The 1977 California Trip: We left a few things in San Francisco

The 1977 California Trip: We left a few things in San Francisco

Not our hearts.

It was the summer of 1977 and we had plans. Plans to hit the road again for a vacation down California way.

Instead of flying this time we took our orange Arrow. With me driving of course.

We made the trip in stages, stopping the first night at the Mallory Hotel in Portland OR. We didn’t see much of the city. It was dark out, and on our quest to find a place to eat, we settled on a familiar name – Benihana’s Japanese restaurant. So that section of Portland and whatever was viewable from the off ramp to the hotel and the streets to get back onto I-5 were all we saw of the city.

We made good time from Portland through the rest of Oregon and into Northern California. We reached Vacaville in time for lunch at a restaurant in an olive orchard. My wife remembered this particular restaurant/tourist spot from a family vacation when she was growing up. She carries with her the memory of her dad grimacing when sampling a rather green olive. This time around she was the one grimacing – over my choice from the menu – gazpacho. I guess the thought of cold tomato soup put her teeth on edge. I thought it wonderful (the soup, not the fact that it made her grimace).

From Vacaville we made our way down to San Pablo Bay, skirted around towards San Rafael, and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to our next destination – San Francisco. We checked into a motel somewhere along route 1, unloaded our luggage (except a couple of items) and went in search of dinner.

The Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero Center was only four years old at the time, and a prime night spot. It had a revolving restaurant, the Equinox, on the top of its tower. We parked the Arrow a few blocks away up on Market Street, and were mesmerized by the impressive lobby of the hotel (like being in the interior of a pyramid) which we passed through on the way to the restaurant. [My wife is a great disaster movie fan, and shots of this particular lobby were recognizable, as it had been used in The Towering Inferno, three years before.]

We had a enjoyable meal. I can tell you that much, but don’t ask what it was, for what happened next completely overshadowed all else.

We each had had an adult beveridge with our meal, so we were a little fuzzy as we walked up Market to our parked car. We were puzzled by the sight of a loaf of bread sitting on the sidewalk beside the Arrow. My wife wondered out loud why our groceries were outside the car. We didn’t notice the broken glass under the bread, and were slow to realize that our car had been broken into and robbed.

We found a phone and called the cops. After giving them the rundown on our plight, they informed us that they could not come out to the scene of the crime, but if we wanted to come in to fill out a report we were welcome to.

We followed their directions to a small precinct house further uptown and made our report. Besides our groceries we were missing a couple other items: an 8mm Bell & Howell movie camera and dirty laundry in a paper sack. Sometime in the midst of this ordeal I asked urgently if they had a restroom. This sent me on another surreal sidetrack, as they had no public facility and referred me next door to a seedy bar/nightclub. I felt I was sleep walking through the rest of our time there. It was real “trippy.”

The next day was a Sunday and the memory of what transpired is all a hazy black cloud. Reality was settling in. Was our vacation over before it had begun? We needed a replacement for that backseat side window and where would we find one?

We had to wait until Monday. That’s when we raised a Chrysler dealorship, but they did not have that part in stock. Nor did any of the auto glass companies. Hope was offered, in that they could order it in – but it would take a couple of days. Desperate to save our vacation, I asked if there was something we could substitute, say something plastic. That set a light bulb off in the imagination of the auto glass specialist, and he referred us to a shop that dealt in plexiglass. On parting he suggested that we tell them to use the other window as a template to cut a replacement.

Which is exactly what we were able to do. And we were on the road again before lunch. With only an occasional whistling noise from our replacement “window.”

I Join the Army and Assault a House

I Join the Army and Assault a House

First day as a freshman at Seattle U was spent in one building, going from table to table, signing up for classes. But the image that sticks in my mind was a lot of waiting around in stairwells, which must have been the in between times. It was on this day that I met Dave who became a fast friend, throughout my college years and afterwards.

Dave had and has a scientific view on everything. His declared major was chemistry. I chose to study languages, majoring in French and minoring in Spanish. Thus we never had any classes together but one. That first quarter we were both in Army ROTC. The class was held first thing in the morning, it seems well before anyone was awake on campus. My Roadrunner and I would leave my house at an ungodly time of the morning, cross Renton and swing by his house on the way to downtown Seattle via I-5.

At first the class covered mundane things. Mundane Army things that is – care and wearing of uniforms, polishing boots and brass belt buckles, group organizations, saluting, manual of arms, etc.  The manual of arms led to being a part of the drill team, which meant more early mornings, including some weekends when we marched in local parades.

Eventually we settled into more ordinary classroom type activities – reading books and writing reports. I reaquainted myself with Lawrence of Arabia, reading his Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and writing about his guerilla tactics.

Then there was a weekend we spent at Fort Lewis. We had already learned to disassemble and reassemble an M-14 in class, and were promised we would soon be doing the same just by touch in a bag. Out at Fort Lewis we actually got to fire it on the range. It was just like in the war movies I’d seen, hold it in close to your shoulder (a hinged support on the butt of the weapon lent stablity, especially in the prone position), squeeze the trigger and watch the kick. There was a selection switch for single shot or fully automatic. Our instructor had us keep it on single shot, for when fully automatic, it was harder to control – the muzzle tending to climb with each shot.

The highlight of the “maneuveurs” was the tactical portion in which we assaulted a house-like structure. We were shown the structure, but not shown how to carry out the assault. I guess they just wanted to see what we would come up with on our own. Officers are supposed to come up with solutions to problems as they confront them. The structure had no roof on it, so we decided to come down through the “ceiling.” I don’t remember what they thought of our solution. And I would prefer getting instruction, and perhaps that would have come later.  But it was not to be.

When I received my grades for the first quarter, I was shocked. I am usually a straight A student, and although in this instance I did have two “A”s, there was also one B. And that B was in my major – French.

Dave had some trouble too. So we both went to the ROTC commandant and resigned.