Welcome to Balanced Rocks: Pictures and Stories

Beginning March 16,2010, I began a journey of balancing rocks. I hold to the practice of setting to balance at least five sculptures a day, sometimes, many more. Of these I take lots of pictures and videos. While conducting this adventure, I have been introduced to an incredible unfolding story. Additionally, I discovered this phenomenon is manifesting worldwide. As I post pictures and stories, I found many others similarly engaged and sharing their works. Additionally, as folks come upon me performing my work, many want to find out how this is done and try themselves. This blog shares this work in both pictures and stories. Enjoy


A seeming impossibility becomes possible

Rock Balancing: The Beginning

On a fine summer day, sometime in August, 2009, I was visiting family in Toronto. Like most folks spending summer in a large city, we used up as much time as we could finding outdoor events that would cool us. One afternoon, we headed to the Beaches section of East Toronto. After spending some time playing in a large sandbox in the shade with my grandkids and some of their newfound companions, we headed to the Boardwalk that extends from Balmy Beach to Kew Gardens. Ella accompanied me, Liam took off with his mom, Natalie. They ventured down the boardwalk, Ella and I headed onto the sand toward the water’s edge. Halfway there we encountered what looked like a small size Stonehenge.

About a dozen sculptures were gathered together in a rough circle. Each was a stack of two or three rocks balanced one on another. The tallest one was slightly taller than Ella, who was small average height for a five year older. All were in the neighborhood of three feet and four feet tall. What immediately jumped out was the precarious nature of the balancing. Most points of contact were miraculously slight. Most seemed to be standing on a point. Two more folks were witnessing this amazing display. We imagined that there must be small metal rods embedded at the point of contact, or else some kind of glue was used. Each of us peered from close low angles to detect what could account for this mystical display. Ella, not being so cautious, toppled one structure over. Luckily, it did not land on her.

I hurried over and picked up the fallen rock. I saw no evidence of a rod or glue. It indeed had been balanced on its pedestal. I lifted it up and tried to place it back where I reckoned it had been balanced. I cautioned Ella, to be careful and not upset any more sculptures and went about the task of finding balance. I was not successful and struggled immensely but did not find the magic spot where stability could be achieved. After a lengthy effort, an attractive Asian woman about my age approached and gently nudged me aside offering to demonstrate her work. She pointed to the spot she would set the stone upon. She called it by a foreign name. To me it looked like a slight dimple.

Placing the small end of the upper rock into that hollow, she deftly and quickly moved it around, slightly twisting and cajoling it into position. The sight of this slender woman with longish graying hair performing an intricate dance with a rock slightly larger than her head emanated calmness. It seemed only the ends of her fingers were used to achieve these small movements. Apparently, equilibrium was close. Shortly she was done and withdrew her palms which naturally assumed an open prayer posture. The rock I had grappled with was majestically resting in its previous stable state. She next went over and reset two other structures, I had not noticed were also amiss. I just took them to be part of the rubble strewn about the beach. Now all the display was standing and providing a small sense of order in our chaotic world.

I never got this woman’s name, but heard her story. She had set this display up for the purpose of taking pictures, one of which she hoped to use for a cover of a book she was publishing. Unfortunately not getting her name makes it difficult to find her book. But I carried away with me the sight of her presentation and the incredible feeling I had witnessed an amazing ethereal event. I also felt an urge to explore this practice.

Rock in the Snow

Rock in the Snow
January in Toronto

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Summer's almost over, September 1975: Slocan. BC

Crossing into British Columbia one last time brought the feeling summer was n its way out. It was not yet the Equinox but other signs that fall was on its way appeared. I briefly passed through Osoyoos one last time, and no one I had met was still around. School had begun and tourists season had dried up. I gleaned that the only work still available was at the immense Vineyard where we found working conditions resembled an interment camp. It would be no more work for me. I headed back to Slocan.
Sue was not at the cabin, but her husband Frank was there. He had returned from New York with their two kids. I introduced myself and told him Sue had let me stay at their cabin during the summer. He thanked me for caring for their place, but was upset because he had not heard from Sue and was curious of her whereabouts. I told him the story of meeting her in Vancouver and traveling with her and Alison by way of a fruit picking adventure to here. He informed me that Lance and Alison had returned to California. We were filling in the stories that pointed to preparing for coming Winter.
My method of preparing for winter meant heading south. Somewhere this summer I had acquired a tube tent. This was a plastic tube of about three feet diameter. A rope was passed through it and stretched between two trees. The bottom of the tube had grommets that could be staked to the ground forming a triangle shaped shelter. This device was able to keep me dry in the arid summer season but would not hold up to the coming weather. The folks remaining here were busy putting their gardens and livestock away for winter. I decided to join the birds and head south. I wished Frank good luck and not being able to console him wished for Sue’s well being. I walked away with many good memories but a somber feeling that the next few months would be difficult.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Harvesting is over, September, 1975: Wenatchee, WA

Harvesting is over, September,1975 : Wenatchee, WA
The crew I had been with gave up on picking as a means to earn money. It seemed the force was against us. Besides the grueling nature of physical labor required to work in the fields, wages were minimal. Certain crops were said to be preferable. We never saw them. Rumors spread that ideal work was being grabbed up by a religious sect from San Francisco. Apparently they would contract to pick the whole harvest, and had plenty of members to perform the work. It effectively eliminated any chance for outsiders to have access to these better jobs. It also assured the growers would have their costs under control. This adversity made it seem preferable for my mates to head back to their forest homes and find other means for minimal subsistence.
I had other concerns. I began to wonder about safety of traveling with a growing dog. Kootenay had not been a problem while I was working at picking. He was welcomed and provided diversion for many of the workers. He had a playful spirit along with curiosity that lead him to engage with many folks. As fall was approaching, I was considering making a major move southward. My means of travel meant I would not be heading there directly. Ordinary travelers have difficulties managing with their pets. My accommodations were even less welcoming to pets. Sometimes they were not even welcoming to humans. My concerns begged for a solution. It was around lunch time, sitting in a park at the end of the main street in Wenatchee, when I was joined by Paul, Sharon, and Pat. We had enjoyable lunch time conversation. Both woman fell for Kootenay. He seemed to be falling also. These folks were visiting from Oregon.
They were not extending an invitation to travel back there with them. Besides, I had a notion to head back to Slocan and see if Sue had got back from here excursion with Michel. Before heading south I wanted to have a final farewell to a place that had quickly become dear to me. I am not certain who suggested that perhaps, Kootenay would enjoy a home in Oregon, but it seemed a workable solution to my dilemma. He did not express any need to sneak back across the border and it felt that these folks could provide a safe and comfortable home. I felt like I would miss his company, but was certain this was for the best. I gave him a nuzzle and headed back in the direction of the Canadian border.


Monday, April 28, 2008

One day of picking apples, September, 1975: Okanogon, WA

Over thirty people showed up to help with the apple harvest. It was the first day of the season that looked to extend into October. This operation had many orchards with different varieties coming into ripeness at varied times. Now was the beginning, later varieties would stretch the season. The trees seemed to be loaded with fruit and it did not appear that we would get stuck on any barren ones. This looked to be a day when we could finally get adequate reward for our labors. The whole lot attacked there respective trees and by mid afternoon we had a large flat bed trailer loaded with four foot cubes full of apples. The pay for each box was $25. Each of our crew was able to fill two boxes. Fifty dollars seemed fair wage for hard work but not quite a full day. We sat up camp and the grower took his load of apples to market.
As we were getting ready to make a fire and settle in for the night the grower returned with his trailer still loaded with apples. He immediately informed all the pickers we were laid off. He begrudged paying us for our labor then explained he had not been offered a price that the Apple Growers Cooperative had agreed as a minimum selling price. Angrily he explained that his next step would be to use his bulldozer to bury the fruits of our labors, then withhold his crop from market until prices increased. We were informed that picking would likely recommence in about a week. In the meantime no one would be allowed to stay on his property.
We left and headed toward Okanogan the county seat. One of our crew had collected food stamps back home. He proposed going to the food stamp office and getting this month’s allotment. In order to receive them he would have to show he had cooking facilities. We found an excellent spot to camp near a creek. Here he set up what appeared to be a kitchen. It was possible to receive food stamps even if living in a camp. All that was required is having separate cooking facilities. We constructed what looked to be his own kitchen in case an inspector visited. With our outdoor home setup we enjoyed a hearty meal. After dinner we carried on a conversation about the state of food production and distribution.
Of course we were disappointed to have lost an opportunity to gain perhaps a couple of week’s work at a decent wage. What stuck us was that a farmer could choose to bury a sizeable harvest when there were hungry people scattered about the world. This coincided with a recent story that the Egg Marketing Board in Quebec had buried several million eggs for the same reason. We realized that farmers were due a good return for their produce, but something seemed amiss about these kinds of actions. Then we mentioned that on the other hand one of our troop was getting government assistance to purchase groceries. Given the inequitable nature our food system spawned, it was no wonder a generation was choosing to live alternatively. We did not have answers. The next morning, we were turned down for food stamps. This gang was headed back to the Olympic National Forest to pursue their luck. I was invited but it did not seem attractive to head toward a spot where receiving food stamps was regarded as form of income. We parted in the morning. I wished them well and headed down the road with Kootenay who had no idea that food was causing much grief.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Picking with a ring, Sept, 1975: Wenatchee, WA

