~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Update on San Jose to Morro Bay in 1948

The wife and I just returned from a week of visiting family and friends in California.  Sandwiched between the usual stuff was a visit to a vintage glider gathering in Tehachapi, CA and also a dog show in Pomona where we met up with the breeder of my Corgi pal Gromit.  Motorcycles played only the slightest part in the trip but provided one of the more interesting moments.

 A couple of blog entries back I posted a picture of my dad and his buddies outside their motel in Morro Bay, CA back in '48.  It was the turn around point of their ride down from San Jose.  Since my dear ol' Mum lives just down the coast from Morro Bay in the lovely old town of Pismo Beach, I decided to drive up to if I could find the location of 1948 picture snapped by my Uncle John.

The night before we drove to Morro Bay I spoke again on the phone to Uncle John.  He couldn't summon up much more for memories of their "adventure ride" except that they'd gone home by way of Highway 101.  No matter, that answered the question I had about how they returned home and meant they'd done a grand total of 590 miles of riding on their 3hp Harley-Davidsons.  He said later they bought bigger bikes of about 185cc which were much nicer.  Power crazed guys, all of them.  I'm guessing the newer bikes were probably some version of an NSU or DKW but no way to tell unless more photos turn up.

Talking about Dad & Uncle John's trip with my mom (89 years old this week), she casually mentioned that she and Dad had once ridden Dad's motorcycle down to Morro Bay from San Jose, just the two of them.

Huh?!

Yup, two-up on presumably the bigger 185cc bike and a ride of right at 400 miles round trip.  I knew Dad was tough, but Mom?

I inquired further and Mom mentioned that on the steep hills at the upper end of the route that she rode the underpowered bike to the top while Dad hitched a ride with a passing truck.  "When did Dad teach you to ride a motorcycle, Mom?"  "Oh, he didn't, it didn't seem that difficult so I just got on and road it up the steep hills."  I knew she baked killer sugar cookies but I didn't know she had that kind of moxie.  But then she raised four sons so I guess she had to be tough.

Back to Morro Bay.

A check of Google Earth showed the general area of the '48 photo as being easily identified by a large stand of eucalyptus trees.  The chance of the motel still being there was slim but there was a building in the area that was the correct, long, narrow shape.  So off we went and found the building, now extensively remodeled into a private home.

The corner of Dune St. and Napa Avenue. 
Rather than prowl around someone's yard with my camera and wind up in jail, I knocked on the door of the home and a friendly fellow named Pete came out.  I told him what I was up to, showed him the old photo, and we proceeded to walk around trying to find the precise location of the shot.  Turned out it was the next street (50 yards) north and sure enough, if you held the picture up, sited on the unmistakable geographic monolith of Morro Rock, put the now very much bigger eucalyptus trees on the right, there you are.  The old motel is long gone, replaced by newish homes and condos.  Progress happens.

Me & Biker Mom checking out the scene

I walked back to the van and drove Mom around the corner to the spot I'd found.  We got out and I showed her what I'd found and held up the photo.  "Why, that's really something!" she said.
Here's what she saw.
It wasn't the site of the Hollister Riot or some other great event of motorcycle history but I thought it was pretty cool.

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Addendum. September 2012

A couple of former residents of Morro Bay have written me to tell me I missed on the location, that there was a second stand of trees a block or so away and that was the actual location of the Holmes Motel.  More research including trading some e-mails with a guy name Vic, who tells me he did the plasterwork on the Holmes when it was built, led me to the correct location which I viewed late in 2010.  Being essentially lazy I'd not bothered to update the story but today Joe D. wrote me today and included some photos: 

"I just wanted to let you know that you actually missed the location of the motel your Dad and his friends stayed at in Morro Bay. the Holmes Motel was well known and the buildings stood until the mid 1980s, although it had been closed several years prior to that. The actual location was half a block south of Morro Bay Blvd. between Shasta and Marina streets, and the driveway extended the length of the block. I used to use it as a short cut to get to the Bay Theatre as a kid.Today, there is a group of timeshares occupying the space, with a similar driveway. The grove of eucalyptus was removed about the same time as the motel. Enclosed are a couple of Google street view captures of the location today, and an aerial photograph postcard from about 1947. The garages stand just about where the motel buildings are in your Dad's photos. In the aerial, the motel is hidden inside the large rectangular stand of eucalyptus trees near the bottom center of the photo."

Ariel view about 1947.
original Holmes Motel postcard


Location of the Holmes Motel as it looks today.  Google Street View image

8 comments:

Webster World said...

That is really cool. After all these years to find that spot mostly unchanged.

Motorcycle Philosophy said...

Cool story. Just last March, my wife and I flew to Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, where I was born. I found the hospital where I was born, and then looked for the apartment building where I first lived. I lived in the town of Barber's Point, which is now mostly gone except for some industrial buildings. I found where my apartment building was, but everything was gone, and grown over with trees. But I got to stand there again.

FLHX_Dave said...

This was an adventure just in the reading. Very cool. Now I feel like an idiot because you were right here. I shoulda' hooked up with you for grub or something.

Cool story. Pretty much why I put all my insignificant crap up online. Maybe someday someone will be interested in what I was doing back in 2010...maybe.

That pict of the before photo with the "now" behind it blew me away...and I don't even know why, it just did.

mq01 said...

FABULOUS!!!! and you're really fortunate that family is still able to share this with you too. very cool!!!

Jac Brown said...

Really neat. The best part is having your mother relive part of the story. Get all the stories you can while she and your Uncle John are still around.

Geoff James said...

What an awesome finale to a great story. Thanks so much for that!

Drifter said...

Man! I can imagine what you must have felt when u held up that photo and it matched the scene!

Doug said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Hard to say why I even took the time to track the spot down but it seemed like something I ought to do so I did it. In the end it was more than worth the time and talking my mom into going with me.

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