A Night To Remember: Driving Through a Winter Snowstorm

        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.   

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Google Map: Mostly secondary and tertiary roads from Northern New Jersey to Niagara Falls between 8:30 PM and 8:00 AM, with significant overnight snow. Few divided highways except the NY State Thruway existed at the time.

     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.

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Coming through Buffalo, I had no idea where this “Sky Way” went, and after I drove over it, I still didn’t know. (NOTE: These photos were all taken after daylight, offset time-wise with the text.) 
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Snow drifts along the Niagara River. Canada is in the distance. My sneaker-clad footprints on the left!
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Rear wheel drive; a weak defroster; a terrible automatic “Slide-O-Matic” transmission or something, … a perfect learning machine.

     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.  

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I called my father from this “bridge,” actually a relatively new observation tower, overlooking Niagara Falls, and reluctantly paid $.50 to park in an empty snow covered lot. A lesson in local fiscal “rigidity.”  I suppose I could have refused and gone back home. 

     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. 

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Desolate, frigid, and awesome! The American part of Niagara Falls.

     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.   

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Goat Island, in the distance, is located between the American Falls, and Canadian Falls beyond.

      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. 

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The Canadian Falls. Getting this picture was another challange as the mist from the falls froze hard to things like the car windows while I was outside walking to the edge. Bare fingers began to loose feeling on the cold metallic SLR camera.

Please see Part two, the return, at: http://wp.me/p37YEI-1tl

Thanks for visiting, and as usual comments are always welcome. M 🙂

The Great American Road-Trip – Last Two Days, 10 and 11

Moments, in words and photos, of our 7704 mile (12,398 km,) 11 day trip across the USA and back in a 1965 MGB roadster.

This series began here

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Approximate return route from San Francisco to New Jersey

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DAY 10:

Tuesday, Aug. 22nd, 1967      956 miles (1,539 km)    ~16 driving hours 

 Western Kansas to Ohio

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Sometime in the middle of the night, Tom moved out of our luxury duplex apartment (car!) to the spaciousness of the grass, but apparently had some issues with insects, as close examination of the photo shows a can of RAID nearby.

60 miles west of Hays, Kansas. Rest area on Interstate 70.   Another fine nights sleep, at roadside America

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I continued sleeping while Tom started us moving at about 8:45 AM CDT, our primary objective now was simply getting home. Our secondary objective was a much overdue shower, which might explain why Tom left me in the car overnight, and why we were grumpy. About two hours later we dropped down about 20 miles to Kanapolis State Park, with wonderful facilities including showers, and snacks on the edge of it’s lake. We spent about an hour there, before winding our way back up to Interstate 70 in Salina, myself behind the wheel.

 Kanapolis State Park, Kansas       Ice cream cones, $.15; Malts and shakes, $.30; Sundaes, $.20 to $.30

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The weather was nice; the top down, and Kansas was uneventful. The turnpike from Topeka to Kansas City was $1.10, fairly expensive. Tom would take the wheel again after I drove about 220 miles and by twilight we were crossing the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri on the Rt. 66/Rt. 40 bridge where we had a nice view of the new Gateway-to-the-West Arch, and Busch Stadium II; the latter lit up for a Cardinals game.

 Crossing the Mississippi, the new St. Louis Gateway Arch, and Busch Memorial Stadium II, under the lights.

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An incident happened right after the bridge. An over rambunctious group of drunk kids in a wreck of a car came along side (at 65 mph,) yelled obscenities, and threw a bottle at us. It missed, but for a long several minutes they were harassing us, Tom understandably mad as hell, even AFTER they sped away. It was an interesting way to break the tedium of driving! It also was similar, but very different from the malt shake incident in Las Vegas! 

Interstate 70 was not complete through most of Illinois, and US 40 was relatively slow. At one point in the night, my straw hat blew out of the car and was instantly run over by a large truck! Sympathetically, Tom went back, and we stuffed the remains in the trunk. I’m afraid that was the highlight for the roughly 350-mile nighttime drive across Illinois and Indiana. I do recall hearing a Chicago radio station, and the mention of “Cousin Brucie” the popular WABC-AM DJ from New York City. But for the most part, I was asleep as Tom did over 500 miles (804 km) before stopping 3 miles beyond the Indiana state line, in Ohio. It was about 2 AM EDT.


