Tag Archives: hitchhiking

Frost Valley #13: Two Fun Gals

When I hung up the phone in Pine HIll I was mostly thinking about returning to Bud and Stan and Lola and the estate I had left in Frost Valley.

When at the estate, Bud and I had often walked up the rutted road that ran between their house and the hillside. Just a few yards past their house the narrow road passed a big old barn before turning left, into a gully that led into the hills. The road became two ruts and the two ruts gave way to a visible but not-well-maintained path. Stan had said the path went all the way over the ridge and through Catskill Mountain back country. Several times Bud and I sat on a stump where the road turned to path, visiting and enjoying the day.

As I returned to the road from the pay phone at the Pine Hill gas & grub, I decided to take the long way back to Frost Valley and see if I could find that little path that came in behind Stan and Lola’s house. I knew I had to keep going north and east and eventually drop south through the forest, but my map showed no paths.

I wish I could remember the names of those two spunky gals who picked me up as soon as I crossed the gas & grub’s parking lot. I thoroughly enjoyed their company and they seemed to enjoy mine. I’m guessing they were in their late twenties or early thirties and only as I write this have I thought perhaps they were looking for something other than a little daring-do, picking up a lanky hitch hiker to chat with. I’m so gay I miss all kinds of signals from the ladies, I’m sure.

Oblivious to anything other than friendly folks who seemed chatty and interesting, I told them about returning to Frost Valley and my decision to return the long way, hopefully on the little path I had been told crossed the ridge and led to the estate.

The gals looked at one another and agreed it might be the path that takes off from Seager. “At least it heads in that direction.”

I encouraged them to let me out whenever their route took off from mine and just point me in the right direction, but they would not hear of it. Rather, they insisted they take me to Seager and point out the trail.

to Segar INTI became most thankful for their insistence. Seager, it turns out, is a once-active village that died with the tanning business. With just one home, I would probably have been carrying my heavy cotton sleeping bag some nine extra miles. And then I don’t know if I would have found the tiny path.

Cape Cod #6

It is amazing to me, but I remember only two tiny snippets of hitchhiking back from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to the Catskill Mountains of New York.

One snippet is Boston.

My main rule in hitchhiking was to avoid big towns and cities. I didn’t like trying to catch rides in traffic and for the most part had no interest in witnessing how one big city handled tying streets together versus how another did the same thing. But Boston was different. Boston is so tied to the history of the United States I wanted to get the feel of the town. And, having been a Unitarian Universalist since high school, I wanted to check out the first church (founded 1620) in the English American colonies. Yep. It’s Unitarian.First Church

How did I make it into and out of that city without remembering a ride or standing on a corner with my thumb out or any other detail of dealing with a world capitol? How did I spend two nights there without remembering one bed or couch or beer or bar? (The only way I know it was two nights is from reading it in a letter a friend saved.) All I remember is a view of the lawns and trees of Boston Commons rolling off to the north west, filled with students studying and chatting. And looking at First Church from the outside. I don’t even remember if I tried the door to see if it was openLeslie Williams public domain 2014 small

Having left Boston, I do remember it beginning to rain as I crossed the Hudson River from Massachusetts to New York. And raining harder as I got closer to Oliveria Road, the tiny mountain meander that passed over the Catskills and wound down Frost Valley. I don’t remember the ride (or was it rides?) over the mountains, but I remember the rain coming down harder. And when I got to the Frost Valley estate I had spent the summer on and let Stan the caretaker know I was back, he told me a hurricane had hit Cape Cod and the rains were headed our way.

For not remembering much about my return, I distinctly remember my disappointment at having missed the opportunity to go through a hurricane. Had I known Gerda was on the way I would have stayed on the Cape for the 5.6 inches of rain.

Hum. “Had I known.” — So THATS why people listen to the news !

Cape Cod #2

I finished my last blog telling about coming upon the Rip Van Winkle Bridge across the Hudson River some 120 miles north of New York City. 2005 BLOG

Besides it being free to walk across a foot path on the right side of this mile-long toll bridge, I finished up commenting on being fascinated by how far above the river the bridge is, how wide the river is, and how green the Hudson River Valley is.

But mostly I was fascinated by the fact that the Hudson River was FLOWING THE WRONG WAY ! !

It was flowing NORTH !

Over and over I worked my understanding of geography in my mind.

Over a hundred miles to the south I had seen the Hudson River connect with the Atlantic Ocean at New York City. Yet here I was on the south side of the bridge and the river was flowing first under my side of the bridge and then under the roadway!

Surely the river does not flow from the Atlantic up to the St. Lawrence Seaway ? ? ? It just couldn’t be. I knew there were differences between the East and the West in this great land of ours, but I was pretty sure the side of the continent did not change the notion that water flows downhill!

Yet the Hudson River was right there, FLOWING UPSTREAM!

