Rant n' Rave – Piss n' Moan – rambles and rants of an old man…

July 3, 2009

Charlie Manson and Me – part 9

Filed under: Charlie Manson and Me - part 9 — Tags: — Bob @ 8:34 am


Charlie Manson and Me –part 9

~Lunch in Death Valley~



Looking Westward to where we came out of the mountains - 10/1976

Looking Westward to where we came out of the mountains - 10/1976

We had been driving about 1/4-mile behind that Army Engineer Corps. grader, and  I recall that when it finally disappeared in the distance and we were once again alone, it did hit us that we were actually sitting here in Death Valley!  I mean, look around us!  There is NOBODY HERE in sight, and we are ALONE IN DEATH VALLEY!!

* W O W ! *

Facing Southeast on West Side Hwy. - 10/1976

Facing Southeast on West Side Hwy. - 10/1976

 …so what else could we do?  We parked and had some lunch!  I remember we had cold chicken and some chips and a Pepsi, with some kind of fruit for desert. (…again…  S-C-U-R-V-Y !) 


Danny, in front of the Eastern slope of the Panamint Mountains - 10/1976

Danny, in front of the Eastern slope of the Panamint Mountains - 10/1976



As you can see, October on the floor of Death Valley can be breezy!  I remember it was warm, but not hot! 


Barbara, sipping a Pepsi after lunch - 10/1976

Barbara, sipping a Pepsi after lunch - 10/1976



Once we finished our mid-day feast, we headed out for the long trail homeward.  We travelled about 8.5 mi. in Southeasterly direction, and when we came upon a left-hand fork, we crossed over to Badwater Rd., Rte. 178.

For some unknown reason we went to the left, Westward, on Badwater Rd., and drove for a couple of miles before doubting our decision.  While happily cruising along on an actual real paved road, I spotted a small lump on the road ahead.  As I aimed the van to straddle this ‘lump’, I realized what it was and hit the brakes pretty hard.  I checked the mirrors for traffic (yah, sure!) and backed up several feet to see this amazing thing!

It was a HUGE tarantula, bigger than my hand!

I grabbed my Olympus OM-1 SLR camera with the Tri-X B/W film, and jumped out of the van to get some shots of this huge spider.  At that time I had only the standard 50mm lens, so there were no long-distance shots to be had.  For close-ups I had to get up close! 


About 12" from a big tarantula - 10/1976.

About 12" from a big tarantula - 10/1976.

I had actually laid down on the pavement, and while staring through the viewfinder I slowly crawled toward this monster while focusing, adjusting shutter-speed and aperture and taking pictures!  …no auto-anything used.  I was studying photography and this was my first SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera and it was set to full-manual mode.

It only occurred to me later, that I think I had seen somewhere that tarantulas sometimes jump pretty far to get their prey.  Again, ‘…children and fools’!  LOL

Soooo, after calming down from this terrific encounter, and looking at the roadmap and discussing what to do, we decided to turn around and head back in the other direction to find our way out of Death Valley.

We drove Southeast through Ashford Junction, and then followed Rte. 178 onto Jubilee Pass Rd., continuing to enjoy the ease of driving on a paved road while touring through spectacular Death Valley and surrounding mountains.  I don’t think we saw more than 3 vehicles on this entire stretch of road!



After a long and enjoyable drive on Jubilee Pass Rd., it ended at the junction of Rtes. 127 and 178, which continued on to the right, so we went right.  In the town of Shoshone, Rte. 178 went Northward, and we continued on Rte. 127 to the East.

(Travellers note:  at no time did we realize how close we were to Las Vegas)

Eventually Rte. 127 turned Southward and became Death Valley Rd.  We cruised through Dumont and then Renoville, eventually coming to Baker, where Rte. 127 connects to Rte. 15.  We turned West on this 4-lane highway, got the van up to cruisin’ speed at around 70 mph, probably blasting ‘Chicago’ on the Cadillac stereo AM/FM/8-track system I had stuffed into the dash, and headed for home on the Barstow Fwy.!

