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Travel Tales

September 09, 2001

Young Chang

Kelly and Steve Clark of Newport Beach recently returned from a

three-week, 4,270-mile road trip through 19 states and yes, they're still

married.

They're closer than ever, actually, after all the conversations and a

vacation spent largely in the car without a single argument or

disagreement.

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"We said we would cut each other slack," Kelly Clark, 34, said. "And

give each other grace. We were saying that up front, to sorta set the

precedence."

Steve Clark, 40, drove. He's sadistic that way, he says, and jokes

that he can't sleep when his wife's behind the wheel. On July 30, the

couple flew to St. Louis, Mo., rented a silver Ford Mustang -- no, it

wasn't a convertible, though everybody asks -- and drove through the

Midwest and East Coast, stopping to see 14 different sets of family

members and friends.

"We didn't want to drive from here because it would've taken us three

days to get from here to Texas," Kelly Clark said. "And it was cheaper to

fly to St. Louis and rent a car than it was to drive from home and do

that whole trip."

In Wisconsin, the couple lodged at a relative's bed-and-breakfast on

the lake. They water-skied and canoed, Kelly Clark said, soaking in as

much lakeside peace as they could.

In Kalamazoo, Mich., they stopped at the Boys 16/18 National Tennis

Championships to recruit possible players for UC Irvine's tennis team,

which Steve Clark coaches.

At Niagara Falls, the couple of 11 years enjoyed yet more water and

lodged at another hotel. But for the remainder of the trip, they stayed

with family and friends.

"That's what's important to us and that's why we went," Kelly Clark

said. "And Steve turned 40 on this trip, so we celebrated all along the

way. Every chance we got, we put a candle in something and sang Happy

Birthday with whoever we were with."

Fortunately, there were no flat tires. No engine problems and no

illnesses, either. But Kelly Clark remembers one woman who had hit a hole

in the freeway, wrecked her car and got out to lay in the street until

help came. The Clarks stopped, called 911 and stayed with her until the

paramedics arrived.

"It was scary to realize that coulda been us," Kelly Clark said.

But that incident aside, the view from the car most days was of trees.

Trees on the left, trees on the right, trees in the beginning of the day

and also at the end.

"It's all trees everywhere and they really put the towns far away from

the freeways," Kelly Clark said.

The couple also marveled at how cheap the tolls could be -- the lowest

was 15 cents -- and shocking gas prices around the country. The cheapest

they found was $1.14 in Georgia.

"Everything turned out fabulous," Kelly Clark said. "But the glamour

of the road trip has slightly diminished."

* Have you, or someone you know, gone on an interesting vacation

recently? Tell us your adventures. Drop us a line to Travel Tales, 330 W.

Bay St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627; e-mail young.chang@latimes.com; or fax to

(949) 646-4170.

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