The Great American Road-Trip – Day 8

Moments, in words and photos, of our  ~7000 mile, 11 day trip across the USA and back in a 1965 MGB roadster.

The series begins here, posted originally 8/6/13

Short on Time? Just visit the photos.

Thanks! And, comments are always appreciated

—– 

Approximate route covering the first 8 days

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Day 8:

Sunday Aug. 20th, 1967    830 miles (1,336 km) over 16.5 hours.

Near Turuck Lake, Rt 132, (Yosemite Blvd.) California to 4 miles west of Evanston, Wyoming

Note: The Yosemite Park  portion shown below is  further north than our actual more direct route to the Mono Lake area.

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Sunday Morning. Tom was in his sleeping bag just outside the car, while I managed the available space inside, wrapped in blankets, this time with the soothing sound of the Tuolumne River coursing gently down from the central Sierra Nevada mountains, not far away.

On the banks of the Tuolumne River, west of Yosemite National Park 

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We slept fairly well for 6 hours, but were starting to drag a bit more with each passing day as the MGB had taken us 4,446 miles already.  Saturated with impressive scenery; our constant need for more film; and primarily a time-frame to reach Utah before dark influenced our decision to stop, and turn around minutes before coming into Yosemite Valley on Big Oak Flat Road. In Retrospect, this was unfortunate, as the grandeur of this valley is unparalleled anywhere. It was practical, but arguably the worst decision of the trip.

Returning to, and traversing the park on Tioga Road, was, however, incredible in itself; driving amongst tall, beautiful redwood groves, stunning lakes reflecting rock formations of the Sierra, and lush meadows.

Redwood grove in Yosemite National Park

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Ellery Lake, off Tioga Road, Yosemite

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Possibly near Tuolumne Meadow Rest Stop

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The vistas were like scenes out of a painting. Snow appeared on many of the highest peaks, contrasting to the granite faces of others, and the clear blue lakes. With the late morning temperature in the upper 70’s the open MG provided the perfect platform for taking in this incredible place. After eating breakfast at the pretty Toulumne Meadow rest area, we filled the tank with 11 US gal. ($4.55) plus oil, 100 miles from today’s start.

Near the highest point in the park, Tioga Pass, ~9,500 feet (895 m) just prior to changing in shorts and T-shirts

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The highest surrounding peaks were over 12,000 ft.; (3,660 m), and finding a snow patch, we couldn’t resist a snowball fight here in late August! The air was cool and fresh, but the sun was hot!

Summertime fun in the High Sierra’s, California

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The road down from Tioga Pass, descends about 2,700 feet on the “not for the faint-hearted” northern slope. Known historically as Great Sierra Wagon Road, it ends at Rt. 395, just south of Lee Vining, California.

Tioga Pass Rd. is right there, that sloping horizontal line. Oh yeah! There are several cars just barely visible in the original slide.

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At US 395, with the Owens Valley to the south, we soon turned east on CA Rt. 120 toward Nevada. Just 10 miles along this desolate but wonderful “driving” road, we detoured a mile or two to the shore of Mono Lake. This is not a place you’re likely to find many visitors. Think: NONE. Once described by Mark Twain as a “lifeless, treeless, hideous desert… the loneliest place on earth.” (Wikipedia), This is not a tourist stop. The primitive road brought us to within a few hundred feet of this large ( ~11 miles across,) “dead,” saline soda lake, land-locked for nearly a million years.  But was it dead? Just ask the millions of annoying “Alkali Flies” that cover the edges; and in the uncanny still air, beneath the deceptive, alkaline water, is a thriving life-colony of tiny brine shrimp, just part of an alien environment. We did not spread out a blanket and turn on Music-Radio WABC here. But migratory birds love it.

Desolate Mono Lake, California, looking Northwest

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A few minutes was enough at this hot, alien place. Note our trusty (it better be, here!) MG in the distance – center

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It would be 40 more miles to US 6, along Rt. 120; a roller coaster like ride for a stretch as it traversed fairly deep gullies, one after another, every few hundred feet.  Primarily, it coursed along dry basins stretched between 7,000 and 8,000 foot peaks, to over 11,000 (3350 m.) 

