Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

03 December 2013

November 2013: The Voyage Home

Well I promised you pictures, didn't I? I guess I better get to it.

My cross-country trips from Pensacola, Florida to Washington State and back are usually pretty balls-to-the-walls affairs. I get in the car and go, driving as far as I can in a day so I can make the 2,700 miles as quickly as possible.

But this year I planned on taking the long way home. It was mid-November by the time I left Brewster, and I didn't want to take the usual route which would have had me stair-stepping my way down. The new route had me going down through California all the way to Los Angeles where I'd catch Interstate 10 eastbound. Since I was taking the "scenic route" I asked my friend Gene to come along with me. He'd never even been west of the Mississippi River, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for him to see the country. I picked him up in San Francisco and we meandered from there.

All the pictures are "clickable" if you'd like to see them in a larger format.

Typical postcard shot of downtown San Francisco from a park called Twin Peaks, from which you had commanding views of both the bay side and the Pacific side. It was pretty nice until the two large buses full of tourists showed up.

And here's your faithful, well-fed reporter, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. It was a beautifully clear day, but windy as hell and pretty chilly, hence the denim jacket and hoodie. What was it Mark Twain supposedly said (but didn't), "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Yeah, like that.

Driving around, we literally stumbled upon the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets. This was the epicenter of the hippy movement back in the 1960s. George Harrison made a pilgrimage to the area once, unannounced. Of the experience he said, "I went there expecting it to be a brilliant place, with groovy gypsy people making works of art and paintings and carvings in little workshops. But it was full of horrible spotty drop-out kids on drugs..." Heh. The hippy kids, it seems, are long gone. I wondered if even their spirit remains? Unfortunately we didn't stick around long enough to find out.

Here's Gene at the Golden Gate Bridge. I think he's actually posing for someone else's picture. Over here, Gene!

Going down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) I had to stop at the Bixby Bridge. It was made famous in the 1970 TV movie (and subsequent series) "Then Came Bronson." After the suicide of a close friend, a San Francisco newspaper reporter turned societal dropout takes off on his motorcycle (a Harley Sportster, what else?) to..."see what's out there." In the opening credits of every episode, there's an aerial shot of Bronson as he crosses the fog-shrouded Bixby Bridge as he starts his adventure. In the shot above, Gene is taking a Facebook "profile shot" of a seemingly happy young couple.

Everyone owes it to themself to rent a convertible and make a trek up or down the PCH at least once. I assumed that we'd have to stop "a couple of times" for photo-ops. That couple turned into a dozen or more. Every time you come around a curve you go, "STOP! I gotta get a picture of this!" At least I did. "Awesome" is the only word. I can't even count how many pictures we took like this. I'd post them, but you just have to go see for yourself. I mean it: GO!

Just north of San Luis Obispo we stopped on a beach right at sunset. With colors like these, how could you NOT take a picture? I will say this: The scenery in California is spectacular. I fully understand why everyone wants to live there. Trouble is, most of them already do. From San Francisco south, the crowds and traffic were horrendous.

Next morning we made it down to Santa Barbara before the road turned inland. Nice beach, eh? Not as nice as those we have in Pensacola...but hey, I'm a little prejudiced.

We didn't really want to get stuck driving around Los Angeles, so we made a bee-line for the observatory at Griffith Park. There, we had a great, sweeping view of the city (well, a lot of it anyway - L.A. is huge).

And of course you *have* to take a picture of the Hollywood sign, right?

From L.A. we finally started heading east, ending up in, well, you can see.

If you ever go to Vegas (and I don't suggest you do), you have to see the Fremont Street Experience. Basically they took the old downtown area and completely covered it with a four-block long arch of video screens. Then, at the top of every hour after sunset, all of the casinos and shops "go dark" and a 20-minute sound/movie presentation is shown. It's very psychedelic. And it's a WHOLE LOT more enjoyable if you're drunk or stoned (although this time I was neither). Those hippy kids from Haight-Ashbury should've moved here. They'd love it. It is pretty incredible. It almost makes Las Vegas (where they'd charge you for the air you breathe if they could figure out how) a place you'd actually want to visit.

This is EXACTLY the kind of weather I was trying to avoid. We'd caught up with Winter Storm Boreas, which we were trying to stay behind. Drat the luck. The low ceilings, low visibility and snow were so bad that we bypassed the Grand Canyon and decided to turn south on Interstate 17 to let the storm get further ahead of us, hoping in vain to find warmer weather. It was not to be; although we found clearer skies, aside from L.A. the temps never got up above the 40's for the entire trip, even back in Pensacola!

On our way southbound, my friend Matt suggested that we visit Montezuma's Castle National Monument. So we did. It was right on Interstate 17. It's this old, preserved Indian dwelling from the years 1100 to 1300, originally (and incorrectly) thought to be inhabited by Montezuma's people but who were actually a tribe called Sinagua. It was interesting that whoever occupied it built it so high up on that cliff. The only access was via a series of ladders. The dioramas and illustrations showed the Indians living a relatively pleasant, well-equipped life on the edge. Gene and I wondered how they got their furniture and stuff up there. Everybody likes a challenge, I guess.

In Casa Grande, AZ I was tasked to find a collection of 70 or so Sikorsky S-55s that belong to a company that thinks they're going to rebuild, modify, "improve" them and market them as a current, modern aircraft. It's a pipe dream, unfortunately. Nobody wants to fly in 60 year-old helicopters anymore. Further, agencies like the Forest Service don't want to use a 60 year-old helicopter, no matter how much lipstick you put on it. Yet the eccentric owner of the company holds onto these engine-less, transmission-less hulks, refusing to sell any of them to companies that still do have a viable use for them...like, ohhhhh, a certain company up in Washington State that uses them to dry cherries, perhaps?

After Phoenix (actually, since leaving Los Angeles) the scenery was like this. The desert is great...if you like that sort of thing...but it's kind of, well, monotonous. This was pretty much our view all the way to Houston, Texas where we finally caught up with W.S. Boreas. From there is was rain, rain and more rain all the way back to Pensacola.

It took me/us 4,000 miles over the course of six nights to get home. Cross-country road trips are wonderful. We're lucky to live in such a big country with such diverse topography and things to see/do. It's been a long time since I'd done a trip that wasn't one of those, banzai-let's-get-there-quick! fiascos. This one was far more enjoyable. Everyone ought to do it! And I hope you one day get the chance.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog very much. I always enjoyed flying the old Sikorsky's S-55's, S-58's and the venerable S-61. Sadly I only hold a 3rd class medical anymore and haven't flown a helicopter in 3 years. Still flying fixed wing however. Chuck

Bob Barbanes: said...

Well thanks for the note, Chuck! Wish we could do something about your not having flown a helicopter in a while. Those old Sikorskys are great helicopters!

Brook said...


Bob said...

Great shots Bob. The PCH is breathtaking, one of the most beautiful stretches of scenery one could ever hope to see. You capture it well. Thanks for sharing.