DAY 11:

Wednesday, Aug. 23rd, 1967   676 miles (1,088 km) ~12.5 hours  

Western Ohio to Home

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The highway rest area just inside Ohio was the best we had seen. Spacious, clean cut grass, beautiful. There is no picture, because we didn’t care! It was 7:00 AM; we were 700 something miles from home, and to us, akin to a hop, skip and jump. Rt. 40 and Interstate 70 traded places across the state, we gassed up in Springfield, 12.9 gallons, costing $4.80, and would do it again a couple of hours later in Pennsylvania.

Looking back at the Wheeling Tunnel, just east of the Ohio River

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About 150 miles further, now on the Pennsylvania Turnpike we drove through Rays Hill Tunnel, one of several along the highway.

Rays Hill Tunnel, Pennsylvania Turnpike near Breesewood

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 Historical Note: A year after we were here, Rays Hill Tunnel along with nearby Sideling Tunnel, was abandoned (1968) when a new 4 lane by-pass was opened. When this original section of the turnpike opened in 1940, it utilized several railroad tunnels bored in the early 1880’s through the ancient Appalachian Mountains in southern Pennsylvania. Ultimately its purpose, the South Pennsylvania Railroad, was never completed and the tunnels remained unused for 55 years. But for 28 more years they served as the new Super Highway’s right of way until its narrow two lanes proved inadequate for traffic volume. Of note in our 1967 picture above is the original stainless steel lettering. Today (2013) the tunnels are a biking and hiking treasure, maintained by the Southern Alleghenies Conservancy. (Credit to Wikipedia)

 Current (2013) map showing abandoned tunnels of the Pennsylvania Turnpike

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The final stretch of our adventure, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, we took Rt. 22 into New Jersey, to the Garden State Parkway, and arrived home in Bergenfield at 7:25 PM, after 676 miles (1088 km) today, and a total of 7704 miles (12,398 km) to complete our incredibly memorable trip of a lifetime. 

 Seconds after stepping out of the MGB – one final picture, dirt and all

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Some Statistics

Miles on odometer:           7704 (12,398 km) +  roughly 50 additional  miles on family miles tour in Los Angeles.

Most in one day:                 1118 miles (1799 km) 21 hours.

Total time:                          ~10 days, 19 hours

Total driving time:            183/2 = roughly 90 hours each

Average Gas cost:             $.409 per gallon

Highest:                               $.449  (Grand Canyon/Yosemite); $.439,  Flagstaff Arizona

Lowest:                                $.309 (LA); $.319 (Western Pennsylvania)

Gas and oil used:               289 US Gal., $117.80. 13 US Qts. Oil, Av. $.568  per quart

Average mpg                       26.8

All expenses:                       Food, room, purchases, entertainment, tolls,  film, etc.: (~$150 each.) 

Performance of car:          Exceptional. No issues except Pikes Peak; no  needed repairs; engaging to drive; and  surprisingly comfortable.


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The Great American Road-Trip – Day 9

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

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

Short on Time? Just visit the photos.

Thanks! And, comments are always appreciated


Approximate route covering the first 9 days

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Day 9

Monday, Aug. 21st, 1967    800 miles (1,287 km) over 16.5 hours.

Four miles east of state line, Truckstop/rest area on Interstate 80, Wyoming to 25 miles west of Hays, Kansas

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Around 8 AM, MDT we rolled out of the dusty rest area sorta by rote now, priorities now shifting to the journey back home. Our original, enthusiastic itinerary, conceived with little thought to “burn out” and “exhaustion,” included returning though the Rockies. But we were simply saturated with great scenery, too many photo ops and …lack of restful sleep and normal routines! We hated to admit it, but opted for relatively benign Wyoming. 

Interstate 80 was new, and nearly featureless. Occasional points of interest were posted on signs, and our Rand McNally maps, but we pretty much pretended not to see them. Thoughts of our girlfriends, and family back home; real beds and showers were now taking focus.  

Looking back at Interstate 80 tunnel in Green River, WY., 85 miles from todays start.

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Historical Note: Tom and I were both interested in photography from earlier interests, and his Yashica SLR (I believe with a 50 mm f1.8 lens) and my EXA (see image below) were the hobby cameras. Then, I estimated the cost per slide at $.25 for film and processing. (Over $2.00 per slide in 2013 dollars!) So the cost of taking pictures, many of which were too poor to save, was enormous by today’s standards. And, obviously, todays quality is ….better! 