Rt. 120, heading toward the White Mountains, on the Nevada/California border

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The view of the road, the arid terrain, the 13,000+ ft, mountains (4000 m)  of the high White Mountains bordering Nevada, was palatable….except maybe to Tom, who was …tired!  The town of Benson Station is to the right; Mt Montgomery to the left center, Mt. Dubois right center.  

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Compare this “terrain” view to the previous photo. “A” is our location above, “B” is Boundary Mountain, NV. Montgomery and Dubois are labeled. (Google Maps)

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We crossed into Nevada on Rt. 6, with hope fading on reaching The Great Salt Flats in Utah before dark. Fascinating at first, then a bit boring for its desolation, we would drive nearly 240 miles through the High Desert of Nevada, to Ely; one relatively colorless mountain range after another, mile after mile, with only two small towns with any services. This is cited as one of the “Loneliest roads in America,” and we would see few other cars. It was about 5:45 PDT when we reached Ely, and stopped for food and gas; and another 120 miles NNE to Utah via US 93, and then onto Rt. 40 East, where several large casinos huddled on the Nevada side of the state line.

Not far into Utah, Tom pulled over and we walked out on the dried, caked, white salt, which went on for as far as we could see, which was not very far in the darkness. It would be late evening by the time we approached Salt Lake City.

Some miles before that, we considered finding a place to stay on or near the Great Salt Lake, but there were no signs; local people at a root beer stand couldn’t help; and we had no information with us on possible “interesting” accommodations.  Eating at another drive-in later,  just before it closed, we decided to push on, passing through the city and onto Interstate 80.  Leaving the lights behind as the new super-highway climbed north-eastward into the night, we stopped at a truck stop just across the Wyoming state line. It was 2 AM (MDT) with 5,275 miles (8,489 km) on the MG’s odometer. 

See Day 9 here: http://wp.me/p37YEI-T0 Wyoming, to Pikes Peak, to Kansas: 

The Great American Road-Trip – Day 7

Moments, in words and photos, of our  ~7000 mile, 11 day trip across the USA and back in a 1965 MGB roadster.

The series begins here posted originally 8/6/13

Short on Time?             –>         Just visit the photos.

Thanks!       And, comments are always appreciated

Approximate route covering the first 7 days

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Day 7:

Saturday Aug. 19th, 1967    442 miles (711 km) over 16.5 hours.

 

San Luis Obispo to Near Turuck Lake, Rt 132, (Yosemite Blvd.) California

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After yesterdays long day in LA, and stopping on the side of the highway at 1:30 AM, we awoke around 9 AM just south of San Luis Obispo where US Rt. 101 separates from California Rt. 1. Known also as the Cabrillo Highway, Pacific Coast Highway, and Big Sur Coastal Highway (further north,) it is an impressive roadway, “famous for running along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the USA…” See more information here, credit Wikipedia

Although the sun was shinning inland, fog would greet us at the coast

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Just past Morro Bay, fog permitting, we would begin ~140 miles (225 km) of awesome scenery.

 

At first, breaks in the fog would tease us with every mile

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Forays to the water’s edge were the best: Craggy rocks, rushing waterfalls, pools of life-harboring seawater …, all there to explore

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In the MGB, the twisting and turning, rising and dipping road was a driver’s delight, and sightseer’s dream … all along the rocky cliffs of the coast, with spectacular views, unusual variations of vegetation, birds, and sea life the likes of which we’d rarely seen before.

Cactus? Plentiful along the coast

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Clear pools like this would fill and empty in seconds with every wave. The sights and sounds of the rushing sea water with its cool spray was exhilarating

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Rt. 1 passes inland for about 12 miles (20 km) at Big Sur, where there are a few rustic lodgings, food opportunities, and a rare gas station. At 11:45 AM, we fueled up here amongst the coastal redwood trees, had a few hamburgers, and continued exploring the now sunny coast. With cameras in hand, Tom and I would often descend to the water’s edge, and climb 50 or 75 foot (15 -22 m) outcroppings.

