Hitch-Hiking to California
I got back to that kiss from Brenda and we started going together. She was a good looking little thing and full of life, as sweet as candy.
But after a few months of Memphis, I just couldn't stop thinking of California. I had a freind Rick Climer talked into going in his girlfriend's
car, a old Rambler. Well, she put her foot down on that..and that was that..Rick was out.
1967 was a great time to be alive, freedom was a big deal. Having long hair in Memphis wasn't that easy. Mike Seanert, a friend of our was
arrested going in the Roaring 60s - for impersonating a girl. He wasn’t a musician, he very well could have been the first hippie in Memphis.
Then the police shut down The Go Go Club. We only came out after most were in bed. Musicians were about the only ones with long hair,
there just wasn't that many. Most Memphians and people in between here and California thought if you had long hair you were either
queer or crazy, or both.
We took a lot of pressure off the blacks, red necks hated us more. You had a friend in another long hair, like I said, it was mostly
musicians, and that's a family in itself. I had no problems getting girls, they liked the rebellious in us. So, I wanted bad to see all these
long haired folks I’d been hearing about in California. After a little looking around, I got another friend George King to go with me. At first
we were going to take his car, for some reason that fell through . It was middle of the week in mid September 1967, we took off hitch-hiking
for California. I didn't have any money and George had enough for a pack of cigarettes, which he got in West Memphis.
This dude picked us up right out side West Memphis, his name was Red, had his wife, a four year old little girl and a baby four or five
months old. They were from Los Angeles, traveling in a worn out Oldsmobile. They had been on the road for three months, just driven
around, with no money. If they needed anything, just stop and ask somebody for it. Red said more then likely they would give it to you.
Gas, oil, food, dippers, even money. This was one weird family.
I would say they weren't cons, more like Gypsies and the world owed them. Red started telling us what to do when we got to California.
First thing, “get a Freedom News Paper and find where the Diggers are”. Diggers were rich people helping with the peace movement. We
could get food and some place to stay through them. We had a flat tire just about dark, drove on the rim for a few miles. Red got out, went
across the street to a gas station, and in a minute or so came back with a tire. Their little girl set in the back set with George and me, we
both fell in love with her, she was the sweetest thing. We pulled into a Salvation Army in Oklahoma City. We went in and got something to
eat, they were staying the night, so we thanked um, and say our good byes. Now it was time to get lost in Oklahoma. We got a ride out of
town a ways, some how we got on a back road. Here it is,11:00pm, dark as dark gets, no traffic, in the middle of nowhere.
We're walking along talking, and we see some lights up ahead. The closer we got we start hearing music and loud talking. It's a beer joint
in the middle of nowhere, right on the side of the road. What I wanted to do was go off the side of the road through the woods behind it.
George didn't, he had a G.I. hair cut and attitude, he wasn't dodging any body. Just about the time we got right in front of it, the door
opened. Two dudes came out, I guess to get some air or something. Man! we were right on top of them, with in five feet or less. One of
them asked what we were doing, I said just walking, on our way to California. He laugh out loud, open the door and called for somebody.
A couple of other dudes came out. I thought we were fixing to die, a horrible death. This was one time my long hair helped, I think.
Turns out, it was an Indian bar. Their grand daddy's and daddies had long hair, that’s the first thing that came to mind. If they kill us it will
be for being white, not longhaired. The main dude doing the talking was drunk, he called out for Moose. Now Moose is 6ft.,300lbs.with no
nick. One of the dudes said “come on Moose, show um what you can do”. He grabbed the 4x4 that was holding up the roof over the front
porch and plowed he head into it as hard as he could. Dust fell all over everybody, the bar shuck and stuff fell off the walls inside. What
people were in the place came out to see what was going on. They all had a big laugh, ask if we wanted a beer. I didn't, but I took one
anyway. I was so tired, I could have went to sleep on that porch. It was time to get out of there before someone brought up what our
forefathers did to theirs. We said bye and walked off.
We walked for about 10 or 15 minutes, so tired I could have slept right there on the road. Just about ready to do that, a car pulled up and
stop. It was one of the dudes from the bar, drunk and in a hotrod. We were so tired, we got in anyway. I don't know how far he took us, we
went to sleep. We now have no idea where we were when he let us out, we really didn’t know when he picked us up. We started walking
the way we hope was west, it was early morning, almost day brake. We came up on a sign that said ‘The Will Rodgers Expressway’ toll
straight ahead. We could see it, about a mile or so down the road. It was 10 cents to get on it, we didn't have it, they wouldn't let us walk
on it anyway.
