July 1957 California to Texas Road Trip

1957 Chevy 2-door Belair

Our departure from Novato, CA (having only moved there in mid-Feb from Hayward) was on
rather short notice with my Dad announcing his transfer to Lackland AFB, San Antonio
on June 21 (the day after my visiting maternal grandmother from Australia had left by
ship after a 1-month stay).

The movers had packed much (with numbered stickers on boxes and furniture) in early
July for a July 5 departure.

They arrived like pre-dawn it seemed.  That date was also the morning of the largest
yield nuke (Hood) test ever set off at the Nevada Test Site.  Sometime that morning
(well after daylight) some sort of shockwave from something hit our area - rattling
the large bay window.  I've never been able to determine if that was some sort of an
anamolous effect from the blast or not.

Among other idle chit chat with the movers they mentioned that the heat in transit
might affect the glue on some of my substantial collection of plastic model airplanes.

Since the appliances were gone, lunch had to be had at some establishment in downtown
Novato.  Things dragged on into the afternoon with my Dad making final utility payments
and turning in the keys for our $100/month rental home.  (Some recent checks of the
appraisals there have that place maybe now valued at $600,000.)

We left going down US 101 (Redwood Highway) to cut off across the (new) Richmond Bridge
going by the State Pen at San Quentin.  Not very far though as we overnighted at
the Motel Hacienda in Tracy.

poor postcard rendition of Hotel Hacienda

Jul 6 (Sat) The next day it was down the Central Valley. Having just finished the 4th Grade with its emphasis on California state history and geography, I was far more appreciative of things than I had been during the Sept 1954 or Apr 1955 road journeys along much the same route. After passing the oil derricks near Bakersfield it was on into overcast and near drizzle to Tehachapi where we stopped for some refereshments and got a copy of a newspaper with the details of that prior morning's nuke test in Nevada. It was a bit of a shock to break out into afternoon sunshine in the High Desert - just passing north of Edwards AFB (too far to see anything) on the way to Barstow for the night. As before, the prominent El Rancho Motel was chosen. They had this huge TV antenna system in order to get the Los Angeles stations. Being early July, I now wonder how often that might have gotten clobbered by Es CCI. I somehow got mostly occupied with a purchased book on UFOs. Also, as I found out years later, this was around the date of the "discovery" of the California-Hawaii tropo duct on 144-MHz, etc. El Rancho Motel, Barstow, CA
Jul 7 (Sun) The next leg of the trip (on US 66) took us thru the numerous tummy-turning dips in road along the immense US Marine Depot. Then came likely the most-desolate part of the trip, south along the Colorado River between Needles and Blythe (viewing some of the Native Indian encampments along its shore). We had a small window water air cooler on the front passenger side - which at least did something in the low-humidity arid desert areas while in motion. Refills of it were best made at gas stops. Then the California/Arizona inspection stations and sequestering a pet turtle in a match box (it was a replacement for one who'd died suddenly back in March). It was late afternoon before we arrived in Phoenix at the Mission Motel on Van Buren. They had a swimming pool, and some trunks were purchased to take advantage of it. Mission Motel, Phoenix, AZ courtesy Phoenix, AZ TV sked Jun 30-Jul 6, 1957
Jul 8 (Mon) Or departure the next morning was delayed due to a flat tire (nail). We later came upon some fresh accident near a tunnel which made one ponder about that delay. A very short side trip to see the Coolidge Dam (most other stops, like reptile farms, had to be right along the main route). Other "entertainment" consisted of watching the fair-weather dust devils spin across the emptiness. We arrived in Silver City, NM not long after a dust storm had passed thru. It was then on to El Paso to overnight at the El Sombrero Motel (and another swimming pool). The rooms had kitchenette facilities, but we opted for an Italian restaurant around the corner (from our Sep 1954 trip thru there). The TV fare that night featured "Wrestling from Chicago". An odor of gas was determined to have come from some nearby refining facility. El Sombrero Motel, El Paso, TX
Jul 9 (Tue) Now along US 90 from El Paso. We saw the sign indicating the distant McDonald Observatory (but no time for that long a sidetrip), lunching in high-altitude Marfa. We also had a break in Sanderson (the town that would be devastated by a Jun 1965 flash flood). Then it was on to Del Rio (with only a distant glimpse of Langtry) where we had resided Sept 1954-Apr 1955. We well knew the best motel (Esquire) to stay at. After dropping by to see an old schoolmate (Brad Bradley) - who seemed interested in the plastic model B-26 that I had partially finished - we went on to our once-favorite eating place, The Ranch House. As Del Rio had no easy access to TV signals then we went to one of the Drive-In movie venues ("The Flamingo") which we'd frequented in 1954-55. Ranch House Cafe Del Rio, TX Movie Schedule for the Flamingo Drive-IN, Del Rio, TX - Jul 1957
Jul 10 (Wed) Perhaps it was a more-leisurely start on the short 150-mile route along US 90 to San Antonio that day. What was really shocking about half way there was how green the surroundings were turning (the drought of the 1950s was ending). When you've only seen the El Paso-Del Rio area of Texas you get a false impression of what it's like elswhere in the state! The San Antonio skyline had been just added to by the National Bank of Commerce building, a 20-something floor rectangular edifice. Due to their proliferation of advertising signs along the way, the TV Motel was chosen ($3.50 a nite). A bit of a mistake - NOT in the better part of town, and the "TV" consisted of inserting a 25-cent piece for every 30-min you wanted! 3-days there was enough (even with a pool) so we relocated to the Casa Manana at $8/day (with pool and "free" TV). It was there that we sweated out the arrival of our household goods from California - and I got a bad sunburn from too much time in the pool during the scorching July days.
Our first residential location was in the "distressed" Edgewood School District, and that was rectified by a move of three blocks north into the SAISD in early December. So, in less than ten months I had FOUR residences!