 

We had most of the pathways and climbs to ourselves, but some, like this proved to be an explorer’s paradise.

Note there are three people in this image.

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Frequently, the sand was very different from the New Jersey Shore: NO FOOT PRINTS!

 

Tom taking the picture: Big Sur – Sand, Sea and….Me

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We had made many stops, climbed many rocks, and were ready to move on after exploring the coast for hours, as it was time to bring up the pace towards San Francisco. Skirting Carmel and Monterey, we headed inland to Rt. 101 where the bright sun was once again baking hot. Late afternoon led to the first views of  “The City by the Bay.”

Candlestick Park on San Francisco Bay, while Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” was playing on the radio

Lyrics: “behind the stadium!”

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In minutes, it was clear (no pun intended) that low lying, fast moving fog was obscuring parts of the cityscape and we were headed for it. Rt. 101 would soon assume city street persona complete with an unexpected chill as we followed its signs towards the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. Naïve to west coast weather patterns, the quick change from hot 90’s to 60’s (F) –  sun-burn lotion to sweatshirts – was a un-expected.  

Clear skies were giving way to fog rolling in over parts of the city

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Parking near the south end of the enormous suspension bridge, we actually couldn’t see much of it. In fact, possibly as a result of the fog being sooo dense, just maybe …, we didn’t see the little turnstile and coin slot right in front of us, with its little sign …, its  annoying little sign, right there demanding $.10! We thought…“WHAT?” and unashamedly hopped over it to begin our long walk across the bridge. Our despicable actions may have been related to all our money being a quarter mile back, in the car!

As the fog occasionally thinned, we could see the water and ships below. The height above water at center span is 270’ (82 m.) In shorts and sweatshirts, it was freezing up there and returning to the MGB, we put its  top up for warmth.

 

The two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge are ~750’ (227m) above sea level, but you could hardly see them today!

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Note: The bridge was our furthest point west, 2568 miles (4133 km ) as the crow flies, but 4295 miles (6912 km) in the MGB.

Driving through the northeastern part the city with  fun steep streets, interesting houses and neighborhoods, and the Marina district – brought us to Fisherman’s Wharf  with its sea lion covered docks, boats, trendy seafood restaurants and people.

 Tom stopped the car in a pedestrian walkway so I could get this picture, somewhat to the dismay of waiting tourists

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The panorama of restaurants and attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf

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Near there, we rode the Powell/Hyde cable car up and down the streets through part of the city and back. The San Francisco Cable Cars are a treasured step back in time, offering transportation and tourist wonderment in a city of engaging architecture and hills, cut terrace-like to accommodate the grid streets. Lyrics from Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” and even the “Rice a Roni” jingle ran through my head.

Turntables enable the conductor,  and many times the patrons,

to manually turn the car around

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The sounds of the clanging bells and clanking wheels over the tracks; the semi-open wooden and steel cars; and the playful antics of the “driver” pulling on the long lever in the middle of the car to brake, or engage the cable below the street … was magical. And then there was the turntable at the end of the line!  

 

The Streets of San Francisco

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It’s about 4 miles from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Haight/Ashbury district. Commanding so much attention in recent months, we wanted to see what the “movement,” and hippie counter-culture was all about, and extend our LA experience from last night.  Scott McKenzie’s song and lyrics: “If you go to ‘San Francisco’ be sure to wear a flower in your hair … you’re sure to find some friendly people there,” proved to be just that.  It was a mecca of quiet, peaceful but raggedly, long haired young people; some sitting confidently on stoops, or wandering – drifting along Haight Street between Ashbury and Golden State Park a half mile west; and some looking – well, a little lost within themselves.   Tom was behind the wheel  as we slowly  followed the endless stream of cars, even casually being approached several times by guys coming up to our little  car with offers to buy, or sell grass or pot, or what-ever. 