The sun was just coming up and we were talking about what to do. The only car on the road came out of a Ramada Inn across the street
from where we were standing. Our luck was about to change, it pulled up and stop. The door open, and this business looking dude said,
“where you going”? We both said San Francisco, he said, “I'm going to Los Angeles, close enough”? He was driven a
fairly new 66 Belair convertible. He ask if we needed something to eat, before getting on the expressway. We told him we didn't have any
money, so he said he would get us something. Talk about a good feeling. He was very curious about the hippie movement. Where we
were going and whatwe were going to do and so on.
This from a baby face, three piece suit with a hat and briefcase, very very straight dude. He was so straight, it hurt. He drove all day, we
stop to get something to eat about dark. He asked if I would drive for a while, so I did. That's when he stated talking. His name was Bill,
from a small town in Arkansas. He was a lawyer, on the run. Seems he had sex with a girl under age. On top of that, her daddy was a
judge. Being a lawyer he knew what that ment. He was really scared, given up everything. The first thing was the briefcase, hat and tie.
He tore up papers and threw them out for over a hundred miles. He was a nice guy, wouldn't hurt a fly. He just let the little head guide the
big one, like all man do from time to time. We told him everything Red told us about California and the diggers. He could get lost very easy
in the underground of all that was going on in California.
We stop at a gas station to use the bath room, a dude came running out. I didn't know what was going on, he looked like he was mad
about something. When he got close enough for me to hear what he was saying, I thought he was going to hit me. He was calling me all
kinds of four letter words, for me to get my long haired ass back in the car. They didn't let people like me use their restroom. That fueled
me even more to get to the city of love. We drove all night and all the next day with out a lot happening, just talk. It was almost dark when
we past a black dude and a white chick hitch hiking. I sad as soon as we pasted them, they looked like hippies going to San Francisco.
We all decided to go back and get them. Sure enough they were coming from The Village in New York, going to Haight Ashbury.
I had a ton of question for them, I didn't really know what was up with hippies. The dude looked a little like Hendrix, very hippiesh. The girl
reminded me of the blond in The Mamas & Papas. I started kind of getting in to her, she was very cool. I think the dude pick up on it, he got
a little ass’y. Now it was time for site seeing, we could go a hundred miles or so north, and see some things like The Grand Canyon,
Hoover Dam, and the main thing-Las Vegas, we all wanted to see Vegas. It was early in the morning when we went across the dam, the
sun was bearing down and it was bad hot. Bill was driven, George next to him, the couple in the back set. The top was down, and I was
laying on top of it behind the back set. We were going through the Canyons kind of slow, because of the roads and we were looking too.
There was a Gray Hound Bus behind us, all the people on it were up front taking pictures of us. Just about the time we started messing
with the bus we past a cop on the side of the road. We seen him see us so we started getting our selves together to get stop. We were only
three or four miles from Nevada, we were hoping to make that, we didn't. He got us all out of the car looking at everybody's I.D.'s. I just
knew there was a want out on Bill, George was A.W.O.L.,and I didn't know about the other two. He kept us for what seem like an hour. He
said Arizona didn't like people like us, and he was going to escort us to Nevada, and for us not to come back through Arizona. I was so
tired when we went through Las Vegas, all I remember was how dead it looked and that big cowboy smoking the cig. We were about to
come to a folk in the road, George and me had decided to go to L.A..
The road to San Fran was coming up fast. I couldn't see coming all that way to California and not seeing Los Angeles. We said good-bye
and let the couple out, going north. Next stop, a six pack of Coors in L.A.. When we got on the out skirt of L.A. we stop to get a six pack. I
could have used a big meal and some sleep, but a beer was cool. It had only been two days, but I really got close to Bill, he was cool. He
had a two day old thick beard, sunglasses. He was going to be ok. It was a little sad to say goodbye, we got out, that was that.
We didn't walk a half a block and a chick picked us up. She was driven a little M.G., ask where we were from, George was setting next to
her and said Memphis. She said,” have you ever meet Elvis”? I told her of the time I met him. She then ask where we were going. We told
her Haight Ashbury, she really got a kick out of that. She said if we needed a place to stay, she had some friends across town. So with that
she got on the expressway, top down doing 80mph. She said she was a model and for me to open the glove box and get out her pictures.