It felt serendipitous, when the van that stopped for us contained a crew from western Washington who were headed to Wenatchee for picking jobs, They lived on the Olympic peninsula in various sorts of abodes, mostly alternative. They seemed part of the back to the land movement that nevertheless had need for money occasionally. They told me that where they lived most work was in the timber industry. That was not suitable, since it required a full time commitment and could not be attempted casually. They heard picking was short term and awarded daily pay.
As we pulled into town it was notable that the farm laborer bureau was in a trailer right next to railroad tracks at a tight turn that made trains slow almost to a crawl, convenient for anyone hopping on or off. Luckily we had our own vehicle. In the office we saw an ad for immediate need for laborers to pick pears. We hurried away. When we arrived all four of us approached the boss who asked, “Any of you guys ring picked?” One of our crew quickly responded, “Sure, lots.” “Good, here’s your rings and those are your trees,” he pointed to a straggly row of pear trees. As we made walked toward our assignment, we questioned the one who had said he had experience. He did not. He admitted he said that so we would get the job. We did. Now we had to figure out what to do with the pair of two and a half inch diameter metal rings we had been given.
As newcomers, it seemed again, we were offered the barest fruits to pick. As we made our way there, an old-timer filled us in on our task. In picking, you slipped one of your rings over the pear. If it went past, you slipped it off and did not harvest that pear. If the pear was too big to let the ring past, that one you harvested. You were given two rings so that you could work with both hands. This method offered a sure way to size fruit as it was being picked. We were in reality doing two jobs: the pay was small. Even after getting the hang of it, combining our efforts we were barely able to fill two four foot cube boxes with harvest. We were paid thirty dollars per box. We felt disappointed at days end to realize fifteen dollars apiece for our labors. We collected our pay and headed off to camp by a stream. We spent the evening discussing our fortunes or lack thereof. We pretty much decided to not return to the pear trees. Even though one of the old-timers claimed he made sixty dollars each day, he stated it took him a whole season to get to that level. We were not willing to put in a whole year learning to earn a paltry wage for such difficult labor. The only hope glimmered on the news that a large apple orchard was beginning its harvest tomorrow and their trees were groaning with fruit. We went to bed determined that tomorrow would be a better day.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A dog without a green card, August, 1975: Oroville, WA

It was most pleasant hanging out around the park at lakeside in Osoyoos. However, it did not pay well. I had given up on spending time in the bistro, since it looked like it may lead to trouble. So, I decided to head to Washington and try finding work picking tree fruits. However, I was in the company of an unlicensed pooch. This presented a problem, since to get to Washington meant crossing a border, and I doubted an unregistered dog with no papers nor shots yet would be welcome. I was legal but likely my companion was not. I knew the border was near. In fact Lake Osoyoos crosses into the United States. I was not sure if my dog was that good a swimmer to try it as a method of entry. However, a stroll down the beach may do the trick
I was not sure of the vigilance of border guards and I wondered if there may be some surveillance equipment along the shore. I decided to risk it and we took off south bound, trying to look like strollers who may have lost their bearings. A bright afternoon sun showed our way. Along our walk, I wondered about the meaning of our illegal entry. What would happen were we caught and how sound was my excuse of being a wandering lost stranger, who did not see the border? There were occasional dwellings along the way and I pondered, would there be a significant difference once we hit the States. Otherwise lacking a proper entry point made it difficult to determine which side of the border we were on. Without a watch, I reckoned that we may have been at it for two hours. I was certain that was enough time to cover the distance past the border. Not wanting to head over to the highway so close to the border we kept up our hike down the shore.
Kootenay enjoyed our ramble, since he was free to explore at leisure. There was plenty to capture a young pup’s attention and we did not have to worry about traffic rushing by. He was carefree and now that I was certain we crossed the boundary, I was felt it too. I figured if we were apprehended, I could claim this pup was only following me. I had papers to prove I was a citizen and as yet, dogs needed no such documentation. We kept wandering until dark was approaching. Then we happened upon a drive-in theater, beginning its nightly entertainment. We had access to a grove behind the last row of cars. This had to be America and we had a place to camp out and be entertained. I spread out my ground sheet. It was a nice night to be sleeping outdoors. I did not mind we had no speakers. It turned out the movie playing was The Exorcist. The brief scenes I noticed before, we going to sleep convinced me I did not need the audio portion of this movie going into my head before drifting off.

Friday, April 25, 2008

To everything there is a season, September, 1975: Osoyoos, BC

Traveling with Kootenay was relatively simple. He is still small enough to be carried, which I did most of the time. He responds well to my voice and comes when I call. Since traffic is light to non existent, I can put him down when we walk and he follows with me. He probably doesn’t have those curious dog instincts working yet and won’t give chase to intriguing sounds or smells. We arrived in Osoyoos before noon and gauging by the many people hanging out in the park, it must have been Sunday. I met some of the gang I worked with just a week ago. It was Sunday, their day off. Picking season for most crops was just about over and nearly everyone was no longer working. There seemed a bustling tourist atmosphere instead of a day of rest. People camping about were engaged in a different industry than picking.
Greg, who lived in a home made camper on the back of a heavy duty work truck crafted musical instruments. His story was he had learned his trade over the past few years apprenticed to a master in Nashville. Currently he was headed to ply his skill in Vancouver. He related that as he developed an interest in this business, he journeyed in his truck to Honduras and learned about the woods he needed to use crafting quality instruments. He worked for a season in the timber industry and collected prime examples of beautifully figured mahogany, rosewood and other examples that ended up in his pieces. His jewel was a mandolin that was pieced together with remnants of all his various species of hardwoods. It looked like a patchwork quilt but held fantastic sound. He exhibited a sizable knowledge of the tonal qualities of woods used in his instruments and he gifted me some scraps, I put to use in my own industry.
Passing time on the deck of a restaurant / bar overlooking the lake, I began carving astrological symbols from the scraps Greg left me. My goal was to complete a whole set of twelve. Soon after I finished the first one, I met Sharon whose symbol it was. She lived in a cabin in the nearby mountains and fashioned crafts. I gave her the symbol of her sign. She whipped out some twine and created a macramé necklace for it. When she finished she displayed her other skill. It took her hardly a breath to peddle it to a bar patron. We were in business. For the next two days I created the whole set which Sharon mounted on necklaces and sold. Neither of us ended up with our own symbol. This was an excellent occupation in that I could work while babysitting Kootenay. He was even welcomed on the restaurant outdoor deck.
On the second day an incident occurred that propelled me to think about heading out. I was conversing with a group of women when they invited me to join them in the ladies room to partake with some hashish smoking. “Sure,” I said. It did not seem odd until, an elderly female patron entered the room, looked me squarely in the eye, whirled around, went back to the door and examined the sign indicating the sex of that lavatory. She was right and I immediately left. Apparently she complained to management that a male disturbed her in the woman’s room. I was not caught, but realized I may be getting out of control and it seemed prudent to ply my skills elsewhere. I said goodbye to Sharon, left the bar and headed to the park. There I learned that there was no work available locally and pickers were heading south to work in the apple orchards of Washing ton. I was in a quandary; how was I to get an unlicensed puppy past the border?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Refections on the journey, August, 1975: Slocan, BC

For the next few days, while bonding with my new companion, Kootenay, I spent much time in reflection of this journey. It was just about one year since I had left Toronto to take a large job painting and remodeling a sizeable old mansion in Niagara-on-the-Lake. In the process, I had broken up a long term relationship with Liz and received custody of our child, Yolo, a two year old black lab. He was named after a town in California where he was born. His people were Greg and Melinda, who moved back to Toronto. Their living situation precluded them having an animal so they bequeathed him to Liz and I in the spring. Melinda was a weaver and spent her days over a loom. Greg was a poet and an inspiration for me because he had the nerve to read his material. I had begun writing but yet did not have the courage to share my endeavors publicly. The pain of breaking up a relationship and the isolation of moving to a small town where I knew no one provided ample opportunity to create poetry.
By connecting with my creative energy, I bumped into other artists. My journey into that fellowship opened up an ever expanding network of painters, sculptors, carvers, writers, performers, singers, dancers and the like. One poet, Phoenix, who published her work and the works of others was an inspiration and muse. She encouraged my idea to take a journey to gather stories and witness our world. Venturing about unencumbered intrigued me and I wondered and thought about means and direction of travel. Last fall, I practiced journeying about Ontario, sometimes in my van and sometimes hitching a ride. I was always accompanied by Yolo.
More than once, I was offered a ride during harsh weather and my benefactor would announce, “ I stopped because I felt so sorry for your poor dog out in this weather.” It seemed strange they could acknowledge his plight but seemed to ignore I was out in the same weather. Never the less, I was grateful for the lift and thanked them for a ride. On one occasion, I went into a hotel/restaurant for a bowl of stew and piece bread. While sitting at the counter having my meal, I noticed out the back door Yolo feasting on a large bone from a beef roast. It appeared to have several pounds of meat still on it. The chef told me he felt sorry for the dog, he looked so hungry. I mused I should be following Yolo on a journey instead of the other way round. Before embarking, my van lost a wheel bearing and front wheel spindle. Not having the funds nor desire to repair it, I traded it to pay off a debt and decided to take to the road by thumb. I determined a long term road trip would likely not be a good journey for Yolo, so I left him to a good home with Liz’s folks on a farm in Smith Falls, Ontario.
Fall was approaching and again I was pondering a means and direction of travel. And like last fall, I had a canine companion. Recently while working in Osoyoos, I met Tom, a young man who traveled with a small puppy. He kept a red bandana tied around his pup’s neck as a collar. He would attach a piece of twine to this as a leash. In this manner he could control his dog while hiking down on roadways. His dog, Bear, also was allowed in the fields during harvest and was not a nuisance in camp. He displayed the possibility of accompanying a hitchhiker. With this in mind. I decided to take Kootenay with me. We prepared to head back to Osoyoos to garner some more funds for the next phase of our adventure. Alongside packing, I unpacked my feelings of leaving behind an excellent summer in the southeastern mountain region of British Columbia.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Everything comes to and end, August, 1975: Osoyoos, BC

