This is a story of a travel and of a girl; of long ago memories. So long ago that I cannot even remember the girl’s real name, nor many of the places; only that it inspired love. What better trip is there than that?
It started as a mini-trip to San Francisco with a college roommate. He and I were to travel on a budget of zero dollars, excluding a full tank of gas. We wanted to see Haight-Ashbury, the hippy scene of ’67. After collecting glass bottles for money (no plastic or aluminum then), picking strawberries in the Salinas Valley and sleeping on the beach (until the police interrupted), we arrived in San Francisco.
I had been to a couple of love-ins in Los Angeles area, but there was nothing like this sunny weekend afternoon in Golden Gate Park. People of all shapes and beings coming together, wanting to ‘make love, not war”. And free music! There were bands calling themselves such names as the Greatful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. Wonderful times.
That evening my friend and I walked around the Haight-Ashbury area, taking in the “scene”. we stopped at a donut shop. Very busy. As I stood along the wall, waiting, I made eye contact with a little girl. And we kept exchanging looks.
Let me take a moment here to explain the term “girl”. She was young, I was young. I was a boy. I was very bashful, naive and innocent, at that time. Not yet a man.
She left; I had coffee and a donut.
I had never been to San Francisco before, and only had a little time. The following day I went to the museum. I only remember the large diorama of the African plains and animals. On my way out to meet my friend I met my donut shop girl. Her name was Twiggy and she was mine; I was hers. We talked of travel, of my desire to go to Africa someday. Why not today!
My friend, as a older confident, tried to talk me out of it. I couldn’t leave school and work, friends and family. Goodbye old friend!
I again met up with Twiggy, after she had gathered her belongings. My belongings- a cowboy hat and boots, jeans and genuine P-coat, and thirty five cents. Who needed more? Hadn’t I just spent several days traveling with nothing? Didn’t even need gas; we would hitchhike across the country, working as we went, sleeping where we could. And hop a freighter to Africa.
Grand plans are meant to start out grand, yes? Our first ride- a great big shiny Cadillac; all the way to Nevada. And the gentleman paid for the night in a motel room, and dinner.
You have to remember, I was young and naive, and trusting. Nothing happened to us, or between us, for that matter. This was the “Age of Aquarius”!
Twiggy and I are seeing America for the first time. The great expanses, the amazing scenery, the people; an adventure. And the people where kind and helpful.
Twiggy and I got a ride through Nevada to Salt Lake City. After being left off an old man took us to breakfast and gave us a ride out of town. And while waiting for a ride in a small town outside of Salt Lake a carnival came by. The owner stopped and offered me a job. That thirty five cents was looking pretty slim by now; I became a Carney for a week.
It was an exciting time. I helped put up rides and at night we became game barkers. Had a blast trying to talk people out of their money- drop a ring over one of many coke bottles and win a teddy bear. Oh, how I hated to loss a teddy bear! I was good. Another carnival owner even offered to take us along to Texas. Wrong direction!
And then there was Twiggy and I. This was Utah and we left it to the boss and mrs. to believe we were married. Our first night we were given one of the carnival tents to sleep in. Twiggy helped us to consummate our vows. Wow!!! I was in love. I was floating for days…… until a fellow roust-a-bout caught on to our little lie; and wanting the girl for his own, threatened me with a gun.
It was raining when we left. The carnival owner cussed me up and down for taking “my wife” out in such bad weather. He gave me some silver dollars, as he had been doing during the week. I never told him or anyone about the gun.
Back on the road, feeling free, feeling good. Friday night and the kids were cruising main street USA. Got talking at their turnaround spot and were given information on how to, and where to, hop a freight train going our direction. We did.
The Rocky Mountains were gorgeous. Cold, but worth the train ride; my first train ride. I had water food, a girl by my side, and the all inspiring handy work of god/nature/life to take in. Traveling doesn’t get much better then this.
Switching trains in Denver, to the famous Rock Island Express, we traveled on to Nebraska, getting off on the Kansas-Nebraska border, south of Lincoln. I had learned from Twiggy that she had an uncle that lived in a small town about 50 miles outside of Lincoln. She was sure that he would give me work on the farm for awhile. We decided to try it.
Well, I never did make it to Africa. The Nebraska Tale must wait for another time. The girl did not become a long time relationship, though it ended up that we only lived fifty miles apart in the Long Beach CA area. Getting back home changes things.
And though my love of women has had its up and downs; I learned, from my trip to Africa, that traveling is a constant love and something that comes from the heart, irregardless of the way its done. A love, an inspiration, for a life time.