My manual 1961 Exa SLR, 50mm f2.8; and with 200mm f3.5 Vivatar fixed telephoto

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We topped off the 14 US gallon tank about half way across Wyoming for $.37/gal. and agreed to drop down, east of the Rockies to climb Pikes Peak. The turnoff from Interstate 80 was at Laramie, onto US 287, 25 miles NW of the Colorado State Line, which we crossed around 1:30 PM.


6 plus hours into the day, the Colorado State Line, Rt. 287

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In or near Fort Collins we stopped for late lunch in a unique restaurant utilizing an intercom at each booth for ordering. Can you say “Cheeseburger?”

Interstate 25 would take us past Denver, and then Rt. 24 near Colorado Springs to the Pikes Peak Auto Road about 75 miles south.  About 18 miles long, the road is an incredibly scenic treasure, ascending over 6000 ft. to the 14,100 ft., (4300 m) summit. Unfortunately, we would not get to the top! Although the MGB had performed flawlessly for 5700 miles, today it gasped and said enough!

The Pikes Peak Auto Road, before overheating. Note the dust from the road in the distance

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The views were impressive as we climbed through 11,000 ft. but the road was now a steady, switch-backed climb, seeming like it would never end and needing a constant second gear. Tom was noting the fast rising temperature. In minutes it became worrisome, and it was clear the car was beginning to overheat.

Our climb ended around 12,000 ft. (3660 m,) at a sharp curve overlooking Colorado Springs, ten miles (16 km) away and a vast 6000 ft. (1800 m) below. We were at milepost 15, three miles from the summit, when the “old faithful geyser “erupted as I opened the radiator safety.  In thin mountain air, one carburetor setting does not fit all with these cars; one very dirty air filter does not allow sufficient air flow; and excessive low gear RPM spells trouble. What did we know! To compound our troubles we didn’t read the cautions about excessive breaking, while coasting and breaking (duh!) on the way down, and subsequently waved over by the “Brake Check” guy at the milepost 11 check point. (I believe it was the red glow from our wheels that gave us away!) While the engine and brakes cooled, we bought post cards in the souvenir shop.


Tom checking the radiator at MP 15, Pikes Peak, 12,000 feet, and the end the line for us.

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It was 6:30 PM local time, and with 5775 miles on the odometer, we were officially headed home, leaving the mountain to another day.

After fuel and another quart of oil in Colorado Springs, for $5, we pushed on, northeast via Rt. 24 through the Great Plains to Limon Colorado, and grabbed a hamburger at a drive-in with the now extremely dirty car. Among the adolescent energy of the teens hangin’ out there, I wondered what they did otherwise, as a mile or two outside of Limon, the landscape and sky again were dark and deserted … and there really isn’t very much around.

Tom fell asleep as I continued east through the night, mostly alone but actually feeling exuberant that we were headed home, although half the country lie ahead. So flat, so long and empty, the plains extended into Kansas as we drove on in the night. An endless stream of broken white lines in the headlights was punctuated  by the silent blinking red lights of radio towers, miles apart, marking very small towns consisting of a few cross streets, a few simple buildings and the inevitable grain towers.  It actually was magical. The wonderfully constant purr of the little engine at 70 mph, and then the dropping down to higher rpm third gear as we slowed through these empty, deserted intersections – and the wind-up again to forth gear with the town fading away in the mirror. It’s hard to explain the feel of the “road.”


Historical Note: The standard transmission was a 4 speed manual like this, photographed recently, of a 1969 MGB

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The radio was mostly void of anything, but occasionally, especially late at night, we would pick up shadows of distant stations. “Funky Broadway” (Wilson Pickett) drifted in and out. Is that New York radio? West of Hays City, Kansas, now on Interstate 70, I pulled over for the night at 12:30 AM local time, 6,072 miles (9771 km) into the trip. Home was a mere 1632 miles (2625 km) away.

 Days Ten and Eleven, Homeward Bound:    http://wp.me/p37YEI-Tg      







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



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.

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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



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

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The panorama of restaurants and attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf



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



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.

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 3

Approximate route of Day 3, 1040 miles (via 1967 roads,) about 20 hours.


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Day 3

Tuesday, Aug. 15th, 1967. The real trip started today at 6:10 AM CDT, as we were now out of the Eastern States and entering new terrain. Anxious to resume from the primitive Rt. 66 rest area, 30 miles east of the Texas Panhandle, I accidentally stepped on that guy outside in his sleeping bag as I was sleepily climbing out of the car. It was about 45 minutes before dawn, and I was looking up at the starry sky, shaking the sleep off. We would be rolling shortly, pulling over by 6:50 AM to watch the sunrise – then in Texas.

