In the summer of 1961 my grandparents took me on a three week driving vacation in the western states. Our chief routes were U.S. 101 from Torrance, CA to Vancouver Island, BC (1,200 miles), and U.S. 395 back home (1,500 miles).
I was ten and thoroughly enjoyed the company of my grandma and grandpa for those 2,700+ miles. We got along well in the confines of our 1957 Ford Fairlane, punctuated by nightly Travelodge stays, visits to friends in Eugene, OR, and to my great uncle in Tacoma, WA.
My grandma chose the rear seat, designating me as front navigator to help Gramps drive, not that our simple routes required many decisions. But I kept our maps organized in an always-open glove compartment tray, which I regarded as the command center for our trip. It was delightful for me to be able to announce the next junction or town, and then see it materialize on the horizon ahead.
On this trip I developed a life-long affinity for the design and function of on-offramps, bridges, trestles, tunnels, piers, train tracks & yards, pine & redwood forests, bays, lakes, rivers and mountains. Most of our north-bound journey hugged the coast, some of the most striking scenery in the world.
In Vancouver Grams ceremoniously donned her foxtail fur, and then for an hour paraded the lobby of the Victoria Empress Hotel as if she were royalty. No Canadians guessed she'd be in a Travelodge wearing a ragged terrycloth robe a few minutes later.
For the return trek, Gramps selected the inland route through eastern Washington and Oregon. We hooked up with U.S. 395 in Kennewick, WA and visited Reno and Tahoe on the way back to Los Angeles, eventually taking U.S. 6 through downtown L.A.. In Reno we stayed in a Hill & Sons Motel, notable for the private enclosed garage attached to each room:
The route home 1961
In 1975 my soon to be wife Stephanie and I drove U.S. 395 from San Diego to Stateline, Nevada to visit her brother who was a blackjack dealer at Harrah's casino. It was February, affording a chance to experiencing 395's wintry face.
Our cat Naomi accompanied us in our yellow Pinto, dubbed Penny. Penny Pinto was a 1971 Runabout hatchback, a Ford with German-made drivetrain. The 2000 cc motor endowed Penny with ample horsepower given her modest weight. I cannot recall that trip without indelible memories of Penny sustaining unbroken 115 mph progress for almost an hour during one southbound segment of our return path down 395.
As my fiance and I relished the plans we were making to wed, it was an incomparably exhilarating feeling, our chariot Penny forging ahead, bracketed by snowy meadows with the cathedral castle Sierra Nevada towering above, Naomi purring in our laps. A month after we arrived home, Naomi gave birth to two kittens, one of which was in our family for sixteen years.