Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 2b, August 1969
Nearly dying of thirst, we trucked along for forty-five minutes, passing nothing but sand and rocks and shrubs and sagebrush.
Up ahead, on the right, I could see a billboard. I was squinting my eyes, trying to read it. When it was close enough to see, it held the answer to my prayers.
“Yes! Yes!” I stretched my arm out the window, pointing and waving at the sign while hitting the horn. Albert’s arm shot out his window at the same time, index finger extended toward the same life-saving signpost. I would have been salivating if my parched mouth could muster a drop of moisture.
Soon after, we turned into a dusty lot and parked close to the highway. To the right, there was a restaurant in a tiny, weathered house with a covered porch. On the left was a rundown shack with a padlock on the door and a washed-out sign that read, “GARAGE.” In front of it was a large tree with a wooden bench under it.
Whoosh . . . Buzzzz . . . Zing . . . Whirr
Leaving Charlie in the shade of the porch, we stepped into a small dining area with a couple of tables and a counter with stools in the back. No air conditioning!
Two men sat at one end of the counter. We took the seats at the other end. A lady in her forties, with a damp light-blue sundress and wet brown hair down to her shoulders, appeared from the kitchen. She pulled out her order pad and held it and a pencil up in front of her full breasts.
I stared at her in disbelief. There were rivulets of water running off her forehead, down the sides of her face, and continuing down her neck. More water was running down her arms and flowing off her bent elbows onto the floor.
My God! She was a human waterfall! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m not talking about a few drops here and there. These were flowing streams. Like Mt. Whitney after the spring thaw. How could that be?
I asked in a distressed voice, “How hot is it anyway?”
“Last I checked, it’s a 112, honey. What’ll ya have?”
Oh man, 112! I glanced at the beverage list on the menu. A milkshake looked like the coldest thing. “I’ll take a chocolate shake and a glass of ice water. And could I please get another ice water in a paper cup for my dog?”
“Sure, honey. Anything to eat?”
“No thanks. I’m good.”
Albert said, “That all sounds great. I’ll have the same in vanilla.”
She filled up the waters and placed them on the counter, two in glass and one in paper. I drained mine in a series of fast gulps, and with the paper cup in hand, I stepped out onto the shaded porch.
“Here ya go, girl. Have some cold water.” Charlie didn’t hesitate to lap it out of the large cup. I told her to stay in the shade, then went to my truck to fetch my smaller canteen.
When I returned to the restaurant, I asked the waitress if she could please fill it. She did without any complaints and then served us our milkshakes, the whole time dripping water like crazy. We paid the bill and took our shakes out the door, settling on the tree-shaded bench.
“Could you believe the water that lady was expelling?”
Albert shook his head, “She was a high-intensity sweat machine.”
“Hell, she was a damn monsoon. Did you see how the streams were flowing off her elbows? Should be a sign, ‘Niagara Elbows—The Eighth Wonder of the World!’”
“I’m surprised she didn’t slip on the wet floor. It’s so fucking hot. I say we stop at Lake Mead and go for a swim.”
“I can dig that. This shake and the shade are lowering my body temp to a survivable level. A hundred and twelve, man. Do you think it’ll get any hotter?”
“I hope not. I’m past well done. I’m overcooked.”
Whoosh . . . Buzzzz . . . Zing . . . Whirr
Just then a light green, mid-sixties Chrysler sedan pulled up and parked right in front of us. The driver door opened, and a strange little man emerged, pulling his tan polyester slacks away from where they stuck to his thighs. He had dark eyes and oily jet-black hair combed straight back over his head. His electric-green dress shirt had a metallic design that never stopped moving. He spoke rapidly with a strong, indistinguishable accent and appeared to be Middle Eastern or perhaps Filipino.
He was complaining about something. While pointing to the front tire of his car, he spewed an avalanche of what must have been 300 words, accented by agitated motions—all in just under a Guinness-breaking minute.
Of course, in the trippy state I was in, my time sense was shit.
From the six words I understood, I gleaned that somebody he was upset with had done something or fixed something or sold him something that he was unhappy about, and he wanted us to help him with it.
The cosmos must have a wicked sense of humor to put on an exhibition like this in front of two gents in our condition. Using extreme self-control and, I’m ashamed to admit, aware of the double meaning, I said with a straight face and a tone designed to be supportive, “Well … it takes all kinds.”
With that, Albert dropped off the end of the bench, leaving his shake sitting in his place. His hat fell off as he rolled shamelessly in the dust, holding his sides, lost in a fit of overpowering laughter.
The guy looked at him with a smile on his face and said slowly enough that I could just understand, “He very happy man, yes?”
I nodded, and he pointed and gestured that he was going to get something to drink and would be right back. It was difficult to keep a straight face, considering Albert’s antics, but somehow I managed. The odd little man turned and walked to the restaurant.
When he had disappeared inside, I lost it too. We were trying to stop giggling because it really hurt. “Okay, okay. We gotta stop now. Ouch. Oh damn!”
“Please,” I gasped, “my sides ache!”
“We can do it.” Albert managed to pull himself back onto the bench. After a couple of failed attempts and excruciating gut pain, we finally gained control. We picked up our cups and worked on our shakes.
I pointed over my shoulder. “He thinks we’re mechanics from the garage! He’s going to come back in a few minutes. Don’t you think we should get out of here before we have to deal with that again?”
Albert gave me a confident expression. “No sweat. We can maintain. It’s nice here in the shade.” He made an indifferent gesture with his hand, and his straw made the grating sound of a chainsaw as it searched for remnants of his shake at the bottom of his cup.
I finished my shake and joined the straw concerto while wondering about Albert’s decision. The little guy had no more than stepped out of the restaurant when Albert surprised me by jumping up and hurrying to his truck. You call that maintaining?
I followed in disbelief, trying to keep my composure, as Albert climbed out of his truck again and began blowing into his gas tank. Of course, that struck me as even more hilarious, and nearly paralyzed with laughter, I struggled to make it to my own truck.
Once behind the wheel with Charlie aboard, I drove off still chuckling to myself—with Albert's vehicle trailing behind.
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