Rt. 66 sunrise east of Amarillo, Texas – soon to be in New Mexico


Towns were few and far between now, and the plains would give way to the Manzano and Sandia Mountain ranges just before Albuquerque.

Dualized Rt. 66 in Eastern New Mexico, ~10 AM MDT


Sandwiches at Dairy Queen would be our lunch as we passed through the relatively laid back town of Albuquerque, with motels, gas stations and mostly rustic single-story commercial businesses. Across the nearly dry Rio Grande basin, Rt. 66 was a kaleidoscope of gas stations, souvenir shops – with giant tepees and arrows – and billboards one after another, playing up on such questionable concerns as “Fueling up” and getting “water bags” before the deserts ahead – not exactly the kind of commercialism we came out here for. 

Just west of Albuquerque, Rt. 66. Click to enlarge to see the billboards!


We did stop for wide brimmed hats and more sun tan lotion when switching drivers, me completing the first 10 hours and 450 miles so far today. Through the remainder of New Mexico and into Arizona, the scenery was new to us, and becoming impressive. Time and schedule dictated a lot of what we would do, passing up some lesser attractions, …and there were many “attractions,” deemed so by their ‘proprietors’: a pile of bricks and souvenir shop constituted “The Ruins” near Gallup, for example!

Thunderstorms, visible miles away, were developing later in the heat of the day, and before long we put the top up against the rains. Rt. 66 bisects Petrified Forest National Park, itself within the vast Painted Desert, $1.00 for the self guided auto tour within.

In less than great weather we explored some of this geological and historically fascinating park, devoid of most living trees and shrubs, or today… even people.


We were intrigued with dry gulches, flat top mesas, colorful eroded lands in shades of light gray, dirty reds and oranges and darker hues. Colors, however, were muted today as the weather was heavily overcast with some lightning, blowing sediments and rain – all actually adding to the allure of this unique place especially along it’s winding and narrow roads.

Although it would have been better under clear skies, we enjoyed the break.



As the rain tapered off, Tom and I had some fun climbing around a feature called “Newspaper Rock,” seeing some of the hundreds of petroglyphs; and later wandering in the petrified wood and log fields literally hundreds of millions of years old. Despite our efforts to stop them, some small pieces of petrified wood managed to illegally jump right into the car. As a result, we became unusually nervous while exiting the park under the scrutiny of a park ranger.

Taking AZ. Rt. 180 back to Rt. 66 in Holbrook, we were about an hour away from the Barringer Meteor Crater. It is perhaps the best preserved remnant of a meteor impact on earth. Massive and awe inspiring, it was of particular interest to Tom and I as we had shared an appreciation for astronomy in earlier years. It dominates the southern horizon as seen from Rt. 66 – five miles north.

50,000 year old Meteor Crater is three quarters mile across and 570 feet deep. 


Soon after dark we grabbed some quick food while getting gas just outside Flagstaff. Incredibly, two ashtrays illegally jumped into our car about then, and neither of us smoke! As planned, we left Rt. 66 here and headed north on comparatively lonely Rt 89, pushing on into the night after vaguely considering a motel, but becoming discouraged by the no vacancy signs north of the city. Now, we were headed for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was about 9:00 PM MST.

Very tired, I was getting irritable, and eventually fell asleep while Tom, equally tired, took us another hundred miles or so into the Navajo country before he stopped. He had done 425 miles and it was about 10:30 PM MST. I took over, surprisingly rested and soon was wide awake, and energized by the realization we were in such an exciting, remote place.The next couple of hours would become one of the most memorable driving nights of my life. As Tom slept, I continued north in the night bearing left at the tiny reservation town of Bitter Springs towards Marble Canyon, now driving on Rt. 89 Alt. This was a newly paved road, with freshly painted lineage and bright reflectors describing the path ahead. There were few other cars, no towns, and no people – and I was content and pleased with the car, a treat to drive  at a 65 to 70 mph clip. Maybe enhancing the peaceful solitude, was the lack of useable radio reception of any kind up there, just the wind and the road and the little 1798cc MGB engine. 

The night sky was a dark satin blue-black, punctuated by an impressive moon silkily illuminating the native terrain, with sheer cliffs getting my attention to the right, or east. I was enthralled, and the knowledge that the powerful Colorado River and eastern vestiges of the Grand Canyon were just off to the west, exponentially drove my already super-charged excitement and anticipation of what was to come.

