Travel adventure: S.F. Bay to the Silver State and back via Interstate 80

Who doesn’t remember the late ’70s oil pinch? Those, too, were difficult days.

I had been driving a late ’60s gas-guzzling, oil-burning, poor-example-of-an-automobile automobile. It, figuratively speaking, was a wreck. I used it to get to work and back, shopping and what-not in California’s San Francisco Bay Area where I was living and working at the time.

It was the perfect time and I now had a legitimate reason to purchase a new car. Wow! Up until that time I had never known what it was like to own one. The date: Sept. ’78.

I had been looking at utility-type vehicles, defined as having all of the comforts of a luxury sedan and the versatility of a pickup truck all rolled into one. That vehicle was outfitted with a sound system that could have knocked the socks off of most automobile-installed high-fidelity systems. We’re talking state-of-the-art. And, the separate behind-the-seat baffle housing the speakers, to top it off was one that I designed.

This vehicle was purchased expressly for the purpose of my being able to buy gasoline any day of the week back then. There were no gas-purchasing restrictions on these at the time like there were for the so-called “dime-a-dozen” ordinary cars. For all California motorists driving the latter, for those, gasoline could only be bought on alternate days like Monday-Wednesday-Friday for some and on Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday for others. As for whether or not gas could be purchased on Sundays, of this I’m not sure.

At any rate, it seems to me to be a good thing to put some highway miles on a car from time to time to help prevent carbon buildup inside the motor vehicle’s exhaust manifold.

So, that’s what I did and of all times on a late Friday afternoon after I got off of work. My destination: Reno.

Tower Bridge, Sacramento

For the trip I presumed I would have the wind at my back if not all of the way, which would help improve fuel economy, then, at least, part way.

A highway drive is a highway drive is a highway drive. But, a trip to Reno in the Silver State, punctuated by recorded tunes played through surround sound, well, that would be really taking it on and that it was! Driving through the mountains succeeded in only adding that much more to the overall experience.

Besides, driving in the higher elevations was one way to tell if my vehicle’s engine was properly tuned. Incidentally, that the car’s wheels dug in, climbed up and crested the summit of the Sierra Nevada’s along Interstate 80 with seemingly the greatest of ease, if the interior sounds weren’t music to my ears, the trip was most definitely.

Though I cannot recall what time I had arrived in the “The Biggest Little City in the World” for an overnight stay, it was, however, late.

Settling in for the night and catching some much needed zzzz’s, on the day following it would be more of the same, only this time the reverse of the trip made the previous day.

On the open road, daylight driving offers to the driver what nighttime driving doesn’t: the scenery, the greenery and what-have-you. The high Sierra vistas just wouldn’t quit and can best be described as being postcard picturesque.

Trail, Colfax, California

West of the highway summit higher than that of Donner Lake off to the south, it was for all practical purposes all downhill from there, well, at least until about Roseville. And, speaking of going downhill, this also helps when it comes to saving gasoline.

The one thing I did not miss was that nuisance known as traffic congestion, at least on this trip. Though in traveling on a different day at a different time, the outcome could be decidedly different.

What’s great about this particular journey is that I made it back to the Bay Area handily even if tuckered out. I would have to say it was worth it.

Fortunately for me, I had all of Sunday to unwind and kick back and perhaps take a nap in front of, what else?! That familiar electronic device called the television which, them days, was also termed the “idiot box.”

And, wouldn’t you know it?! The icing on the cake came on the Monday morning following. On my way to work, if I needed to put gas in the vehicle’s tank, one thing was sure: I could dispense the liquid from the station pump irrespective of enduring a lengthy wait or not.

Images: Michael Grindstaff (upper); CA BLM (lower)

– Alan Kandel