I did, and she was. She looked real good setting there, but these pictures were great. Her friends lived right off Sunset Blvd. behind The
Whiskey-a-Go-Go. She told us they were photographers, and they had shot The Monkee's first album.
As she pulled up in their driveway she said that they were gay, but not to worry, they were cool about it. I was hoping to have some fun
with her, but she ran in the house for a minute, came back and said it's o.k., maybe I'll see you later, and she was gone. We talked it over
and went on in. This dude came up front, said for us to make our self at home. We were in the living room with a couch and a love set. It
was late in the evening, the next thing I knew it was 10pm. I woke George up and said lets check out the strip. It was like a dream or
something, it was so foggy you could only see the second and third floor of the buildings. I was tired and real hungry, but I wanted to see
the strip.10 o'clock at night and it looked like rush hour in Memphis. Bumper to bumper cars, the sidewalks were full too. A lot of
longhaired people setting on the side of the sidewalks, some looked down and out. I talked to this one dude, I ask him what was up. He
said he was trying to get home (Dallas) he was coming from Haight Ashbury. He and some friends were camping out and someone stole
their tent and things. He didn't even have shoes on, and it was cool, very cool.
That was the first time I though maybe Haight Ashbury wasn't the answer after all. With that, we decided to go back and get some more
sleep. We got up early, took off for San Fran, didn't get to thank the dudes for letting us stay over. I was also wanting to see Hollywood,
we seen a sign, Hollywood straight ahead, and Highway 101 to the left. We went left, we could already smell the ocean, and I wanted to see
it bad. We were walking down this little side street, and there it was. The Pacific ocean, I've never seen any thing that big before, it was
beautiful. We were walking across a gas station parking lot right where 101 was going from a four lane to a two lane.
A cop stop us right before we put out our thumbs. He ask where we were from and where we were going. We told him, he was pretty nice.
He said we couldn't hitch hick on the two lane part of the road. So we stayed right in front of the gas station, we were only there for a
minute or so after the cop split. A dude picked us up that was getting some gas and watching us talk to the cop. He was going just this
side of San Francisco, this guy was really cool. He had long hair, with long sideburns. He was a piano player in a group right outside San
Fran. He started telling us about the new music (psychedelic) and some of the bands. The best being from the village in New York, The
Vanilla Fudge, others were-Blue Cheer, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, with my favorite Janis
All of these bands and more, were playing in Golden Gate Park on weekends. Haight street dead end into the park. This dude had been to
see his mom and she had packed him a lunch, fried chicken. I told him we hadn't ate since yesterday morning. He said he was going to
stop in Big Sur, when he found out we were hungry he stop where we were at Santa Barbara. This was truly a nice guy, young but caring.
He had enough food so we stop in Big Sur too. He picked up another hitch hiker, right outside Big Sur. He was going home to Vancouver
Washington. He said he had been to San Francisco's Haight Ashbury a few months early. He didn't have very much good to say about it. I
had to see for myself. It was late in the evening when we got out of the car. He let us out right at the expressway to San Fran.
Call it weird, we talked to a cop right before we got in the car and as soon as we got out. We walked 100 yards onto the expressway and
the cops comes up. We could see the lights of San Francisco, they check our I.D.'s and gave us a $2 ticket, for hitch hiking on the
expressway. It was like a souvenir to me. The atmosphere was great, even standing there talking to a cop. He said there was no use
asking where we were going. He got back in his car and drove off, we stay right there with our thumbs out. A couple of Chinese dudes
picked us up in a 1956 Chevy, this car was hot, wide tires, 427- 4 in the floor. All the bells and whistles, bucket set, white leather tuck and
rolled interior, with a red caddy apple paint job. I told the dude driven we were looking for Haight Street. He said it wasn't far and he would
give us a ride in. He let us out on Haight, about a mile from Ashbury.
