Published: April 10th 2011July 18th 1998
I had just completed my duties as the Program Manager for the AMEC program, and my boss wanted to know if I wanted to move to California to work at our Environmental R&D lab at Port Hueneme. So we decided to take a look, and on the way would see some of the West, most of which we had seen before on home leave from Europe.
18 July 1998 Saturday. We piled into the van and headed west through Maryland, West Virginia, the southwest tip of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In Ohio our air conditioner failed so we pulled off to see if a garage could fix it. We drove on U.S. routes instead of the Interstates to stop at more garages. Every garage we stopped was booked up. We finally arrived at a motel in Decateur, Illinois around 9 pm without success.
19 July 1998 Sunday. We bought spray fans to keep cool and continued to Springfield to visit Lincoln’s home. And then we were off to Hannibal, Missouri to visit Mark Twain's hometown. We continued across Missouri to Independence to see the President Truman's home and the start of the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails. We
stopped in Abilene to see President Eisenhower's boyhood home. Only in America can you start at the bottom and end at the top. We stayed in Salina, Kansas for the night. Rosanna didn’t want to stop in Kansas because she was afraid of tornadoes. We stopped anyway.
20 July 1998 Monday. We drove southwest across Kansas, stopping in Fort Larned, one of the forts protecting the Santa Fe Trail. Then it was on to Dodge City where we had lunch. We continued southwest on US 56 and 64, through the Panhandle of Oklahoma and clipping the northwest corner of the Texas Panhandle. Crossing into New Mexico the weather grew more foreboding, with the formation of tornado clouds. At one point we were sure funnel clouds were starting to form just to our north. We made it to the Rocky Mountains at Cimarron and continued over the mountains to Taos. The kids loved the adobe houses and buildings. We had dinner and stayed in a motel which had Indian dances for the guests.
21 July 1998 Tuesday. The first thing in the morning was to go to a local garage that fixed air conditioning systems. It took an hour
and cost $60. We walked around the plaza, but soon were headed north into Colorado and to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. As soon as I stopped the car, Will jumped out and ran towards the highest sand dune which was hundreds of feet high. The wind was starting to pick up and we could see thunderstorm approaching from the west. We tried to call for him to come back, but with the wind blowing uin our faces, our voices didn’t carry very far. We saw him start to climb and became increasingly concerned as he would be totally exposed to lightning on the side or top of the dune. Finally about half way up he gave up and started back. It started to rain and we were all soaked as we climbed back into the van. We continued west through Pagosa Springs and Durango, arriving at the Fairview Lodge at Mesa Verde National Park at dinnertime. After dinner I stopped at the visitor center to get tickets for the first tour in the morning.
22 July 1998 Wednesday. We took the ranger tour of the Balcony House and Cliff Palace cliff dwellings all morning. Then we headed
west to the four corners where four states meet at a point. Then we drove to Monument Valley and stayed at the Goulding’s Trading Post. We did our laundry and talked to several Indians who were also doing theirs. Our kids played with their kids.
23 July 1998 Thursday. We drove to Page, Arizona and then to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park where we had a log cabin for the night. We walked to Bright Angel Point and watched the sun set over the canyon before having dinner at the lodge.
24 July 1998 Friday. We drove to Bryce Canyon National Park and walked from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point before having lunch at the lodge. We then drove to Zion National Park and hiked to the Grotto and the Emerald Pools. We stayed at the lodge that night.
25 July 1998 Saturday. We drove to St George where we stopped to do our laundry and have lunch. Then we continued to Las Vegas where we checked into the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel pool. That evening as we walked around to see the lights,
inside and outside, the kids became fascinated with the slot machines. Linda thought she would teach them a lesson about the dangers of gambling. We had a pile of quarters left over from doing our laundry, so she started to feed the machines. Pretty soon they started dinging and quarters piled out. She won enough to buy each of them souvenir T-shirts. They didn’t learn their lesson. We ate at the buffet. By the time we walked over to the Luxor Hotel and Casino, my stomach was turning in knots. Our tour of hotels was cut short as I couldn’t be more than a hundred yards from the nearest bathroom. I took medicine that allowed me to sleep.