We went through Dunn, Manix, Harvard, (so, technically, we ‘went to Harvard’, huh?) then Yermo and through Barstow.  We rolled through Victorville next, and then before we got to San Bernadino we swung onto the Ontario Fwy., heading Southwest.  That ran into Rte. 210, the Foothills Fwy., going West.  We stayed on that into Pasadena where we picked up Rte. 134, the Ventura Fwy. and jumped on Rte. 5, the Golden State Hwy.

Just past Sun Valley, we got off the freeway and headed South on Lankershim Blvd. down to Cohasset St., and East to our snug little home at the corner of Farmdale Ave. and Cohasset St.

…exhausted, happy, overwhelmed, exhausted, excited, hungry, exhausted, thrilled to be home!  *WOW!*

…and I do mean *  freakin- W O W ! *.


The End




‘Thanks’ to the guy who drew the map for me as partial ‘payment’ for trying to rip me off by selling me, the dumb Easterner from Bawstin, some land up on the Kern River which was actually Bureau of Land Management property (BLM), and when I showed up at his office and the crew from the store he was not paying for his rented furniture was emptying out his office, and I confronted him *ahem* with my 225 lb. Great Dane/Labradore Retriever named ‘Chopper’, …  

Chopper, Danny and 'Sportster' Bob - 1975.

Chopper, Danny and 'Sportster' Bob - 1975.

insisting on recompense and gratification for his foul deed, and he ‘allowed’ me to take his leather couch, chair and ottoman (he proved it was his by showing me the ‘Paid’ receipt),…

Danny on the couch - 1976

Danny on the couch - 1976

(It was a 60’s-era movie with a giant squid attacking a scientific-exploration group on some remote island beach, maybe a George Pal epic.)

…and gave me back my $200.00 deposit (in cash), and tried smoothing things out by giving me that map to the ghost town, so I took it!  *whew* 

Story Acknowledgements:


Image Acknowledgements:

  • Hal Newman
  • David A. Wright
  • Numerous unknown photographers of the entire area who put their images online without tagging them.  If anyone recognizes their own image, please contact me, and I will be happy to give you an acknowledgement.
    • There is no requirement for permission or compensation, whether an image is copyrighted or not, if that image is not being used to earn money.
    • Please understand that I am not using your image(s) for monetary gain, and am therefore not required to make any compensation for the use of any images, as they are posted online for the World to access and view.
    • At your written request, via email, I will remove your image from my story, if you so desire.  –  bob@nathansonweb.com
  • Bob Nathanson (that’s me)  –  all my scanned pics have a tan border and photo album corners around them..


History of the Newman Cabin:  Death Valley Journal


Legal Discaimer:

This story is a compilation of absolutely true events that took place in and around October, 1976.  It represents a story of facts as my wife Barbara and I remember them, aided by some photographs I took at that time.  The story is also supported by the use of maps captured with the Google Earth program, many photographs shot by other people who travelled there, and finally by a few good souls who are very familiar with the area and places of which I wrote.

If I have made any gross errors or oversights in names, locations, or whatever the reader may hold dear to them so as to cause them discomfort, stress or pain and/or suffering, then I wholeheartedly apologize to them and to all.  If you want to advise me of these problems, simply contact me by email – bob@nathansonweb.com and I will make them as right as I can.



Note:  Today is January 15, 2012. I have finally completed a slide show of images of Striped Butte. You can click the link and enjoy a compilation of images from around the Web, and some good music, too.  I hope it works well for you.  If not, please contact me at bob@nathansonweb.com

Thank you.


  1. I’ve known you my whole life and am just now hearing about this wonderful adventure!!! Such fun..and so interesting to read. Your email came on the day that I had just decided not to spend so much time on the computer…oh well…I can make that decision (again) on another day!!!! I thoroughly enjoyed your true-life story and knowing all the players, I can hear the voices in my mind. Since I don’t have (or want) a website, can you just put me on your list so I can further stay in touch with your rantings and moaning. Stay in touch and keep writing.

    Comment by Norma Cohen — July 20, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

  2. Thank you Cuzzin Bubbles!

    Looking forward to your upcoming visit.

