Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 2a, August 1969
I was finally grooving again. I could even laugh about Cheers and that dang old Heavy Caverns. After driving through dry sandy flatland for more than an hour, we entered Kingman, Arizona.
I followed Albert into a Flying A station and pulled up to the pump. The LSD we dropped earlier was still hitting on all eight cylinders, filling my head with those sounds from another galaxy.
Whoosh . . . Buzzzz . . . Zing . . . Whirr
Holy shit it was hot! There was no draft blowing through the cab, making the heat extra intense. I took off my hat and wiped the sweat off my forehead.
Two men in oily green coveralls moved toward our trucks. The term “moved” was an overstatement. They crept along like turtles hauling a Pontiac, and I blinked to be sure they were getting closer. With faces weathered and wrinkled from the brutal Arizona sun, the men looked like raisins, darkened and dried up.
One man walked past to Albert’s truck and the other finally reached my window. In a tired, drawn-out drawl he asked, “Fill ‘er up?”
All in slow motion, he reached for the pump handle and stuck it in my tank. After checking the oil, he took a blue rag out of his back pocket, picked up a spray bottle, and began washing my windshield. With sluggish, methodical strokes, he attacked that ugly bug splatter. I wouldn't miss the artwork.
Through the window, I asked, “How hot is it anyway?”
“A hundred and eight,” was his weary reply.
“Hey Albert, it’s a hundred and eight out here.”
Albert looked up at me and shook his head in disbelief. I was concerned for Charlie. She had her mama’s thick Samoyed fur—far from ideal in this climate.
I examined the road map and saw that I-40 was coming up and would take us to LA. After using the restroom and paying for the gas, I told Albert, “I studied the map. I’ll lead for a while. Can you believe these raisin men?”
“Good description. If these guys moved any slower, someone would bury them.” He took off his straw hat and used his kerchief to mop the sweat off his neck and face.
I pulled out of the station and onto the highway. As we rolled along, I realized how ripped I was. At least driving was easy, with few cars on the road. We floated down the street to the outskirts of town.
I thought about the foxy lady I knew in LA. I also thought about Los Angeles itself. My mind began to swirl.
LA—people and vehicles and traffic. So many people and cars and stop and go, slow, slow, cramped, crowded, pain-in-the-ass traffic. I hated cities, and LA was a flesh-eating-monster city. LA meant having to find our way around those blasted freeways.
At the last minute, I yanked the wheel, turning north onto Highway 93 with Albert on my tail. Whew, that was close.
When I came to a good place, I pulled over and walked back to where Albert was sitting in his truck. “Man, I thought about driving through LA ripped like this—way too intense! Why don’t we cut across Nevada to Reno? We can stop and visit Greg and Jeanette.”
“I can dig it. I wanted to stop in Vegas anyway.”
Relieved, I went back to my truck and drove on. The desert terrain was desolate but beautiful. Several miles down the road, I heard Albert honk. Glancing in the rear-view mirror, I saw him pull over. When he raised the hood of his truck, I turned around and pulled in behind him, then joined him as he fumbled under the hood.
“What’s going on?” I asked him.
He popped off the distributor cap and fiddled with it. “Don’t know yet. It just stopped.”
Man it was hot! I’m no mechanic, and mechanical genius Albert aka Mr. Wizard was on it, so all I could do was watch. I went back to my truck to check on Charlie.
Whoosh . . . Buzzzz . . . Zing . . . Whirr
She was stretched out on the front seat, panting with her tongue hanging out. She needed some water.
I had strapped a battered, old gallon canteen to the side of my truck. In some places, the cloth covering had worn away, exposing galvanized metal. When I reached for the canteen with both hands, my left palm touched exposed metal—and bounced off it like a slingshot. “HO-LEE-SH-I-I-I-T!”
Albert leaned out from under the hood of his truck. “Hey, what’s up?”
Pointing to the canteen, I said, “I burned the crap out of my hand on that damn canteen. I just wanted to get some water for Charlie.” I flapped my hand in the air, trying to soothe it. “It’s really hot out here, man.”
“No shit!” He walked around the front of his truck and stuck his head under the hood on the other side.
This was getting serious. Even with my hat on, I felt my brains frying. Were my ears melting? I imagined them running down my neck like candle wax. I called out to Albert, "You having any luck?”
“Not yet,” he said, as he jiggled this and inspected that.
The heat and acid were working on my mind. I looked out at the wasteland that surrounded us and began hallucinating. I flashed back to a feverish experience I once had in Mexico, now seeing my bones in the Mohave sand. A tanker truck zoomed by with a metallic roar, pelting me with sand and nearly blowing me off my feet.
I thought about poor Charlie and pulled myself together while keeping an eye on Albert’s progress. At least I hoped there was progress! Internal biological alarms were screaming.
Just as I was sliding back into a bones-in-the-sand mind frame, Albert said, “It’s vapor locked.”
Stepping back alongside his truck, he removed the gas cap from the stem that protruded out the side of the cab. Then he wrapped a rag around the fill hole, placed his mouth over the rag, and blew hard. After repeating this a few more times, he jumped into the cab. The truck sputtered and started up.
“Albert, you’re the man! Or should I say . . . Mr. Wizard. Right on. Let’s get moving.”
He smiled and handed me his gas cap. I screwed it on, got into my truck, turned the key, and followed him onto the asphalt.
“Oh, man,” I said to Charlie. “That air blowing in feels good. Are you okay, girl?”
By now Charlie had her head out the window taking in the airflow. She seemed to be doing better.
“We’ll stop somewhere for water, girl.” My stomach tightened. How the hell were we going to do that—with nothing but harsh desert for as far as the eye can see?
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