Category Archives: hitch hiking

Hitch-hiking from Beatnik to Hippiedom

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

When I got out of the Army, summer 1964, I had a lot of ideas about my bright future.  Shopped around the Portales area for a while and found a quarter-section cotton farm I thought briefly I’d buy and become a starving-to-death farmer, which fell through.  Worked meanwhile, for Abe Ribble at his cement operation, and applied for the Peace Corps, knowing I wouldn’t hear from them for several months.

I was hanging out with a number of other young guys who were at loose ends, drinking coffee and walking around town, sitting on benches around the courthouse trying to figure out the meaning of life.  Going out with a waitress out at the truckstop when she got off work at midnight.  A young woman with goals, and confidence that no matter what a man might want for himself, she could mold him into something more to her liking.  Once she got him nailed down on all the corners.

The World Fair was going on in New York that year.  I could feel the walls of Portales trying to close in on me, and the guys I’d been spending spare time with were mostly thinking of themselves as beatniks, to the extend a person could be a beatnik in Portales.  A slight beard and a beret went a long way in that direction.  Sketchpad and a piece of charcoal, or a lot of free-verse poems jotted on cafe napkins were the tools.

So another aspiring beatnik, Stan Sexton, and I, decided to hitch to beatnik heaven.  Check out the World Fair.  Visit a couple of New Yorker weekend beatniks who went to Eastern New Mexico University, but were home in Westchester that summer.

I’ve told elsewhere on this blog about that summer, about sleeping on the Brooklyn Bridge, about catching the freight-train out late-August, jail in Rochester, and eventually hitching, driving the school bus to California, etc.  About all those would-be beatnik women and the “Eh?  YOU don’t believe in free love?” pickup line that always worked.

When I was accepted for Peace Corps Training and headed out of New York I had no idea I was seeing the dying gasp of the Beatnik phase everywhere.  That a year later everyone who was anyone would be Hippy.  That Greenwich Village would be replaced by San Francisco as the center of ‘what’s happening in America’.  Kids would be burning their draft-cards and taking acid trips.  Doing ‘Love-ins’ in the park.

By the time I got back to Portales to spend my time waiting for the Peace Corps India X training to begin in Hawaii the world had begun a sea-change, though it didn’t know it. 

But at least some of the pressure was off in Portales.  The waitress had found someone else with better prospects for a bright future.  Cotton farmer, he turned out to be, if I remember correctly.

Old Jules

The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by.

Maybe the reason I lured myself into allowing my hopes to include that 1977 C60 school bus was just a time warp slipped in briefly.  Fond memories have a way of coming back to haunt folks as they approach the jumping off place, I reckons.

A million years ago, Back Just Before Hippies Were Invented, summer, 1964, when KoolAid was just KoolAid and acid was still just something to excite a strip of litmus paper, I had my first experience driving a school bus.

As described in the post linked above, I’d gotten out of jail in Rochester, NY, walked halfway down Ohio, been picked up by a taxicab going deadhead back to Terre Haute, Indiana, after taking a drunken businessman to Columbus, OH, to see his estranged wife and kids.  He left me on a street corner in Terre Haute, where I dodged beer bottles thrown by kids the rest of the night.

Mid-morning a yellow school bus pulled across the intersection where I was standing, a car pulling a trailer pulling in behind it.  Loma Linda Academy painted on the side.  The door popped open and the driver yelled, “Do you know how to drive this thing?”

I had a middling amount of experience driving dump trucks and such when I was younger, and I was hungry enough for a ride to lie through my teeth.  “Sure thing.  Nothing to it!”  He vacated the driver seat, I took it, and we said goodbye to Terre Haute.

Turned out he was a Baptist minister moving his family to Las Vegas, New Mexico.  He’d contracted with the manufacturer to take the bus to Loma Linda, California, figuring he’d stack the seats in back, load up his belongings in the empty space, and get the hauling expenses paid for by delivering the bus.

Rick Riehardt was his name.  Young, 30ish man with a nice family.  One of several Baptist ministers I’ve met in my life I came to respect and was able to enjoy their company.  But a menace behind the steering wheel of a school bus.

