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

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.

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