We parked  by a diner near the park, and after covering up against the cold and damp night air, walked back a few blocks  encountering  occasional street musicians, and orators;  then others just sitting and seemingly contemplating something (or nothing.) Some were sleeping, – just  there, wrapped up against the cold, misty air. Small shops sold household goods, some sold psychedelic paraphernalia, some gave out free coffee.   I bought a hand made straw daisy for $.75, and it would adorn the MGB and go back to New Jersey. 

Overhearing conversations, the hippies seemed to be here for a hundred reasons; and also for only one:  to express a want for social and political change in light of changing attitudes, and the troubling, ongoing Viet Nam war.  PEACE AND LOVE?  Here? Now? No doubt. But it was also sort of soft veneer, and of all the places, this was probably its epicenter. Of note, there was little, if any, visual police presence.

Hunger brought us into the diner, and cheeseburgers fit the bill. We felt gluttonous.

After 2 hours in the district, it was 10:45 PM, PDT, and we were worn down and tired, but decided to head out of the city to a warmer and drier climate for the night. Soon we were across the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, heading east. Two and a half hours and 135 miles later, at 1:30 AM, we stopped and slept on the banks of the Tuolumne River, about 28 miles east of Modesto, California.

See Day 8 here:  http://wp.me/p37YEI-S1   Yosemite Park, Mono Lake, crossing Nevada and Utah to Wyoming:   

The Great American Road-Trip – Day 6

Moments, in words and images, of our ~7000 mile, 11 day journey across the USA and back in a 1965 MGB roadster.

Missed the beginning? It starts with my 8/6/13 “…Prelude” post 

Short on Time? Just visit the Photos

Thanks! And, comments are always appreciated

Approximate route covering the first 6 days

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MAPS:

Exploring L.A. to Malibu on a 75 mile loop

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Late night exit from L.A.: 180 miles to San Luis Obispo

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Day 6:

Friday, Aug. 18, 1967    255 miles, about 19 hours

After a superb breakfast at nearby Uncle #2’s house, we thanked all for their extreme hospitality and left Van Nuys around 10 AM, PDT, well rested, eager to explore Los Angeles on our own, and swim in the Pacific Ocean. It was a beautiful warm day. Familiar California songs ran across our minds, if not on the radio: “California Sun,” the Rivieras; “77 Sunset Strip,” theme from the popular TV series. Our agenda was open and the day in Southern California was before us. 

Grauman’s Chinese Theater on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Stop the car, run around with the tourists, and GO!

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We would drive west along Hollywood Blvd., then two blocks south to Sunset Blvd. and it’s famous “Strip.” Historical Note: (See my post of 8/6/13: “…Prelude,”) A year ago to this date, the relatively unknown rock group “The Doors” were fired as the house band at the prestigious Sunset-Strip club Whiskee a’-go go as Jim Morrison became increasingly profane, thereby gaining popularity and eventually ascending from the fringes in the early rock culture.

Bill Cosby headlining the Whiskee a’ go go

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We explored some of affluent Beverly Hills, crossing over the Santa Monica Mountains to the Ventura Freeway, now headed to the coast

Palm-tree lined streets in Beverly Hills

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Land is at a premium in the canyons

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Our road maps would take us back down through the mountains and canyons (Think: The Mammas and The Papas: Twelve-Thirty!) along Las Virgines Road to Malibu Canyon Road from which we would see the Pacific Ocean, each for our first time. It was 12:50 PM, with 3733 miles on the odometer. Shortly, we were on California 1, the Coastal Highway, and would park at Malibu Pier. 

Eager to get in the Pacific Ocean

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Tom and I walked a few hundred yards to the other side of the pier, changed, and were in the water in seconds. Then soaking up the sun up on a blanket, watching the surfers, and  distracted by a California girl sitting near, alone “by the ocean floor,” as The Beach Boys “Surfer Girl” harmonized mentally within. We were close to the prime surfing spot, here in Southern California, on the beach, and it couldn’t get much better. Yes it could! Rent a surfboard for $4 an hour!