The rear of the bus was loaded with his belongings, forward of that, loose seats stacked, with about half the seats still bolted to the floor, up front.  Rick had a five-gallon jug of KoolAid and a cooler loaded with Bologna sandwiches behind the driver seat.  He was “a loaf of bread and a pound of red” sort of man when it came to eating on the road.

We struck up a salubrious acquaintance as we motored along in that bus, picking up other hitch-hikers as we came to them.  Enough, at times, to fill the intact seats in the bus.  College kids, soldiers on leave or in transit, bums, beatniks, people who didn’t care to admit where they’d been, where they were going. 

One kid who’d just been down south working with SNCC and marching with emerging civil rights movement, marching, getting beat-hell-out-of by redneck sheriffs, getting treated like a stinking step-child by a lot of the blacks he was supporting.

The hitchers rotated on and off the bus as we drove southwest, Rick and my ownself being the only constants, me being the only driver.  We hadn’t gone far before Rick began cajoling me to drive the bus on to California after he’d unloaded it in Las Vegas, re-installed the seats, and he’d leave the family behind.  But I was headed for Portales, New Mexico.  Figured on getting off and heading south at Santa Rosa, well east of Las Vegas.

Eventually I agreed to it because I didn’t think there was a chance in hell he’d get the bus to California in one piece driving it himself.  That, and I was probably hallucinating on KoolAid and bologna sandwiches by that time.

We parted as friends, him offering to buy me a bus ticket back to Portales, me insisting I’d ride my thumb.  Caught a ride in Needles, CA, with four drunken US Marines in a new Mercury Station Wagon on 72 hour pass.  Headed for Colorado Springs.  All they wanted from me was for me to stay sober and awake watching for Arizona Highway Patrol airplanes.  Every time I dozed they’d catch me at it and threaten to put me back afoot.

We made it from Needles, CA, to Albuquerque alive, about 1100 miles in 12 hours.  I was ready for a rest.  Crawled into a culvert and slept until I had my head back on straight enough to stick out my thumb again.

Rick and I used to exchange post cards for a decade or so, but I lost track of him somewhere back there.  Never lost track of the KoolAid and bologna, though.  I still keep it around in my head in case I ever need it.

Old Jules

White Doves, Rainbow Family and Esoterica

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

WordPress is being a communist this morning. Or maybe the world came to an end last night sometime but it hasn’t gotten to me yet because I’m so far out in the country.

I was going to regale you this morning with some things I dug up online about building and retrofitting hydrogen generators to internal combustion engines yesterday but on the off chance the world ended last night, I won’t.  The whole thing might be a moot issue.   Talking Our Way Into Oblivion – Hydrogen and Hot Air

I’d also thought I’d share with you a couple of interesting things that appear to occur when the center of mass of a system of orbiting bodies changes, but if the world ended there’s no point getting into that, either.  I suppose I’ll be obliged to break my iron discipline and focus to tell you about a couple of things happened here a while back.

A while back this dove flew in here and spent a few weeks sharing the chicken feed on the ground.

I’d never seen a white dove before.  It’s forty miles to the nearest town of any size, fifteen miles to a village big enough to have a gas station/convenience store.  So I didn’t figure it was a pet.

But when I approached it on the ground it didn’t fly.  At first I thought it was injured or sick.

It had no fear at all.  Nothing seemed to be wrong with it.

A week or two after these pictures were taken it began spending more time higher in the trees and less on the ground.  Then it evidently just decided to move on to whatever was waiting for it somewhere else.

A free spirit.  Sort of reminded me of the Rainbow folk I’ve shared campsites with in remote places and occasionally picked up as hitch hikers.  Didn’t have much in common with the wild doves around here and nothing at all with birds somewhere else in houses with cages.  Marching to her own drum, not letting anything get into the way of doing it.   But not living in fear.

Which behooves me to tell you a bit about the Rainbow Family.

