had to be buckled up in the ten seats in the front of the bus. One of the most dangerous things about a motor home is the temptation to move around the vehicle while it is moving. People even cook meals over a hot stove while they cruise down the highway. It can turn a minor accident into a serious tragedy. The person that had remodeled this bus had left the seats in the lower section so that a large group could travel safely. We did allow the kids to go to the bathroom on the lower level while we moved. That bathroom was built with no sharp edges and would be fairly safe in an accident. We allowed them to move from seat to seat, but expected them to spend the bulk of their time seated and buckled up.

We were off by 3:00 headed for the airport in Fargo, where we would put the delivery driver on a plane for Minneapolis. Then we'd head west on the interstate until we got to the first rest area. That would be our first stop. It was the unwritten rule in most areas that you could spend the night in a rest area if you remained in your vehicle and you were self - contained. We didn't have the refrigerator capacity - even with the extra capacity underneath - to carry much fresh meat and vegetables. So we expected to eat a lot of canned food, except when we could buy fresh just before a meal. This first night we had been able to carry fresh from the super market where we had stocked up. We had calves liver, mashed potatoes (from a box), and broccoli. While the box potatoes certainly weren't special, the other things were foods that Charlie and I both liked. And they would be a good test of just how picky our little eaters were going to be. It turned out that only Louise was a picky eater, not particularly liking the broccoli and steadfastly refusing the liver. Bob took the lead and simply said, "Well, Louise, I hope you like mashed potatoes."

Author's note: I can't resist sharing this. I wasn't comfortable with the spelling of calves liver, but found no help in several dictionaries and style manuals. So I did a Google search and, on the first single screen, found all of the following usages: calf liver, calf's live, calves liver, and calves' liver. Well, beef liver doesn't have an apostrophe and sounds plural, so I went with calves liver.

By the end of the trip Louise was eating everything and enjoying it, as did all eight of the kids. Nobody was ever forced to eat anything, but no special consideration was given to people's dislikes. We did try to give every kid a frequent opportunity to tell us of his favorite foods, and whenever we could those were included in our meals.

I had decided that we would avoid cooking breakfast. It was juice, fruit when we could get it the day before, and loads of cereal. We got everyone's favorite including Charlie's Sugar Frosted Flakes and my Wheat Chex. We stored a mighty pile of boxes underneath, and we always had plenty of breakfast cereal. Lunch was sandwiches or fast food (not more than twice a week if we could help it), and dinner was a proper meal of meat, potatoes and lots of vegetables - we tried to have two (counting salad when we had it) at every meal.

Our second day took us to Theodore Roosevelt National Park at the western edge of North Dakota. We decided to stay there for two days - not because it's the most exciting of our national parks - it isn't - but as a sort of shake down to get into the swing of things. The kids were amazing. They got along (of course, they all knew each other and had played together often), were enthusiastic about the out - of - doors, found ways to entertain themselves while we took care of meals and adult chores, and seemed to be constantly happy. Those first two days we took several hikes, swam in the pool at the campground, marveled at the scenery (mostly mountain canyons), and cooked dinner over a campfire instead of on the stove.

The first night in the rest area everyone had been very tired, and the kids all collapsed in their clothes on foam mattresses on the floor. Some changed the next day and some didn't. We didn't mind. But now that we were really started on the trip, we needed to establish a routine and lay out the ground rules. When there weren't public showers at the campground and we had to depend on the shower in our motor home, half of the kids would shower in the evening and half in the morning. They had to learn to take very quick showers, and all proved to be pretty good at that. It was the rule that you kept time for the person who showered ahead of you. Thirty seconds to get wet, thirty seconds to wash, thirty seconds to rinse, thirty second to relax and enjoy the shower. Then out. Even that squeezed our water supply and we were filling up regularly. We knew that the kids had been around each other, spending overnights, and generally being together a lot. They were used to being nude together, boys and girls. They were also used to seeing their parents, and cousin's parents, naked. So we didn't even raise that issue, and we never worried about being naked in front of them. We did, however, insist on their wearing pajamas to bed (regretably that included us), and not running around the motor home or the campground naked, and for the girls that meant no bare tops. We explained as best we could that two men, traveling with a bunch of kids who were approaching puberty (they all knew what that meant; kudo's to their sex educators - their parents), had to be careful that people didn't suspect us of improper sexual behavior with the kids. The kids had a few questions, but none we couldn't handle. These were savvy kids!