I knew we would soon be crossing the river and approaching the small town of Marble Canyon as the speed limit decreased and the road coursed around some large rock features,  descending onto the  long, narrow two lane bridge. I stopped in the middle, shut off the engine, placed a battery operated rotating red ‘danger’ light on top of the car and looked in awe over the railing. In the light of that gibbous moon I could see and faintly hear the Colorado River rushing far below, and …see the shadow of the arch bridge on the walls of the canyon. In the early morning hours of August 16th… this was a moment. Alone, still, quiet – except for the soft mechanical sound of the little light, and the faint rush below; under the velvet sky and moonlight in the canyon.    Nice! 

From here, Rt 89 Alt. climbed continuously for many miles through the changing terrain, from plateau desert to increasingly pine-tree populated forest. The temperature was dropping into the 40’s (F) as we approached the junction at Jacob Lake, 7921 feet in elevation. Turning south on Rt. 67 we eventually followed signs to an overlook called “Imperial Point,” and stopped, totally alone, for the remainder of the night. We could only imagine what daylight would bring, now on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The sun would be rising above the Navajo lands to the east in a few short hours. It was …around 1:30 AM MST.

See Day 4 here:   http://wp.me/p37YEI-IK    

Sun rising, Aug. 16, 1967, above the plateaus of the Navajo Reservation, six miles away, east of Imperial Point, Grand Canyon. 


The Great American Road Trip, (Part 1) – Day 1 and 2

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Day 1

Sunday, Aug. 13, 1967. AT 3:00 AM I picked up my friend Tom and we left our hometown of Bergenfield, NJ, headed west on Rt. 4 and beyond, to begin our 11 day, 7000 mile cross-country round-trip, buoyed on by the excited anticipation of what lies ahead – and soon noted hearing The Mamas and The Papas “California Dreamin'” playing on 77 WABC.  Despite the late hour, we were wide awake and savoring the reality at last. With little to no traffic, reaching the $.10 toll bridge at the Delaware River in Easton, Pennsylvania took about 1-1/2 hours, now on Rt. 22 heading through the night to Harrisburg. About 265 miles from home, the Pennsylvania Turnpike took us through old railroad tunnels bored in the 1880’s under some of the ancient ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. Tom took the wheel at daybreak off I. 70, south of Pittsburgh after we took a short break, stretched our legs and put the top down. Shortly, we passed into West Virginia near Wheeling, and then over the Ohio River into Ohio on US Rt. 40.

Passing from West Virginia into Ohio over the Ohio River, about 6 1/2 hours, and 430 miles from home

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This is how it was, pretty much non-stop driving, one of us resting and sleeping (sort-of!) and the other driving and navigating generally in 6 hour shifts of about 300 plus miles. In the East, the Interstate Highway System was well under development, which allayed a faster and smoother but frankly somewhat lackluster aspect to this part of the trip. Our expectations were more focused on the West, with more intimate, older roads and the potential of new and more dramatic experiences and sceanery. As we drove to Columbus, then south-west towards Cincinnati, the right seat had been converted into a semi-comfortable lounge by removing the seat back bolts and leaning it backwards against the dashboard. Particularly when the convertible top was down, this afforded plenty of leg room – over the luggage behind the seats, and onto the rear deck. We would quickly manage to switch the seat back and forth as desired.

Tom checking the map on Interstate 40 – an hour or two east of Columbus, Ohio. Good road, fast and smooth, but a little boring.

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About 700 miles in, we crossed the Ohio River again, out of Ohio and into Kentucky, taking the Blue Grass Parkway towards Elizabethtown. It would be 7:30 PM, north of Bowling Green on Rt 35 W before the first stop for local cheeseburgers, previously munching on mostly much appreciated girlfriend-supplied goods and snacks. Tom was driving now, after I had done the past 355 miles, and – we were still feeling fine, actually singing (if it could be called that) and otherwise enjoying the ever-changing AM radio stations along the way – particularly those with relevancy: Beach Boys, “California Girls;” The Rivieras, “California Sun.”

Leaving the Kentucky Turnpike. Tolls in Kentucky totaled $1.40 with some booths under overpasses.

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Soon, crossing into mid-Tennessee, I was reveling in the passenger “lounge” while the top was still down, and the reverse seat back cushioned by blankets and pillows. Staring up at the night skies, I was content – the car feeling “substantial” to me, and riding well. That’s a lot to say for a 12.5 foot roadster. I must have been overtired. 