I first attended a Rainbow Gathering as part of a team of New Mexico Emergency Management Planning and Coordination  [EMPAC] personnel assigned to be there with the National Guard during the Taos gathering of the early 1990s.  I’d never heard of the Rainbow group prior to that, had no idea what to expect because neither did anyone else in New Mexico government.

What I observed was Woodstock without the music, a lot of folks who reminded me of my own younger times of long hair, protest, sex, drugs and rock and roll on the family side of things.

On the other side I saw National Guard troops loaded with live ammuntion and no clear instructions and rules of engagement being frequently hassled, treated with condescension alternately with re-enactments of some flower-chile ‘Come Join Us’ pleas from earlier times.  ‘Family’ members running alongside government vehicles engaging in every form of engagement except disengagement.

And  to complicate matters further,  a civilian group of Taos Hispanics who wanted nothing so much as the gathering broken up and out of those mountains they considered their own.

I spent a harrowing week or two up there trying to keep my mind from falling into a state of spacial-time disorientation.  When it was all over we drove back to Santa Fe wiping our brows in relief that nobody’d been shot, beaten to death by locals, no major incidents.   My thoughts at the time were as far from ever wanting to see another Rainbow Family member as they could get and stay on the planet Earth.

I count myself lucky to have encountered many of Family members in other settings during the two decades afterward, picking them up hitch hiking, sharing remote campsites, discovering there’s a side to some part of the Rainbow Family membership I hadn’t noticed in the Taos experience.

Gypsy-like free-spirited, thoughtful and considerate people just doing their own thing, trying their best not to leave any bigger mark where they’ve been than they absolutely must.  Good pleasant folks to spend some time with.

So long, I’d have to add, as a person stays clear of the party-animals and really cool people drawn to the mass gathering.

Old Jules


Back Just Before Hippies Were Invented

1964 was a big year in my life.  I rode the USNS Breckinridge troop ship back from Korea with 2000 other GIs coming home, separated from the army late in June.  Hung around Portales, New Mexico for a while, applied to join the Peace Corps, then hitch-hiked to New York to pass the time until I heard from the Peace Corps.

Beatniks hadn’t yet been displaced by hippies and Greenwich Village was jam-packed with thousands of us implying we were beatniks but carefully not saying so.  Hanging around coffee shops writing poetry, playing chess, saying momentous deep-thinking things back and forth to one another.  Listening to folk singers. 

Being rocked back on our heels in mock, simulated shock and disgust when wheat-straw blondes from Westchester down for the weekend to be beatniks, too, refused our advances.  “WHAT?  You don’t believe in FREE LOVE?”

Which, surprisingly, almost always worked.  Provided you’d done a convincing enough job trickling out the bona fides of being a REAL beatnik.  And wouldn’t even think of hopping in the sack with someone so uncool she didn’t even believe in free love.  Even if she did iron her long hair out straight.

So after I hopped the freight to go back to New Mexico, got thrown in jail in Rochester for taking the wrong train, The Hitch-Hiking Hoodoos, got released to hitch home, things stayed eventful for a while.

A guy from Buffalo picked me up on the Interstate, older guy in his 30s.  When I got in I threw the pillow-case with my belongings into the back seat“I don’t know why I picked you up,” he glanced at me with disgust.  “I never pick up hitch hikers.”  

Over the next few miles he questioned me about who I was, where I was from, what I was doing hitching, what I’d do when I arrived, and I explained it all in loving detail.

“Well, I’ve never had any trouble with a hitch hiker the few times I’ve picked them up.  But if I do ever get killed by a hitcher it will probably be some half-baked kid who doesn’t know what he wants in life.”  He thought about it a minute.  “But I don’t have to worry about you.  You threw your gun into the back seat in that pillow case when you got in.”

We talked a lot over the highway between Rochester and Buffalo.  Enough so he didn’t take the Buffalo exit and carried me down to where a tollway squeezed the traffic going south to Cincinnati, Ohio.  He pulled up beside a car with a family in it, man, woman and a couple of kids.  Motioned for them to roll down the passenger-side window.

