Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 5, August 1969
The sky was awash with zillions of twinkling stars and a surprising chill had replaced the searing heat of the day. My acid high had subsided, leaving me with a brain as sparse as my surroundings. Albert’s jiggling taillights glared at me from far ahead—like a couple of neurotic reptile eyes.
We drove throughout the night with only a few gas and coffee stops. Nevada owned a great deal of empty space—a forlorn land of sand, sagebrush and slot machines.
Once in a while, eerie monoliths studded with tiny lights rose out of nowhere. They’d drift towards us at a snail’s pace, only to disappear 30 or 40 minutes later. Mining operations? What else could be out here?
The dashed white line hypnotized me, shooting past like a barrage of arrows, as hour after hour, we progressed north. I sang along to country tunes to stay awake. Sometimes I’d switch back to XERB. Wolfman Jack was spinning 45’s and bantering on in his sandpaper voice. Does that guy ever sleep?
Every few hours we would pass small towns with names like Rhyolite, Tonopah, Gabbs and I’d ask Charlie, “What kind of person lives out here?”
As the hours slogged by, my thoughts turned to a subject it nearly always chose to fill any void—females—that enchanted species with the power to torture a man’s mind and fuel endless fantasies. Vivid daydreams danced in my head. Musings driven at times by lurid lust but more often stemming from pure love’s honest and honorable yearnings.
I realized long ago that I suffer from a serious affliction. I fall in love at the drop of a hat, or should I say—the bat of an eye, the curve of a breast, the flash of a skirt, or even the mere flicker of a casual smile. Maybe not so unusual for a young man but it seemed that I fell far easier and much harder than the average fool.
This propensity left me a hopeless romantic. Not that I was complaining. I’ve had too many great experiences with love to be troubled by the pain and frustration that can accompany it.
With a lot of affection to give and so many softhearted ladies available, what’s a fellow to do?
This inclination for sulking and yearning with regard to the fairer sex, could have something to do with my taste in music—the influence of the sappy country tunes I fancied. After all, western music is chock full of raw emotion, singing the praises of romance and earnestly describing the agony of heartache and despair.
Outwardly, I operated on a smooth and even keel but deep within, when it came to matters of the heart, my emotions could run wild. The endless longing was sometimes painful but it also left me grateful and full of hope. Grateful for the feelings I’ve been fortunate enough to share and hopeful for what the future might bring.
Forever tied to the beautiful creatures that had touched my heart, I drifted through the vast Nevada wasteland reminiscing. I pictured gorgeous Ronnie in LA and mourned the fact I may never set eyes on her loveliness again. I thought about the apparition I glimpsed of Suzanna, that sexy Kansas City vixen. She had stolen my heart, leaving me craving for the press of soft flesh.
I reflected on Karen, the cherub-nosed pixie who invited me into her tiny tent on my final night in Aspen. She begged me to meet her at a Woodstock, New York love-in. Her warmth tempted me, but the East Coast didn’t. Besides, I already had plans to travel North.
Then there was that raven-haired beauty, Marna, with her bewitching eyes and hearty laugh. We were sure a steamy item for a while. I even thought of Misty, savoring that unforgettable night in far-off Montreal, way back during the Summer of Love.
As the endless miles swam by, my sweet friend Gina occupied my thoughts. I harbored a long-time crush on that fiery red-head with her infectious smile and heart-lifting giggle. Thinking of her stirred familiar affections.
There were a few more I remembered—always with fond sentiment. For once love is shared, affection for those intimate beings remained forever etched within.
Now I had a new lady to contemplate. I pondered the possibility of this girl named Rosehips, who I hoped to catch a glimpse of when I get to California. My horse trip partner Mitch spent many hours during our time on the trail singing the praises of his new flame, Jasmine. And time and again he spoke fondly of her younger sister and urged me to look her up.
What’s she like? Petite and blond were the only details I could count on. Mitch claimed she was good-looking and quite a catch but you never knew how another man viewed a woman. We all have different eyes when it comes to a mate. Would there be chemistry?
Definitely, nothing to lose in checking her out. Maybe she’ll turn out to be a gem.
I stroked Charlie’s soft fur, enjoying the subtle sensation and the comfort that came from the bond we shared. “Rosehips, now that’s one crazy name. I wonder if she’s as pretty as Mitch says. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”
Reaching forward, I switched off the radio, leaving the mournful groan of the engine and the sound of rubber grinding on sandy asphalt to accompany my thoughts.
There existed another topic that clouded my mind on a regular basis. That was the inevitable fact that someday I’d face the possibility of jail time—a result of taking a moral stand against the war in Vietnam. I sent my draft card back to the government—a message that I didn’t approve of their deadly game.
I was fully aware that this action had the potential to get a fellow a two year respite in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.
I had found the best defense against unwelcome prison thoughts was to dive into life with zest and abandon—suck in every morsel of amusement I could muster. I knew freedom was not to be taken for granted! Still, during this long night of driving, the subject came up a few times, generating an image of steel bars in my mind and an uncomfortable sensation in the pit of my stomach.
