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Published: April 22nd 2020
JOHNNY'S JOURNEYS: CALIFORNIA and NEVADA 1980
November 26, 1980 (Wednesday)
My dad has temporarily transferred to Oakland, California. The Bell South Telephone Co. in
Montgomery, AL will pay for him to fly back home every three weeks. Or, a family member can fly
out to CA to see him. My mom has flown out there 4 times already. Now it is my turn. My pharmacy
class let out early today... for the Thanksgiving holidays. I drive from Tuscaloosa to Montgomery and
am ready to fly to the West Coast. Yes, this is my first trip to the Golden State of California.
After a short layover in Atlanta, GA, I enjoy my 3 time-zone flight to the San Jose airport. My
dad is waiting for me and I soak in the West Coast “atmosphere” as he drives us to Oakland. He is
residing at an apartment complex, overlooking Lake Merritt. After bringing up my luggage, I just
wanted to look out the window, at the beautiful lake below. And there were so many joggers.
We drove into San Francisco for dinner, then drove around to see the sights! The most impressive
to me was Coit Tower, atop Telegraph Hill. Such wonderful views. We went to bed early this night,
so we can get an early start tomorrow.
November 27, 1980 (Thursday)
It is Thanksgiving Day! We will visit some of the “must see” tourist attractions today. And our first
stop is in Chinatown. The colors were lively! And I found the perfect souvenir. It is an oriental scene,
carved out of cork! There is a pagoda, bridge, storks, trees, steps, etc. The intricacy of the work is
extraordinary. I read that at one time, one-third of all San Francisco residents were Asian. Dad and I
had recently eaten breakfast... but the food here smelled delicious.
Next for us was a ride along Lombard Street. It is referred to as the most crooked street in the world.
It is a one-lane, one way down street. There are eight switchback or hair pin turns. The landscaping and
flowers were beautiful. Now it's time to find a parking spot and do a little walking.
Yes, the next must-see attraction was to ride in a cable car. I have seen these in dozens of movies and
television shows... and was glad to finally ride in one. The first cable car was introduced in 1872.
And the cable cars were designated as a National Landmark in 1964. After a little ride, we wanted to
walk up a few steep streets and get a scenic view of the water.
It is time for lunch and we drive to the famous Fisherman's Wharf of San Francisco. Historic
markers show that the Port of San Francisco was developed in 1863. This is where the city meets the
bay! I don't know how many piers there are here, but Pier 39 seems to be the best place to visit. There
are at least a dozen restaurants to choose from. Today's menu will feature a Thanksgiving dinner:
turkey, dressing, cranberries, etc. We sat outside, under the shade of an umbrella. I thoroughly enjoyed
taking in the views from my first trip to the Golden State.
There are so many inviting shops to visit. The one that got my attention was at Ghiradelli Square.
And we walked to the edge of the boardwalk... by the water. Looked hard for sea lions, but didn't see
any. Maybe this is the wrong time of the year. And not too far in the distance is the world famous
Now it's time to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. Opened in 1937, it has been called “possibly the
most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world”. Wow, my first view of the vast
Pacific Ocean. We keep driving north until we come upon the small city of Sausalito. There is an art
gallery/studio we pass on the main street. So disappointed that it's closed. But that was expected on a
Thanksgiving holiday. The owner is the nephew of Mrs. Irene Granger. She was my landlady this past
summer in Auburn, New York. I hoped I would be able to meet him. Anyway, it has been a lovely drive
We drive back across the one mile long Golden Gate Bridge, and I notice a lane for walkers and
bikers. Maybe I can do that on another trip out here. The weather has been cooperative, with no fog in
sight today. We stop for some fast food / hamburgers as we near our hotel in Oakland. It has been a fun
November 28, 1980 (Friday)
We get up real early this morning, for we're heading to Nevada! We have about a 200 mile drive in
front of us. This is a change of pace from yesterdays travels. We pass through dozens of cities and
small towns. One such place was Placerville. Nothing really outstanding about this. But the next day
we read that two hours after driving through, there was an earthquake. Wow. In the eastern part of the
state, we drive through the Eldorado National Forest. The crisp mountain air smelled wonderful when
we took an occasional break. And I could see snow on distant mountaintops. We are within the
boundary of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
As we near the state line, we pass through South Lake Tahoe. Then we arrive at Stateline, Nevada.
This is now the 26th
state I have been in! We check into a motel where Dad has been to many times.
Lucky for us, a casino is right down the street. Plus, it offers a great dinner. I / we try our luck at the
slot machines and a little game called Black Jack. Not much success tonight. After awhile, I register to
play Keno. Well, no luck with that game either. But it was a colorful and fun setting!
November 29, 1980 (Saturday)
After a hearty breakfast and checking out, we are ready to explore the Silver State. Driving north on
Hwy. 50 we have some excellent views of Lake Tahoe. It is the largest alpine lake in North America!
And it is the second deepest lake in the country (at 1645 feet), behind Oregon's Crater Lake. So very
scenic as we drive about 35 miles up to Carson City.
Being a coin collector, I have seen the “CC” mint marks on silver dollars. And now we're here in
Carson City, at the state capital building. Never thought it would be this WINDY today! Nevada is the
second largest producer of silver in the country. We next went through Silver City. It is basically a
ghost town today, with just a few hundred residents. There was a large sign I read about the history of
The Comstock Lode, discovered in 1858, was near Virginia City. There is a large stone monument,
with a marker, highlighting the history of the huge vein of silver, named after Henry Comstock. Our
travels take us to Virginia City. It's a wonderful place to walk the sidewalks, and feel you are strolling
through history. There are hundred year old stores, saloons, the world's largest coffee grinder, etc.
Even got to see Bonnie and Clyde's bullet riddled car, on display at one of the casinos.
As we left town, I got a photo of the famous Home of Bonanza sign. Unfortunately, the Ponderosa
Ranch was closed for the winter. I could close my eyes and just see the Cartwright family riding their
horses. Hope to visit there on another trip. We continued driving leisurely, before turning turning due
west. We are climbing in elevation,as we see Reno in the distance. But did not go tour it. Dad and
Mom have already been to Reno, which calls itself “The Biggest Little City In The World”!
Now we've crossed back into California. Squaw Valley is up ahead. Best known as the host site of
the 1960 Winter Olympics, the eternal flame still burns brightly at the entrance to the Olympic Village.
I see the five interlocking rings, signifying the Olympic Games, at the entrance to the site. Sure hope to
go to an Olympics game one day.
Our drive takes us through more mountains and forests. Getting to Auburn, we decide to stop at a
Burger King for supper. Well, the owner of this franchise is there, taking orders at the counter. It is Jim
Otto, a former NFL Oakland Raiders football player. He famously wore a jersey with the number 00.
He was proudly wearing his 1967 American Football League Championship ring. I complimented him
with a “nice ring” comment. He thanked me. After eating, we enjoyed looking at some of his football
memorabilia inside the fast food place.
More driving and we reach Sacramento. Our route takes us right past the state capitol building. It is
pretty, lit up at night. And in a little while, we reach Oakland. This is my last night here in California.
And from our apartment, 10 floors up, there's a great view, looking down on Lake Merritt.
November 30, 1980 (Sunday)
Getting up early today and have a good breakfast around the corner. We'll soon head out of town.
I feel kind of sad as my dad drops me off at the San Jose airport. He will not be able to attend my
college graduation at Auburn University. Seven years of college and it comes to an end in five days!
Well, it has been a wonderful, but short trip, to the west coast. What an amazing “graduation gift!”
I'll be back in Alabama in a few hours.
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