Tag Archives: California

My Western Trip~Part 6

11 Jun

 A Slice of Life

By Bill Lites

Bill Small Red Plane


Next, it was over to Simi Valley, CA for a tour of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. I was impressed with the 24 different galleries, which traced Reagan’s life from his early days as local hero, college standout, glamorous Hollywood actor, then as governor of California, and ultimately to the presidency of the United States. There was even a full-sized replica of the Oval Office in one of the galleries. But, of course the thing that impressed me the most was Air Force One (S/N 27000), also known as “The Flying Whitehouse” and the Marine One helicopter (S/N 150611), both of which Reagan used while President. I asked one of the Docents how they got the plane in the building, and she said, “They built three sides of the new building, took the wings and tail assembly off the plane, so they could bring it in through the fourth opening, and re-assembled the airplane inside. Then they finished the fourth all glass wall. For the full story of how the U.S. President’s airplane got its name, Google “Air Force One.” It’s a fascinating story I think you will enjoy knowing.



Before leaving Simi Valley, I stopped at the Santa Susana Railroad Depot & Museum to get the history of an early California railroad depot and its operations. This was one of the most unusual and interesting small museums. The depot is an example of what the Southern Pacific Railroad called their Standard No. 22 Depot in 1903. The depot has been meticulously restored with many original furnishings and working equipment, that the Docent uses to explain to visitors how the depots operated in the early 20th century. Today, on what was the old Southern Pacific rails, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight trains head up and down the coast, and the daily Surfliner and Metrolink trains ferry commuters in and out of Los Angeles.



Now, because of a time constraint, I headed west to Oxnard, CA where I quickly visited the small Mullin Automotive and Murphy Auto Museums. I also visited the Channel Island Maritime Museum, there in Oxnard, where I learned something very interesting about some of the early 17th century Dutch Maritime painters. It seems that some of them painted in such detail that (with a very strong magnifying glass) one can see that each of the distant subjects in the painting has been given details such as a pipe in the mouth, some with a mustache and all with a nose, ears and even eyebrows. The kind of details you might expect in a close-up portrait painting, but not in a battle scene at sea. And, then there were the fabulous model ships, many of them crafted by the Curator/Docent that took me on a tour of the museum. The model ship detail was outstanding! What a great tour.



Then, to round out the day, I visited the CAF WWII Aviation Museum in Camarillo, CA. This museum is very similar in size and display aircraft to the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum here in Titusville, FL where I volunteer as a tour guide one day each week. They had an AT-6 and a two-place P-51 Mustang, both actively giving rides while I was there, and I got some really good close-up photos of both as they fired up their engines, taxied out with their passengers and took off. I always get a thrill when I hear the sound of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine at full throttle passing overhead.




—–To Be Continued—–

My Western Trip~Part 3

21 May

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites



On the way back to Las Vegas, it was suggested that I take the scenic route through the Valley of Fire State Park. This area has some of the most unusual desert rock formations I’ve seen. It made for a beautiful drive, as the sun was getting low, making the red hue of the rock formations glow like they were on fire. Maybe that’s where they came up with the name for the state park. You think?



The next morning I started the day off with California Eggs Benedict at Marie Calendar’s (yumm), on my way to meet Bob at Nellis AFB. Bob had agreed to escort me on a tour of the Thunderbirds Museum, located there on Nellis. What a thrill it was to visit the home base of that great demonstration team, and view the planes and all the memorabilia tracing the team’s history over the years they have been in operation.



Then I headed West on I-15 toward Barstow, CA. My first stop was at Goodsprings, NV to check out the 1913 era Pioneer Saloon of “Things Are Tough All Over” movie fame, staring Cheech & Chang.   The saloon has been operating continuously since opening in 1913, and the building and many of the saloon furnishings are original (including the pot-bellied U.S. Army Cannon stove), giving it a rustic and well used appearance. Part of the old west history of the Pioneer Saloon includes five bullet holes in one wall, and a hammered copper picture next to the bullet holes tells the tale of how they got there. The Saloon’s original bar was built in the 1860s by the Brunswick Company of Brunswick, Maine. The story of the arduous trip that brought that bar to Goodsprings, and the Pioneer Saloon, is typical of the transportation routes of the early 1900s. Made of fine quality Cherry wood, even after all these years, it shows no real signs of wear and still maintains its high gloss.



