In March of 1976 the USS Cleveland LPD-7 returns to Longbeach California to be put into dry dock for an extensive overhaul. The ship pulled up into the dry dock and the gates were closed. Then the water was pumped out and the ship settled down onto enormous wood skids. The whole process was amazing to me. The ship looked enormous to me as I walked underneath her to see. There were the two enormous propellers much taller then a man. It was fascinating!
After we had docked in the dry dock I telephoned home to ask Brenda why she had not met me in Longbeach. She said she was not coming and that she wanted a divorce. I was devastated. Why? I asked her. She had no answer for me. I blame myself for the divorce. I was young and dumb. I was more interested in being with my friends than being with Brenda. I regret not being more mindful of this.
The ship was secluded to be in dry dock for 9 months. So my buddy Fred, a British American and his civilian friend Andy, a British person here on a visa, and I rented an apartment in Huntington Beach California. It was a three bedroom apartment with a large living room and an ample kitchen. It was within 3 blocks to the beach. Many pleasurable evenings were spent there on the beach.
One day in July 1976 we decided we would take a trip to Deep Creek hot springs located in the San Bernardino National forest. Andy had a Vespa motor scooter. The thing was blood curdling! It could reach speeds of nearly 80 miles per hour on those tiny scooter wheels! Fred would ride on the back with Andy.
I preferred larger wheels. I had recently purchased a Honda CB 350. It was plenty fast for me and much more comfortable then a scooter.
So we packed up some essentials and headed up the freeway. At some point we got off and headed up a winding mountain road. Soon we arrived at the parking lot for the 6 mile trail to the hot springs. We parked our vehicles and I left my full coverage helmet locked to my bike and we started on the six mile hike.
The view was fantastic! It was a steady climb up the rocky trail and a decent to the creek. Before we decended down the trail we looked at all the people enjoying the hot water. Men and women. Lots of them. And they were all stark naked! We just stood there for a moment, looking down on the group of people that gave no doubt as to what their individual genders were! We looked at each other and Andy said “Well come on mates! Let’s join the party!” He led the way down the trail to the springs and we followed.
We looked at all the naked people and one of the girls beckoned to us to join them in the water. Well we felt kind of out of place. Here were 20 or so people in a complete state of undress and here we were completely clothed. Well it only seemed natural to remove our clothing and to join the happy crowd of nudists in the water. That is exactly what we did!
We stayed in the hot springs all day until the rangers that were watching over us told us it was time to go as the park would be closing soon. We did not want to go yet. However the rangers made sure we were all out of the water and heading up the trail towards the parking area.
Well we did not want to leave so Andy, Fred, and myself snuck into the woods off the trail and hid. Well we must have not hid very well as the rangers soon spotted us hiding and made us leave. This time they walked with us to make sure we had left.
Well we did not want to leave. We wanted to get back in the warm water! So after the rangers left we stayed. We could not go back the springs. However we could stay in the parking lot. So that is what we did.
Being young and dumb, we did not realize how cold it got at night in this mountainous region. We settled down in the sand just off the parking lot and fell asleep. Around midnight we all woke up. It was freezing cold! Bone chilling cold if you will. I had put my helmet on to keep my ears warm. I was the only one that had a helmet. A full coverage helmet. I began to feel sorry for Andy and Fred. I knew that their ears were freezing. So I removed the helmet and gave it to Andy and told him to wear it for 15 minutes and then give to Fred. We kept up this rotation every 15 minutes. We were so cold. Around 2 AM we stood up and began to pace trying to keep warm. We found a huge tumble weed so we lit it for warmth. Well it did supply warmth for about 30 seconds. We watched as the tumble weed blazed up then quickly died away. We then decended into a cold misery once again.
When the sun came up we decided to go home instead of going back to the spring. So we got on our bikes and started the return home. It was even colder on the ride when you figure in the wind chill! It was a miserable ride. As we were making our way home we spotted a small ma and pa diner. We pulled up and entered the diner. Warmth poured over us. It felt so good. We sat at the counter drinking coffee and eating apple pie. We all were so glad that we had found this oasis on our way home from our adventure!