Flaming cars, friends and fun is how you could characterize Robby and Bell Robbins of Milton-Freewater's 55th wedding anniversary.
They went on a grand tour that included visiting with longtime friends. The first leg of their journey into Southern California began Sept. 8 with a drive to Winnemucca, Nev. En route, they stopped for ice cream made on site at Skinners Rockhouse Coffee in Jordan Valley, Ore. Robby said the small home was constructed a long time ago, and a website confirms it was built in 1872 out of, well, rocks, in and of themselves, pretty old.
By Sept. 9 they were in Bishop, Calif., and the next day in Wildomar, Calif., to see friends in the area, including Claudia Hinson, whom they've known since their Navy days back in 1960.
They connected with Claudia's daughter and son-in-law, Kathy and Jim Baillargeon; Louie and Ann Duhon, Perris, Calif., friends from Robby's years with Woodcutter Manufacturing in the mid-1980s in Perris, Calif.; and Claudia's friend Bernice Goss of Norco, Calif.
On Sept. 14, they stayed overnight with Ken and Marlene Fougner in Northridge, Calif., and took a spin in the Fougners' recently acquired 1931 Model A around the community in northern Los Angeles.
On Sept. 15 they headed to Burlingame, Calif., for the 21st reunion of the USS Topeka at a local hotel.
The reunion group formed around the Guided Missile Cruiser (CLG-8) aboard which Robby served from 1960-1965. Robby said about 45 of the current 1,360 members came to the reunion.
Add in their spouses, guests and spouses of members who have died and the number swelled to 80.
"Always fun to get together with old shipmates and swap a few sea stories," Robby noted via e-mail.
Among the activities attendees enjoyed was a trip into the Napa Valley, a tour of San Francisco, a dinner cruise around the harbor, a trip to Muir Woods and Sausalito, and finally, a "very nice banquet on Saturday evening."
The event was unexpectedly capped Saturday morning as they took pictures, Robby said, when a Buick Lacrosse caught fire in the hotel parking lot and burned to a crisp.
The reunion next year is planned for Washington, D.C. "Reunion sites follow a West Coast, East Coast, Central pattern for the convenience of people who live across the country," he added. The reunion website www.usstopekaclg8.org/ .
On Sept. 19 Robby and Bell drove to Grants Pass, Ore., for the night, then headed to Portland for lunch with their daughter and son-in-law Patti and Royal Bennett.
They made it home before dark -- just barely -- on Sept. 20.
When not traveling, Robby is involved with Milton-Freewater Rotary Club.
Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8313.