Hitching a ride on the Cultural Revolution

 

In 1970, I moved to San Francisco, after living in the Philippines for a year. It was quite different. Discrimination seemed to be absent. Black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight…everyone worked with everyone. During this time it was still safe to hitch-hike and I took advantage of the opportunity. I was first hitching rides around the city, and into Marin County. Then a friend and I decided to hitch to Chicago. I had no idea what to expect. I’d never attempted anything on that scale before. With hardly a dime in my pocket, and a sandwich to eat, we stuck out our thumbs and headed east. We would part in Chicago and I would continue on to the east coast. My parents had returned to the states from the Philippines,  and I thought I’d make it there for their anniversary. It took a week, but I made it to Falls Church VA in time much to their surprise. Of course along the way I had a gun pointed at me in Nevada and was told to get a haircut. After a short visit I took a Grayhound back to San Francisco. I now felt I was experienced enough to try it again when the opportunity presented itself which it did about 3 months later. This time, I left San Jose and headed north through the Redwood Forest, to Portland, then Seattle and then up to Canada. Once there I got a great ride from a man who stopped and got me breakfast. We then proceeded to Revelstoke BC. I thanked him for the ride and headed to the youth hostel in town.  There were many young travelers and they told me it was rough getting a ride from there. Some people had been there for a week.

But…there was another way. A freight train came right through town a block from the Hostel and it headed east. I could always hop the freight if I wanted to leave. Sure enough, within about an hour I heard the train coming into town. I grabbed my things and headed to the tracks where the train would roll through. It was moving too fast, but it was very long and began to slow down enough for me to run along-side it. It slowed even more and I could almost walk at the same speed. I found an open car and climbed aboard, and hid up in the front of the car. The train slowed to a stop and I could hear some men walking up the track. They never checked the car and I was safe and ready for the next leg of this strange adventure. 

After what seemed like about a half-hour, I could hear the sound of the cars being yanked in succession and the sound was getting closer. Finally the car I was in jerked into motion and we were moving.  As the train built its speed I ventured toward the back of the car and peered out to see what I could see. As I looked out I was astonished to see myself in the midst of the Canadian Rockies. The train was off the beaten path of highways and I could see waterfalls coming right out of a mountain. I couldn’t see either the front or the back of the train. It was very long. I watched the stars and the moon and the incredible mountains that only the engineers would see.  It was a magic carpet ride for sure.

It was getting colder and I retreated back into the car to keep warm and fell asleep. I woke up when I sensed the train was slowing down and it felt much colder and this was in the late summer. I went to the back of the car and peered out again, and I thought I was in the Alps. Huge snow- capped mountains everywhere and the train was slowing down. I was in Banff National Park and about to enter the small town of Banff. The train slowed enough as it entered the town, and I hopped off. I would continue on from here via my thumb.  I cleaned up at a public restroom and went into a café for something to eat.

There I met three girls headed to St Paul. They offered me a ride and I was on my way to the states. From St. Paul I found a ride to Chicago where I had relatives. I spent the day with them and had a great steak dinner. Strip steaks that my uncle Barbequed. One of the best meals I can remember eating.  My cousin gave me a ride into Indiana and we spotted a driver with Pennsylvania plates and asked him for a ride to PA. I switched cars and headed to Pennsylvania. I got off in Somerset and from there another ride to Washington DC.  Again, the trip took a week and I look back on it as one of the great adventures of my life. I was 22 years old. I don't think I'd try something like if I were 22 today. Times have really changed.