This is the twelfth and final installment of Christmas reflections, at least for this year.
The Twelfth Day
What about the rest of Christmas break, after the big day was over? Can you say Palm Springs Tramway? We went two consecutive years, and the fact that the second trip featured my Nova breaking down, meant it had to have been 1971, days before I went into the military.
Our trips out to the Palm Springs area were simply an extension of those excursions up into the San Gabriel Mountains, where we drove on through to the high desert on the other side. We had no specific agenda, and no certain time schedule. We were just back before it got dark.
When we went out to Palm Springs Tramway, it was a whole family affair, though I cannot say definitively that Kevin came along. I would have guessed yes, because there were so many older siblings and hangers-on accompanying us, that there would have been plenty of eyes, but he would only have been four or five years old.
This was a family adventure to parallel anything yet that did not involve staying overnight. The drive itself was lengthy, probably about sixty miles straight out the San Bernardino Freeway, past Ontario and Uncle Pat’s house, all the way out to the San Jacinto Mountain Range. The tram went from the bottom at 2,643 feet of elevation at Valley Station up to 8,516 feet of elevation at Mountain Station, total length of cable traveled: 12, 780 feet, which took abut ten minutes.
We were warned to bring along warm clothes, even if it was hot below, and that we cold expect thunder showers while up on the top. What we actually got was snow, and it was fun. There was a restaurant at the top and a cafeteria-style eatery, and we went for the latter. Some of us had money to pay for our lunches, and some of us did not. I remember the big boys defraying the cost of the original tram tickets and the cost of lunch, and by “big boys” I mean brother Brian, the kingpin of Sunrize Market. He didn’t make a big deal out it, but as he rose through the ranks of the grocery business, and began earning more loot, he was very generous when it came to the little kids.
We hiked while on the top, everyone embracing the concept of getting out and about. Snow was unbelievably welcome to me, at least until my hands and feet got cold, and then I was a little less enthusiastic. In my case, it was good training for Fort Leonard Wood, and if you believe that, I have this bridge you might want to check out. It’s golden, and I will give it to you for a song.
The second year we went, my Nova decided to pull a hissy fit and left us on the side of the highway, halfway back from Palm Springs. The problem was the stupid Holley four-barrel carburetor, which inexplicably overflowed at the most inopportune of moments, spewing gasoline all over the intake manifold, seemingly unconcerned that the exhaust system would probably make for a hot welcome, if the gas got that far.
As unorthodox as it would seem, but also equally efficient, was the method of rectifying this dilemma. I had to take a heavy wrench, carefully wrapped up in a rag so as not to produce a spark, and gently tap [bang] on the side of the carb. Apparently, this action dislodged whatever impediment created the overflow. Dave Varisco insisted that the jets needed adjustment, and I calmly explained that that was what the wrench was for, an adjustment. After all, I knew exactly how hard to bang-sorry, tap-that wrench against the carb. Unfortunately, leaving the car behind on the side of the road was the occasional result.
There was the time Nancie and I went the the drive-in, and fell asleep, awaking after three in the morning to an empty lot, and a Nova with a jenky carburetor. I would have whipped out my cellie, but they weren’t invented, so I went to the phone booth outside the snack bar, and phoned Brian, who was sleeping in the radio shack on Fellowship Street. I explained that the Nova wouldn’t start, and that I needed to get Nancie back to Louisa Street, or Harry would have my head on a platter. I would have been willing to sacrifice my head, if I was sure Harry would stop there. All bets would have been “off” on that one.
Brian was pretty dingy and I had to explain the situation carefully. Once he had grasped the essentials, he said, “OK, now that I know where you are, tell me where I am. Am I at home, or am I at the apartment in Manchester? It just goes to show that there was more to Robert’s incessant question, “Do you know where you’re at?” than we might have garnered at the time.
I do not know how that carburetor problem translated into traveling down the highway, and then being on the side of the road. The bottom line is that it took time to allow the system to drain the excess gas and allow the carburetor to function again. Because the late hour mandated a sense of urgency, we abandoned the Nova alongside the San Bernardino Freeway, piled into the other Nova, and made our way back to Fellowship Street. I got someone to drive me out the next day, at which time the Nova started up instantly.
It seems funny that we used to travel to get to the snow; now we travel to get away from it.