I've never seen so many long hairs of every kind. Young, old, fat, tall, you name it, they were there. I told George this is it, we're here. I felt
great, tired and hungry, but great. We started walking up Haight towards the park and Ashbury. It was like the fair or something, it looked
like a huge party. We got to Ashbury it seem like the middle – the core. People everywhere, I’m talking thousands. I was ready for some
food and sleep, as was George. We didn't see anything that looked like diggers helping anybody, no free food booths . I'd never done
what I was about to do, but something had to give. I walked up to this dude and ask if he had some money I could have. I felt about a foot
tall, he told me to get the hell away from him, and the look he gave me was just as bad. That was the end of my bumming, I couldn't do that
This other dude told us that tomorrow night we could sleep in the trunk of his car. Kids were sleeping everywhere, car trunks, in the
gutters between cars and the sidewalk, on the sidewalks. Everybody said if you got caught in the park after dark they would take you to
jail for vagrancy. I really didn't care, I could have used the food and sleep. George was staying away from that, he was suppose to be on
his way to Vietnam. It was about midnight and we decided to take a chance on the park. We walked in and got off the road, up in the trees
and bushes. We could hear people talking all over the place, the ground was cold and hard. I couldn't go to sleep, we decided to give the
street one more try. I was so tired and hungry I was ready to do something even if it was wrong.
We walked down across Ashbury and turn around to come back. There wasn't as much going on now. This car stop across the street and
this little Japanese girl ask where we were going. There were three girls, Japanese , white and black , a triplet. They called out for us to
come get in the car with um. We got in and she drove off, we just drove up and down Haight.The Japanese girl was cute, about 16 or so,
she was driven and the black girl next to her and George next to her. I was in the back set with the other one, she was o.k. We pulled in
next to the curb and park. The girls were talking to each other and I was trying my best to listen. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open,
I had had 8 hours of sleep in the past 4 days. I heard some motorcycles pull up and park, I wasn't paying any attention to them. I had my
head over own the side window staring at a doughnut going up and down on a Harlow's Doughnut Shop. The Japanese girl got out in the
street acting like she was doing exercises or something. She was doing what 16 year old do, acting like a nut.
This dude came up and hit the car with something, ask me what I was looking at. I don't know how many were out there, but it was more
then I needed. He hit the door where George was at and said come on out of the car. The girls were screaming for the one out side to get
back in and I locked George's door and told him to cool it. He wanted to get out, he didn't even look behind him. There were 4 or 5 dudes
standing there then. The chick got back in started the car and took off. She drove for a couple of miles, to make sure they weren't chasing
us. Man! I couldn't believe that, I had some serious second thoughts about Haight Ashbury. The girls said we could stay at their house, in
a room off the garage. Now I was tired, and I had a girlfriend back in Memphis, but I could see an orgy coming. The little Japanese girl was
by far the best looking, and it look like George had her. When we got in the room it had two beds and some sleeping bags on the floor.
I got on one of the beds laid down and was talking.
The next thing I know it's 9 o’clock in the morning and the maid was knocking on the door. Saying she was going to call the police if we
didn't get out, “right now “. Here we are, half asleep walking through a neighborhood somewhere in California. We flagged down a bus
and ask the driver where we were, we were in Oakland. Walking along, here comes the girls up again. We got in the car and they took us to
their school, they went in and got us something to eat (apples and cookies). Something was telling me not to go back to Haight Street
right now. I needed to get away from George for a few days. I wanted to go to Oceanside's Camp Pendleton, outside San Diego. My
brother Jimmy was stationed there, I could see him and borrow some money. So we hitch hiked back across the bridge to San Francisco,
at the foot of the bridge is a gas station. We were in the bathroom cleaning up as good as we could. I told George I was going to Camp
Pendleton to see Jimmy for a few days and get some money. He didn't like that idea and on that note we parted.
By the time I got on the out skirt of town it was rush hour. As I was walking along thinking about something the dude that gave us a ride
from L.A. had said. When we went through one of the little Mexican towns, he said not to ever walk here after dark. I was by myself and it
was coming on dark, I couldn't remember the town. I was walking faster then the cars, and I was on the interstate. Just about this time,
all this stuff in my head. Two dudes pulled up in a Volkswagen bug, on the other side of the expressway fence. They jump out of the car
and started calling me to come over there, holding up two fingers. The only kind of finger I knew about wasn't good. I just kept on walking,
like I said, I was going faster then the cars. A dude right beside me that I had pasted two or three time ask where I was going. I told him
L.A., he said get in.
The first thing I ask him was what these two fingers meet. He said it was a sign for peace, that the hippies were using. I felt bad about it
then, live and learn. I'd never seen traffic so bad, it was completely stop. He gave me a ride about 30 miles outside town. I knew I was
somewhere around the town I wasn't suppose to walk through, and it was almost dark. I was looking for a rock to get under when a car
stopped. It was a 57 Ford just like the one my brother had. It was an older Mexican man with a little Japanese boy in the back set. He was
taking the boy to San Diego to see relatives. The first thing he ask me was are you hungry? The guy could have been a angel, to this day
I'm not sure he wasn't. He had a farm outside Santa Rosa, it was like a haven for run-a-way kids. He tried to get me to go with him, he said
he could pay me a little to help out. If I hadn't had a girlfriend back in Memphis, I would have given it some more thought. We stop and got
hamburgers, he ask if I would drive. I haven't known this guy 15 minutes and he's acting like he's known me for years. The main thing I
remember about that ride was his kindness and the really bad dense fog.
