Red Red Wine
After I said good-by to Roger and Robin, I hit the highway in the
afternoon. About sixty miles up the road I realized I had left my
billfold back at Boulder Creek. By the time I made it back to
cabin the stars were out. Robin, however, greeted me like a
long lost relative, and in no time at all I was ripped on good
smoke dope and Rocky Mountain Red wine. The next morning I was back on the highway, but up in the Bay area I got on the wrong road. I ended up stranded, standing next to a cornfield. After more than three hours of waiting, a farmer drove me to the main highway. Thank God for farmers. Back on the main highway, I was dropped off at the expressway entrance ramp and that’s where I met Dave. He was from New York City, also waiting for a ride, and heading to Seattle.
Dave was on his way to visit his brother who taught English
Literature at the University of Washington. Because Dave was
constantly using an inhaler (for his asthma condition), I thought he
might collapse at any moment. He didn’t have any money and he hadn’t eaten in two days, so when we decided to travel together, I offered to share my food with him. In return, he said I could spend a few days in Seattle with him and his brother.
We got a lot of short rides at first, but as we traveled north the
rides dried up. Dave kept things interesting, however. He had a
Philosophy degree from Columbia University and, whenever possible, he sold short stories to magazines. When I asked him if he had any goals in life, he replied, “To stay alive.” He was plagued by asthmatic attacks, but he was not a complainer. It was fun talking to him. When he wrote his stories he had a peculiar way of
beginning. He told me he conceptualized the story’s ending first,
and then worked backwards until he arrived at the story’s beginning. His last story was about a snake biting its own tail. He was also a bit of a comic.
Eventually, two cats from L.A., heading to British Columbia, picked
us up. Dave and I were very happy to hear that this ride would take us all the way to Seattle, more than 800 miles. As we were traveling through the northern California Redwoods, the trees seemed larger than in Big Sur. After the first 100 miles, however, the car we were riding in slowed considerably. Thirty miles an hour was all it would do; that is, until 20 miles an hour became our top speed. If the energy of our laughter could have been harnessed, I’m sure we would have been back up to cruising speed. The real problem was the darkness; on curves and in the rolling hills, we became an accident waiting to happen. In the end (just before Dave and I bailed), we were physically pushing the car up the hills.
At a long overdo point, Dave and I wished our L.A. friends good luck (they probably wouldn’t have made the next hill anyway), and with our gear in hand, we hiked up to the top of the nearest hill. We laid our sleeping bags and blankets on the soft green grass that, after a rather strenuous climb, greeted us at the top of the hill. I was prepared for the cold this time. In my duffle bag I carried an air mattress and two blankets, one for the inside of my bag and the other for the outside. It happened that on this night the weather was very warm and the night sky was very beautiful. There were so many stars in the sky that the Milky Way was no longer just a patch of milky looking light; it became an unraveling firmament of spiraling arms of light. Looking up, the sky sent shivers through my body.