I thought perhaps it was some illusion caused by being so far above the water. But as I got to the far shore I checked and sure enough, there were grasses and branches along the shore that were being pushed by the current and they were being pushed UPSTREAM !

Alas, it was getting late and I needed to put that mystery on hold. At the time I needed to  got off the bridge, put out my thumb, and see what shelter may come along.

I immediately got a ride from a young military man who was friendly as could be and, I’ll admit, easy on the eyes.

After the initial pleasantries in his car I was waxing poetic about geography and rivers flowing up stream. He was from the area and explained, “It’s the tide.”

THE TIDE ? ? ? ! ! !

Wow. 120 miles from the ocean and the tide is pushing back the mighty Hudson River ? !  I’m from the mountains of Idaho and had no idea the tide could do that!

He explained that the river continues to flow under the tide and the sea comes rolling over it.

Wow. I’d always heard how mighty the movement of the tides is. Considering all the rivers and basins and bays in the world, that is a LOT of water and land sharing a twice-daily sloshing around with one another!

The power of it struck me just like that — the mighty mixing up of water, earth, heat, cold, light and dark that has brought a carbon-based organic celebration upon this watery rock we ride around the sun!

The handsome military man ended up providing me with a place to sleep in the barracks of his camp.

After being impressed with how effortless it was to get a hitchhiker to an empty bed on a military base I enjoyed a sound sleep of sloshing dreams.

On The Road #5, postmaster

I found myself in eastern Pennsylvania that spring of 1969, cresting a rolling hill, and facing a straight stretch of road cut through the encroaching forest. There was a light mist of rain. The cresting road rolled into a gentle downward slope, bottoming out some quarter-mile distant before beginning an easy climb. At the bottom of the slope it looked like there was a wide spot cut into the woods.

I had written a letter home every week since running off to Hollywood five years earlier. It never crossed my mind that living on my feet, walking backroads, and having all of six cents in my pocket might add up to an excuse to break the letter habit. In fact, I had a letter to send and had spent the day looking for a post office. It was getting late, just losing light. I had to find a spot to roll out my sleeping bag.

As I reached the bottom of the hill the wide spot in the woods expanded to include a building. That one building was marked, U S Post Office, Greentown, Pennsylvania.

It was at least five o’clock. Even so there was a lone person in the building, behind the counter and putting on his coat. Expecting a locked door, I was surprised when it gave way.

Yes, he was closing up.

But, sure, he’d weigh my letter and make sure the single stamp was adequate.

It turns out the letter was overweight. The rural postmaster looked me over, pulled out his keys, and unlocked his drawer to sell me a second ounce stamp. Fortunately my six cents were adequate, even leaving change.

I thanked him profusely, affixed the stamp, delivered the letter to the slot across the lobby, and began to leave. One final turn to say thanks. We acknowledged one another and hesitated.

“Did you just mail a letter to your folks?”

“Yea.”

“Are you just passing through?”

“Yes.”

“Would you like a place to spend the night?”

I beamed.

His home could not have been more cozy. His beautiful wife stretched dinner to include an extra place at the table. The conversation was lively, with questions about Boise and Idaho, which he had notice on my letter. We spoke of hitch hiking and adventuring and the lovely forests of the eastern United States, something his two daughters had not considered.

After dinner I insisted on washing the dishes to say thanks, despite the postmaster’s insistence that his daughter’s chores covered that. While mom and dad rested in the living room their junior high-aged daughters could not get enough, more than happy to help this tall stranger from the mystery of the road who had taken over their nightly chore.

After dishes I joined the conversation in the living room where we became more intimate. The daughters, it turned out, had an older brother—a brother who was fighting in Vietnam. The fight that was tearing the United States apart. The fight I was not participated in.

“We worry about him, of course,” the postmaster said. “We hope if he needs help someone takes care of him. So I couldn’t leave you outside tonight.”

That night I lay, warm and dry in their son’s bed. A photograph of him in his dress uniform was on the corner nook, watching over me.

For one night this empty room in a loving family’s home had the sound of breath. I hope their son slept as soundly as I did.

On The Road #4, sunlight

I don’t remember. This day might have been in northern New Jersey, but I’m pretty sure it was eastern Pennsylvania.

I do remember I had 6¢ in my pocket, which had been a carefully considered decision. In those days, to pick up a pay phone and talk with an operator to make a long distance call you had to insert a dime. After you’ve found someone to ask what a “pay phone” or a “long distance call” is, I’ll continue my story —

After buying a much-needed toothbrush and feeding myself for several days, I found myself with a few coins in my pocket. To even buy a can of kidney beans I had to break my last dime. I had the choice between something to eat and a last chance to call home asking for help to get off the road.

I left the little country store with 6¢ and a can of beans.

Those six cents were on my mind that afternoon, as I passed through lush woods and farms, but there was not much time for obsessing. The air was so fresh. The winding country road was so inviting. And the springtime mist was often sprinkled with moments of glorious sunshine. The gray of the sky would part into brilliant blue and billowing white. The wet greens of springtime earth would sing in vibrant, crystalline light.