As I continued West on I-15, I experienced a gentle climb until just after I crossed the border into California, when I started noticing what appeared to be a rainstorm heading my way. Just as I entered the Clark Mountain Pass (elev. 4726), I ran into SNOW flurries. I had just stopped for gas in Jean, NV and it hadn’t seemed that cold there. I just couldn’t believe I was driving through SNOW in the middle of a bright sunny day. Of course, the flurries didn’t last long, but it was still a thrill just to have driven through them. Down the road a ways, I stopped in Yermo, CA to visit the historic Old West Calico Ghost Town.   Located just 3 miles east of Barstow, Calico was founded in 1881 as a silver mining town, and today has been converted into a county park named Calico Ghost Town.  Silver mining and the population of Calico, supported by the Zenda Mining Company, peaked in 1887 and has steadily declined ever since. Walter Knott (of Knott’s Berry Farm) purchased Calico in the 1950s, and architecturally restored the town’s builldings to look as they did in the 1880s. 




—–To Be Continued—–


You’re in the Navy~Part 12

16 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites




Back in Sasebo, my two years of active service finally came to an end, and I was ready to be out of the Active Navy.  But, because the Hector had been 1extended on station, the Navy had to come up with a way to transport me back to the states.  So, I received orders to be flown from Japan to Treasure Island Naval Station in California for separation.  With everything I owned in my duffle bag, my first attempt to get to an airport was a four-hour hot and bumpy school bus ride, on some of the roughest roads I had ever traveled, to Itazuke AFB.  Since I was enlisted, which is as low as it gets in the military, when it comes to travel authorization, several officers bumped me off that flight, and I had to endure another 4-hour bus ride back to the ship.

A day or so later, it was back on the school bus, this time several hot jarring hours to Tachikawa AFB for another try.  This time I got a seat on a fully loaded Douglas C-124 Globemaster airplane, operated by the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).  Did I mention it was now the middle of the summer, there was not a breath of air from any direction that day, and inside the airplane was like being in a big aluminum can with the sun beating down on it, and no A/C to keep the air moving inside that big can?  Everyone was dripping wet by the time they had us all seated and 2accounted for.  Once they got the doors closed, we taxied to the end of the runway, the pilot did his pre-flight engine checks, and we headed down the runway at full power.  Well, full power didn’t last long, as at least one of the engines started backfiring and the pilot aborted the takeoff.  We stopped at the end of the runway, and the pilot did more engine checks.  Since there still was no wind from any direction, the pilot turned back on the runway, and headed off at full power again.  This time an engine caught on fire, and thank God the pilot had time to abort the takeoff.  We all hurriedly deplaned, dripping wet, on shaky legs, and walked back to the terminal, leaving the flight crew and fire department to deal with the smoking engine.  That episode didn’t give me a lot of confidence in any C-124 being able to get me safely back to the states.

Then, after a stay-over night, there at the airbase, for some unknown reason, I was transported, along with several other sailors, to Tokyo to wait for a “Space Available” seat on a commercial flight.  As it turned out, I 3was only bumped off one flight there, before I was given a seat on a TWA Super “G” Constellation flight headed for San Francisco.  The flight consisted of three, very long 8-hour, over water flight legs, with stops at Wake Island, then at Honolulu, Hawaii and finally to San Francisco International Airport.  Even though that flight was luxurious, compared to what the C-124 flight on MATS would have been, I was still mighty glad to be on the ground, and at the end of that trip.

I was transported to the Treasure Island Naval Station, where I spent several days being processed out of the Active Navy, and back into the 4Naval Reserve, to finish my 6-year tour of duty I had signed up for.  I spent most of my free time visiting many of the tourist spots San Francisco is best known for, such as “Alcatraz Island”, Coit Tower, the Planetarium at Golden Gate Park, and of course, Fisherman’s Wharf, where I enjoyed some of their world famous seafood more than once.

After the Navy was through with me, and that mini-vacation was over, I took the train to Los Angeles to meet DiVoran, and get reacquainted with my lovely wife.  While we were there, she looked into the requirements for obtaining her California Beautician’s license; only to find out she needed 300 more hours, than what New Mexico required, to qualify to take the California test.  That would have to wait until we came back from Albuquerque, and were settled in our new location in Inglewood, California, where I would be starting work on my Mechanical Engineering Degree education at Northrop University.  But, then that’s another story about another time for another blog.



