Dave's November 96 Trip Summary

Part One

Months ago I saw a message on the bulletin board at work which said that someone had cancelled their vacation days in November. I had no plans but bid on the time, and with my seniority I got the days, beginning on November 16 and ending on November 28.

I suffered a terrible bout with some sort of head cold or flu bug on Thursday and Friday, but I rested, drank fluids and felt pretty good by Sunday morning.

I left my driveway at 8:30 a.m. (Sunday, November 17th) with fresh-baked goodies from the ladies across the street, filled the gas tank at the station around the corner, and took off for points south and east. I headed south on Monterey Hy to Morgan Hill, then south on Hy 101 to Gilroy, then over the Pacheco Pass on Hy 152, past the San Luis Dam and onto southbound Interstate 5.

Just getting onto the freeway, I noticed that my trip odometer was turning 70 miles at the same time as the speed limit sign was advising 70 miles per hour. So I put the cruise control on 70 and prepared for a pleasant drive.

There's not much to say about Interstate 5 except that gas stations are few and far between, it still smells like cattle near Kettleman City, and there are still people who drive far faster than is reasonable and prudent. I stopped at various Safety Rest Stops to stretch my legs and "check the facilities."

Somewhere near the Fresno turnoff I noticed a CHP Mustang and a purple or maroon sports car making "really good time" as they passed me. The CHiPpie took the offramp and the sports car kept going south, instantly raising his speed to about ninety. The CHP officer stopped at the "stop" sign (of course), got right back on the freeway (of course), and blew by me like my hamsters were pedaling backwards. About three miles later, there they were, stopped in the divider strip, with CHP issuing a very expensive citation. ("Press hard, four copies.") Some people never learn.

As I approached The Grapevine, I noticed an interesting CalTrans sign indicating that trucks and buses should stay to the right, while cars were to stay to the left. It didn't make much sense to me since we all ended up at the same place. I don't recall a sign indicating the percentage of grade, and the Explorer did slow down a little on the uphill sections, but it performed admirably.

Near the south end of The Grapevine I enjoyed seeing the northbound lanes way off to the right, following the old alignment of the highway, something that I don't recall seeing before. (The other lanes of travel are usually on your left in this country.) It had been over twenty years since I'd been on this road, and it was during nighttime hours, so it was just like new to me.

As I got deeper and deeper into Los Angeles County, it became obvious that I would not be able to make it all the way to Anaheim on a single tank of gasoline. I stretched it as far as I could, but by the time I got to Norwalk, I had to get off the freeway and refuel. It was just a short drive from there to Anaheim, and I arrived at the Best Western Stovall's Pavilions around 3:30 p.m., checked in and picked up my Magic Kingdom Club envelope. I was actually surprised that things were working out so well; they even spelled my name right! The motel clerk also gave me a bus pass, telling me that I could take the shuttle over to Disneyland at 10 minutes past the hour, and I could catch the return bus on the hour.

I took the 4:10 bus, arriving at Disneyland about 10 minutes later. The Magic Kingdom was just as I had remembered it, although I could not at that time recall how long it had been since my last visit. And I couldn't tell that there had actually been many changes since then, but it still "looked" the same.

I made a scouting trip first, then got on with visiting attractions. Before I was done, I had ridden on the Jungle Cruise and the Monorail, gone through The Walt Disney Story featuring "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln," saw part of the Main Street Electrical Parade and part of Fantasmic! and ridden on The Disneyland Railroad. I purchased a copy of (Refreshment Corner pianist) Rod Miller's CD at the Emporium. I went back to the motel around 9:00 p.m.

On Monday morning I took the 8:10 bus in order to get to the front gate in time for "Magic Morning" (early entry) at 8:30 a.m. When they opened the gates, I headed over to the Tomorrowland Terrace for a complimentary breakfast of orange juice and French Toast sticks. (I bought milk to go with it.) I was able to watch kids interact with Disney characters while parents jockeyed for the best camera positions. Some were happy, some were sad, some cried, some smiled - and the kids had interesting reactions, too!

I rode the Jungle Cruise again (different spiel!), Pirates Of The Caribbean, Horse-drawn Streetcars, It's A Small World, visited the Enchanted Tiki Room, wandered around various "lands," rode the Disneyland Railroad again, and had lunch at the Golden Horseshoe Stage, where I enjoyed a musical revue by Billy Hill and the Hillbillies.

After lunch I took a ride on the sailing ship Columbia (Rats! Mark Twain was in drydock), watched a western skit in front of the saloon, rode the Monorail over to the Disneyland Hotel and walked around there for a while. I was unable to find an ice cream cone for sale on Main Street or at Plaza Gardens, so I had an apple instead. I did see Rod Miller playing at Refreshment Corner. I managed to find just the right Disneyland t-shirt at Star Traders, and then headed back to the motel.

On Tuesday morning I got up bright and early and headed over to the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, about a half-hour away. Of course I had to stop to visit the Anaheim AMTRAK station, which shares a parking lot with Angels Stadium. Just my luck, I was not able to see any trains.

