California dreamers
Retired couple love the road

by Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Sep 05/97) - On the wall of at least one California house, there will always been a pin over Fort Simpson on the world map.

You see, Howard "Howdy" Brownson and his wife, Mary, have this rule. If they only visit a community on their never-ending journey, it doesn't warrant a pin.

They have to spend the night.

"We once had lunch in France but that doesn't count for a pin," Mary told the xxxDrum during a wet crossing on the Liard Ferry early last Friday morning. "But since we stayed in Fort Simpson, we'll now have a pin."

Howdy is a retired safety engineer and workers' compensation adviser. Mary spent her working years in front of the blackboard as a teacher.

Over the years, their wall map at home has become covered in pins. With every Canadian province and territory now under their belt, along with most of the American states, that's a lot of pins.

They left for the North from Michigan only last Monday. Crossing North America to Fort Simpson in only four days is no easy feat -- especially if you're 71.

"It's a wonderful drive," Howdy says of the trip that would exhaust men and women half the age of this special couple.

From Fort Simpson, the pair are planning to hit the Alaska Highway and then the Dempster for the trip up to Inuvik. Then it's home again.

And what have they thought of the Northern scenery?

"There's more volume in that river than in all the rivers in California," Howdy says. "All these lakes and rivers -- it's unbelievable."

They also said they have been impressed by the friendliness of those they've encountered while in the North. A local couple even took them in for a breakfast of caribou steak and eggs during their stay in Fort Simpson.

The happy pair also spoke of how moved they were by the sights -- the falls at Kakisa and the birch trees along the highway -- that they say they'll be talking about for years to come.

With nine grandchildren to fuss about, the pair will be home in September, full of stories of their latest adventure on the road.

Their next stop?

"We're taking a cruise to Panama in the fall," Mary says.

Ever-youthful, the pair were asked to provide advice to other seniors.

"Just have fun," Howdy says. "We go places for the going -- not the getting there."