I live 50 miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park. I have beautiful places to ride and get to deal with tourist regularly that drive like complete idiots.
This morning I was on my bicycle just before sunrise. I headed over to Hwy 4 to spend a couple of hours climbing hills. Hwy 4 goes from the 99 freeway near Stockton, over Ebbetts Pass (Elevation 8750’). The part I ride on regularly has steep climbs and a nice shoulder so I am not too close to traffic. The traffic can include logging trucks, vacation RV’s and people in a hurry to go either to the valley or wine tasting.
At the top of the three mile climb is a viewpoint, Vista Point. It is a convenient place to take a quick break for nourishment or whatever is needed. After doing three climbs I stopped for a brief minute. I see a Nissan Maxima with Maryland plates (tourist) coming my way very slowly. The car came to a complete stop. It was sitting in the middle of the highway where the speed limit is 65 mph. and on a curve with limited visibility.
They were looking at each other and motioning like they were lost. And they sat. I couldn’t just let them sit there until a logging truck came by so I attempted to wave them into Vista Point. After looking at me rather stupidly they pulled in. I motioned for them to roll down their window. They looked at me with a vague lost tourist smile. I explained my point of view to them.
“I see people like you all of the time” I started. “You think your out in the country and the rules of the road no longer apply to you. You can’t just stop your car in a traffic lane and sit there, just like you can’t make u-turns on this roadway”. (Another tourist favorite)
I implored them to drive like they had at least a little intelligence as to not cause an accident. The driver just started to pull away.
He quickly stopped and backs up to me.
“I see a lot of bicyclist riding two abreast and that’s not safe” the guy says. “And sometimes they are not even in bike lanes!” Wow, this guy is obviously a deep thinker. “I’m not doing that, now am I pal?” Was my retort.
I continue with him, “It is stupid to stop in a traffic lane. You are going to cause an accident or kill somebody” I stated with a little increase in volume. I think he started to sense my urge to educate him on proper roadway etiquette by dragging him thru his window and rearranging his nose. No one wants to be beat up by a guy in spandex.
He hits the accelerator and yells out the window, “You are a rude cyclist”. I just smiled and went back to climbing hills.
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In retrospect, we should be thankful that only seven of the twelve kids still lived at home when the family moved from Oxford Kansas. If you were traveling to California with two adults and seven kids, I wouldn’t guess that anyone’s ideal mode of transportation would be a 1940 Ford 2-door sedan. The Ford deluxe came with a whopping 95 horsepower flathead V-8, mated to a manual three speed transmission. At that time 50 mph was flying down the road. Seat belts were still decades away and interior space was very limited. Add to that the fact that we were pulling a trailer and you can imagine that the load was almost too much to move. In fact the headlights were pointed up in the air and the tongue of the trailer was almost dragging on the ground.
The car belonged to Aunt Analee, who normally made a tidy sum of money driving people from the Midwest to California. Also In the car was Mother (Bertha Jane Prothro) age 44 along with us children, Doris 13, Bonita 11, Lloyd 9, Jimmy 7, Corky 5, Betty 3 and Patricia 1. The older kids were already living on their own. It was the day after Easter Sunday, 1941. Very early, on a rainy Monday morning, the nine Prothro’s set out for California. Dad, C.A. Prothro (44), had already been in California for a about a year. He was working in the Merced area. Baby Patricia kept saying “we goin to Cal pony, to see Daddy”.
The driver, Analee, didn’t need a map, she just drive south into Oklahoma until we hit Route 66 and turned right, all the way to California. It was two lane roads or just plain blacktop. The whole trip didn’t take any longer than a few days. Mom packed a basket full of food for the trip. Drinks were simple, water. Gas was between 15 and 20 cents a gallon, so it wasn’t very expensive, even if they didn’t get great mileage.
With nine people in a car made for four, you can’t imagine the cramped quarters and the problems we children could instigate. The most prized seat in the car was in the front of course. When Bonita and Doris sat in the front, they would pass time by reading every possible sign and constantly checking the odometer to see how much further. At only one year old, Patricia spent the entire trip in somebody’s lap. Car seats had not been invented yet.
After the first day, Analee tried to drive all night. When she became too tired, we stopped in the middle of nowhere and slept on the side of the road. It may have not been a bed, but at least we weren’t cramped into the car. The next night we spent in an inexpensive roadside motel, with just two beds. Doris, Bonita and Betty had their heads at one end of the bed and Lloyd, Jimmy and Corky had their heads on the other. Mom, Analee and Patricia in the other were in the other bed.
The next day took our family into the Painted Desert. It was so different than being in Kansas with then endless plains and wheat fields. Bonita says that the Painted Desert was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, with all of the red, purple, orange and brown tones, it was just breathtaking. We stopped long enough for the boys to pick up pieces of petrified wood.
When we arrived at Kingman Arizona, a change of plans was made. Our family took a departure to see one of the new wonders of the world, Boulder Dam. I can’t imagine wanting to spend extra time with nine people packed in a car, but the idea of seeing the Dam was too good to pass up. We were all amazed at the sight of the newly built Dam. The view from the rail was amazing. The higher safety rails were installed later. Bonita scared our Mom to death by picking up Betty, so she could see over the rail.
The trip continued on to San Bernardino, where paternal Grandmother Rhoda Prothro owned a boarding house. After a quick stop, it was back on the road. Final destination point was the Merced area. C.A.’s sister Levina and her husband Earl Barnett were Cotton farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. We were glad to be with Dad and have the family back together again.
In California it was on to new adventures and growing up in the 1940’s. Our older brother Perry served in the Marine Corps during WWII. One by one, we moved out and set out on lives of our own. Most of us Prothro’s stayed in California. The families could be found congregating in the Merced and Lancaster areas, with C.A. and Bertha moving between the two cities until their death and burial in Lancaster.
Looking back, we have no idea how everybody survived that trip, we just know that Mom and Analee were sure glad that trip was over.