Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 36, June 1971
Sam Nuttkake was studying law in Sacramento. Sam, a lawyer? Hard to believe. He and Lil stopped by for a visit.
Sam was his usual jokester self. “Rosie, are you still hanging out with this deviant? I really thought you had more sense than that.”
Lil chimed in, “We don’t call him Weird Richard for nothing, you know.”
Sam continued, “I’ve got a wild story to share. In the late 1920s, my mom’s mother died. Her father, who was a cook for the railroad, couldn't take care of eight kids, so he dumped them off with relatives as he traveled across the country. When my mom was five, she ended up in Oakland at an orphanage and never heard from any of her siblings since.”
“Wow, that’s heavy!” I wondered how that would be for a kid.
“Yeah, but listen to this. Mom was reading an Organic Gardening magazine and there was a picture of this guy holding a giant tomato who had the same name as her brother. She wrote to the magazine to see if she could find out about the fellow and a month later, the guy wrote back. It turned out to be the brother she'd lost track of forty years ago.
“You bet! And since then she's been talking to him on the phone. He lives in Kentucky, and she’s going to visit him for two months this summer. While she’s gone, she needs someone to watch the house. I'm planning to take summer classes or I would do it. I told her you guys were experienced caretakers. You could tow your trailer up to Quincy and park it in the woods next to the house. What do you think?”
I looked at Rosie. “Hey, babe. Aren’t we always looking for a way to beat the summer heat? Quincy’s a groovy place.”
Rosie cocked her head. “When does your mom leave?”
“End of June,” Sam said. “That’s in two weeks. Should I tell her you’re in?”
Rosie smiled at me. “What the hell. Let’s do it.”
Glad that our house included wheels, I said, “Tell Mable, we’ll be glad to watch her place.”
We were packed and ready to head for the hills by the end of June. Russ offered to follow us in his Jeep, and he arrived early to assist me with hitching the trailer to my truck. A bright red, heavy-duty jack I’d purchased from Sears, helped with the task. I rigged the trailer taillights to the truck brake lights so we were safe and legal, and we started out before 9:30 am, 150 miles from our destination.
I could feel the drag on the truck as I started—but as we picked up speed, the trailer towed along with ease. Not bad for a load that must have topped several tons. I turned to Rosie, patting the dashboard with one hand. “There ain’t nothing Evergreen can’t do, babe.”
She laughed, “We’re heading for the hills, hon. This is going to be great! Quincy, here we come!”
We pulled onto the country road. My wide, tall side-view mirrors offered a good view of Russ trailing behind us. Twenty minutes later, we stopped at the Hudson station in Woodland to fill our tanks. That place always had the best prices. I’d purchased my cheapest tank here a few years before at the bargain rate of 22¢ per gallon.
When we were less than ten miles beyond Woodland, Russ honked his horn and waved his arm out the window. I slowed down and stopped on the shoulder. Russ parked and walked towards us.
He pointed at the back of the trailer. “Hey, man. You’ve got a flat!”
I climbed out, and sure enough, the tire was as flat as it could be.
“It’s only flat on the bottom,” I joked.
“True. But I think we should get the bottom checked.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”
I fetched the jack from the trailer, found my lug wrench behind the seat, and we worked at removing the tire. Rosie stayed with the truck while I rode back to Woodland with Russ. It took forty-five minutes and seven bucks to get the flat repaired with a new tube. The old one was too frail to patch.
Once we put the mended tire in place, we continued our journey.
Rosie pushed her hair behind her ears, “Tough luck. We barely got started and we already had a flat.”
I laughed, “I always considered a flat tire good luck. With all the stuff that can go wrong with a vehicle, a flat is practically a gift.”
We traveled on level highways for more than an hour. Halfway between Yuba City and Oroville, we passed a rickety garage with a crummy little café. Russ started honking his horn and waving. I pulled over and he parked behind me.
He walked up to my window and said, “Guess what?”
“What? You need to pee?”
“Nope. You got another flat, and what are the chances? It’s also only flat on the bottom.”
“Are you shitting me?” I jumped out of the cab and followed him around the back of the trailer. And there it was. The other trailer tire was flatter than a cow patty. “Damn!”
Russ laughed. “Look at the bright side. There’s a mechanic right back there.” He pointed at the ramshackle establishment a few hundred yards back.
I hauled out the jack and we went to work. This guy only charged me six bucks to replace the tube, and in less than an hour, we were rolling again. But forty-five minutes later, when we were crossing a long bridge over a branch of Lake Oroville, the truck started to shake and bounce. I knew what this meant. This time, my truck had a flat. “What the hell?”
I slowed down and found a wide spot to park at the end of the bridge. Russ pulled behind and met me next to Evergreen. I shook my head, pointed at the left-rear truck tire, and said, “This is getting old.”
“Are you kidding? Another one? How can this be?”
I was speechless. Russ wasn’t. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Shit! I’ll go fetch the jack.” He started walking around the trailer but froze as he got near the back. He thrust his arms downward with his fingers spread wide. “I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! It can’t be! No fucking way!" He was shouting, and I stepped back toward him to see what was up. Russ said frantically, “I was walking by and I heard this ssssssssssssss!” He pointed to the left trailer tire, and damn if it wasn't getting flatter by the second.
The situation had moved from tragic to comical. “What are ya gonna do?” I started laughing. Rosie joined us. She shook her head and said, “My, aren’t you the lucky lad?” and we were reduced to giggling conniptions. Catching my breath, I leaned against the side of the trailer and watched a crow floating on the breeze.
I had a spare for the truck, but since we had to go back to the tire shop, we just propped Evergreen up with wood blocks and removed the tire. Then we used the jack to take off the wheel from the trailer. It was hot, and we were dripping with sweat. We didn't want to leave Rosie alone in such a remote location so I gave Russ some cash and he headed back to the rickety garage.
Rosie and I waited, roasting under a relentless sun. “It’s killer hot out here,” she said.
I had to agree. “There’s no shade anywhere.” I walked to the edge of the bridge and looked down at the reservoir far below. “Russ is going to be gone a while. We should hike down and take a dip.”
Rosie came over and looked at the steep incline “Anything to cool off,” she said.
It took about fifteen minutes, but we found a way to the water. We stripped down and jumped in. What a relief.
We climbed back to the truck a little before Russ showed up and I went to work on the tires, while he hiked down to swim.
When Russ returned, I teased, “We’re halfway there. How many more flats do you think before Quincy?”
“Better not be anymore. I’ve met my quota for life.”
The trip up the Feather River Canyon went without a hitch. We stopped along the way for a picnic and another dip—that time in the river.
To be continued...
Watch for the next installment of my true-life adventures from the ’60s. To receive chapters delivered directly to your email box, sign up here. All released episodes of Trippin’ are available here.
If you haven’t already 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.
“If you enjoy what you read, please share it with your friends!”
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