Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 29, July 1970
We floated through mile after mile of Iowa flatlands, passing more cornfields and pig farms than we could have imagined. Flocks of starlings dipped and soared, displaying patterns in a wispy blue sky. The wind-wings of my truck were angled to funnel dry air through the cab. And country music chirped on the radio, barely audible above the rushing airflow.
It was good to be with Rosie, and I was looking forward to seeing my friends in KC. I shouted above the noise, “You’re going to love Kansas City, babe. It’s the only metropolis I’ve ever been in where the world slows down when you drive into it.”
“Boy, I hope it’s cooler than Iowa. I’m melting.”
“I hear ya.”
We pulled into KC at dusk and found our way to the little yellow house where Bill and Tote were living. It was Saturday and they were home, trying to beat the heat. Tote shared a reefer and we relaxed out back, where the evening temperature was comfortable.
The next morning, Rosie and I woke up in my camper, cooked to a crisp. Bill and Tote decided to take us to a swimming hole for relief from the infernal heatwave. After driving for an hour, we stopped at a remote river, stripped down, and plunged into the water. We soaked most of the afternoon and then stopped at an air-conditioned diner for supper.
Back home, Bill told me, "We've got to work tomorrow." He pointed to the fan that Tote turned on the second we arrived. “If it’s still killer hot tomorrow, put cold water in the tub and take turns soaking, then lay on the carpet in front of the fan, and you may survive.”
And that’s what we did, starting late morning. I also splashed water on Charlie, motioning for her to lie in the path of the fan. I couldn't believe how boiling hot it was! Maybe even hotter than the Sacramento Valley.
What a summer!
At one point, I slipped on my cut-offs and went to the truck for a map. We planned to travel to Texas in the morning, and I needed to figure out the route. I had a gash on my big toe caused by a sharp rock I’d stumbled over while swimming the day before. The injury had upgraded from bloody, gross, and painful to ugly and super-tender.
As I stepped through the camper, I slammed that toe into my storage chest and experienced a dramatic wave of pain similar to the ringing of a bell with a carnival sledge. The pain started at my toe and slammed into my skull, zapping every pain receptor in my brain.
I screamed in my head—“Fu-u-u-c-cck!!!”—and stood there frozen, gripping the shelf, gritting my teeth, and waiting for the intensity to subside. When I could breathe again, I grabbed the map and limped back to the house.
As I entered, Charlie ran straight over and licked my toe. “What! How did you know, girl?”
Once again, my remarkable canine friend had blown my mind.
Bill gave me directions to the spot in the Ozarks where he and I had camped the summer before. I found the place on the Kings River, and Rosie, Charlie, and I settled in for the night. We slept late, and then cooked up a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast—with a sprinkling of fresh dandelion.
It wasn't as hot here but it was hot enough to call for a dip in the river. We tossed our clothes in the camper, put our towels on the tailgate, and waded into the water. The only place deep enough to submerge up to our necks was two-thirds of the way towards the opposite bank—and that was only if we sat down on the sandy bottom.
It was a peaceful place. The leaves were flittering, and small birds were twittering. Charlie lounged in shaded tall grass on the bank. The temperature of the water was perfect. Kansas City was fun, but nothing compared to the serenity of unspoiled nature.
Life felt good—very, very good.
We sat there silent for a long time. Then we heard the rattling sounds of a vehicle approaching. A rusted and dirty Ford pickup pulled into the clearing. It parked on the riverbank thirty feet downstream from us. Two middle-aged men and a white-haired elder climbed out while a boy in his late teens jumped down from the pickup’s bed.
The mid-life fellows picked up their fishing rods and creels and took off downstream. Within minutes, they'd disappeared around the bend. The old man and the boy, not as prepared as the first pair, were gathering and organizing their gear.
I whispered to Rosie, “We’ll wait until they're out of sight, then we can split.” She gave me a nod, and we relaxed and watched the two. At one point the kid looked over at us. He might as well have displayed a light bulb over his shaggy orange hair as discretion wasn't his forte. Nor was it Grandpa’s, judging from the stare he gave us after the kid whispered something in his ear.
“They’re on to us,” I told Rosie. They dallied and fumbled around forever until they finally started to hike upstream. They stopped not too far from their truck and dropped their lines in the water next to each other, keeping us in their view.
“I don’t know, Rosie. I don’t think these two perverts are going anywhere until we show them some skin.”
“I think you're right. I’m going to turn into a prune at some point. Shall I make their day?”
“Up to you, babe. We’ll never see them again, and they’ll have a good story to tell their fishing pals.”
“Screw them. Let’s split!”
She stood up and walked with dignity and little else to my truck, with me at her heels. We dried off and dressed behind the camper. And as we drove down the dirt lane, Rosie leaned out the window and waved at her admirers.
To be continued ...
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Trippin': Roads, Rails & Mountain Trails
In book 2 of his Hippie Adventurer Series, Rich takes us on another wild ride during the 1960s as he and his faithful canine companion, Charlie, hitchhike, hop freights, work in an Alaskan gold mining camp, and manage a Sacramento Valley cattle ranch.
A Message from Rich
Trippin’ is my gift to all of you. For me, the ’60s were a heartfelt time of growth, exploration, freedom, and brotherhood. I hope to impart a truthful account of what it was like to live as a hippie in that wacky, magical era. Enjoy the journey!
To receive episodes delivered directly to your email box, sign up HERE.
If you haven’t read the first book in the Hippie Adventurer Series, the award-winning Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, you can find it on Amazon and Audible.
1A. Escape from Heavy Caverns