Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pole Line Road

I found this photo in a stack of old photos today.

This is Charlotte pouring gas into our Tempest while Mike looks on.  Middle 1960s, probably 1965.  A famous photo and one which, over the next 50+ years, when Mike was alive, could cause lively argument among the four of us.

Details are getting foggy now, so I'd best get them down while I have some memory left.  I'm sure Char will correct me wherever I'm wrong.

In our young days, before and after we had children, we often went camping.  I think on this trip, Char and Mike had Tavie, their first born (now in her mid-50s).  I don't remember, though, why we were only in one car.  Usually we had two cars and Walt and I always followed Mike and Char's car.
(In fact, at the end of one of our camping weekends, we finished at the Scottish Games in Santa Rosa and as we pulled into the parking lot behind the Blackford's car, the attendant told us to "follow that grey car."  We didn't tell him we'd been following it for three days!)

We never went to "campgrounds" per se.  Our trips often explored ghost towns.  With California an active mining state after the gold rush, there are lots and lots of ghost towns.  Some of them are just a few crumbling buildings, or pieces of equipment where once a lively town had stood.  But some, like Bodie, are still in good shape and kept in careful disrepair as a state historical monument.

But mostly we investigated the places where few other tourists are likely to explore.

I remember one Memorial Day weekend, when all the highways were clogged with traffic, where we drove for three days on dirt roads and didn't see another car.  (When we finally reached the end of the dirt roads and were going to join the holiday drivers, Char got out of the car and said she was going to "kiss the pavement")

So I don't remember which trip this photo was from, but we had driven forever on the backwater "towns" we loved to explore.  To go home, we had to drive down Pole Line Road, which was a 20 mile road which ran in a straight line along Mono Lake (and so named because of the telephone poles that lined it).

Mono Lake is a desert lake which, because of the high concentration of salt from mountain snow run-off that has no way to get to the ocean, and because of the brine shrimp who live there, is famous for the odd salt columns which dot the water.

On the Nevada end of Pole Line Road is the town of Hawthorne and on the California end of the road is Highway 395, just a mile or two from the town of Lee Vining.  There is nothing along Pole Line Road but lake on one side and sage brush on the other.

When we got into Hawthorne, Char and I spied an ice cream shop and convinced Mike and Walt to drive down there so we could get ice cream before getting on Pole Line Road.  We did.  I'm sure it was delicious.

Then we headed for the road and started toward Highway 385.  Walt realized that we needed gas, but figured we would get it in Lee Vining.

At the end of Pole Line Rd., there is a slight slope up to the main highway and just a few yards before we got to that point, the car stopped, out of gas.  This was, of course, in the days before cell phones and Pole Line Rd was so seldom traveled, we hadn't seen another car since we started on it (nor did we see one at all).  We were so close to 395!  We tried pushing the car, but the slope to the highway was just too steep.  We figured if we could get to 395, it was a downhill slope into Lee Vining and we'd be OK.

Finally, Walt and Mike walked up to 395 and hitchhiked into Lee Vining, where they got gas and, I guess, someone drove them back to the car.

But they never ever let Char and me forget that if we hadn't talked them into driving to the ice cream shop in Hawthorne, we would have made it up that damn slope and been able to get to Lee Vining, even if we had to coast to do it.

1 comment:

joared said...

Just found your blog. Interesting story! Don't think you'll ever resolve the ice cream stop as cause for running out of gas after all these years. Enjoyed reading of theatre buffs reunion. Recall years past involvements in the Midwest I enjoyed -- numerous plays.