Charlie and I had a bed about halfway in size between a twin and a double. It was soft and luxurious. The kids all had foam mattresses that they hauled up from the storage underneath and spread around the living room. They tended to sleep in pairs, often cuddled up together. Gender didn't seem to matter; in fact, we noticed almost no gender differences on the trip. And nobody seemed to be conscious of gender. From time to time we'd be aware that they were approaching the age of sexual awareness, as someone would tweak a dick, cunt, or tit. Boys' tits got tweaked about as often as girls' and were just as big! We simply ignored these incidents, and the kids didn't make much of them. One night I had to go to the bathroom after we had gone to bed and found them all playing strip poker as they lay on their mattresses. Since they had pajamas on, it didn't appear to be much of a game. I simply asked who was winning, so that they would know that I had seen them. Someone replied, "No winner yet," and that was that. I guess they did have a winner, but I don't know if the winner was the one who lost his or her clothes or won the clothes of someone else. The next morning they were all back in their pajamas.

After that first stop at Teddy Roosevelt National Park (not counting the first night in a rest area) we headed west into Montana. After a stop at the Custer Battlefield National Monument we headed toward Glacier National Park. Now we would see real mountains! We spent two days in Glacier and one in Waterton Lakes, the park on the Canadian side. We had worried a little about crossing the border with all these unrelated kids. We had brought notarized letters from their parents giving them permission to travel with us, as well as copies of their birth certificates. None were needed. In Canada we simply got, "You folks all Americans?" "Welcome to Canada."

Coming home it was, "Where you from?" Charlie and I were asked where we were born, and then asked if all the children were born in the U.S. We assured them that they were. Of course, it didn't hurt that the border guard was a sports nut and recognized me right off. He got his autograph.

Yellowstone was the highlight of the trip. We met a young man at the Montana entrance to the park who told us about a hot spring that was great for swimming. It was about a two hour hike from the road, so if we went we would almost certainly have it all to ourselves. We parked at the trailhead, and indeed there were no other vehicles there. We headed up the trail, carrying lunch, hiking gear, and swim suits. We got to the swimming site, a wide spot in a creek just below where a hot spring fed it. You could get the water as hot, warm, cool, or cold as you wanted by moving up, down, and across the creek. Everybody started pulling off their clothes and getting out their swim suits. Louise asked, "Can we go skinny dipping?"

Charlie said, "Sure," and quick as a wink eight naked little kids were in the water trying to find the perfect temperature to bathe in. It wasn't long before the sex play began, as they began to feel each other. I said to Charlie, "How long do we let this go on?"

"We're alone. As long as they want. Let them get it out of their systems."

We did. Honestly, it was fun to watch them. They were completely uninhibited. It didn't take long for the rocks in the creek, the merging of the hot and cold water streams, and the surrounding high mountains to interest them more than each other's bodies, and the sex play ended without our saying anything about it. When they got out and were ready for lunch someone asked if they had to put clothes on for lunch. We told them that they did and got the inevitable, "Why?"

Charlie and I believed that kids deserved a decent answer to that question, and that if there wasn't a decent answer, the rule, or order, or instruction that preceded it needed to be questioned. So Charlie set out to explain. "If a park ranger, or anybody, came along and Tim and I were sitting here with a bunch of naked kids we might be questioned about what was going on. Were we involved with sex with these children? If we were, it was completely illegal and we could go to jail. And even if we weren't, and it looked to someone like we were, we could be in trouble. Even if nothing came of it, just the questions and answers could delay or ruin the trip."

Bob replied, "OK, I understand. But if that's true, how about the skinny dipping? Isn't that just the same?"

I said, "There are two differences. First, we weren't in the water with you. We'll swim with you after lunch and you'll all wear your swim suits, like us. The second difference is more subtle."

"What's subtle mean?"

"When you are talking about an idea, subtle means an idea that may be difficult to see or understand. A subtle difference, which is what I was talking about, is one that is hard to see."


"Skinny dipping is a long standing American tradition. Boys and girls, but especially boys, have been going skinny dipping since the beginning of America. It's acceptable where going naked out of the water would not be. That may not make much sense, but it's true. And that's why we have the phrase, skinny dipping, but no phrase for skinny picnicking, skinny running, or skinny playing."

These clearly were new thoughts to most of the kids and there was a fairly long silence until the questions started again. They were good questions, showing that these kids had been raised in an atmosphere in which sex was freely talked about, and parents encouraged all kinds of questions. Charlie and I felt very proud of the parents in the Gang. It wasn't long before the conversation turned to other things, and the plans for the rest of the day, and the days following, were discussed. From Yellowstone we would be heading across Idaho and making our way to the Pacific Coast. We were going to head down California Route 1, assuming that the Scenicruiser could negotiate that highway - we had heard conflicting reports on that from people we had met along the way. (It turned out that we didn't have any trouble with the big bus, except at one place where all heavy vehicles were diverted away from the coast.