California Girls – Malibu

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Neither Tom nor I had ever been on a surfboard. Our skills (or lack of) were obvious to the hard-core guys and girls out there a little to the right, where the waves were moderate but occasionally breaking nicely. After a while of paddling around, I got up the nerve to move closer to the action. Soon, THE wave approached. I started paddling feverishly, almost fell off before even trying to stand, regained control, and, being really psyched now, made my move to stand, and thinking: ….to the awe and reverence of those on the beach… Then: “DON”T DO IT! DON’T DO IT MAN!” came the commanding call from…where???  Behind.    I dropped down before I even got up, wondering… WHAT? And two perfect guys with their perfect little dude surfer boards caught MY wave and perfectly (annoyingly!) surfed perfectly past me towards the beach. 

I would try a few more times and actually manage to stand for… about 4 seconds. Dejected, I went back to the blanket, dragging the board behind, as next, Tom’s performance was (I thought,) only marginally better! Well, ok, better! 

Kowabunga!  Marty Surfin Malibu!

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We actually savored our fortune to be enjoying this special place of lore, and would spend some three hours there relaxing and enjoying the scene. After each calling home, me dropping a fortune in quarters into a beach-side pay phone, (which sounded more like a slot machine,) we were back in the car headed down the coast, casually discussing where we might go next. It was about 4:00 PM

Historical Note: After passing Santa Monica Pier, actually the western terminus of Rt. 66, we would soon see Pacific Ocean Park, on its ocean-jutting pier, which was once envisioned to compete with Disneyland. (Re.: The Beach Boys again: “Lets Do Amusement Parks USA!”) But changing demographics and then urban revitalization projects were followed by significantly decreasing attendance which would result in the the park closing forever – which happened quietly about a month after we drove by.

Pacific Ocean Park, Santa Monica

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With several options, we decided to return to Sunset Blvd. on this Friday night, although heavy traffic would make it a long ordeal. Once there, we cruised Sunset Strip for a few more hours with thousands of others, slowely driving one end to the other and back a number of times enjoying the energy, and eating at one of the many sidewalk cafe’s, intrigued and amused by the “hippie” sub-culture. Trying to tell male from female was a pastime, as we ate our cheeseburgers, clearly out of place in our casual but suburban NJ attire. (Historical Note: This was to become known as “The Summer of Love,” a legitimate and powerful cultural transformation gaining momentum and flourishing right here, and in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco.)

Aside from the older tourists, it was different from New York’s Times Square, with which we were familiar. There was a genuine air of camaraderie here, a unification, easy purpose with a pervasive carefree attitude – undeniably fueled by seemingly restrained, almost passive  authority… and drugs. For myself, I may have felt a little inwardly elitist, morally (perhaps) resisting the temptation of a different and intriguing lifestyle. But we were observers, not partakers, and despite the amusement and curiosity would soon jump back into the MGB (often and shamelessly by not using the doors…) and begin our exit out of Los Angeles.

There was one more stop, however, right there on The Strip across from the comparatively mundane (think: expensive, older, out of our priority) Los Angeles Playboy Club. There, …was the furskin-covered car, displaying the various fur skins and rugs of a self made hunter-enterpreneur (or so he implied!) Tom and I would dole out somewhat disproportionate funds to validate the feelings for our often thought of girlfriends back home.

Well patronized fur guy in gas station lot across from the Los Angeles Playboy Club

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It was 11:15 PM, on Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, California, and $2.00 put 6.5 gallons (US) into the MGB’s tank (that’s $.31 per gallon.) We were tired, but cruised a bit more before leaving the city at a little after midnight. Tom was driving now, out Venture Freeway, California State 101 as I fell asleep.  At about 2:30 AM with 4004 miles, we pulled off the side of the road for the night, just south of San Luis Obispo.

Day 7, Up the coast to San Francisco    http://wp.me/p37YEI-Q5