We ran into the most dense fog ever, just outside L.A., I couldn't see 5ft. in front of the car, sometimes I couldn’t even see the hood. I drove
for what seem like two hours in it. The weirdest thing happened, I don't remember pulling over, I mean at all. I woke up with my head onthe
steering wheel, it was getting light, but still foggy. The old man and kid were still asleep, so I started the car and drove on. For the
next hour or so I tried to figure out how I stopped that car with out remembering it. The dude went out of his way for me, and let me drive
right up to the front gate of Camp Pendleton. Now here I am in the same clothes for a week, hair down passed my shoulders, hadn't been
washed in a few days. I really wasn't looking forward to trying to get on this base. I had a surprise coming, everybody was real nice. Like
they all had a dummy for a little brother.
This one dude, I guess a private went out of his way to help me. He got me a pass, told me what bus to get on, and when to get off, and
which way to go after I got off. I had to walk about a half mile after I got off the bus. I'm walking along minding my own business. This
navy dude starts yielding at me out of a barracks window. He doing the two finger thing, I think. It could have been the one finger thing.
He jumped out the window and ran across the lawn at me. When he got up close, he ask if I had a joint. I didn't know very much about
joints, I did know it had something to do with pot. So I told him no, he said cool and walked away. I found my brother's barracks, he
wasn't expecting to see me. He said to give him a minute and he would get ready and we could go into Oceanside and get something to
eat. We were standing outside waiting for a bus and this black car came up real fast and stop. The dude jump out and got all over my
brother for me being there. This guy was rude, dressed in a plane suit. Like maybe the C.I.A. or something. After all that, we went into
Oceanside and got some hamburgers. He got me to call home and let mama know I was o.k.. He also wanted me to go home.
I wanted to borrow some money and go back to San Francisco. He didn't like that deal much and I was at his well. He got me a bus ticket
back to Memphis, gave me some money to eat on, and that was that. I was so glad to see him and very thankful he made it out of Vietnam
in one piece. He is my big brother, so I got on the bus. At the first stop I was looking through some books. One caught my eye, it was a
paper back on L.S.D. (lysergic acid diethylamide), I got it. I'd heard a little about it, enough to be curious. I read a little of it, didn't do a lot
for me. The only thing that really happened on this bus ride was somewhere in Arizona. I was setting in the back, and you could almost
see the odor coming off of me.
I was talking to two ladies setting across from me, I don't know why, but I started lying. I told them I was a writer for a Memphis magazine,
sent to Haight Ashbury to cover the hippie movement. Everybody on the back of the bus was telling stories about people they knew, some
of them sounded pretty cool. I was only gone for a little less then 200 hours, every minute was packed full of experiences. All and all, I'll
never forget it. The weird thing about it is I had only been back a couple of days, and Wayne came bye. He had some pot he wanted me to
try, as soon as I got in the car with him he put a pipe in my face. He said to inhale it, and take some air in to and hold it as long as I could. I
said, so that's what the stuff taste like. I hit it three or four times, he said he had to go. I thanked him with a laugh, it didn't do anything for
I walked on over across the street to my girlfriend's house, thinking to myself what a waste that was. When I got to her door, I just walked
on in, something I had never done. Her whole family was setting there watching T.V., I couldn't believe what I'd just done. Her mama said,
well just come on in. All I could do was laugh, Brenda got up and pulled me into the next room. She was trying to look me in the eyes and
ask me what was wrong. All I could do was look at the floor and laugh. I told her I had just smoked some pot with Wayne and it was pretty
cool. We went back in the living room and her mom ask me if I was drunk. I couldn't look any body in the face with out laughing. A few
days later, I got a letter from Brenda's brother, who was in Vietnam. I was setting in my mom's living room talking to her, when the mail
came. I opened the letter, as I unfolded it I could see something in it. It was pot, I folded it back up and told her I was going to read it in my
room. I went over four thousand miles to find out about this stuff, and here it was coming to me at home.. Next Story - The Shaparrails