26 July 1998 Sunday. I was feeling much better as we crossed the Mojave Dessert. We arrived at Anaheim where we checked into a hotel near Disneyland. We spent the afternoon at the hotel pool and that evening at a local mall.
27 July 1998 Monday. We spent the day at Disneyland. This was the most crowded I had ever seen it. Nevertheless, I was pretty good at using the passes and we were able to go on most of
the rides. By 5 pm we had enough and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway past Santa Monica and Malibu to Oxnard/Ventura, where we stayed at the Embassy Suites on the Pacific Ocean.
28 – 30 July 1998 Tuesday through Thursday. I had to work these three days, but after work we checked out the neighborhoods, schools, and prices to see if I wanted to have a job here. I found the schools to be terrible, with gangs, run down facilities, and just a poor quality of education compared to Fairfax County schools that are in the 95th percentile. Acceptable housing was overpriced. Everything including taxes was too high. Meanwhile, during the day the kids had wanted to use the hotel pool, but the morning fog was very cold, so they didn’t really use the pool much. I decided that California was a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
31 July 1998 Friday. We drove north on US 101 t San Luis Obispo and then Route 1 along the Pacific Coast past the Hurst Castle at San Simeon and stopping at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the giant redwoods and
have lunch. We drove along Big Sur and stopped at the mission in Carmel and drove the 17 Mile Drive to Monterey, where we walked around as there was a festival going on. We ate food from the various booths. We stopped for the night at a motel just north of Monterey.
1 August 1998 Saturday. We continued on Route 1 to Half Moon Bay and then cut over the peninsula to San Mateo and San Francisco. We walked around Chinatown and ate lunch at a won ton shop that had a picture of Bill Clinton eating there. We seem to be following him around. He does have good taste! We then proceeded to the Fisherman Wharf area, but couldn’t get tickets to Alcatraz. We shopped Pier 39, had dinner, and checked into a hotel for the night.
2 August 1998 Sunday. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed north to Sonoma Valley wine country, and then across the mountains to Napa Valley where we toured from Calistoga through St Helena to Napa, stopping at several wineries for their wine making tours and samples. We stayed the night at a motel near Napa.
3 August 1998
Monday. From Napa we drove east to Yosemite National Park where we hiked the valley floor. From there we drove along the west slope of the Sierra Madre through towns made famous by the 1849 gold rush, and then cross over to Carson City, Nevada where we spent the night.
4 August 1998 Tuesday. We caught I-80 just north of Carson City, and headed east across Nevada and Utah. I don’t know if there is a more desolate highway in America, although I hear the US 50 across Nevada may be worse. We stopped in West Andover to see the Bonneville Salt Flats where land speed records are set. We spent the night in Salt Lake City.
5 August 1998 Wednesday. We continued east to Green River, Wyoming and then south through the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area which was an exceedingly scenic drive. We then stopped at the Dinosaur National Monument to look for dinosaurs. We found many fossils. We drove east on US 40 and spent the night in Craig.
6 August 1998 Thursday. We drove south to I-70 and had lunch in Vail. We had to pick up our pace as we wanted to
be home by Sunday, so we continued past the dramatic Rocky Mountain scenery and onto the Great Plains starting in Denver. We took I-76 northeast to Nebraska and rejoined I-80. We stayed that night in North Platte.
7 August 1998 Friday. We headed east on I-80, stopping in Kearney to see a Pony Express Station and remnants of the Oregon Trail. We crossed the Missouri River at Omaha and entered Iowa. Just before Des Moines we took a detour south the Winterset, the hometown of John Wayne, and also the location of the covered bridges of Madison County. Just before Iowa City we detoured to the Amana Colony, a cluster of seven villages founded by a radical group of German Pietists. They made everything they needed. If they couldn’t make it, then they didn’t need it. That night we stayed in Dixon, Illinois the hometown of President Ronald Reagan.
8 August 1998 Saturday. We raced eastward and were near New Castle, Pennsylvania, Linda’s family’s home about 5 pm. We decided rather than stopping there, we would continue to Falls Church, arriving there about 10 pm. This would give us Sunday to recuperate.
We decided we didn't want
to move to California. It was a nice place to visit, but we didn't want to live there. So from August 1998 to August 2005 I was director for facilities planning and integration, where I was primarily involved in automating business processes and the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure program.
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