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Hitchhiking Stories 1970
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Summer 1970 - Gary's Hitchhiking Stories


I had a friend in college at FSU, Steve. We met in Kellum Dormitory at FSU in September 1969. We used to hitch around town and to Gainesville. Later that same summer we hitchhiked to Louisiana,Texas, Mexico, Missouri, and beyond . I remember starting many journeys along Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee, Florida. This activity would "clear my mind" and I enjoyed it. We saw new places and met new people. When I think of it now I remember the song, "Carefree Highway" by Gordon Lightfoot

"Carefree Highway, let me slip away on you....."

I write about my hitchhiking experience with a little hesitancy. I hope if my sons read this they will not think this is an encouragement to learn some lessons or have fun by taking their life in their hands by hitching rides with strangers. I also know better than to say to them, "things were different back then, there weren't as many crazies as their are today.

It's just not true. The late sixties and early seventies were also times of many insane acts of violence (Charles Manson comes to mind). But, it's not so much the criminally insane you need to fear on the road, it's the regular people who pick you up. If you think about it, the only people who would give you a ride would be risk takers by nature (or Jesus Freaks - but that's another story). Theses people tend to live on the edge and you򲥠risking your life by riding with them. We once got a long ride in Texas from a man in a large luxury car drinking directly from a Jim Beem bottle. He was headed to Beaumont and he know exactly how much to drink so he would be drunk (and unable to drive any further in his estimation) by the time he arrived in Beaumont. True to his word, as we approached Beaumont he was weaving all over the highway. Now as I try to collect my memories, he actually started his impaired driving as we started our drive. We were lucky. I remember him telling Steve and I that he was ex-military and he was very regimented. He knew exactly how much to drink and when. He also bragged about how well thought out his days and life were. This regimentation made him content. He liked it that way, and thought we should be that way also. I remember getting out of his car at a motel parking lot where he was going to stay. He staggered out of his car to the motel office as we continued on to our trip.

Tallahassee to New Orleans

When Steve and I started out of Tallahassee we took US Highway 90 west. Interstate 10 was not completed in those days so much of the trip was on 2 lane blacktop highway. But even with these rural roads we made it to New Orleans Louisiana before dinner time. I wish I remembered the people who gave us these rides, but I don't. I do remember that the people who gave us our ride into New Orleans were also traveling and that they told us of a place where we could sleep that night real cheap. Fifty cents comes to mind as I recollect that this was a true flop house. We were able to put our sleeping bags on the floor and sleep with a bunch of guys. This establishment was run by the "Volunteers of America". This is a non-religious charity organization (how refreshing). No alcohol was allowed on the premises, but they were real tolerant otherwise. There was a curfew.

Steve and I went to Bourbon Street and and had something to drink. I was drinking Cold Duck Wine. That was the night I got my tattoo. I wasn't really drunk (so I didn't have and excuse) but I always wanted a tattoo. I figured I'd get a heart on my chest similar to the one on Janis Joplin of Big Brother and the Holding Company had. The tattoo artist said he had spent some time in Tallahassee and I said, "Oh, did you go to FSU?" He said, "No, F.C.I. , Federal Correctional Institution". I said, "Oh". So here I am sitting in a tattoo parlor with an ex-con (I don't know what he was in for) shaving part of my chest with a straight razor. The tattoo only cost two dollars and it is less than a half inch. It has a dark blue outline with a red interior. Today it looks more like a bean than a heart, but having this story has been worth it.

San Antonio
From New Orleans we went to San Antonio Texas. An old friend of mine from junior high school, Vicky, lived there with her husband and children. I remembered Vicky as a fun loving, wild child in Satellite Beach Florida. I could always go to her house and talk with her and her sister as well as have a snack. Well, Vicky had changed an awful lot since finding Jesus and having children. Aside from going to her church and hearing people 󳰥aking in tungueshere people start uttering strange words that they feel are given to them by God. Steve now tells me that it was at one of these prayer services he was concerned that I would be 󳡶edd start speaking in toungs. Looking back I remember being concerned that if he were to become a Jesus Freak I򤠨ave to travel the rest of the way myself.

