Home leave to the Western United States

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August 7th 1982
Published: July 9th 2011
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Home Leave 1982

As we had just been to the States for Christmas and my Grandfather Northcott's 95th birthday the previous December, we decided to skip seeing our families during our home leave of 1982. Instead we would head directly to the West Coast.

7 August 1982 Saturday. We flew from Frankfurt to JFK and from JFK to San Francisco, arriving late that night, or early in the morning Stuttgart time. I was too tired to pay much attention when initialing the various boxes on the rental car contract, something I would realize when I turned the car in and ended up paying for insurance for the whole time. Lesson one: next time stay overnight at JFK and catch an early flight to the west coast arriving much fresher. We would do this on subsequent trips.

8 August 1982 Sunday. We awoke early due to jet lag. As the rest of the city woke up, we took the cable car from Union Square to the Fisherman’s Wharf. We walked the waterfront and then took a tour boat to Alcatraz for a tour of the former prison. We then retraced our steps to the Union Square area. However, the cable car broke down so we had to find an alternative route that took us through Chinatown. We ate Thai food for dinner at a restaurant in the seedier part of town. We were treated to a knife fight on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. Fortunately, the police arrived before anyone died.

9 August 1982 Monday. We had enough of big cities so drove south to Monterey to see Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Casa del Oro. From there we drove the 17 mile Drive around the Monterey Peninsula and saw where the two Pacific Ocean currents collided at the end of the peninsula. We also saw several famous golf courses, including Pebble Beach, with deer grazing on the greens. The drive ends in Carmel, where we walked around the town and visited the Mission San Carlos Barromeo de Carmelo. From there we headed south along Route 1 and Big Sur to the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and walked among the grove of giant redwood trees. We stayed the night in San Simeon.

10 August 1982 Tuesday. First thing the next morning we visited Hearst Castle, built by William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper king. It had been the family ranch since 1865. However, in 1919 Hearst instructed the architect, “Miss (Julia) Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something.” Well, that “little something” turned out to be one of the most fantastic palaces ever built; with 165 rooms filled with his collection of antiques and parts of castles from all over Europe. He would invite his Hollywood friends there for lavish parties. We drove to Los Angeles for the night.

11 August 1982 Wednesday. The next morning we toured Universal Studios and saw the back lot where many movies were filmed. We saw Jaws as the giant shark almost swamped out tour boat. At the end of the day we drove to Anaheim, and stayed right across from Disneyland so saw the fireworks that evening.

12 August 1982 Thursday. We spent the day at Disneyland. At about 5 pm , after the heat of the day passed, we drove to Barstow for the night. Barstow is in the Mojave Desert.

13 August 1982 Friday. Before the sun got too hot we visited the Calico ghost town for an hour or so, and then drove across the Mojave Dessert to Las Vegas for lunch at one of the casinos. We didn’t stay at the casino very long, and it was too hot (over 100 degrees) to stay outside so we went to see “ET” at a theater in a mall. After the movie we shopped some. By late afternoon we decided the temperature had moderated so left the mall. On the way out we passed Cher who was on her way in. She was much shorter than I pictured her. We drove down the strip to see the bright light and then returned to our hotel.

14 August 1982 Saturday. We departed early for our first destination…several ghost towns just north and east of St George, Utah. One was an old stone Wells Fargo station. Outside the weather was hot and without any air movement, but inside it was cool and breezy. We ended the day at Zion National Park, walking a trail into the canyon created by the Virgin River. We stayed at the lodge.

15 August 1982 Sunday. Our next destination was Bryce Canyon National Park. We walked along the rim of Kodachrome Basin to get pictures of the hoodoos, eroded red stone spikes. We had lunch at the lodge, and then drove to the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park. We hiked to Bright Angel Point and then had dinner in the lodge as the sun set. We spent the night in a log cabin.

16 August 1982 Monday. We left early the next morning, stopping for gas at Jacob Lake, to find out that our tires were bald. We continued to a tire dealer in Page and called the rental car company for authorization to buy four new tires. So we were there several hours and met some very nice people. After lunch we continued to the Navajo National Monument and hiked to the Betatakin cliff dwellings. That night we stayed at Goulding’s Trading Post in Monument Valley, where many John Ford/John Wayne westerns were filmed including “The Searchers” and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.”

17 August 1982 Tuesday. We drove north to Natural Bridges National Monument. It looked like we were driving straight towards a high cliff, but at the last moment we could see a road the climbed up the side. We hiked to some of the arches along the river. Then we continued to Canyonlands National Park to the Needles Overlook. Although not as well known as the Grand Canyon, it is almost as impressive; wider open and therefore vaster. We spent the night in Moab.