We spent a couple more days in the picking routine. Every day much of the same, chilly mornings, clear hot days, ending with sated bodies relaxing around campfires in the evening. Not much remarkable occurred until Sunday. There was no work, so many of us spent most of the day in town at a park bordering Lake Osoyoos. It seemed like many folks came down from the hills to join in the day of rest. While traditional people gathered in church halls, our tribe held its meeting out of doors. Theirs seemed about an hour, ours lasted all day. Folks who were on the road, those who escaped individually or communally into the hills and those like us who sought temporary labor sang, danced, and shared stories, food, and mind altering substances. The weather was similar to the week days spent out in the full sun, but today we enjoyed shade from magnificent trees overlooking lakeshore. In the afternoon, we were joined by many of those who spent their morning in denominational churches.
Sometime in the afternoon, a rumor began circulating that we would no longer be paid by the hour but changed to piece work. This news was disconcerting, we were not getting wealthy as it was and now we feared our work style would not be sustainable. There was a meeting called in management’s office late in the afternoon. Piecemeal we reassembled back at our living quarters. Mood was turning depressing as we gathered our grumbling and prepared for a meeting we feared would not turn out well. Some of the veterans assured us these switches were inevitable as the season progressed. They seemed willing to hang in there.
It was just before our evening meal on our day of rest when the meeting commenced.
It was explained that now that the bulk of harvesting had been conducted the tomato vines were sparse and it was not feasible to continue paying by the hour for an increasingly meager yield. The significance being that those picking would not be able to match their slight hourly wage as the crop was dwindling. It made slight sense but felt unfair. Many of us determined we would not stay even as gleaners. I was losing my taste for tomatoes and my mouth and many others produced their own crops of ulcers as a result of a heavy acidic diet. It was time to move on. Management agreed to pay immediately any wages due to those who chose to leave and would allow us to stay on their property one more night.
As we marched out of the office someone broke out a song and we left singing in unison the words from Wooden Ships, “Silver people on the shore line, let us be…. We are leaving-- you don’t need us.” Our last evening was more lively as it followed a day of rest and was filled with the energy of impending separations. That only changed the tunes, tone and volume of our live radio. In the morning Lance, Alison and I headed back to Slocan with slightly more money.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Picking tomatoes in the sun, August, 1975: Osoyoos, BC

Picking tomatoes in the sun, August, 1975: Osoyoos, BC
Our first day of picking tomatoes, began before the sun was up. We were roused just as light was breaking and told there was no time to cook breakfast as we would be heading out before it got full light. Our gang hustled to get dressed and gulp down some cold food. Seasoned veterans advised us to wear layers of clothing, ending at very brief attire. It was quite chilly as can happen at night in the desert. Soon, we clamored aboard a flatbed truck that had just enough space for the workers. It was also loaded with cases of half peck cartons we were to fill with tomatoes. When we arrived at the 10 acre field, there was not yet evidence of a sun. It was relatively light but still no shadows, when we received picking instructions. Each tomato has to be turned up and examined for a hint of red at the middle of the underside. If it shows, it is picked and placed carefully into its container. Once almost full, it is topped off with fully ripe red examples.
Since it was prized to be careful and not rush we are paid $3 per hour and not by the container. We seemed to be at work for at least an hour before the traces of shadow of the mountains to our east appeared on the slopes to our west. Above the retreating shadow was the brightness indicating a rising sun. Brightness advanced across the desert floor till suddenly a full sun appeared pretty high in the sky above the eastern range. Immediately temperatures leapt, clothing starting coming off and by noon a scantily clad crew worked its way through the harvest. Next door was a similar size field of cucumbers. At lunchtime loaves of bread, salt and mayonnaise appeared and we enjoyed fresh tomato cucumber sandwiches. Our straw boss showed up occasionally to make sure we were working not quickly but steadily.
Our crew seemed musically inclined and often would break into song. Since we were moving thru the field in a random pattern the singing duets, trios and sometimes quartets would comprise different members. It was like we had live radio without commercial breaks but occasional news announcements and editorial content to entertains us in our day’s work. One of the announcements concerned a young man who came toward us from the eastern slopes carrying a sizeable burlap sack. When he got to us, all work stopped briefly to attend to his story. In his sack were live rattlesnakes and he carefully exposed one to verify his story. He gathered them from the desert and delivered them to University in Vancouver to be milked for medical use. He assured us that afterward these snakes would be returned to their habitat. We were hearted that we were not witnessing wholesale destruction of a species for scientific benefit. Our days were rather long, and it was likely 12 hours had elapsed before we were transported back to home.
Evenings were low key. We seemed to have just enough juice to prepare supper, relax around the campfires and listen to the evening version of our live radio. Except now we had available a variety of instruments to accompany vocals. Also stories would spring up to instruct and amuse amidst the songs. Everyone seemed in fine spirits. Getting a steady wage, working to exhaustion and having relaxing times in the evening in the company of friendly strangers fulfilled our basic needs. There was a diverse element amongst us as it seemed several nationalities were represented, mostly from the Americas, North and South, but also the Caribbean. This added richness to our homespun entertainment and variety shows. It also added flavor to our meals. Certain of the crews who had more experience brought along their families. Their kids were helpful and some family members did not go out to the fields for work but stayed behind helping to prepare the evening feast. Although we were not destined to become financially wealthy in this pursuit, we nonetheless gained in culture and human awareness.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Trying some more picking, August, 1975:Osoyoos, BC

Several days of harvesting garden, gathering eggs, bartering for milk and occasionally volunteering work on the community center did not generate much income. We were all short of money and decided that Lance, Alison and I would head to Osoyoos, another area where many growers needed help with harvesting. We left early in the morning and arrived in time to begin work. Not knowing which work would be best we headed into the biggest vineyard. We crossed through a barbed wire topped gate. The whole compound seemed to be ringed by a tall fence . It felt like we were entering a prison. We did get hired right away and were shown a two room tent on a platform where we would stay. We stashed our gear and boarded a flat bed truck with over a dozen other workers.
We proceeded to head off into the vineyards. This fortress like place likely comprised many square miles since as far as we could see in any direction were no signs of a boundary. We finally came to a stop and unloaded. Picking was not the task. Instead we were given small clippers and shown how to identify suckers. These were small branches that sprouted from the main vine. Clipping them off allowed the vine to put its energy fruiting. Each worker was placed into a row and headed off. The straw boss would then drive his vehicle around to the other side where the row ended. Lance, Alison and I were not assigned adjacent rows. When a worker emerged from a row the straw boss would point out the next row to head back into the direction from where you started. This continued till a lunch break. We ate in the field and after a short break began our task again. The work was tedious but conditions were pleasant. It was shady and cooler underneath the grape foliage. At some point, the three of us found ourselves in adjacent rows. We called ourselves to a break and gather under one row and just laid back for a spell. When some sprinkles turned on we finally decided break was over and went back to our respective rows and continued down the line. When we emerged there was no sign of straw boss, truck or other workers. We looked as far as we could and saw no sign of anything except fields being irrigated. We decided work was over and made our way on foot back to our tent.
Next thing you know, an official looking guy probably a manager shows up and questions, “ What are you guys doing back here.” We explained we had lost our crew and seeing that the sprinklers were on, we figured work was done. He led us up what looked like an airport control tower and pointed in the distance to what vaguely looked like our work truck. It was so far away we could see no evidence of workers. He assured us they were there. He decided our pay would be docked for our missing time. We were OK with that and asked for our money, so we could go to town and buy some groceries. He pointed to the gate that was now closed and locked. Their rule was the gate was open from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Other times workers could neither come or go. What looked like a prison compound was now beginning to feel like one. We decided this was not for us, quit the job, collected our pay, and were let go. It did not take long to collect our gear and make an escape.
Still having time we began our search for more employment. Near the town of Osoyoos we found an old motel like place with a sign advertising help wanted. We stopped and found jobs picking tomatoes. The old motel was used to quarter the workers and pickers were paid by the hour. Most important we were not fenced in and were free to come and go after work. Presently there were no rooms available but we were free to camp on the lawn. We set up a spot just as the crews were returning. The evening was lively and the collection of transients, migrants, and young folks like ourselves gathered around campfires, ate, sang, and enjoyed each others company. We wondered whether the folks back at the fortress we left earlier were enjoying as much. Eventually our site quieted down and folks retired to gain rest for next days labor.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dancing in the mountains, July, 1975: Slocan, BC

After several days enjoying my cabin, nestled in the mountains overlooking Slocan lake, I ran out of tobacco and needed to venture out. I knew I was several miles away from a town and set out walking down our gravel road. Hiking is less wearisome heading down hill. It did not tire me to go several miles to arrive at the country store that provided me with some smoke. I settled for a pack of tobacco and rolling papers, reminiscing the days when I had several ounces of another smoking substance that I did not have to hike a distance to obtain. After rolling a cigarette, I began the journey retracing my path, uphill this time. It was not long before I was rescued. I was not even thumbing, when a pickup with a young couple pulled over and asked if I wanted a ride. It seemed they were neighbors I had not met, but who recognized me as Frank and Sue’s house sitter. I thanked them for stopping and climbed aboard.
As we headed off, Becky asked, “Are you going to the benefit?” “What benefit?,” I questioned. I was not privy to local news, but it seems that today, a concert was being hosted to raise funds for the community center I sometimes helped build. “Well,” I thought, “it might to nice to socialize and meet some neighbors.” I had been pretty isolated in the cabin. We followed a long winding drive way to a large field on a west facing slope with a commanding vista of Lake Slocan and the ranges beyond. A crew was running an electric wire from a barn to a sound system set on rickety makeshift stage that gave the impression of being used before and not just set up for today. I lucked upon the most incredible outdoor ballroom. Soon musicians appeared, dancers were leaping and twirling, and delicious homemade foods were offered. “This must be heaven,” I reflected.
During a break a family happened upon the stage and announced they had puppies to give. I wandered down and examined several furry little balls squirming in the bottom of a large cardboard box. One called to me, so I picked him up and began a bonding. His folks had come from near the Kootenay mountains. I named my new companion after his home and became the caretaker of a small black sheepdog. There was a large supply of dog food at the cabin and since I had no further needs, donated the small remainder of my money for the benefit of the community center. The same folks who brought me to the concert carried me and Kootenay home at the end of an exceptional day.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thar's landslides in them thar hills. July, 1975: Slocan, BC

Our band awoke pretty sore from the effects of yesterday’s labors. Consensus was that we should not return to work that offered measly wages. Especially those who had managed to not earn any pay were adamant about not returning to work and instead head off to some other amusement. Sue enticed Michel to drive us to her cabin, not too distant, over a narrow two lane paved highway. At Fauquier, we had to ferry across a long slender lake that extends 250 KM from Revelstoke to Castlegar. We were amused at signs posted in two languages at the ferry warning of the possibility of tidal waves caused by landslides crashing into the lake anywhere along its length. We mused it would be as appropriate to post signs many places in many languages warning of the possible effects of our sun entering supernova. We made it to Sue’s cabin without incident or disaster.