                                                                        The End

Hope For Our Country

4 Jul

My Take
DiVoran Lites

Happy Independence Day. Will you be having a cookout, going to a parade, going to the beach, setting off firecrackers, or sitting in the shade drinking lemonade? Author, Poet and ArtistMaybe all of the above?
I love our beautiful world and this country called America, which God has made. Some people may malign us, but at the same time others are doing everything in their power to come here for a new start. No red-blooded American is going to argue that we still have the greatest country in the world. Is it possible God had a hand in that?

I have to admit I am shocked when I hear some of the things politicians in this great country have done. Think of when they killed off the bison so the Indians would die out and when they deliberately infected Native Americans with smallpox so they could take their land.

It appalls me to learn more every day about how bad slavery was. Yet I personally met an African man who explained the scars carved in his cheeks by saying they were proof that he belonged to a tribe that had once captured other villages and sold them to become slaves. He and his wife were in America getting an education. If we focus on badness we will see it everywhere, not just here.
The Dust Bowl was a result of our leaders manipulating the mid-American grasslands until they were exhausted and turned to dust.

The Great Depression was influenced by the Dust Bowl and both came from foolish decisions by the money-mongers in the country, not by ordinary families.
I hear people talking as if they believe the present time is the worst in our history, but what I always wonder is whether those who experienced the disasters I’ve mentioned knew their own time was the worst in American history. It was and they did, but we want to remember this one thing. Our country is a survivor due to those little people that some leaders and officials think don’t count.

Who are we to believe, then? The gov? Or God?

My take is that we are making a mistake if we think politicians good or bad are in control. They are not. Guess who really is. Right, God. God has His plans and He will see that they are fulfilled, every single one of them whether we vote for Him or not. He does however appreciate our cooperation as he does His work through us.
While the events I’ve mentioned were deeply hurtful and themselves left terrible wounds, they have all passed. In 1956 President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation making the phrase, “In God We Trust,” the official motto of the United States and required it to be included on all U. S. currency. Do we believe it or don’t we? Taking it off the money will cost a lot, but won’t change the answer.

Voting is good. Voting is essential. Peaceful demonstrations are still legal as far as I know. We still have freedom of speech even though we are afraid we’re going to lose it. Signing petitions helps our elected officials know what we little people want. Telling the truth helps and so does morality. Trust and faith in God make us stronger, wiser, and happier. Let’s hear a cheer for the grassroots givers, teachers, helpers, mothers and fathers and the people who lift up holy hands in all kinds of service to their country. It is not we who are in charge, this is not our country, it is God’s country and He still has a plan for America.
“…the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night that the flag was still there.

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

LUKE 14 : 11

Visits with Ivan & Dora Part 2

5 Jun

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites


1png My work during those years took me to the Southern California area frequently, and this was great for us, because Ivan and Dora would always invite us to come visit them in whatever location they happened to be that summer.  I would take DiVoran with me for a week of vacation before or after my business in California and we would spend our vacations relaxing with Ivan and Dora.  We made several summer visits to their home in Vista, one visit to the Salton Sea (226 ft. below sea level), two visits while they were staying at Smithy’s on Marrowstone Island and one visit to Sapinero in Colorado.

Sapinero is a small community located on U.S. Highway 50, along the shore of the 2Blue Mesa Reservoir in western Colorado.  Ivan had wanted to move to Montrose, Colorado but couldn’t talk Dora into a permanent move, so summers at Sapinero were the next best thing he could come up with.  The community is made up of mostly part-time summer folks with their motor homes and travel trailers, who like Ivan, like the lake fishing.

3In 1955 Sapinero became an example of those stories about a riverside community being moved to a new location when those in power decided they needed to dam up the Gunnison River to provide water for the surrounding area.  The original Sapinero community now resides under some 300 feet of water.  The reservoir was stocked with Kokanee Salmon and Tilapia, which at the time I had never heard of, but were fun to catch and wonderful eating.