* * * * *
After hours and hours of that damned dashed line, the sky lightened. Then a pastel orange and yellow sunrise blanketed the eastern horizon, and a bullet-riddled sign announced the town of Fallon. There was hope. Daylight and Reno were not far off.
Exhausted, we crept down Fallon’s main street and stopped for coffee and gas … and more coffee.
When we arrived in Reno, Jeanette told us to make ourselves at home as she hurried off to work. We each found a couch and grabbed some shut-eye.
When our friends returned that evening, we were rested and showered. We visited, then left the following morning, arriving in Davis late in the afternoon. It felt great to be back in the Golden State.
Albert and I agreed to meet up two days later, prepared to head North.
I stopped to see Mitch at the Hill household. His girlfriend, Jasmine was a sturdy woman in both stature and personality. Her sister, Rosehips, was, in fact, a thin blonde with a slim angular face, long straight hair falling half-way down her back, a barely audible, cynical laugh, and an ironic smile that made you question life itself.
She was barefoot wearing a light-weight sleeveless, rust-colored top that left her navel exposed above her faded cutoff jeans. As she spoke, it was apparent that she was smart as a tack, approaching every subject with a mild sarcasm—her confidence contrary to her delicate appearance. Every time she laughed, she lit up the room, triggering a switch that filled me with delight.
Mitch was right. Dang, she’s cute!
Their father, Mr. Hill, was an amiable bohemian dressed in blue-stripped pajamas. The girls referred to him as Babbo which, I learned, was Italian for father. Mitch had told me that the pallid, lanky man suffered from a liver disease and doctors had given him only six months to live. That had to be a tough pill to swallow, but the whole family seemed intent on keeping things light.
We sat around as Mitch and I shared stories from our horse ride. I found Rosehips, who was turning eighteen, to be quite worldly for her age. I attributed it to open-minded parents and living abroad for half of her life.
Mr. Hill tugged at his wispy, gray-flecked goatee and looked my way with dark, piercing eyes, “Mitch tells me you’re a draft resister too.”
Not knowing his views, I responded with, “That’s right. No reason to get involved with a war that makes no sense. Actually, war in general makes little sense to me.”
He smiled, maybe sensing the fact I was feeling him out, “You’re absolutely right about that. What’s happening with your case? Have you heard from the draft board?”
This is where the subject always felt a bit uncomfortable, bringing back the reality of my predicament, “Nothing yet.” I looked towards my buddy, “How about you Mitch?”
Mitch squirmed in his seat a tad, indicating he hated talking about this as much as I did, “I keep checking the mail thinking the hammer’s going to fall but nothing so far. At least Nixon is talking about pulling troops out of Nam. Maybe things will lighten up for us.”
Mr. Hill continued, “We can only hope. But don’t count on the government making a sensible decision. They’re known for having their heads up their butts most of the time.”
Rosehips chirped in, “That’s cause they’re searching for their brains, Babbo.” This got a laugh from the lot of us.
* * * * *
I spent most of the next two days with my friends Russ and Kelly at the farm on Road 97-D. His dark, cocker-mix Arlo, and my Charlie, were running around, happy to be reunited. I also stopped by to visit Rosehips again, as she’d made an impression. There was definitely an attraction there and we’d progressed to the point where I was calling her Rosie.
Albert showed up at the farm on the second day. “I talked to a guy down at the rail yard. He told me that a train heading north stops in Davis at 11:30 tomorrow morning.”
Great! I’ll be ready. We can leave our trucks here at the farm. Rosie said she’d give us a ride to the train station.”
“That’ll work. I’ll meet you here by ten.”
* * * * *
Rosie showed up at nine, and I walked her up to the neighboring farm to show her a death-defying rope swing I loved to use. She wasn’t convinced that mortal fear was a therapeutic thrill, but I took a refreshing flight. When the rope slowed to a near stop, I jumped off, still holding it in one hand. Rosie came over, and I tried again to convince her of the healing value of swinging.
“You wouldn’t believe how good that makes you feel. The terror that comes with flying high above the earth, flushes the crap out of your mind. All my cells are tingling. You really should try it.”
She looked up at me squinting one eye, displaying her signature edgy sarcasm. “I like it right here close to the ground. And I don’t want to buy a bridge in New York either.”
I laughed, “You really don’t know what you’re missing.”
She still wasn’t buying it, “Right! Missing an arm or leg is not where I want to be. I think I’ll just pass and keep my body in one piece, thank you.”
I figured it’s a guy thing.
As we joked, I looked into her feisty eyes. I wanted to lean over and kiss her smiling lips, but I couldn’t quite read her, and I didn’t want to mess things up.
“I bet Alaska is pretty," she said. "The farthest north I’ve been is Canada. We traveled through there on the way to live in the Canary Islands.”
She was standing so close and looking up with those beautiful gray-blue eyes. Kiss her! She turns you on. Kiss her! What are you waiting for? There was such a pull, but I couldn’t follow through. We talked for a minute more before heading back to see if Albert had arrived.
Man, I blew it. What a chicken-shit!
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