After showing us around her property, Sue decided to continue the journey with Michel and his band. She seemed headed out for an indeterminate length of time and extended me the opportunity to stay at her cabin. She even provided a letter of introduction to her husband, should he arrive back from New York. I was slightly disappointed to not have any company as Alison decided to return to her boyfriend’s house a few miles up the road. I was consoled by the beautiful setting I was to enjoy for the next few weeks. The vistas were incredible, the garden was producing, hens were laying more than a dozen eggs a day, the pantry was stocked and a deal had been worked with a neighbor to exchange extra eggs for fresh milk. There was even a stock of toilet paper in the outhouse. Even lacking company, it seemed I may have entered a heavenly abode. Shortly Sue headed out and I walked Alison to her home and met Lance who was in charge of erecting a homespun community center. He extended an offer to come over at any time and engage in the neighborhood project.

It was a blessing to be able to stay for a time in a place where all my physical needs were accounted for. I even had a supply of tobacco to make possible that habit. There was a supply of interesting books. While here I perused “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” and “ I Ching’” I found a stash of coins and threw a hexagram producing 8. Pi / Holding Together [union]. These books provided me with much to contemplate. Additionally, the surroundings inspired two artistic projects, one of which is yet to be completed. But much creative energy was imparted that I was able to export with me. For the next ten days, I was afforded the opportunity to have a mostly solitary retreat, interspersed with small workings on the community center. This was most certainly a "Mountain High."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Off to the mountains, July, 1975: Okanagan, BC

We arrived at Terry’s house just in time to join in breakfast. She quickly greeted her boyfriend Dwayne and headed off to her appointment. Several young folks lived here and all relished a taste of cannabis once in a while. I was tiring of carrying the load I had brought from Ottawa, so after giving Marshall a share for his kindness and delivering us to the door, I handed out the rest to the house crew. It surely made their day. Next, I met a couple of young women who shared the same birthday as me. We decided to form a team and travel together to an area in the interior of British Columbia. One of the woman, Sue, had a cabin there. Her husband had taken their two kids and went back to New York. She did not like staying in her mountain dwelling alone. Alison, the other of the newly forming trio, also lived near Sue’s cabin. They had come together to the city to escape cabin fever. I came west to find opportunity to visit the mountains. It seemed fitting we should meet and join together. That quelled any notion I had of joining Marshall on Vancouver Island. We wished each other well on our next adventures. He left me his address should I want to visit later. He planned on staying there for a full year. We waited around until Terry returned, hugged farewell, then headed east into the mountains.

Our ride appeared in the form of an old panel truck loaded with a crew of young Quebecois men, headed by Michel the driver. These guys had spent the summer on a western adventure. Today they were headed to the interior to find some work picking. It sounded like a reasonable adventure and we accepted their invitation to join them. Sitting on the floor of a panel truck with no windows pretty much eliminated sightseeing. So, the back floor passengers spent time in song and conversations in two languages. We arrived in Kelowna early enough to secure a picking opportunity in a cherry orchard. The first evidence of picking schemes presented itself.

Beginning pickers are assigned the barest trees at first. You are required to completely strip a tree before being assigned to another. The boss also takes care of the assignment. Cherries are slight and the container that you are paid $15 to fill seems large. If you do not fill the container by the end of the day, there is no pay. By dark, picking ended and only about three quarters of us had picked enough to make a wage. We pooled our earnings, drove to town, filled with gas and brought back foodstuffs, alcohol, and tobacco. We were permitted to camp out in the orchard. It was a low key dinner and campfire we enjoyed as all of us were exhausted by the half day of hard work. We fell asleep in scattered places, in the truck and on the ground. Luckily, the weather was mild and dry providing a good night's rest for worn out neophyte fruit pickers.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hallelujah, we made it, July, 1975: Vancouver, BC

As soon as we finished breakfast, we returned to the car to resume our slouch toward Vancouver. I discovered that the problem with our generator was a loose belt. With some borrowed tools, I was able to tighten the belt and restore our ability to charge the battery. We had to part with some more of our money to get a jump start. As soon as the engine fired up, Gary awoke and demanded we shut it down. “You have been driving all night and it needs a rest and cooling off,” he screamed. To no avail could I appeal that we had been stopped for two hours, and it was not we nor the car that required cooling. We took Gary into the diner, got him some coffee and decided we desired to head out on our own. He apologetically pleaded with us to continue with him and promised he would not be as angry. We stood firm and refused to continue with him. We said goodbye when he headed away and stayed for one more cup of coffee to give traffic a chance to pick up. Just as we were gathering our gear to head out to the road, Gary’s car reentered the parking lot and he made one more appeal for us to relent and come with him. We refused, he doggedly left, and we caught a ride in the first vehicle that appeared.
A car towing a popup camper pulled over; we got in and joined Marshall. His back seat was filled with his belongings. There was just enough room to fit our gear amidst his and we all crowded into the front seat. Thankfully his car was newer, roomy and traveled at a good speed. He left his long term relationship at Winnipeg the previous night and was headed to Vancouver Island. He was intent on making it there by the next morning. It seemed we had caught a ride that would enable us to keep Terry’s appointment. Amid the gear in the back was a large cooler filled with lemonade, sandwich meat, cheeses and condiments. This meant we did not have to stop for eating and could press on to the Pacific shore. We moved right along, eating, talking and enjoying one another’s company. We passed scores of hikers headed in both directions. We had no room to pick anyone else up but made a game of pulling over at each sighting and offering a cup of lemonade and a freshly twisted joint. By the beams on the faces of the folks we gifted we could tell we were imparting our greeting ,”Have a good one.” We did so well, we needed to stop and secure more paper cups and rolling papers.
Now that we were cramped into a tight space and away from the odor of stale alcohol, I could detect another annoying unpleasant smell, that of my feet. It seemed that my old sneakers, bare sweating feet and hot steamy weather made for a malodorous combination. As soon as I detected the stench, I requested we pull over and we stopped at a tavern stuck out in the middle of miles of corn field. Before, going into the washroom and cleaning my feet, I heaved my shoes as far into the corn as I could. I hope I did no damage to the farmer or his equipment when he harvested. With my clean bare feet we resumed our mission of providing refreshment to weary hikers. It stayed sweltering until we reached the elevations of the Rocky Mountains. At one point we even pulled over to take a swim in a lake. We got into swim clothes and joined some kids splashing near the shore. I jumped in from rock ledge. As soon as I hit the water my heart almost went into arrest, my dive reversed and I sprung from the lake. It turned out I had jumped from air temperature over 100 degrees into a glacial lake little over freezing. We all suffered the same fate, got refreshed nonetheless.
The rest of the day, traveling through the mountains, I was presented with two offers. I had to consider between staying where Terry was living. She shared a house with a boyfriend and several young folks, likely hippies. Marshall offered to take me to the Island. He would be staying there for some time while he completed lessons to obtain an instrument rating for his private pilots license. A friend of his was providing a house and he stated he would enjoy the company. I spent the remaining hours hurtling through the mountains toward Vancouver enjoying incredible vistas and romancing two enticing offers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One light is on, the other is out, July, 1975: Moosomin, SK

After taking over driving, I found that our vehicle was best kept under 40 MPH. Above that speed,it just did not feel safe. At this pace, being a driver was not as tedious as being one of the passengers. And mine had been asleep since I took over sometime in the heart of night. By the middle of morning my crew awoke and we discussed plans for coffee and a meal. We settled on cups to go and some groceries we could take to a roadside rest area and have a picnic. Gary was in a foul mood and mostly disagreeable. He was mostly interested in stopping the car and continuing his rest and recovery. Terry and I felt the need to push on since after 36 hours we were still in Ontario. However, that is still saying something. The Florida border is closer to Toronto than is the Manitoba border which we hoped to cross before nightfall. When we found a rest area we decided to abandon Gary to his needed nap and his vehicle to its needed rest and continue heading westward.
We were quickly given a lift by a pleasant elderly couple whose car cruised at normal breakneck speed. It felt good to be making good headway after a day and half crawling along. We were only with these folks for a little over an hour and made nearly seventy miles. They let us out just past Thunder Bay where the Trans Canada Highway heads due west through the boundary waters between Minnesota and Ontario. Once past this gorgeous stretch we would be in Manitoba. But here our luck slowed down. We stood on the edge of the highway for quite a while. Just about the time our feeling of moving along pretty well evaporated, we spotted Gary’s car approaching. He pulled right over and welcomed us back aboard. The hour we gained was now repaid. We resumed our creep westward. Early Saturday evening we arrived in Winnipeg.
Gary announced, “On Saturday night, I always get really drunk. I’m going to get a case of beer and drink it all. If you want to keep driving, OK. But I’m staying in the backseat and drink until I pass out.” Being mindful, that we needed to press on to have any chance of getting to Vancouver by Monday morning, I agreed to stay the driver. Besides having Gary passed out, hopefully, meant he would be easier to handle. We found a beer store got him and our car tanked up and headed off toward the setting sun. Behind us in the east, the hefty face of a full moon was beginning to beam upon us. Traveling slightly faster than horseback, we begin crossing the Canadian prairies.
By the time we had exhausted our tank of fuel Gary had likewise consumed all of his. He was safely in the rear seat sleeping off the effects of alcohol overdose. Somewhere in the middle of the grasslands, we found an all night gas station, pulled in and filled up for another leg. Rather than rouse a sleeping beast we deciding to pay for this tank of gas with some of Terry’s dwindling supply of cash. As we went to leave we were confronted with another problem, the battery was dead. We got the station to provide us with a charge while we rested our car and selves. In short time we were ready to resume our trek. I realized that the problem was our generator was not providing a charge, Not having tools or funds to have it repaired, I figured out a way to continue our journey. The roads were straight, the moon bright, and hardly any traffic. So, I turned off the headlights, used the moonlight to illuminate our way, and saved the battery to fire spark plugs. Whenever I noticed a vehicle approaching, I flicked on the lights till they passed. In fits and starts of light we got all the way across Manitoba. It was nearly light when we stopped at a truck stop diner for their breakfast special. Gary did not join us, but stayed in his stupor in the back seat.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A slow train a'coming, July, 1975: Wawa, ON