In addition to the rustic “Village Store”, which included the “Ley-Z-B Restaurant”, 4there are several old “rustic cabins”, one of which we rented for our one and only stay at Sapinero.  The problem with the cabins was that they were very primitive, and provide only the basic needs, such as very cold water and one 60-watt light bulb.  The bed sagged so badly that DiVoran and

I tended to roll in toward each other in the middle, and there was a 2” gap under the door.

5The two-hole outhouse was 30 feet down the drive and very dark at night, which reminds me of a little “outhouse trivia” you may not know.  It’s said that the first outhouse designs used a crescent moon cut into the door to identify the “Ladies” and a star cut into the door to identify the “Men’s” privies.  Then after a while, the star was dropped and privies became unisex in nature, mainly because the women kept their privies cleaner than the men did.  Bet you had never heard that one before!  I hadn’t.

One night while we were fast asleep, dreaming of how nice it would be to be to be sleeping in our own bed at home, DiVoran suddenly jumped out of bed screaming and brushing wildly at her hair.  I was still half-asleep and couldn’t figure out what was going on.  Finally, she calmed down long enough to tell me that something had 7run through her hair, and about that time, we saw this field mouse scurry out through the gap under the door.  Then I had visions of what else could find its way through that gap into our cabin looking for a warm place to sleep.  Well, you better believe we didn’t waste any time blocking that gap with towels, but I’m not sure how much better that helped us sleep that night.

8 Ivan had built a wooden cover and porch structure over his travel trailer to help shade them from the sun and give them a place to relax in the evenings.  TV reception at Sapinero was almost non-existent, so most evenings a bunch of the folks and/or some of the local cronies would gather at the Ley-Z-B Restaurant for dinner and/or to spend the evening sharing some of the many stories for which traveling folks and old cronies are known to have an endless supply.

Every Saturday evening the Ley-Z-B Restaurant hosted a western style Bar-B-Q at the Village Store.  People of all ages came from all around the immediate area to 9enjoy the great food. We even saw some bikers stop in to try out the ribs.  Someone would usually bring a guitar or banjo and provide the music for the evening’s sing-a-long, and a great time was had by all.

These are just a few of the more memorable times we have spent with Ivan and Dora over the years.  They knew how to relax and have a good time where ever they were, and that made It  relaxing and fun for DiVoran and me to spend time with them.  What wonderful memories!  We would love to do any of those trips over again if it were only possible.

—–The End—–

Visits with Ivan & Dora Part 1

29 May

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites


Ivan,father of DiVoran Lites

DiVoran’s dad, Ivan, was an avid fisherman, one of those “Lives to Fish” kind of guys.  During his working years, he spent as much time as his job permitted, fishing within a driving radius of his home.  When he and his wife Dora lived in Livermore, California, it was the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River where he did most of his fishing.

At that time, DiVoran and I lived in Los Angeles where I was attending Northrop University, and we made several trips to Livermore so Ivan and Dora could see their grandkids.  Now I’m not really much a fisherman, but I have fond memories of fishing with Ivan on San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River.  In fact, I caught the biggest fish of my life, a 75 lb. Sturgeon, and Ivan caught a 104 lb. Sturgeon during one of our trips up the Sacramento River.


On another trip to Livermore to visit Ivan and Dora, Ivan took me fishing on San Francisco bay where together, we caught the most fish (110 total) I can remember.  Of course, of those 110 Striped Bass we caught, we had to release 109 because they measured from 12“ to 15” long, and the limit was 16”, which left us with only one keeper, but boy was that a fun morning!

3Ivan and Dora retired in Vista, California and one of the first trips we made to visit them  there involved Ivan taking me to run his lobster traps.   He had obtained a commercial Pacific Lobster License with the idea of making a fortune selling his catches to the local area  restaurants.

The only trouble with that plan was that poachers were raiding his traps and running off with most of his lobsters.  He had tried everything he could think of to deter the poachers, including enlisting the local sheriff, all to no avail.  The traps were some distance off shore, and no one was able to keep watch on the traps 24/7, and he never knew when the poachers would strike.  But, the lobsters we were able to catch on that trip were delicious!