18 August 1982 Wednesday. Our first stop was Arches National Park, which has the most impressive array of arches of any park. We hiked around the Windows Section, and then from the Wolf Ranch to Delicate Arch, and finally from the Devil’s Garden Trailhead to Landscape Arch. From there we drove north to Provo, and stopped at a mall for a very late lunch. We continued through Salt Lake City, passed the Mormon Temple, and then continued north on US 89 to Bear Lake where we spent the night.

19 August 1982 Thursday. We arrived at Jackson, Wyoming by lunch, and then toured the town and did some laundry. We made reservations for a float trip on the Snake River for the following morning. Then we drove around the area.

20 August 1982 Friday. Bright and early the next morning we took our float trip on the Snake River. With us was a 90 year old lady who had lived in the valley her whole life, her family owning land there since before there was a national park. This was her first float trip, and it was as memorable for us as it was for her. We saw plenty of wildlife, and had a delicious breakfast as part of the trip. Afterwards we continued through Grand Teton National Park, stopping for a hike at Jenny Lake, and then on to Yellowstone National Park. We were fortunate to find a last minute cancellation at the Old Faithful Lodge so spent the night at this historic log hotel. After dinner we walked around the Upper Geyser Basin. As night fell, we sat on a bench to watch the sunset. When it got dark we laid back to watch the Perseid meteor showers while the geysers bubbled around us. It was an evening we will never forget, and have tried to replicate, but not quite, in subsequent visits to the park.

21 August 1982 Saturday. We had an early start, stopping at the Norris Geyser Basin, and exiting through West Yellowstone. We passed by Idaho Falls and stopped at the Craters of the Moon National Monument to climb through the lava tubes or caves. We had a late lunch in Arco and then headed north through Sun Valley and the Sawtooth National Forest. Linda had found another ghost town on the map and was determined to go there despite leaving paved roads behind in violation of our rental car contract. We finally got there; there being Idaho City, which was interesting, but I had the felling we were lost. I took the dirt road that headed in a southwesterly direction along streams where placer gold mining operations had occurred. As we finally arrived at a paved highway, we looked back and saw a sign that said “Trespassers Will Be Shot.” Fortunately, I wouldn't have to explain bullet holes in the car to the rental company. We made it to Ontario, Oregon that night.

22 August 1982 Sunday. We drove across eastern Oregon which is mostly desert, stopping at Jonathan Day Fossil Beds National Monument to see if we could find some fossils. Even if we did, we wouldn’t have been allowed to take any. We continued to Bend and then turned south towards Crater Lake, stopping nearby for the night.

23 August 1982 Monday. We drove up the side of the extinct volcano to Crater Lake National Park, and around the rim. We stopped for pictures, but there weren’t any trails to speak of. So we continued south into northern California, passed Mount Shasta, to Lassen Volcanic National Park. We just drove through as most of what there was to do was see scenery. We exited the south end of the park and drove the back roads towards Lake Tahoe, spending the night in some forgotten town.

24 August 1982 Tuesday. We drove through Truckee to Lake Tahoe and the site where the TV series Bonanza was filmed supposedly. From there we drove to Virginia City, a restored ghost town where Samuel Clements (Mark Twain) was a newspaper reporter. We sat on a toilet that he supposedly sat upon. We ate dinner at one of the many western saloons, and then spent the night in Reno, which was a bit north of where we were headed next, but we wanted to see Las Vegas’ competition. Las Vegas has nothing to worry about.

25 August 1982 Wednesday. We drove 10 hours from Reno to Lee Vining on Mono Lake. Mono Lake was formed over 700,000 years ago, and since it is in a basin, it has no outlet. Therefore, it is highly alkaline. Still brine shrimp can live in the water, so 2 million migratory birds feast on the shrimp on their way to wherever. The lake is also known for its tufa towers.

26 August 1982 Thursday. We drove from Mono Lake over the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park. We stopped at the Tuolumne Meadows and joined a ranger tour. He explained about the Native Americans who lived in this area and showed us several games the children played. We continued down to the valley floor to see Half Dome. We ate lunch at the visitors’ center, and then drove to a grove of giant sequoia trees. We had to hike down a long steep hill and then back up. I almost died, and that was when I was in pretty good shape! We drove to Modesto for the night.

27 August 1982 Friday. We drove from Modesto to San Francisco and spent the night near the airport, returning our rental car after driving 4700 miles in three weeks.

28 August 1982 Saturday. We flew out of San Francisco on an early flight arriving at JFK in time to catch the overnight flight to Frankfurt.

29 August 1982 Sunday. We arrived in the early morning, took a taxi to the American side to retrieve our car, and drove home to Boblingen.

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