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Hitchhiking in the '70s


It was the summer of 1976. I had graduated from UCSB a year earlier, and with job prospects slim to dim in Santa Barbara, I knew I had to make a change. Going back to Studio City was an option, as my brother Jack had offered to find me a job in public relations, but at that time, all I wanted to be was a professional poet. Working in an office seemed like a mortal sin.

My twin sister Teresa was also at loose ends, so we thought it was time to hit the trails of travel. Since we’d both broken up with our respective lovers, maybe we’d get lucky in love traveling the country, which was what we decided to do.

A few weeks later after saying adios to the family pad in Studio City, I was on a bus heading north to join Teresa in what was soon to be an adventure of a lifetime: traveling around the United States on a Green Tortoise Bus and hitchhiking.

Remember, hitching in the '70s was what iPhones are today…everyone was into it. Throwing caution to the wind, we boarded this jalopy of a bus, lined with nothing but mattresses and hippies. Everyone was sandwiched between one another, and free love was available at every opportunity.

I remember a bearded guy named Alan who took a shine to me, morning noon and night. All I wanted was a good nights sleep, not some pheromone-ridden 26 year old trying to mount my thigh at every turn.

Eventually, Teresa and I made it to Ohio, where we disembarked the bus and began our hitching expedition to the East coast, where we’d eventually meet my mom, who was clueless about our thumbing pursuits.

Teresa and I had a great system for catching rides. With her yard-long hair, she’d stand in front and seduce the sedans into stopping. Then, she’d conk out in the back seat, and I’d take over, yakking as much as I could to gain mileage.

Once, we were picked up by a trucker who was popping black beauties (speed) every couple of miles and announcing his conquest on his CB radio.

“Breaker, breaker, I’ve got two beavers in the front seat…” I knew he was referring to us, so we decided to cut this trip short, and test our luck on the freeway off ramp once again. Soon, another horny guy picked us up, but Teresa soon realized she’d left her sleeping bag at our last stop. That was an untimely $50 lesson, depleting her truck-stop breakfast money for the next few days.

Once, a “counselor” who promised to give us shelter for the night, along with some free pizza, picked us up. Unfortunately, he made a pass at me every time Teresa when into the other room. I guess there really is no free lunch, or dinner, for that matter.

Eventually, we made it to NYC around 12:30 at night, and got to stay with my uncle and his wife in Manhattan. They were fighting most of the night, which prompted Teresa to give some marital advice to the wife via a scribbled note left on the dining room table. No wonder we were never asked back to their apartment again.

We landed in Maryland, and got to stay with my mom and her boyfriend, Eddie Mayo. Eddie slipped us a C-note when my mom wasn’t looking, and wished us good luck on our adventure. He also gave us our first golf lesson. I quickly realized that golf wasn’t just for old people. Anyone who can successfully hit a ball the size of an apricot should be admired.

With that money in hand, Teresa and I decided we could live it up on our trip back to LA, and decided to get a drive-away car to get us home. We had about 4 days to get there, so we rotated shifts behind the wheel. Since I wasn’t the victim of losing my sleeping bag, I had a bit more money, so we made a trade. She’d drive the night shift, and I’d buy her breakfast.

The truck stops we enjoyed along the way provided many meals of pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns and lots of coffee. We'd stuff ourselves at breakfast, and if we planned it right, didn't have to eat again until dinner.

Studio City welcomed me home a few days later, and I had to face the realities of getting a job, dealing with traffic, and handling demanding bosses.

But those days on the road will be forever embedded in my mind, when both Teresa and I were on the precipice of everything, and we fostered a special bond that we both cherish today.

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