“Are you going on through Cincinnati?  I’ve carried this guy all the way from Rochester and he’s okay.  He’s going to New Mexico.  But I’d like to get him a ride past Cincinnati.  He’ll never get through that town walking.”

The couple said they were just going to Cincinnati, but we were all watching the traffic edge forward to the toll gates.  “We’d better take him anyway.  He might not get another ride.”

The Buffalo guy was right, but it began the next phase of a long story.  Guess I’d best hold it for another day.

Old Jules


The Sweet Hitch-Hiker

Probably 1978-’79 I was going north on the Interstate somewhere between Waco and Waxahachie preparing to exit when I saw a woman past the ramp trying to thumb a ride.  Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole had been at work leaving a string of female corpses up and down the Interstate at the time.  When I saw her I split-second decided to take a route further north so’s to give her a ride and get her off the Interstate.

I saw you swerve back onto the highway to pick me up.”  She settled the bag with her belongings onto the floorboard.  Attractive, dark skinned lady in her mid-20s with a coy smirk.  “You must like my looks.”

Hi.  Where you headed?  I just decided to pick you up to tell you about something you might not know.  I’ll get off further north than I was going to.”  I was wearing a pair of cutoff jeans and she was making herself obvious staring at my lower legs.

“I’ve been on the road for a month.  I usually don’t take rides from four-wheelers, but I like your looks.”

I wasn’t in the market for having my looks liked by some female who’d been on the road a month hitching rides with truckers.  The whole concept gave me a shrinking sensation in my groin.  I explained to her about why I’d picked her up, about how someone was killing women on the Interstate and leaving their bodies cluttering up the landscape from hell to breakfast.

Where are you from before you started hitching?  Can you go back there?”

She settled back and gave my legs a rest, frowning.  “I’m from the Kickapoo Reservation.”  She named a mid-western state. “My husband was drunk and mowing the grass.  Slipped and cut the front half of his foot off.”

That last sentence had a lot of visual impact for me.  It drew a cringe and a moment of silent recovery.  But after I’d digested it the next question was obvious.  “So what are you doing here, thumbing rides?”

“I left before he got out of the hospital.”  Her face twisted into a mask of indignation.  “I wasn’t going to hang around there carrying that SOB like a turd between two sticks for the rest of his life!  I’ve been on the road ever since.”

My exit wasn’t far up the road so I just left it at that.  Made a mental note to turn loose of the handle if I ever slipped and fell backward mowing the grass.

Old Jules

Fiddle-Footed Naggings and Songs of the Highway

The human mind is a strange place to find ourselves living if we ever get enough distance from the background noise to notice.  I tend to notice it a lot.

This morning seemed destined to be just another day.  Gale and Kay were doing the Austin Gem and Mineral Show, so I’d figured to walk up to his house to get the truck mid-day so’s to take care of putting their chickens to bed tonight.  Startled me a bit when I looked up and there he sat in Little Red a few feet away, having brought it down to me.  My hearing must be further gone than I’d realized.

Seemed they’d no sooner gone than I got an email from Jeanne saying my old friend from childhood and later lost-gold-mine chasing days was in Fredericksburg trying to get hold of me hoping I could get over there for lunch.  Heck, it must be 15 years or more since I’ve seen Keith, though recently he’s been reading this blog.  Naturally him being 40 miles away and me with a truck sitting there available, I headed over there.

Really nice visit, but in the course of bringing one another up-to-date he asked me a number of questions about my situation here that forced me to take a hard look and organize my thoughts about it all.  That kicked off a series of trails of thinking to organize clearer, more concrete priorities for myself within a realistic examination of my options.

There aren’t a lot of them, but they’re all stacked atop a single one:  having the means of leaving this place in a relatively short time if the need arises.  It’s time I decided on a single course of action and begin leading events in a direction that allows it to congeal in a way that accomodates the needs of the cats. 

