Saturday, 24 November 2007

From Lions Gate to Golden Gate

The year was 1972, two weeks before Christmas. This would be my second trip to California in the space of six months. I just knew this would be another great adventure in my life.

In the early summer of '72 I had travelled from Vancouver to San Francisco on a Greyhound bus. Upon my arrival in that great northern California city, this wide-eyed eighteen year old prepared himself for a wonderful, multi-cultural experience. Here I was, in San Francisco! Wow!  It looked just like it did on television. Cable cars, Fisherman's Wharf, the winding roads, the very steep hills, and of course, Alcatraz.

I spent a few days in that great city, absorbing all the sights and sounds of the bustling community. Being of an exploring nature, I found myself back at the Greyhound bus depot. I purchased a ticket for Lake Tahoe, which is located on the California, Nevada border. It was there that I met a a very friendly California family. We got along so well, that I arranged to stay with them for Christmas. They lived in a small town near San Francisco named San Pablo. Ah yes, it would be Christmas in California. This brings me neatly back around to my opening paragraph.

So now it is nearly Christmas in the year 1972. My long journey south from Vancouver to San Francisco, a distance close to a thousand miles, was going to be an even greater adventure than my first trip. For this time, an even wider-eyed nineteen year old was going to drive there in his first car. Yes indeed, I headed off down Interstate 5 in my '64 Plymouth Valiant. Fingers crossed, my pride and joy would get me there safely.

Well, somehow, I did make it. Driving through some of America's great towns and cities. I travelled through Seattle, home of Bill Gates, home of Boeing, home of Jimi Hendrix, home of that legendary band 'Nirvana'. I moved on through the beautiful city of Portland Oregon. Soon I would be in California. Soon I would see my friends in San Pablo.

Over the next two weeks, I would have some of the most memorable experiences of my life. It was an action-packed time. I social-networked with loads of people. I had a fantastic time, heck I even went snow-skiing for the first time ever. Skiing was a rather strange concept. I mean it was like suddenly strapping on a pair of size 107 shoes on your feet. It took some getting use to. I recall being covered in snow, lying on the ground and staring up at the sky. I look back on that very special, very different Christmas with warm, fond memories. Yet one memory of that California Christmas has left me with a profound sense of caring for those not as fortunate as myself.

On Christmas Day, that wonderful family that I was staying with had a Christmas tradition that I will never forget. That morning we drove off to the grandmother's house. She lived in a city named Oakland, which is located across the bay from San Francisco. Her home was in an Oakland ghetto.

Yet despite my anxious perceptions of a ghetto and the stigma attached to such places, all I felt was warmth and kindness. This was a proud lady, living in a place she chose to stay in. This was a lady, whose fair skin was part of the minority in the neighbourhood. Somehow, it didn't matter.

I was introduced to her friends and neighbours. They were part of a community that knew all too well what being underprivileged meant. The adversity that they endured seemed to unite these folks in making their lives that little bit better. Seldom have I experienced such community spirit. I left that ghetto in Oakland, with inspired perceptions. Despite the trouble and strife that was so much a part of their world, they never gave up on being positive towards each other. That day, that special Christmas Day, I was honoured to be among such caring, genuine people.

So from the Lions Gate Bridge, in that great Canadian city of Vancouver, to the Golden Gate Bridge in SanFrancisco, I had travelled down the west coast of North America. Somehow, despite the frantic driving methods of the Californians, my 1964 Plymouth Valiant survived. As I reached the Canadian border and went through Customs, I knew my journey was almost over. It turned out to be a journey of self-discovery. I have been truly blessed with some wonderful memories. What a positive focus.


  1. Hi Klahanie,

    As always I am spellbound by the life you have lived, I guess it has something to do with the continent you lived on, but a day trip to Bangor doesn't have the same romantic air to it. The roads wind, there are fishermen on the pier, and a few steep hills, but no cable cars or an island prison (unless you count Anglesey).

    Memories are such great things, when times are bad, then good reminiscences can lift you.Your story reminds me what a great guy you are, I know that still today you think of how you can help those less fortunate than yourself.

    Keep blogging

  2. many thanks klahanie you help me keep my life on a positive note

  3. Hi Klahanie, the trip to California both on the bus and car sounds wonderful. I am so glad you have had such a great experience.I look forward to seeing you at Magmh and reading your blogs.Take care.

  4. Daer Klahanie,
    Once again the story of your life entertains and enthralls, although I do feel somewhat like smallandsnappy- my childhood holidays to Rhyl and Blackpool just don't seem to have the same grandeur.
    But until next time, please keep writing your vivid and empathetic accounts. I can still feel a memoir in the offing!

    Yours with Best Wishes,

  5. Hi Klahanie,

    Thank you once again for sharing part of your life with us all, and describing it in such an interesting and eloquent fashion.
    You have promted me to maybe one day soon, write about my life living in my country of birth,(Italy) and living and working in other parts of the European Community.
    You have also made me realise and remember some of the wonderful memories and people I have met in what has been a very eventfull and interesting life,throughout my many travels....I am grateful to you for that....Best wishes D Xx

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  7. What a superb piece of blogging - can almost smell the California air from here!


  8. hya u!

    sorry its been so long!

    i hope ya doin well!

    thanx 4 throwing mash and all sorts at me. i havn't been on the comp or ages i've been in such a tiz with one thing after another, all good though!

    take care of ya self you

    the problem with getting round to these tuit's is that in my case at least i have sooooooo many!

    keep on keeping on!!


  9. Klahanie, I would have been 18 when you were having your adventures in America. It seems like an age ago, when I had no grey hair, and no beard. A lot of water has flowed under the Golden Gate Bridge since then. I hope you have many more interesting adventures still to come, that you can share with us. Phil.


I do try to comment back to each commenter individually. However, I might have to shorten my replies or give a group thank you. That way, I can spend more time commenting on your blogs. Thank you and peace, my friend.