Our first day got us to North Bay, ON about half way from Ottawa to Sault Saint Marie. There was a slight drizzle so we sought shelter under a trailer in a sales lot. I found a large plastic tarp that provided a ground sheet. We spread my bed roll on it climbed in and spent the night snuggled and dry. In the morning, I reached out past my head to retrieve a cigarette when my hand plunked into some water. Coming to my senses, I found that we were surrounded by a shallow lake. During the night rain runoff lifted the edges of our ground cloth, making a dam. We were dry, but `had to figure out how to get us and our stuff out from under a trailer, past a large puddle and not get soaked in the process. We managed to secure our matches, smokes and Terry’s paperwork from the wetness. But in the process, we got ourselves and most of our clothing drenched. Luckily the rain had stopped and a close by Laundromat provided us with a place to hang out, eat breakfast, and dry our bedroll and clothing. By the time we got on the road it was the middle of a bright morning.
Rather quickly a older model car pulled over for us. We climbed in and met Gary who would be our sometimes traveling companion for almost the next two days. There was something about him that raised a flag of caution. He was hesitant to disclose the nature of his journey other than a friend had lent him this car and he was headed to Medicine Hat, Alberta. The constant aggravating feature was that Gary would drive the car no faster than 40 MPH. He claimed there was some problem that made it impossible to drive above that speed. I doubted his story and thought that if I had the chance to be the driver, I would try to break above that limit. It made it seem like a long slow trip was in front of us. We tried to entertain ourselves, but the talk was dry since Gary would not provide us with any story about his past and where he was headed. Without any details, I could make up this story. I figured him to be an escaped convict and who had likely commandeered this vehicle without an owner’s permission. That prevented me from offering to share the driving.
A couple of times, Terry and I would share a joint. Whatever crimes I imagined Gary to have committed, sharing in illegal drug use was not one of them. He would prefer an occasional beer, look the other way when we lit up, and press on ever so slowly. This ride was turning out to be only slightly better than standing on the side of the road not getting anywhere. As we approached the Sault, Gary announced he needed a tire and boasted that he knew a way to pinch one from a Canadian Tire store and even have them mount it unawares it was being pilfered. Surely we found a store and while Terry and I stayed outside, Gary did the deed. I suppose this made us accomplices to tire theft, and it certainly helped bolster my suspicions that our driver was a criminal. By the middle of the next evening we managed to get as far as Wawa, half way up the eastern shore of Lake Superior. We had been traveling all day and Gary pulled into a parking lot so we could all nap in the car.
I was in the back seat, not resting very well, Gary and Terry shared the front. At some point I was awakened by stirrings from the front seat and Terry’s voice complaining, “Please do not touch me, I thought we only stopped here to get some sleep.” Quickly, Gary responded apologetically, “Oh, I ‘m sorry, I didn’t know what I was doing.” From his tone and manner, he sounded quite under the influence of the constant beers he had been drinking all day. Luckily, he was not acting a violent drunk and perhaps his supposed crimes were not ones of brutality. I got over my fear of being in the drivers seat of a maybe stolen vehicle and offered to take the wheel. Gary and I changed seats; he quickly passed out in the back; Terry laid her head on my lap and fell asleep and I headed across the northern part of Lake Superior as fast as I could drive. At around 50 MPH the car felt unsafe and I proceeded at the pace we had traveled all the previous day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Heading out west: July, 1975: Ottawa, ON

For a long time I had a dream about going to British Columbia. It was the middle of summer and probably a good time to be hiking across the prairies. I had made it to Toronto and spent most of the month of June staying with Roy and Sue. While there I had taken on the task of turning their unfinished basement into a guest room, recreation room, and laundry room. After I finished, Roy asked if what I would like for payment for my labor. Half in jest, I blurted, “A pound of pot would be nice.” Roy took it seriously and provided a kilo brick of fine Mexican imported marijuana that day. With that in my pack I mentioned, “I think it’s time to head out west.” Roy added, “ I figured as much. I hope you have an exellent trip.” He then drove me to the highway. Before, heading out west, I headed to Ottawa to visit and share some of my fortune with Richard and Lisa. I was adverse to the idea of selling drugs, figuring it was bad karma. However, I would share. On my visit, Lisa drove me to a pleasant park along the banks of the Rideau Canal. It provided a wonderful setting to contemplate my next endeavor. It was here I met Terry, who would become my traveling companion all the way to Vancouver.
The air throughout the park was filled with the pungent odor of burning marijuana. It seemed a safe place to enjoy a smoke. I had twisted up a joint and carried it over to the gorgeous young blonde woman sitting by herself. I used a common greeting, “Wanna smoke one?” She agreed. I sat down and sparked up the joint which we shared. Terry told me she was on her way from her native Quebec to Vancouver. It was imperative that she be there on Monday morning. She had an appointment with the Unemployment Bureau, that if missed, would make her ineligible to collect. She had used all her money to purchase a bus ticket to Calgary. This would still leave her far short of her destination. Seeing that it was already late afternoon Thursday, time was beginning to squeeze. I quickly figured if we stayed on the road, we could likely make it on time. I offered to accompany her hitching a ride. I even suggested that if she could get a refund on her bus ticket, her funds would be enough to cover our expenses and my stash of pot would be enough to cover our discomfort and angst.
My friend Lisa showed up and drove us around Ottawa to assemble our gear for our journey. Terry had to pick up her pack and then we had to go to the bus station to exchange her ticket for cash. That happened without a hitch and we became well funded. We then had to return to Lisa’s to pick up my pack. Lisa and Richard hosted us a fine dinner before setting out on the road. We began our journey while there was still four or five hours of daylight. That gave us a heads up on finding a lengthy ride to start our adventure.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

A fork in the road, September, 1975: Imperial , MO

I had just gotten back to Florida from British Columbia. Climate had changed from chilly damp approaching fall to hot burnt out lawns holding a last vestige of summer. Seeking some moderation, I wanted to head north to enjoy cool brisk fall. I had two destinations in mind. Both meant seeking out female friends. One, Cathy, was sojourning in Colorado and invited me to visit. The other, Jennifer, lived in Connecticut and issued a standing invitation to visit there. So I left northern Florida with no clear sense of destination. My first ride was heading to near Saint Louis, Missouri. “Perfect,” I thought “that is somewhere half way between my two choices. I can ride there and put off my decision until later.” My driver, Jack, had his right hand in a large cumbersome bandage. He asked if I could drive, since it was difficult for him with his hurt hand.
I agreed and took over most of the driving. During our trip, I heard Jack’s story. It consisting of drinking to much alcohol, blind rage directed at his girl friend, and culminated with a serious injury to his hand. As he recalled, at the height of one of his drunken outbursts he had enough foresight to direct is fury at a wall instead of his girl friend. He stated reasonably, “ I knew if I hit her, there would be lots of trouble. So, I figured hitting the flimsy paneling covering a wall would be a better place to release my anger. What I did not see was that where I choose to strike was right over a solid stud.” Jack seemed to see the comedy of his situation; his deliberateness still invoked destruction, except it landed on him and he could laugh about it. He was heading to friend’s house near Saint Louis to take a break, heal his hand and perhaps get a grip on his anger. He regretted that his relationship had suffered on account of his rage. I was glad to provide my driving and listening skills. I also needed a chance to take a break and sort out a direction. We arrived a his friends ranch that seemed t be a shelter of sorts for several men sorting through vagaries of life.
There was plenty to do to pass time and sort out the future. I felt I had arrived at a safe place to hide out while I was determining my next direction. One toy that occupied much of my time was a full size pinball machine that did not require being feed quarters to operate. In little time, I mastered it and thought myself the “Pinball Wizard.” Just about the time that it was beginning to bore me a couple of things happened that sprung me into action. One, Jack who had stayed off alcohol for about two weeks decided to return to Florida and patch up his relationship. For me, I was taken by surprise to receive a birthday card from my mother. I was perplexed because I did not think she knew my whereabouts and I wondered what kind of tracks she followed that pointed here. Solving that puzzle sprung me into action and provided direction, I choose neither east or west but instead headed further north, hoping to cross into Canada and visit my daughter. Like Jack, I too, needed to work on patching important relationships.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A different passage, October, 1975: Columbus OH

While hitchhiking around the country, I heard many tales told as a means of giving advice, often with a negative slant. A common one warned that Columbus, Ohio was vigilant about prosecuting those caught hitchhiking. It would certainly mean a spell in jail. Additionally, anyone caught without money, would be charged with vagrancy. I accepted these stories but resisted internalizing them, as I felt it was possible to have a different and positive experience. This fall it came to pass and I had such a dissimilar experience. I left St. Louis and headed to Toronto.