The kids made quite an impression when they moved through campgrounds, and especially some of the lodges in the parks. They were really cute/handsome/beautiful kids, with hair neatly groomed, and always on their best behavior. They always wore their matching "Tim and Charlie's Grand Adventure" tee shirts, as did we. We felt sorry for the poor souls who made the mistake of asking, "Who are Tim and Charlie?" The kids always came back with the story of Tim the Olympic Gold Medalist in two sports, and Charlie the Gold and Silver Medalist in Archery. Further details would pour forth if the listener didn't move to stop them. The kids were really proud to be escorted around the country by their Uncles Tim and Charlie, and gladly told everyone who would listen. These conversations almost always led to autograph sessions for me and often for Charlie. A few really smart folks got autographs of all ten of us. Now that some of the kids have become public figures in their own right, those autographs are worth something. Jim says he saw on eBay a dinner menu from the Ahwahnee Hotel Dining Room in Yosemite that had the signatures of all ten of us. He wasn't sure what the final bid was, but it was over $3,000 when he last checked!

I could write pages and pages about that trip. The kids energy was unbelievable. Charlie was constantly noting that he had finally found eight someones with more energy than me. I'll admit that it was hard to keep up with them. And they were eager and enthusiastic about everything. If someone was bored there was someone else to say, "Hey, Nels, isn't this neat?"

We knew the trip was coming to a close by watching the calendar. But even more by watching the kids. We'd visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and now about a week later we had doubled back on ourselves and were approaching the north rim. Noreen, the youngest of the eight by just a few days, said, "Hey, it's just a big hole in the ground. You seen one, you seen 'em all."

Kevin said, "Yeah, and we've seen this one; we're just going to look at the other side."

We managed to shore up interest by suggesting that we could walk down to the bottom, spend the night, and climb back up the next day. Luckily this caught Bob's interest, and he immediately started talking it up to the entire group. I say luckily, because we had already made reservations for a cabin at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon, and dinner and breakfast meals. The hike down isn't difficult; the trail is wide, smooth and seldom steep. And it's all downhill. We had a wonderful dinner that night - after the hike down almost anything would have been wonderful. The kids slept like babies in the cabin. We swam in the Colorado River both before dinner and after breakfast, but realized that we had to move on fairly early to make it up to the rim.

The climb out was more of a challenge than going down, but not particularly difficult. The only real problem was carrying enough water. All the kids carried two canteens on their belt. Charlie and I both carried a sizable water pack so that we could refill the canteens. It turned out that the day wasn't a sizzler and we had more water going up than we needed. As soon as that became clear we dumped the extra! Lunch going up was snacks carried in our pockets. We made up for the lousy lunch with a good dinner cooked on IT's stove - everybody was too tired to start a campfire.

From the Grand Canyon we headed to Four Corners to let the kids stand in four states at once. A visit to the Denver Mint interrupted the drive back to the Dakotas, where we "did the Black Hills" and headed home - arriving exactly as scheduled on August 31. We had traveled 14,213 miles in 62 days and consumed 84 gallons of milk - not counting milk consumed in restaurants. I'm not sure who started counting the gallons, but we didn't count any other of our foods.

If Charlie were writing this he would tell you that at 5:30 Labor Day morning, September 1, 1986, I was back at the pool, ready to begin the catch up needed after two months away from the diving boards. Billy and Willie, in town to take Bob home to Bloomington joined me in the pool. The three of us dove for almost four hours. We had the pool totally to ourselves - who else would be diving on Labor Day? Willie had really improved since I had last seen him dive a year ago when we took him to his first meet. Billy had taken him to two more meets during the year and two during the summer. He was being noticed on the national scene - though he had not yet been in a national meet, only regionals. His day was fast coming.

We said goodbye to Billy and his two boys right after lunch and then I returned to campus to start gymnastics catch - up. Charlie choose to go to his office and see how much had piled up over the two months. I had decided to wait until the next day for that!

School started the next day in Grand Forks and seven little boys and girls - well, now they could really begin to think of themselves as big boys and girls - headed off to school with a month's worth of show and tell, and stories for their friends and teachers that wouldn't stop for at least a week or so.

Jude was going into Miss Garth's class at Kelly Elementary. She insisted that her map would be of the United States, because she wanted to talk about all of the places she had visited during the summer. Her map turned out to be the best record we have of the trip; it hangs on her basement family room wall today.

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