The Nixon Library and Birthplace was an interesting tour. They had a special event that day but it didn't affect visitors very much. (What was more annoying was a large group of elementary school children running around screaming and yelling.) The tour was mostly chronological, and numerous items were on display all along the way. Not available to the general public is a research library on the lower level. However, the Birthplace (the actual building, as restored) is available for docent-lead tours. A recent addition to the collection was the bullet-proof Lincoln Continental limousine used by Nixon and other presidents, donated by the Ford Motor Company. In included radios and antennas of the period, as well as the fold-down rear bumper where the Secret Service agents stood, and many other security features.

When I had completed the tour, I headed back to Anaheim, returned to the hotel and took the shuttle bus back to Disneyland. I did a little more wandering around, including a visit to the Sword In The Stone ceremony (held right next to King Arthur's Carrousel), visited Toontown, which is a fairly new addition to the park, and went on the Submarine Voyage. I took the Monorail over to the Disneyland Hotel and did a little Christmas shopping at Mickey's Corner before returning to the park. Tip: if you ask nicely, they'll let you ride in the front of the Monorail with the operator. It's an enjoyable ride with a good view.

I'd been nearly everywhere and done nearly everything I'd wanted to do, so I returned to the motel on the 5:00 shuttle bus.

I decided that I wasn't tired enough so I set out walking down Katella Boulevard and found a great restaurant called Tiffy's right near the motel. I had a wonderful dinner, with excellent service, and then walked down to the Anaheim Convention Center before returning to the motel for the evening.

I checked out of the motel early on Wednesday morning and got to fight traffic on Hy 101 through downtown Los Angeles. It was just so much fun!

While things did get better as I got farther north, nothing looked familiar. I finally realized that I don't think I have ever driven on Hy 101 that far south, or at least I don't recall it.

I had breakfast at Jack-in-the-Box (Thousand Oaks?), visited the gift shop at "Pea Soup" Andersen's restaurant (Solvang) and had lunch at Carl's Jr. (King City). The trip was very pleasant, although it was longer that the southbound trip.

I arrived in my driveway at 4:00 p.m. The entire trip was 831 miles.

Part Two

The weather looked "icky" as I left my driveway at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday morning (November 24), heading for points north and east. Reno, to be exact.

I got as far as Tracy before stopping for breakfast at Burger King, continued north to Sacramento and then east on Interstate 80. I was able to enjoy Car Talk with Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, on two different National Public Radio stations for part of the way.

Much of Interstate 80 is a long and straight road that I have driven a number of times. Nothing particularly unusual this trip, although the weather changed quite a bit as I went over the Altamont Pass and through the Sacramento valley. I ended up driving through several different micro-climates on the trip.

Since the weather reports for the weekend had looked good, I consciously decided NOT to buy tire chains before I left, believing/hoping that I would be okay. As I approached the Sierras, the flashing Caltrans sign told me to listen to AM 1610 and THEY said that it was "snowing over Donner Summit" but stopped short of saying that chains were required. But they were wrong; I never saw snow on the roadway. There was snow along the sides of the freeway and on some of the hills, but the roadway was completely clear all the way to Reno.

I passed a couple of trains on the way; one was obviously Union Pacific (so much yellow) and one was Amtrak (probably the Zephyr). The water was really roaring in the Truckee River that parallels the freeway.

The first casino across the state line used to be Boomtown but now there's another even closer to California. I stopped at Boomtown for old times' sake, since I had often told a joke about the "change girl" there being an 85-year-old man. I put a few coins into a few slot machines, picked up a couple of plastic coin tubs and then was on my way.

After arriving at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino at around 1 p.m., I waited in a long line to check in. I took all my stuff upstairs to Room 825 and got situated, then went back downstairs to look around.

Over the next two days I spent a little time gaming, a little time eating (the Silver Legacy has five restaurants, from fancy-shmancy to Dave-style; I tried three of them), a little time walking around (the pool was closed for the winter) and very little time shopping (gift shops every few feet).

One of the highlights of the trip was my visit to the National Automobile Museum, formerly William F. Harrah's automobile collection. It's a short walk (several blocks) south and east of the Silver Legacy. I spent a couple of hours walking the entire exhibit and sitting for a video presentation. It was a fascinating place, worth the price of admission ($7.50). If you go, do yourself the favors of (a) not taking along someone who doesn't care about cars and (b) allowing yourself plenty of time. They have examples of nearly every car you can imagine, and some that you cannot.

The museum building is right next to the Truckee River. They had recently erected the "old arch" on some poles just outside the museum. The "old arch" is the earlier version of the one on Virginia Street saying "Reno - The Biggest Little City in the World."

I also did some walking in other directions, past the Amtrak station in downtown Reno, to Fitzgerald's and Harrah's and a few others, collecting plastic coin tubs as I went.

I had decided that my trip would be Sun-Mon-Tue and MAYBE Wednesday. As it turned out, I'd had "enough fun" by Monday night. On Tuesday morning I woke early, dressed, checked out and hit the road at 6:25 a.m.

On the way back it was much closer to snowing but it did NOT snow. For a short distance I followed a Caltrans truck that was sanding/dirting the roadway but it was clear sailing all the way to a point just west of Auburn, where the traffic started getting heavy.

The rest of the drive back was uneventful. The weather was cold but clear, and I arrived home about 11:15 a.m. Curiously enough it was EXACTLY 270 miles in each direction.

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Last updated at 16:25 PDT on June 24, 1997.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA