Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Road Trip

One evening, in the middle 70’s, Dominic, Kevin O’Connor and I were hanging out at Pizza a Go-Go at its original location on Grand Avenue. Kevin found John Muir’s Volkswagen Idiot Guide, had acquired an engine block in 2 halves and a mini-van shell. We made plans to tour the east coast.

Dominic and I handed Kevin tools while he built a mini-van from scratch in his basement.

Dominic and I had already hitch hiked to the east coast a few times and we were still teenagers.

Somehow we got the thing built and it actually passed inspection. (It shouldn’t have).

The van had a collapsible bed made from 2x4s and it was very comfortable. We had no cash and I’m not sure how we kept gas in it. Kevin had a Gulf credit card but we couldn’t find a single station.

We camped outside of a friend’s house in Larchmont, NY. From there we went to Cambridge, MA where we were rear ended by a local. We learned about an insurance system they had in Massachusetts called no-fault. Each party had to pay for their own damage. This left us screwed.

We traveled down the cape and ferried across to Martha’s Vineyard. One of Kevin’s old girl friends had an aunt that lived on the island. Her name was Cousin Ted and her grandfather traveled with Perry on the famous expedition to Japan in the 1800s. Her old house was loaded with artifacts. She took us in without even really knowing who we were.

They had just wrapped up filming Jaws and there were still signs all around the island.

We went up to Portland Maine where I fell in love with a one legged woman who wouldn’t give me the time of day.

I’m not sure how long we’d been on the road but Dominic was beginning to smell bad. We threw him in the ocean at York Beach in Maine. It was September and quite cold. To be fair, I should ask him, maybe we only threatened to throw him in.

As I was saying earlier the van shouldn’t have passed inspection. On our way home we got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. At the entrance stall our brakes stopped working. I wrestled the hand brake and got the van to stop just before the alarm went off. We threw the money in the basket and pulled over to the side. We had lost our brake fluid. We were able to refill the reservoir and went on our way. Somewhere in here we picked up 3 or 4 hitch hikers on the turnpike.

The next morning Kevin went into insulin shock. (I forgot to mention he was diabetic). He instructed us to find a candy bar quick. Panicked and speeding I pulled off the highway somewhere in Ohio. We were on a steep off ramp and its side went into a deep ravine. Kevin was in the back oblivious to everything. Our hitch hikers were asleep. We were traveling at least 60 mph down the ramp. Traffic at the bottom was in full rush hour swing against us at the light. We lost our brakes again. I knew if we went off the ravine we were dead for sure and the traffic at the light was against us. Dominic and I looked at each other. Dom said, “Nice knowing you, man”. As we reached the intersection the lights changed and we rolled up the other side. We finally rolled to a stop on the side of the highway.

If you’re from St. Louis and have been on the road, nothing is more beautiful than the Arch when you finally come home.


paycheck said...

Great post. You could do a whole series of road trip posts; I have only one hitchiking trip to another city in my past. One time, with George Crider, to New Orleans for the Fourth of July, which turned out to be Louis Armstrong's birthday.

sharon said...

So tell me what song was playing as the van sped through the line of death? Was it Jethro Tull? The Doors? No, don't tell me.... it was REO Speedwagon?!

Ya know, Linda and I hitched a ride with a semi where the driver insisted on reading aloud as he drove winding Rocky mountainous roads. He claimed to read all the time while working and by working I mean driving an 18-wheeler 60-70 mph! There was no music playing - only the pounding of our hearts.

Good times being young... and stoooopid!

Doggie said...

I've been thinking about writing my version of "On The Road" for years. I'm sure it's been done to death.

labombadominique said...

I remember the hitch hikers were 2 guys and one girl. she had curly dark shoulder length hair and wire frame glasses. she changed jeans in front of us all at one point rolling onto her back and i was absolutely thrilled that she wore no underware. very hippie chick (hippie chic?). of course we were all hippies then.

no- i wasn't thrown into the atlantic to bathe. there was a shower system there near the boardwalk and it was FREEZING! i rinced all my clothes and lived in the wool jalaba that my sister Maria had bought me in Morrocco.

"Nice knowing you, man!" hahahahah

Doggie said...

wait 'till I tell the story about us sleeping together in your jalaba. Freezing nearly to death in a ditch in Ohio. Until the cops ran us off!

Doggie said...

Maybe that didn't sound quite right.