This meant I had to pass Indianapolis, Dayton and Columbus Ohio. I arrived in Columbus late at night and seeing it was drizzly and cool, spent the night in the “bridge hotel.” This was a fond term given to the concrete shelf under a bridge overpass that was large enough to accommodate a couple of folks and their gear. Early next morning I awoke to a clear but decidedly frosty day. It was Sunday and hardly any traffic. To stay warm, I walked along the highway, not seeing many chances for a ride. Eventually a car pulled over for me. I got in and recognized the uniform of an officer of the law. He was heading to work as a dispatcher in the local station house and dropped me off at his exit. In the time it took to walk from the exit ramp to the entry ramp, not a single car passed. As soon as I got stationed at a good place to thumb, the first car approached and stopped-- a police cruiser.

The officer motioned me to get my belongings and get into his car. He asked for my ID and called in the particulars. I heard the voice on the radio ask, “Is the suspect wearing gray overalls and a plaid jacket?” That exactly described my garb. I did not like the sound of the word suspect. But he answered, “Affirmative, that’s him. I‘ll give him his coffee and take him out of here.” He handed me a fresh go mug and we took off. Evidently he had been dispatched to be my Guardian Angel and St. Christopher. He informed me he could only take me to the edge of his patrol area and not all the way around Columbus to where I-77 headed north to Cleveland.

He let me off right in front of the landing strip for Columbus airport. There was still hardly any traffic. While, I was standing admiring a plane landing, I noticed something blowing across the highway. I went out and picked it up -- a bumper sticker that read, ”Support your Capital City Police.” I felt that a good sentiment and tucked it into my pack. No sooner had I closed up my pack when my next ride, another police car, stopped. As he was checking me out, I proudly showed him my recent find. He quickly informed me that was not his department, but one downtown. Nevertheless, he offered to deliver me the few miles to where I could be certain of getting a ride to Cleveland and if I was lucky Buffalo. When he let me out, I thanked him and Providence that had helped me skirt any trouble getting around Columbus.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Beginning a detour, January 1975: Athens, TN

As soon as I started walking up the ramp, a shiny white Lincoln Continental Town Car pulled over to scoop me off the road. As soon as I got in the passenger seat, Jack, the driver pointed at the floor in front of me to a case of cold beer on ice. He said, “Help your self. It’s afternoon, so, it’s OK.” I had a beer at lunch and another seemed like a fine idea on a warming afternoon. No sooner had I popped off the top, Jack went on to get his car running at over 110 MPH. He flicked a switch on his steering wheel, looked over, smiled and added, “This baby’s got cruise control, All we got to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. He even lifted his feet off the floor and assumed a crossed legged sitting position.” He seemed comfortable and in control as we zoomed down the Interstate quickly passing everything in our way. It took only an instant to eclipse two State Troopers setting up a radar on a tripod next to the highway. In that fleeting instant I saw one of the troopers jump up, grab his Smokey the Bear hat with both hands, and click his heels. We continued to race away at over 110. It was almost as if Jack did not notice.
I was amazed at how quickly two Ford Interceptor police cruisers caught up with us. Jack quickly complied with there motion to pull over. He stayed in the driver’s seat, as one of the Troopers walked up to the window and politely asked to see some ID and registration. The first piece of ID Jack flashed was his ATF agent Identification. The officer glanced at it and stated, “You may well be an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agent, but you still cannot be cruising on my highway, drinking your beers at over a hundred miles and hour.” Jack was apologetic and all three of the officers of the law soon were engaging in conversation, and exchanging police stories. It seemed the air was lightening up and we were probably going to be allowed on our way. As yet, neither of the officers had focused on me. Soon the effects of drinking a couple of beers surfaced and I needed to take a leak. Maybe being slightly under the influence compromised my judgment, But I thought it a good idea to get out of the car, climb up a slight rise away from the highway, keep my back turned and relieve myself. In the middle of this process, I heard a shout, “What the hell do you think your doing?” I finished, zipped up, turned around and replied, “Sorry, I just had to take a leak.” “Don’t you know there are women and children going by out here. Let’s see some ID.” I couldn’t argue with him, there were women and children going by my turned back. I walked down and produced my ID. Upon checking he discovered they had apprehended an Army deserter. Quickly they figured this was a more important matter than dealing with one of their comrades in arms who was acting slightly indiscreet. I waved goodbye to Jack as they escorted me to their cruiser and took me to their local jail.
I was placed in a holding cell and notified that an FBI officer was being summoned from Cleveland. I thought, “Wow, an FBI agent coming all the way from Cleveland, I must be in lots of trouble.” Within an hour, a agent arrived, explained to the officers holding me that under the provisions of amnesty, I could not be held and got me released. He offered me a ride to his hometown of Cleveland TN, not that far away. Before letting me go he bought me a meal and suggested that I report to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis and settle my matters with the Army. If not, he explained I would likely continue to be hassled if I was going to be hitchhiking around, since not all officers were aware of amnesty provisions. He was pleasant and convincing and when he let me out I decided to continue as far as Chattanooga, sleep on it and decide whether or not to turn back to the frigid north.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I think I'll pass, January 1975: Knoxville, TN

It was somewhat past noon and had not found a good place to eat yet. The neighborhood I had been dropped off in did not seem to invite exploration for places to find a meal. Nearby was a small convenience store that mostly offered snack foods and beverages. They did sell bananas though. I chose a banana and some beer calories in a 16 oz. Miller’s Ale. It was the first comfortably warm day of this winter, so I picked to sit on an embankment overlooking the highway I would soon be standing near seeking a ride. Even before I finished my repast, a battered old Volkswagen pulled up and the driver motioned me to come over. Richard intuited that I was seeking a ride and offered me a lift in a southbound direction. This seemed easy and I climbed aboard.
Richard was only going shortly south of the city and suggested where he let me off would be a better place to hitch a ride since I would be past the congestion in the middle of Knoxville. I could see the logic off seeking a ride where all the drivers would certainly be headed in the same direction as me. Before we had left the city limits Richard made an offer that seemed bizarre. After asking me if I ever tried heroin and receiving a negative response, he offered to turn me on to some provided I pay for my dose and his. Immediately that stuck me as a strange form of sharing. I was familiar with offering to share what I had, but was not at all versed in offering to share what I did not have. Quickly I deduced that I would not like to venture down a path that leads to such twisted logic. I declined the offer. Richard admonished, “Too bad, You would enjoy it. It’s really good stuff and I know where to get it.” I refused to budge and offered the excuse,
“I am really in a hurry to get to Florida.” He did not persist, but drove me to the spot he had told me about some thirty miles south of Knoxville. He let me off with a suggestion, “If you get to Gainesville, check out the mushrooms. They grow in cow shit, are totally free and really get you off.” I thanked Richard for the ride and stored the information he just imparted in the back of my brain. It was to take me almost two weeks to reach Gainesville and retrieve that knowledge.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Something about the weather, January 1975:Knoxville, TN

Carl picked me up at the intersection of Interstates 77 and 81. He was headed to Nashville and I was hoping to get to Florida. He informed me that on his route, Interstate 81 would merge with and later become Interstate 40. If I stayed with him until Knoxville he could let me off at Interstate 75 which headed due south toward Florida. That sounded good to me and we spent the next few hours together. For the bulk of our journey I was treated to Carl’s story.
He spent his working career with the US Meteorological Service and spent periods of time at weather stations in various parts of the country and abroad, His current assignment was in Washington DC. His favorite station had been in an isolated part of Alaska. He exclaimed about the immense natural beauty of our most northern state. Since returning from there he was assigned as part of a team that gathered the reams of data collected from round the world and going back over 100 years. His organization stored this data on their new computer network. Here they could collate, sort and make an accessible data base. Their intent was to create a computer model which could access this data and hopefully offer a reliable weather prediction system.
Along with the interesting sidebars he related concerning the adventures he had as he traveled gathering climate statistics, was his take on the progress of their weather projection venture. He hinted on a diabolical infiltration into their scheme. As he tells it, it seemed that once all their information was settled into its computer model a sea change occurred that rendered their model completely off base and unreliable. It seemed their high tech model was not as good at predicting weather than old wives tales and farmer’s simple methods. At this juncture, they were trying to decide whether their data was corrupt or their modeling procedure needed tweaking. Another option would be to scrap the whole project and head in a different direction. I was quite impressed with this story and baffled by its implications of fallibilities of the Beast.
Since weather predictions were still being issued, I asked, “Bering in mind what you tell me, how is it that your group still issues weather forecasts?” His answer was forthright and telling, “ We still issue forecasts, since we cannot admit we do not know what were talking about. And we will keep on doing this until we either figure out a working solution or give up. But do not expect the National Weather Service to collapse. We will continue acting as if we know what the weather is all about.” It was right at noon when he let me out at the juncture that would head me to I -75 South towards Florida. In parting, he did not have tell me that the sun was bright and high in the sky, the sky was clear and it looked to be a fine day.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The rest of the story, January 1975: Charleston, WV