We purposely passed through Nashville to see the city lights and buildings, but not stopping the momentum for actual sight-seeing. We chose to keep pretty much to our pace. It would be at a primitive I. 40 rest stop, about 100 miles east of Memphis when Tom pulled off and literally rolled out of the car onto the ground with his sleeping bag. I continued sleeping in the car, top up now, as we ended our first day at 12 Midnight, 21 hours and 1118 miles from home.

Waking well after the sunrise, 100 miles east of Memphis Tennessee, on Interstate 40

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Day 2

Monday, Aug. 14,1967. For some reason(!) we slept well past sunrise, the sounds of passing cars and trucks providing a lulling background to the sleep-deprived. Wheels moving at 8 AM (CDT,) Reaching Memphis and the Mississippi River by 10:00 AM. Sign in city: “The Monkeeys are coming,.”  “Hey, Hey we’re the Monkeeys,” and a quick stop before the bridge at river’s edge to see the riverboats. Arkansas was at the other end of the bridge, …and there, we were now west of the Mississippi.

The shoreline of the Mississippi River, across from Mud Island, Memphis

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Shortly after, we stopped for essentials:  snacks, fruit…and fireworks! Gas was expensive, 12.4 US Gallons costing $4.70. Bobbi Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe” was playing on the radio just past Little Rock. At a brief stop at a little highway stand for sun tan lotion, a local woman commented about our “fancy car,” like it was from another planet. 

Poverty was apparent in some rural areas of Arkansas, and it seemed  some dogs were even given second class status.

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400 miles into this warm, sunny day we stopped to bond with the Oklahoma State sign, on I. 40

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And closer to Oklahoma City, the sight of oil wells became common, still on I.40

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It was about 5:00 PM CDT and we were now seeing the subtle changes in terrain and appearance of never before seen oil wells. Tom took the wheel in the late afternoon and would drive the rest of the day. I turned the seat back around and watched the road disappear behind us, exchanging waves to a NJ plated car as it drifted behind our 65 to 70 mph pace. A little while later, we would meet and talk, and share stories with this driver at a small eatery on Rt. 66, just past Oklahoma City. Passing through the state capitol at dusk, was the unusual sight (for us,) of an oil well planted on the lawn, right in front of the State House. The TV show theme “Route 66” naturally came to mind frequently along here. Heading west after dark, this road would take us into the beginnings of the western plains, towards the Texas Panhandle. After a few more hours, we pulled over and stopped for the night at 1:30 AM CDT, on Rt. 66, completing a total of 750 miles today and about 1875 miles from home. We were in Oklahoma, 30 miles east of the Texas line. Tom preferred his sleeping bag at the side of the car while I “continued” sleeping in the car.  The real trip would start in a few short hours.

 Day 3:  http://wp.me/p37YEI-DW  

The Great American Road Trip – Prelude

ImageMy friend Tom and I had traveled together before, but California was the real thing, the ultimate road trip, and the time was right. Summer breaks from college were ending; future obligations with military and careers were looming; and each of us were becoming more involved and closer with the girls who eventually would become our wives….and still are. The image of Jeanne above was taken a few days before we departed, and would be in my thoughts constantly. 

My 1965 MGB had one more stop before Tom and I would depart Bergenfield, N.J. at 3:00 AM August 13th. That would be with Jeanne and I to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, (Queens, NYC) to see Simon and Garfunkel in what would become perhaps one of the most memorable concert mismatches of the 60’s: relatively quiet, thought provoking, folksy songs of the headline duo; opened by the almost unknown, screaming loud, freaky, scary antics of Jim Morrison and the Doors – the latter having a bad emotional night and venting that with screeching and instrument smashing. Sitting high up in our $5 seats, we shared the shock and stunned silence bestowed by the audience to the new group from California, which left Morrison to reportedly say “I want to kill this crowd!” (“Killing…” is a phrase he prolongedly screamed out in their first number, “The End.”)   Ironically, S&G came on shortly after with their iconic hit “Sounds of Silence!” (See a description of this iconic concert here.)

Of course, the Doors would go on to become one of the premiere rock groups of the 60’s, of which I have long been a fan (Think: “Light My Fire.”) And Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have left us with a lifetime of great music. 

Driving home after the show, I was psyched for the cross country trip to begin, starting in just 2 hours.

Below is the MGB as it looked, freshly cleaned the day before. Note it is actually British Racing Green, not black as photographically rendered.  

See Part One here.