Bill Lites

Bill Lites

Vista was hot in the summer compared to Livermore, so to beat the heat and be able to fulfill Ivan’s fishing desires, they would pick out a nice “cool” campground at a good fishing location, buy a used 30’ travel trailer and set it up there for the summer.  If the location turned out to meet all Ivan’s “Summer Getaway/Fishing Requirements”, then they would leave the trailer for  the next year.  If not, they would hook up the travel trailer to his truck and move it to another “Better” location the next year.5

There were the memorable summers Ivan and Dora spent in the Puget Sound area.   Dora’s brother Smithy ran a beautiful trailer park and campground on Marrowstone Island.   From Seattle, we had to take two ferryboats to get to the island and then drive several miles to get to Smithy’s Trailer Park, but it was well worth the time and effort.


Ivan and Dora  parked their travel trailer at Smithy’s for several  summers, and Ivan usually helped Smithy with the campground maintenance, while Dora and  Smithy’s wife Waunita took care of the family Avon business.  DiVoran and I would rent one of Smithy’s permanent travel trailers during our visits with them, which was just like camping in a State Park, which as it happened, was just a few miles north of Smithy’s at the Fort Flagler State Park. 7

A day of fishing for Ivan and me on Marrowstone island was; out early at low tide, to collect tube worms, then set off in Ivan’s boat in search of the best Flounder fishing hole.  By the time DiVoran and I visited  them at Smithy’s the first time, Ivan had scoped out the best places to find bait, and also the most likely places to find good size Flounder.  And boy was that fresh Flounder some good eatin’!


8a The other neat thing we did with Ivan and Dora while visiting them at Smithy’s was to go digging for clams.  Ivan knew just were to go at low tide for the largest clams.  We would walk along looking for the “waterspout” from the clam, then run over and dig it up.  It was amazing how deep we had to dig sometimes to get to the clam, and how long their siphon (leg, as Ivan called it) was that they used to spurt the water.  If you like clams, it would be hard to find better eating than those Puget Sound clams.

Ivan and DiVoran

Ivan and DiVoran

—–To Be Continued—–

Dad’s Music

14 May

My Take

DiVoran Lites

Author, Poet and Artist

Dad was tone-deaf and he hated music. He was tone-deaf, couldn’t sing a note, well, a correct note, he did go for: “Mary Ann, Mary Ann, down by the seaside sifting sand,” now and then. His rendering was unique. I can hear it still.

Dad’s mother never played music on a radio. I don’t recall her having a radio, so maybe he got the disability from her. I do know he became angry when I played mine too loud. But doggone it, I loved music, couldn’t get enough of it. I bought the, “Hit Parade,” magazine every week, laid on my bed and sang all the songs to myself until bedtime.

For our bar and restaurant, we had to have a juke box. What a wonderful, magical thing that was, beautiful too. And you know, even though Dad didn’t love music, I suspect that he must have loved his little daughter who delighted in song and dance. Sometimes when we had no customers, he’d give me the key to the jukebox (we called it a jute-box) and let me trip the trigger fifty times in order to play every single record on there. If it were winter the big table would be gone from the 10×10 dining room and I could dance to my heart’s content while Dad loaded bullets in the other room. There were a few songs he did like. I guess it was the words. He liked: “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette,” and, “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover.” I wonder how I know that.

Dad liked to load up mom, brother, and me, they called me, Sister, and go down the mountain roads to visit his mother and dad. The scenery made me want to sing, “When it’s Springtime in the Rockies,” and “C. O. L. O. R. A. D. O, (I love you.) quietly to myself. Sometimes I made up songs. I didn’t think anyone could hear me over the hum of the car, but I was wrong. One day my dad was taking Granddad somewhere and Granddad said, “She sure knows a lot of songs.”

“She makes some of them up,” said Dad. How did he know that?

“Well, well,” said Granddad approvingly and I thought, looky there, I’ve done something good.

One year when we took our annual trip with kids to visit Mom and Dad in California Dad had some cassette tapes in a holder on the front seat of his king cab. Of course I read the titles. You’ll never guess in a million years… Believe it or not, they were opera tapes! I hadn’t even learned to like opera myself. When taxed with the incongruity, Dad admitted it. He actually liked to listen to opera tapes driving down the road. Did that mean he missed the little music maker in the back seat? I’d like to think so. “Yep,” says he…”drives your mother crazy.”

I like opera now, too. I’m listening to Pavarotti, as we speak. You hear that, Dad?


Dad and I

Dad and I

DiVoran and Pavarotti at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London, England


DiVoran and Pavarotti at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London, England

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