Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 34, November–December 1970
“YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE,
BUT IF YOU DO IT RIGHT,
ONCE IS ENOUGH.”
– Mae West
I spent most of November at Pleasants Valley Ranch, in a stark little house trailer. It was only twelve feet long, with no furniture at all, but it got me thinking about upgrading from my camper to a larger mobile home. I asked around and heard that a farmer named Rakker had an old house trailer for sale, so I decided to take a look. Rosie accompanied me.
In front of a weathered barn on a slab of concrete sat a faded-blue, twenty-foot trailer. The roof had rounded ends like a horse trailer. There were running lights on the upper corners and an outside storage compartment at the rear, with a chrome emblem of a little tramp holding a stick over his shoulder. At the end of the stick dangled his meager belongings, tied in a kerchief. Underneath was the word “Vagabond.” Mr. Rakker told me he had the original bill of sale from 1949.
Rosie looked at the outside and winced. “Looks a bit rundown.”
“Yeah, but a coat of paint can do wonders. Let’s see what the inside looks like.” I wasn’t expecting much after viewing the exterior.
We stepped through the metal door and I was amazed by what I saw. “Wow! Look at this.”
Rosie climbed in and gazed around. “Cool.”
Thin red carpet covered the floor, and I spotted a small, cushioned green rocker, identical to a comfy ruby one I enjoyed in a college rooming house.
A compact, little white-enamel gas range complete with an oven and four burners sat next to a metal floor plate made for a small wood stove. Across from the range was a counter with a sink and a built-in icebox that featured a space below the shelves for a block of ice—complete with a drainage hole.
Behind the kitchen area were two closets with ornate wooden doors containing full-length mirrors on both sides. When the doors swung open, they connected in the center of the trailer to close off the bedroom—and the reflective surfaces made the areas on either side appear larger. The bedroom had windows on three sides and a wooden frame for a mattress.
I found richly stained “cigar wood” cabinets hanging everywhere. The cabinet doors were slatted and rounded from the ceiling down, and along with the rounded roof, they made the space seem anything but boxy.
It was love at first sight!
The place needed attention, but it was beautiful—and it was mine for $110 cash. Hot damn, what a deal. Just like that, I was the proud owner of a 1949 Vagabond trailer.
My friend Rod now lived at the rope-swing farm on Road 97-D. When I told him about the trailer, he talked to his roommates. They agreed that we could park it behind the house with access to their bathroom. Rod also helped me haul my humble home ten miles to its new resting site. The entire shell and frame were made of steel. With all the wood, it was a weighty sucker—but my heavy-duty pickup, Evergreen, handled it with ease.
Rosie moved in and helped me fix it up, and Albert fashioned an upright thirty-five-gallon steel drum into a compact wood stove. We found a small kitchen table with sides that folded down and I put my narrow field-trunk-desk to the right of the kitchen area. The fact that the writing surface folded up was perfect for the narrow space. Two wooden chairs sat at each end of the kitchen table. If we needed more table space, we could flap up the outside leaf, scooting the rocker over if we were entertaining a guest. And if I wanted to use my desk, I’d employ a kitchen chair.
We spruced up our new home with a tapestry over the bed, curtains on the bedroom windows, and other cozy touches. The closets, cupboards, area under the bed, and the outside cabinet offered tons of storage space.
The exterior was attacked with discount paint from Vasey’s Hardware. When we were finished, it was chocolate-brown with a brilliant yellow door, roof, and running lights. For ornamentation, we painted a handsome yellow longhorn cattle head on the side.
I told Rosie, "I'm calling it The Twenty-Cent Spread."
"The Twenty-Cent Spread?"
"Yep. Like in the TV commercial. 'Taste's as good as the twenty-cent spread.' Oh, yeah. You lived in the Canary Islands when it aired. It was a margarine ad in the fifties. They claimed the product tasted as good as butter, which cost twenty cents a pound back then. Of course, it was a lie. All margarine tastes like shit, as you well know."
"So, in other words, we live in a cheap spread."
"You got it, babe. But don't you love it? I do."
"I do too. It's a swell home, sweetie."
I enjoyed living on Road 97-D again, and I didn't even have to walk to the next farm for my rope-swing rush. It was also nice to hang out with Rod. Another buddy, Louis Von Puck, lived on the property. He had converted a stand-alone water tower into a home and a shop. Louis was a quirky little guy, whom I’d first met back in my college days when he was tripping on a mass of crickets in a storm drain.
Since then, Louis had apprenticed in Austria as a harpsichord builder. He created his musical wonders in the lower room of the former water tower. I was fascinated at how he could make such beautiful instruments. I’d watch him steam and bend wood and carve ebony and ivory into keys. For my birthday, he made me an ivory toothpick with a pointed end and a flat end, identical in size and shape to a normal wooden toothpick—a treasured gift!
Rosie and I had no trouble settling into The Twenty-Cent Spread, which felt more like home every day. Life was sweet.
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!
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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