The moment I remember most was the three of us sitting in her kitchen and Vicky crying her eyes out. She was upset that Steve and I would be going to Hell for not believing in Jesus. In a way, I򶥠always thought this was so sweet that she would care that much about us. Since that time in 1970, Vicki has been through plenty, including a Christian doomsday cult in which they separated her children from her . Vicki and her husband, and children had to escape in the car of a journalist who was working on a story of the cult. I always said she could write a book.

San Antonio to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico
While we were staying in San Antonio Vicki and her husband were quite gracious hosts. While we stayed with them we took a trip to Mexico. The closest border town was Laredo, Texas paired with the Mexican town of Nuevo Laredo just across the Rio Grande River. As we hitched a ride in San Antonio we were picked up by a group of young kids. The driver had 󢯲rowede car from his girlfriend򳠦ather. This was really more like stealing since the father didn򴠡pprove and his girlfriend was not with him. They had a car, but no gas money. Steve and I had some money, but no car. We made an agreement that we pay for gas and they would drive us to Nuevo Laredo Mexico and then on to the major city of Monterrey, Mexico. So the trip to Laredo went pretty un-eventfully and we passed the time listening to our hosts read 󇩤get Goes Hawaiiant-loud to each other to pass the time. When we reached the border control at the Mexican border, we hit a snag. It seems that the car our friends borrowed had two keys, one for the ignition, and one for the trunk. Our friends only got the ignition key. The border police asked us to open the trunk and when we said we couldn򴠴hey would not let us go any further. At this point our young hosts had to turn around and Steve and I went across the border by foot.

And After crossing over by foot, Steve and I decided to take the bus to Monterrey and see the 󲥡l Mexicod not a border town. We needed to get a special visa to go further but the official did not want to give it to us because of our long hair. Disappointed we left the little building and we were approached by a man who said he was a lawyer looking out for the rights of the tourist. He said for $10 he could turn the entire situation around. Yes, we gave him $10 and he went back to the immigration office and came back to us saying he could get us our visas for $40. Well, we felt we could trust him because he came back to us. As you can imagine, we gave him $30 more and he went back into the building though we never saw him come out. About an hour later we decided to see how he was doing and we went in the building ourselves. It was quite apparent that he had left out of another door and we had learned a great lesson of life.

After we left Mexico and San Antonio we went to St. Louis to visit Steve򳠳ister and then on to Long Island New York to visit Steve򳠍other. We had some interesting rides during those legs of the trip. One momorable ride was with an ex-priest in a retired Yellow DOT van. He was on a spiritual quest and he and Steve hit it off great. They seemed to be on similar quests. While we drove through the night he and Steve discussed their spiritual journeys. I felt left out of this and was concerned that Steve continue traveling with him and again the fear of being 󯮠my ownegan to surface.
Other Memories
There are a few other stories I remember, with a little prodding from Steve. We hitched a few rides to St. Louis, MO to see his sister and then to New York where his mother lived in Port Washington, Long Island. I remember being picked up by a police officer who felt sorry for us alone on the Teuconic Parkway. He took us to Poughkipsie to a motel. He was kind but Steve reminded me that he drove close to 100 miles per hour along the Parkway which is probably unsafe at 60 MPH.

I remember getting lost in New York City and asking directions from a little older Jewish lady and before we knew it a crowd of seniors were arguing with her on the best directions to where we were going (I think it was the Guggenheim Museum).

There was a night in Texas, before we reached San Antonio when the carload of us hitchhikers and those that picked us up spent the night at the Salvation Army (called the 󓡬ly As we were checking in they asked each of us, 󐲯testant or Catholic?When I said 󊥷ish through them for a loop. They went on to ask Steve, 󐲯testant or Catholic?e said 󊥷ishd I think it changed their methodology. From them on that night I heard them asking for the person򳠮ame and then ,󐲯testant, Catholic or Jewish?t;br>

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