    Comment by Bob — July 27, 2009 @ 7:06 am

  3. Fabulous story, great pictures and a wonderful rememberance of your adventure. I’ve read your rantings and ravings and am here, reliving the experience. If you recall . . . I stayed at your house to watch over Chopper and heard much of this after you got home, (no pictures, at that time. You hadn’t developed them yet!) Now I can tell you what I could not tell you when you returned home. Chopper broke out of the yard, (my fault, I’m sure, for leaving the gate open just a bit, while I got something from my car. What happened after that, until the time you, Barbara and Danny got home, is a tale of urban horror, citywide chases and fear, which I will write about, someday, after some of the statutes have run out.
    Love your writing style and side comments. You write just like you speak . . . naturally and with a sense of drama and humor, engaging the reader / listener in each moment of your adventure with the advantage of perspective, drawn from the years since it occurred. More … More … More…

    Comment by Rick Nathanson — July 21, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

  4. Ricky, Mah Brutha…!

    Now YOU have opened a door to writing about YOUR comments about caring for Chopper while we were on this adventure!

    I’d LOVE to hear about this!

    Comment by Bob — July 27, 2009 @ 7:09 am

  5. Wow! What an incredible adventure!! I loved the pictures of you all!! Great hair!

    Comment by Maria Pierce — July 25, 2009 @ 11:54 am

  6. Hiya, Sis!

    Thanks for reading our story.

    As I mentioned, IT WAS THE ’70’S! HAIR was a very important part of everyone’s life, thanks to The Beatles! LOL

    Comment by Bob — July 27, 2009 @ 7:16 am

  7. Nice pics and story.
    Just so you know, Manson was caught at Barker ranch on October 12, 1969, not August 16.
    The August 16 raid happened at Spahn ranch.

    Comment by Charlie — October 10, 2010 @ 3:28 am

  8. Hi Charlie.

    Thanks for the nice comment and the info.

    Just so you know, I did a LOT of research about this story before and while I was writing it. There is so much disparate information on the Web that it is difficult to see it all and sort it out.

    Since I received the email that you posted this comment, I have been trying to insert a correction within the story on page 4.

    However, WordPress, the blogging software, has not been working for me, even with 2 updates installed. I write a comment then try to update the page, and nothing happens.

    I just wanted you to know that I tried. …REALLY tried!

    At one point last summer, I changed the style of the blog, and I had to re-enter EVERY page and picture, even though the style was the same layout as the original. The pages are still not exactly the way I want them, but I’m NOT going through that again!

    I suppose I will have to try contacting WordPress for some help, as I would like to work on some more stories.

    Thanks again for reading, and have a GREAT Holiday Season!

    Comment by Bob — December 7, 2010 @ 8:14 am

  9. Today is Friday, May 6, 2011.

    This morning I once again updated the WordPress software version, and lo and behold, I can log in and edit again since sometime back in 2009!!

    I have corrected a few typos which worked, and tried to work on the differences in the font and spacing which didn’t work.

    That being said, I now intend to continue blogging.

    Thanks to all for your patience and understanding.

    Comment by Bob — May 6, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  10. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. It has special meaning to me as my dad (who just passed away this March) took us on a 2 week adventure during Spring Break in 1967 to Death Valley. Leaving from Las Vegas we checked out the normal tourist spots and then headed to Striped Butte Valley, a destination he had picked out from his topografical maps. We spent probably 10 days there camping at 3 different locations. We were befriended by the old miner Russell and invited to his camp. This began a 6 year experience as we came back often, purchased some mining claims and staked out a few of our own. When we went there in 1969 the old miner told us about some crazy hippies in dune buggies racing all over the valley all summer. We almost could have had our own Charles Manson experience. I found your little blog while Google searching Striped Butte Valley after my dad passed. It has been over 40 years since I was there and I think I am going to have to saddle up and take a little return adventure of my own.
    Thanks again,

    Comment by Mike Rogers — April 17, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

  11. Probably one of the best stories I’ve read…..and I love that it’s true and genuine…….feel like I was there after I first read it back in 2010 and I find myself coming back here every couple years to re-read it. Thanks for posting this little part of your life Bob. Would love any more extra tid bits you may have left out in your story…. Take care. Dave ide.

    Comment by dave ide — December 16, 2015 @ 8:01 pm

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