But the process of thinking about it in an organized way had a parallel thinking-path over whispering somewhere else in my brain wiggling out a sort of excitement, anticipation about it.  Here’s something that will be pure trauma and agony for the cats I do everything possible to spare such things, and my ticker’s beating a little faster in a pleasurable way just considering it.

That, combined with the certainty the process of getting things together to execute the plan I come with is going to involve some unpleasantness, excruciating work and fingernail chewing as it goes along.

Seems I’ve somehow contrived to be two different places at the same time inside my mind.  One being pushed by probabilities to do what makes sense rather than what I’d prefer, the cats would prefer.  And one reaching somewhere into fond memories of pinon trees, high mountains and an entirely different sort of solitude than I have here.

Keith confided to me today, “Everyone thinks you’re crazy.”  I can’t find any good argument that everyone’s wrong.  It’s nice being crazy and still being as happy as I manage to be all the time, though.

Anyway, to satisfy that fiddle-footed nagging, here are some songs of the highway and the road.

Old Jules

The Cheers – “Black Denim Trousers”


Roger Miller “Me And Bobby McGee”

Merle Haggard – White Line Fever


John Denver – Live in Japan 81 – Take Me Home, Country Roads

Roger Miller – I’ve Been A Long Time Leavin’ (But I’ll Be A Long Time Gone)

Hank Snow – I’ve Been Everywhere

Charley Pride-Is Anybody Goin’ To San antone

Playmates – Beep Beep (The Little Nash Rambler)


Robert Mitchum sings The Ballad of Thunder Road

Roy Orbison – Ride Away

C. W. McCall “Wolf Creek Pass”

Hot Rod Lincoln – Charlie Ryan and the Timberline Riders 1960


MAC DAVIS Texas in My Rear View Mirror


Guy Clark LA Freeway


Willie Nelson On the Road Again


Easy Rider – Born To Be Wild (HQ)


LOST HIGHWAY by Hank Williams


Leonard Cohen – I Can’t Forget (live 1988)


Beach Boys – (It’s The) Little Old Lady From Pasadena


Beach Boys live ’64 Little Deuce Coupe


Neil Young – Hitchhiker






Fats Domino – Walking to New Orleans


The Hitch-Hiking Hoodoos

I was reading clickclack gorilla’s hitching story and it dawned on me what’s going on in Europe with hitch-hiking is entirely different from it in the US.  Evidently thumbing rides there still includes ‘respectable’ people.  It wasn’t so long ago the same was true in the US.

As a youngster and young man I hitched across the US up-down and sideways more times than I’ve traveled it any other way.  In the military it used to be the most common way soldiers traveled, but it was also a legitimate way of getting to a destination for anyone else, as well.  When I got out of jail for riding trains in Rochester, New York, in 1964, the judge at the arraignment told me, “Don’t you know hopping trains in New York is a FELONY?”

“No sir.  I didn’t know that.”

“Is there someone you can contact to get money for a bus ticket to get back to New Mexico?”

“No sir, there isn’t.”

“I’m going to say this, then I’m going to let you go.  Hitch-hiking is only a misdemeanor in New York.”

After I was released a police officer drove me out to the Interstate and let me off at a freeway entrance.  And way led onto way.

All that hitching as a youth was an adventure I suspect a lot of people alive today haven’t experienced.  Every trip was a hundred stories, including the one above.  And every hitch-hiker I’ve picked up over the decades since [I still do] has been a story in itself.  I keep a case of Dinty Moore stew in the truck and usually give them a can or two if they’ve convinced me they’re hungry.

Today people are generally frightened of hitch-hikers, or just don’t believe the potential feel-good rewards of picking them up is worth the risk of getting robbed, assaulted, or just being trapped inside a vehicle with a person who smells as though he’s been on the road a while is worth it.  I’d opine they’re thinking smart.   I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had some close calls, both hitching, and picking up hitch-hikers.

But I do it anyway, and I’m glad I do, glad I have, wouldn’t trade having done it for the alternative.

I’m thinking I might throw in a few of those hitch-hiking, hitch-hiker tales on this blog occasionally.  Some are chilling, some are strange, but every one is unique.

Old Jules