About two in the afternoon a bit of straight road was wet and sparkling in the sunshine. An old wood fence on my right offered a place to sit and ease the cotton sleeping bag off my shoulder. Across the road another wood fence separated the grass next to the road from the grass in a pasture—all glowing in the light and just hinting of the color of budding flowers. Rolling hills gave a weaving distant edge to the pasture, covered in gray trunks of trees, topped with yellow and ruby red branches just filling with life.

A few seconds? Ten minutes? Thirty?

Even now the sunshine and the air and the color and the being of it breath through me. So beautiful.

And, like now, the time came for a different slant.

I was past hungry, having tried to save the beans for when they were really needed. Leaning against the fence I opened the can and found my spoon and savored nourishment that was as preserved as the air and the light were spontaneous. (Although I didn’t think of that until now. At the time I only thought how luscious those beans were.)

Half way through the beans I decided to save the rest for dinner. There was no putting the lid back on those sticky beans so I stuffed the open can in the top of the roll of my sleeping bag where it would be held upright.

I licked the spoon clean, put it in my pocket, and kissed that lovely moment and that beautiful, sun-lit space, Thanks.

Cops while hitchhiking #3

This is the third of four stories about my dealing with police while hitchhiking from 1968 to 1971. For the story of my second encounter with the police, which happened in Las Vegas, see Cops while hitchhiking #2 

One hundred miles north of New York City, State Highway 52 spent twenty-five miles winding its way from the Delaware River to the town of Liberty, New York. They were beautiful miles, neat farms tucked into hardwood forests on a casual, small, two-lane country road. Just what my hitchhiking soul was looking to travel.

Even though avoiding freeways was an aim of my travels, on this particular day I was trying to make it to Liberty just because it had a freeway passing by. Freeways mean substantial bridges. It was early spring and we can thank rain for the lush green of eastern forests. I was looking forward to a dry spot to sleep.

I walked beside the narrow road without sticking out my thumb, thankful if rides were offered but not soliciting the attention of authorities. Besides, were I was going was exactly where I already was—hitchhiking America’s byways. One is not in a rush when one is already there.

The countryside passed at the pace of a mosey.

A couple of miles before Liberty there was a bluff I’d have to climb. The road bent to the left and became a steep grade, cresting the bluff with a sharp right turn some hundred feet above the valley I was walking. My fear was the grade was probably cut as shallow into the hill as possible to save costs, and my fear was right. As I approached I saw the road narrowed even more.

The steep grade had no room on either side of the road. I could balance on top of the guardrail to the left, stumble over the steep loose dirt on the right, or walk on the road.

A dangerous situation, indeed. The road up the grade was narrow enough so cars had barely enough room to pass one another even without a pedestrian to get around. The grade was long enough so no one would want to stay behind me for the length of it. The grade was short enough so oncoming traffic could appear at the top of the hill with precious little time to stop for a car passing me. And, most dangerous of all, if there was anywhere a cop would stop me for walking on the road, this would be it!

But there was nothing to do. I quickened my pace, stepped into the road, and started scooting to the top.

I hadn’t seen a car in miles and I hadn’t seen a patrol car in three days. So, of course, when I was half way up the hill and in the narrowest part of the road, what should appear at the top of the hill?

You, dear reader, are an excellent guesser.

The officer was alone, rather young, and began slowing as soon as he saw me. He stopped next to me, no room to pull over, set his brake, and started to get out. Even while he was opening the door he began expressing his concern about my walking on the road and especially in this very dangerous spot. I told him I agreed completely, was doing my best to get to past this very dangerous spot, but I had no choice since there were no rides. Along with my words of agreement there was a sincere laugh of admitting he and I could not agree more.

As I remember he asked what I was up to, to which I replied I was out adventuring and a little road through the Catskills was the perfect place to be. By his fourth sentence he asked a question I remember well: “What’s in the box?”paint box

It was a wooden box, exactly the kind painters carry their paints in, and that’s exactly what I told him was in there.

“Oh. Those are my paints.”

He jumped in, “Do  you work in oils or acrylics?”

“Oils.”

He gushed, “How do you get the paints thinned? I’ve just started painting and the paints are too thick when they come out of the tube!”

(This hippie instantly stopped worrying about a big, bad cop hassling hitch hikers!)

I told him about linseed oil and volunteered to show him, waving my box around looking for a place to set it. He motioned to the trunk of his car and I said I didn’t want to scratch it but he indicated that was the last of his worries. So I gently put the box on his car, popped open the lid, and showed him what to look for. cop saw

We both knew we were blocking the road, so he soon thanked me and told me he was sorry—he wished he could give me a ride to Liberty but unfortunately he was heading the other way and had somewhere to get to.

I scooted to the top of the grade, the curious cop being the only vehicle I encountered on the climb.