At this time, the Interstate was not built through Charleston. That meant you had to travel through city streets to pick up on the other side of town. My ride ended somewhere in the middle of town. My driver, knowing the city left me off at 3 AM at a spot he deemed safe. In parting he handed me a small pinch of pot. I gratefully accepted, shook his hand and stepped out onto the deserted street.
There was no traffic, the weather seemed mild and I just loitered around a bus shelter waiting for my next ride. Having much time to think, I began to feel unsafe. I felt vulnerable standing alone this early in the morning and holding a small amount of contraband. I remembered stories about folks being sentenced to considerable stretches of time after being caught possessing just small amounts of marijuana. The stash in my pocket probably was a small enough amount to cause large problems should it be discovered by the wrong person.
Alongside the sidewalk where I was standing was a railing. The top rail was a metal tube that was open on the end. I decided to place my little stash in the end of the tube, in case I drew attention standing out in the early morning. Hardly had I finished hiding my hoard, when a city police car pulled up. The officer rolled down his window and instructed me to bring by pack and get in his car. I complied. After checking out my ID and finding I had no outstanding warrants, he offered me a ride across town to where southbound Interstate 77 commenced.
I felt I had no good reason to decline his offer, nor did it feel it appropriate to ask to step out and retrieve something from the railing before he drove me across town. As we took off, I bade a silent farewell to my hidden stockpile.
No sooner had we taken off when Saint Christopher in the guise of an Officer of the Law, asked, “Do many folks you meet on the road smoke pot?“ I felt a little unsure, but answered, “Well yah, lots of people these days are smoking and it seems the thing to do.” He quickly added, “Did you ever get turned on by a cop?” He smartly pulled a pin sized joint from his pocket, lit it up, inhaled deeply and handed it to me. All the way on our ride, I debated whether or not to make a request to turn back and retrieve my holdings from the railing. I made up my mind to leave it there to surprise the next person who happened to look into that end of a hollow tube. My guardian let me off at the bottom of the highway ramp and circled around a couple of times keeping an eye on me. Every time he passed we nodded or waved. Shortly a van load of kids on their way from Michigan to North Carolina to attend a Led Zeppelin concert scooped me up and got me out of Charleston.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I really just want a ride, January, 1975: Ripley, WV

It was around ten o’clock when I was dropped off in Ripley. The folks that took me that far, were headed up into the mountains to visit with some friends. Even though they invited me along, I was anxious to make my way south to warmer weather. I figured to just stay on the road. I got a brief meal at a fast food joint and headed back to the Interstate entry. Above me was the highway and it was unlit. The solitary street lamp was at the bottom of the access ramp. There was not much traffic, so I decided to stay under the light and wait for a ride.
It was not bitter cold, and I had cigarettes, so the wait was not uncomfortable. It seemed like quite some time elapsed before a small pickup stopped. The driver informed me he was only going to the next exit but offered me a ride. I quickly declined, “I really want to get all the way to Charleston, and if not, I would just as soon stay here under a light. But, thanks,” He nodded and pulled away. I resumed watching no traffic pass. In what seemed like 30 minutes, I saw the same small pickup approach the ramp again from a different direction,
The same driver stopped again and offered, “I will take you all the way to Charleston, if you let me give you a blow job.” Again, I declined, “That’s nice, but if that’s what it takes to get me to Charleston, I would rather just stay here.“ He did not respond, but quickly pulled away again heading up the ramp in the direction I was heading. It was getting on onto the night and still no ride. Shortly, I noticed the same pickup coming back down the highway headed toward the exit ramp on the other side. I did not want to decline the next offer.
Feeling and urge to depart quickly, I grabbed my pack and headed straight up the embankment to the highway. And at the top, leapt over the guardrail and landed in the breakdown lane just as a car was hurtling by. I flashed my thumb and the driver applied his brakes and pulled over about a hundred yards down the road. I did my best sprint, got there in record time, and quickly settled into the passenger seat. The driver smiled and announced, “I am only going to Charleston, but I can drop you off in a good spot.” “Thanks a lot, I never thought I would get out of Ripley.” He agreed, “Some folks never do.” It was a pleasant thirty minute drive to the middle of Charleston.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Getting no where slowly, March, 1975: West Palm Beach, FL

It was with intent I was proceeding slowly down the coast of Florida on highway A1A. It had taken three days to travel from Fort Pierce to just above Fort Lauderdale. It was just before sunrise, when a fairly new Cadillac convertible with top down pulled over to the curb and I was offered a ride. Readily, I jumped in and met the young couple who would be my companions for the day. Becky had come from Indiana to visit her grandmother, who was lending her and Charlie a car for the day. Not having much money, they brought a large bowl of change to finance their adventure. I added my meager allotment to the stash. Luckily, the car had come with a full tank of gas. We headed to visit the Everglades National Park. This meant we had to drive past Miami to Homestead. This allowed us a couple of hours to get acquainted. We even stopped at a large fruit and vegetable stand and got provisions for our adventure. Next we proceeded to the park entrance. Here we had to count up our funds and see if we had enough for the admission fee. We had not reckoned on having to pay to get in and it took a bit for us to count, project, and decide we would part with almost half our remaining funds and go in.

We were treated to a fine warm day exploring the various hammocks and boardwalks exhibiting Florida’s sub tropical underbelly. On one occasion we witnessed an alligator, with a swish of its tail, spring into action and gobble a fairly large turtle in one gulp. After many hours adventuring and observing flora and fauna unique to this area we got back into our car and retraced our path from the interior of the park. Along the way we noticed a dirt lane heading into a forested area off the main road. Our spirit of adventure surfaced and we decided to explore. Not too far into the woods, we came upon what looked like a sizeable yet deserted highway. We pulled up onto it and taking out a map, tried to figure out where we were headed. After several minutes we discovered we could not find our location on a tourist roadmap. The only way to find out was keep driving and see where it led to. Not too far into our journey, were we suddenly pulled over by a Military Police vehicle brandishing large caliber weapons. The soldiers confronted us with the question, “What the hell are your doing here and how did you get on our base?” We pointed back up the road and one of us answered, “We found a dirt road in the park that leads to here.” They knew the road. Apparently we had discovered a way that soldiers used to sneak off base when they tired of guarding Nike missiles. Believing we had no malicious purpose, the guards escorted us back to our entry point and admonished us to never use this entry again. We agreed, happy to be on our way. We certainly got our monies worth today.

Since I did not want to spend the night sleeping on the ground where alligators were common, I decided to ride back to West Palm Beach with my new friends. We spent the journey rehashing our day‘s adventure. We especially relished our adventure getting away with inadvertently sneaking on a missile base getting caught and set free. As darkness was settling, I was let off on the same corner where I had been picked up at the other end of the day. It seemed quite a lot happened to end up where I started.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

I just wanted to help, May 1963: Decatur, AL

My first license to drive came when I was 14 years old. The state of Florida granted restricted licensees at that age. The restriction was that an adult driver had to accompany me in the front seat. Most of my early lessons were driving my dad’s pickup. He used it mostly to haul boat trailers. I got to be accomplished at both towing and backing with trailers attached. By the time I was sixteen, I was able to go with my dad on boat deliveries. I felt lucky to be excused from school for a two week period to help take a load to Benton Harbor MI from our shop in Florida. Our route for a long time followed Highway 31. The journey one way took over three days and took us on a course through Alabama. One morning after having breakfast in a small diner on the main street in Decatur, my dad decided he needed a haircut. Next door there was a barber shop with not a long wait. He joined the line up and told me to wait outside.
I figured there would be time to explore around. Just across the street I was approached by a man inquiring if I would like a small job. I was curious and certainly felt like I could use the money. He offered twenty bucks if I would climb up his conveyer and paint the length of it with aluminum paint. I readily agreed, obtained a coffee can of paint, a beat up looking brush, and climbed to the top. I hoped to finish painting before my dad was finished with his haircut. My smaller statue made me the right one for this job, since I could climb to the top without upsetting the balance of the lengthy arm I would paint. I feverously slapped paint on the metal parts supporting the cloth conveyor belt that served as my perch, while I worked my way down.
I may have been an accomplished driver, but I was lacking a good sense of time. I got so focused on my job, and thinking about the twenty dollars I would receive, I completely lost track of the clock or even the fact that I had a father who likely would be wondering where I was. I got about halfway down the arm when I heard a familiar voice shout in a perturbed tone, “Robbie, get down here.” It was dad and not being done. I shouted, “Daddy, I got a job,” hoping he would be impressed by my ambition. Not quite. He seemed angry and wanted me down on the ground. I scampered down hoping to convince him, to let me finish the job. His tact was that I went missing without letting him know, and now our trip was held up. Secondly, I was pretty well covered with paint. It was going to take a bit of effort to clean me up. The gentleman who offered me the job, let us use his materials to clean the paint off me. I couldn’t figure if he was disappointed that the job was not finished. I was upset to lose a chance at getting my own money. Shortly we were back on the road, I in the driver’s seat,, headed north toward the Tennessee border.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Loaves and fishes, part 2, March '75: Grassy Key, FL

Living in an improvised tent city during the recession that ravished this country during the mid 1970’s meant folks had to be resourceful to meet their basic needs. Having a place to squat and not having to suffer cold weather meant that a couple of the elements were covered. Food was another matter. The Keys of Florida are not a place where large quantities of food are grown. Most items beside seafood have to be trucked in and sold at high prices. Our community worked together to provide sustenance for all. It seemed all would partake of whatever showed up. All 50 or so folks ate together scattered about the beach.
A few of the crew got together fishing gear and headed up and down the shore gathering fish. When the fish cooperated, we were grateful. Others of the band searched about for coconuts to glean. It seemed there were trees that had gone wild and if not gathered their fruit would only go to rot. Our abundance of coconuts was supplemented by an occasional piece of citrus, mostly limes or kumquats. Someone discovered a source of good produce. The supermarket in Marathon, would on a daily basis dispose of produce that while still good was not presentable for sale. After talking to their produce manager, he agreed to set these items on the back landing instead of placing them in the dumpster. After we took our lot we would sweep and clean up the loading dock. This helped supply our stores with needed daily requirements. Soon another windfall would show up that gave us an increased variety for our manna.
Occasionally a freezer would break down and after a short length of time, its contents would begin defrosting. It was told us that in Florida such food would by law have to be disposed. On these occasions large quantities of thawing foodstuffs would make their way to our encampment. When this happened we would have large quantities but small variety. The first time we obtained over 200 lbs. of bacon and a similar quantity of margarine. This was more than we could use and we had no facilities for storage. We begin to search for other places that had needs for food and shared with them, Also on the occasion when a freezer broke down we would likely suffer a tinge of gluttony. One time we even went overboard. After a spell when the fishing was not profitable and other sources seemed to be sparing, we were all on a bit of a fast.
One day in late afternoon, when the energy was low from lacking nutrition, one of our vehicles came bounding down the beach with its horn blaring and wild shouts from its driver and passengers. The cause of the commotion was the exciting news that another freezer had succumbed. Hurriedly, a crown gathered round to examine the booty. We had scored several cases of Tee Vee dinners. There was a scrambling for large pots that we could prepare the separate ingredients in large quantities and enjoy a feast. I went up the beach to spread the news we were ready to break the fast. One of my stops was to visit Michelle, Richard, and Tom, folks visiting from Hawaii.
After sharing the news, we discussed the prudence in the face of coming off a fast with large quantities of greasy salty food. Instead of campaigning to force everyone to be moderate and not overindulge, we decided to hold ourselves around our fire and share our course with anyone who choose to join us. Several folks dropped by to share our good fortune at receiving a large bounty. Only a few stayed with us to continue our fast and figure a way to slowly get back to the banquet. The overwhelming numbers of folks we witnessed that evening and the next morning suffering from overindulgence confirmed the wisdom of our decision and filled us with gratitude that we could withstand the temptation to join in the celebration.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Jumping a train, September 1975: Spanish Fork, UT

