It was January 23rd, 1965, and I had driven through the night in a winter snowstorm from New Jersey to Niagara Falls in my parents 1960 Buick.
After seeing and photographing the falls, I continued north, first on the Canadian side, and then back in the U.S., to the mouth of the Niagara River where it flows into Lake Ontario. Heading home now, the first 30 miles or so on Rt. 18, along the lake’s southern edge, was magical …the road virtually deserted as the high winds whipped falling and drifting snow across its breath. I loved the adventure. (See end of first part for more “frigid”comments on this stretch)
The image below was taken around 4:00 PM before running out of film and daylight near Avon, The snow continued to fall, although more lightly, into this second night.
I stayed overnight in a decent $8 motel in Bath, leaving at about 10:30 AM the next morning with frozen hands after cleaning off the snow covered car.
Continuing southeast on Rt. 15 brought me to to nearby Savona, where I turned left onto Rt. 226 with the anticipation of passing through Watkins Glen, noted for its automotive race track, and for me particularly, its famous 400 foot deep natural gorge and waterfalls. See this link. Seeing the gorge was not to happen. In fact I was lucky to get anywhere near it. Being a bit self assured, (think: cocky,) I didn’t mind the snow covered conditions of the back roads. But at Tyrone, (upper right in the first map below, left of center in the second) I was determined to take a more direct route, turning right off State Rt. 226, onto Schuylar County Rt. 23 (not labeled.)
It should be mentioned that the ‘few miles wide’ ridges between New York’s Finger Lakes rise from a few hundred feet to about 1000 feet (3050 m) above the lakes. Watkins Glen was on Seneca Lake over one of these ridges, and Huey Hill was in my way. Starting from the intersection at the bottom, I was able to reach about 40 mph (64 kmh) before losing traction on the hill. But I just couldn’t make it to the top. I backed the Buick down and tried again, gaining only a few more feet. The third time, with more initial speed, ended in similiar defeat as the tires just could not maintain their grip on the snowy surface. I felt I was in control, but the “slide-o-matic” Buick just couldn’t maintain any further, upward-forward traction! (Of course, 4 wheel drive, good tires and posi-traction would have helped.) Today (2015) I know it was 1.8 miles (2.9 km) from the intersection to the top with a vertical gain of about 600 feet (1830 m.)
Sulking a bit, it took me a while more to get to Watkins Glen by a much longer, gradually climbing (and descending) state road. And then, upon arrival, the Watkins Glen State Park was closed! I think I was a little relieved.
After 7 more hours, at 7:30 PM, I was back in New Jersey after nearly 1000 miles over about 47 hours, and expenses of about $46.
Immediatly after, my Dad and I had a “conversation!”
Just another interesting week-end.
The camera: a 1960 Exacta (EXA) 35 mm manual SLR, f2.8 50 mm lens. Body composition: finger-freezing metal!
As usual, thanks for viewing, and comments are always welcome.M 🙂
January 22, 1965, 8:30 PM. I was all of 18 years old and casually asked my father if I could borrow the car to go to the “bridge.” He was okay with that, as the GWB was only about 12 miles away; but would soon discover that my intentions were a little more ambitious and the bridge in question was actually in Niagra Falls, NY, some 400 miles away. I loved the recent liberation of being a licensed driver and anticipation of seeing and experiencing new adventures. I was also very aware that a winter snowstorm was intensifying over western New York State and consequently about to learn winter driving skills that would last throughout my life.
Short on time? Just browse the images below.
There are no photos of the night. I had no boots, no gloves, no sense and no ambition to try and take pictures of featureless, blowing whiteness at night. There were few “interstate” roads, and I scoffed at the idea of paying money for THE toll road, the NY State Thruway. So it was secondary and tertiary roads with little traffic all night, except for snowplows, a few trucks, an amusing Corvair, and speeding Cadillac. I hated it when snowplows passed me – made me feel inadequate and messed up my windshield!
Snow had begun falling about 150 miles up Rt. 17 before midnight and began accumulating rapidly. Around 3:00 AM I pulled into a deserted rest area just past Corning, my tires clogging and squeaking to a stop in the deepening snow. An hour later, with chattering teeth, I wiped the fresh snow off the car, rocked it to get some traction, and plowed my way out to Rt. 17.
Around 280 miles into the trip, 4:30 AM, I was on Rt 15, a two lane highway now heading north following the tracks of a patrol car who in turn was following a truck in heavy snow all doing about 30 MPH (48 km/hr.) Coming down a hill, still behind them, I cleverly decided to drop the car into low gear to slow down, and promptly spun out, sliding sideways in a panic. I quickly (yeah, right, like skillfully??? I was only 18! …okay, I luckily) got the car under control by putting it back into drive, just one of many lessons learned tonight.
Continuing in the snowy night, Rt. 15 heads west at the little town of Springwater in the western Finger Lakes region. There really was no town there, at least I couldn’t see anything. Rt 15a continued straight. I took 15 because it was a short-cut, and in a half mile came to a gradual hill. As I continued the climb, the wheels started to lose traction until I …stopped forward motion. So I backed slowly and very carefully down the hill while learning more lessons… this time about simple coeficient of friction and its relation to losing traction and then forward motion! (I was struggling thru Physics I class at this time, after all!) This “experiment” was tested several times before a guy in a light truck stopped and suggested sarcastically that I wait for dawn and the snowplows. Instead, I scoffed, imagined hearing him utter something offensive about kids, and, after backing down the hill for the third time took the longer and flatter Rt 15a.
A few miles north was Rt 20a, just a simple, two lane east-west, single path roadway in the shadow of the New York State Thruway, a half dozen miles north. In the pre-dawn snow storm, this was an interesting stretch – heavy snow falling, the long white un-plowed lane in the headlights of the car. For a while I was following a small Corvair. On the sides of the two tire tracks were about 8 or 9 inches (20 -23 cm) of snow. Occasionally, he would swerve into the deep snow throwing a white-out cloud of powder over the Buick.
While on 20a, the sky started to brighten, not very much, speading an eerie blueness over the landscape. Snow was coming down as hard as ever. There were several modest hills, some with larger trucks trapped before the summits. I needed to keep strongly focused with the car square in the tracks. Not too much later, a large Cadillac whooshed by at about 60 Mph (100 KM.Hr,) scaring the hell out of me with a blinding cloud of snow engulfing my car in its wake.
I eventually came into the town of Lancaster around 7 AM, found some breakfast, and then to Niagra Falls after going through near deserted Buffalo. Later in the day, I would car-surf on “waves” of snow drifts along a road skirting the southern edge of Lake Ontario; stop and skitter up in my white sneakers across high drifts and stinging gale winds to catch a glimpse of the lake – its just barely visible shoreline marked by enormous blocks of ice showered with angry, spraying wind-blown waves of frigid water.
The long day ended that night, me sleeping well at an $8 motel in Bath, NY, 658 miles since beginning. Part of that afternoon was not without more adventures, but that will be noted on a short follow-up post including information about the camera and photos. I was back to New Jersey on the following day, after a total of 967 miles.
Saturday Aug. 19th, 1967 442 miles (711 km) over 16.5 hours.
San Luis Obispo to Near Turuck Lake, Rt 132, (Yosemite Blvd.) California
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
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
Forays to the water’s edge were the best: Craggy rocks, rushing waterfalls, pools of life-harboring seawater …, all there to explore
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
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
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.
Frequently, the sand was very different from the New Jersey Shore: NO FOOT PRINTS!
Tom taking the picture: Big Sur – Sand, Sea and….Me
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!”
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
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!
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
The panorama of restaurants and attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf
Near there, we rodethe 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
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
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.