In my pack I carried a few avocados, some coffee, oatmeal, powdered milk and a small tin pot. I also held a six pack of Coors beer. I was intent upon carrying this to David in Florida. It was his favorite and not available there yet. Food was not the problem, but I did not seem able to catch a ride. It took all morning to get from Ogden to just south of Provo. I caught several rides, all of the short nature. It seemed like no one was going to far from here. After my last ride, with a sweet angel who shared a roach with me, I was left at two lane road that headed east up into the mountains. For quite a while, no cars headed that direction. Across the road, a set of train tracks ran parallel to the highway. Soon a long train appeared led by three engines headed in my direction.
It crept on slow enough for me to ponder jumping aboard. Several minutes elapsed and there was no sight of the end of the train in either direction. That seemed to cinch it, since the engines were out of sight, no one would notice me getting on. I grabbed by pack, crossed the road and approached the slow moving beast. Quickly, I sized up that boarding could be accomplished by way of grabbing a ladder attached at the end of every box car. Positioning myself quite near the tracks, I practiced the motions necessary to accomplish a leap aboard. Getting aboard a train moving by even at a slow rate presents an imposing challenge. It seemed daunting and I spent quite a time, getting up the courage. Just below each ladder were the wheels, that obviously would grind up anything that fell off. Several open type cars that normally haul automobiles passed. They had no hand rails to climb up, but seemed like preferable choices to ride on since they were empty and offered shaded accommodations. The end of the train was still not in sight when I made the determined leap aboard.
I grabbed sure hold and quickly got myself pulled away from the wheels. No sooner had I secured my connection then the train came to a sure stop. Not knowing why it stopped, I took advantage and dismounted. I hurried ahead and climbed aboard one of the open type cars. As the train resumed its journey I settled back and enjoyed an avocado and Coors beer meal while enjoying the vista only available to train passengers climbing eastward into the Rocky Mountains. The sun was getting low in the sky when the train pulled into a yard in an obviously small town. Noticing several train workers in the yard, I decided to leave. I seemed to remember something about railroad bulls. I quickly got past the fence and sauntered up the main street of Helper, Utah. I walked out to the highway, looking for a place to spend the night. Before I found that, I finally got a ride that was planning on traveling a good distance. Rick, stopped and was glad I could help driving. He was intent on reaching Gainesville, GA in two days.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sometimes walking is faster, May, 1966: Fayetteville, NC

During my stay in New York City, I was able to buy an automobile. I found a 1955 Chevy Bellaire for $100. Even though it needed engine work, it seemed a good deal. A friend had a mechanic down in Brooklyn who rebuilt the engine for $175. So for less than three hundred, I had a classic vehicle to tool around the city. I imagine I never drove it on long hauls, meaning more than one hour of sustained driving. It suited me well. In the spring, of ‘66, I decided to return to Florida. My belongings consisted of a suitcase and a couple of cardboard boxes. Also aboard was some groceries mostly a large bunch of bananas, some bread and peanut butter. I set off in the evening hoping to get far in the cool air.
The first leg, took me down the New Jersey Turnpike. Getting over the Delaware River bridge was a problem. As my car was trying to make the climb, it backfired repeatedly and was losing power. By the time we crested, it almost came to a stop. Coasting, down the other side, I pulled into a truck stop, rested the car, had a cup of coffee and pondered my situation. After an hour or so, I ventured off again. To my amazement, the car tooled along fine. However, before reaching Washington, it again resumed backfiring and sending flames up out the carburetor. Pulling into a Chevrolet garage, the problem was diagnosed as defective valve keepers. It turned out that the guy who rebuilt my engine installed the keepers upside down. This caused my valves to not seal when the engine reached high temperature. Apparently my short hauls in New York City did not expose this problem. Not able to spend $350,they wanted for a repair, I took the alternative solution. The mechanic suggested that on my drive to Florida, I could make it if after every hour of driving, I pulled off for an hour to let the engine cool down. Not having money for lodging, it seemed a workable solution and proceeded south in fits and starts.
I had to keep an eye out for suitable pulling over places. Through rural Virginia and North Carolina, this did not seem a problem. Somewhere in the northern part of North Carolina, I pulled over at a picnic area, grabbed one of my bunches of bananas, climbed into a spreading tree that had an extended branch that provided a shady sitting and resting place. I was up in the tree enjoying my break when a small convey of military vehicles entered the parking area, for what looked like a smoke break. Soon a contingent of soldiers dismounted, light up, stretched their legs and otherwise took a breather. Suddenly one of the troop noticed me sitting up in the tree. They began to get large enjoyment having spotted this new species of primate, that most likely lived in the wilds of the Carolinas and enjoyed sitting in trees eating fruit. I went along with their merriment, by mimicking a monkey, by scratching my armpits, howling and jumping up and down on my perch. Shortly, they had to remount and take off likely to resume training for the mounting Viet Nam action. I likewise, climbed down, and grateful for the light hearted break resumed my journey.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Rolling down Highway 41, April 1975: Adel, GA

Rolling down Highway 41, April 1975: Adel, GA
The weather was beginning to put on its warm attire. As soon as the sun began to climb, it felt like clothing should come off or at least get lighter. I was headed north with a companion, Esperanza. She was from California and had spent previous summers in the Philadelphia area in school. My previous spring and summers were used up in Ontario. Even by mid morning our enthusiasm to stand and energetically thumb a ride was sapped. The lack of traffic headed up our ramp to Interstate 75 further diminished our spirit to move on. We ended up reclining on our packs beside the road pondering our dilemma. A guy manning a broom swept by and offered, “You two don’t look like you want to go anywhere. Looking like that, I don’t think you’ll get a ride.” That seemed to make sense. So we picked up our gear and headed down the ramp and into town.
It was a slow journey, made longer by the friendly folks who engaged us in conversation. There were offers to stay around, find jobs, and buy a vehicle. A used car dealer even offered us on the spot financing, on the condition we accepted jobs in his uncle’s warehouse. We could not consider his offer since we were determined to somehow make it north toward more hospitable climate. By mid afternoon we were at the one stoplight intersection that marked the center of town. We figured that were probably not going to get any substantial rides that day and finding a place to set up a camp probably was a fair hike from the middle of this small town. Federal highway 41 was the north-south component of our crossroads. To facilitate getting out of town, we decided to separate and head in opposite directions. Esperanza would head north, I south. Whenever one of us got the ride, we would rejoin and head in that direction. A fast moving car, passed me, honked, and screeched to a halt about a block south. We gathered our belongings and hurried to our ride.
As we approached, I noticed a hand lettered message painted across the trunk. It offered the single word, “Boogie.” We anticipated some real Southern Hospitality. Once we got aboard, Gail, sizing up our situation, offered us a meal and quarters in her air conditioned trailer. After a chicken fried steak meal and some relaxing company, Gail offered the both of us a place in her king size bed. It seemed tempting, except during the evening she disclosed that her boyfriend, currently in jail, had a habit of escaping, tracking her down, and going on a violent rampage. I choose a single bed in the extra bedroom. If her boyfriend did show up, I hoped that finding two women in the big bed may temper his passion for destruction. It turned a peaceful night. In the morning, Gail helped us ship some of our stuff ahead via US mail and dropped us off on the same Interstate ramp that derailed us the day before. Thus lightened we proceeded to quickly catch a ride all the way to South Bend, Indiana.

Blog Archive

About Me, Part One

My photo
Rock Balancing: The Beginning. What began as a journal of my travels took a hiatus when I began to settle in Ithaca NY. In the meantime, I took up the practice of setting rocks to balance. I returned to my blog to begin recording this story

Part, The second

On Easter Sunday Morning, 2008, I made a decision to settle in the Ithaca New York area. At the same time, I decided to continue to post my blog, However, the stories now will come from the archive stored internally. These will be the stories I gathered while on previous journeys and never entrusted to paper. The date of each posting will not reflect the date of the story being related but will mark the date that narrative got inscribed.

Carry wood

Carry wood
33 years later

Part: The third

I took a brief hiatus from my daily blog writing. I did not know the direction it would take. part of me thought I would abandon it. It turns out I missed it. The old title "On the Road Again' is no longer apt. It appears I am settling. The travel stories will age to a point, when I will probably resusitiate them and do something with them. I dusted off some old stories and begin this new series.
Thr first is one was written two years ago. I edited it and begin again a series that is more apropos to someone settling in upper New York State. They are meant to warm, amuse, educate and sometimes inflame.