1976, Tapes from California: Teenage Road Tripping

1976, Tapes from California: Teenage Road Tripping

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Excerpt from Chapter 50: Loopy in Kamloops

Excerpt from Chapter 50: Loopy in Kamloops

'Lying flat on my back on my sleeping bag, staring upward at the V-shaped peak where tent sides meet, I watched mosquitoes congregate to conspire the long night ahead. Directly out the west window, indiscreet, the sun folded into candyfloss pigments of orange and pink. Allowing ideas from the passage to percolate, something hit a nerve. More than anything in the world, I wanted to be happy. Not for passing bursts, but for long, undulated periods, where emotion could be amassed and the afterglow of happiness preserved.
   Maybe there was a way to channel bliss somehow.

   There is a beautiful narrative in J.D. Salinger’s Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, in which Seymour Glass describes a perceived, permanent yellow stain on his right hand, a leftover from brushing against a playmate’s buttery dress during his childhood. Through recollections and emotions, perhaps symbolically, we have the ability to engender the same durable effect. Fishing in a pond of happy memories, possibly there is a means to train ourselves to summon joy at will, and provide nourishment during dry spells. If the law of vibration detailed in the Holy Order of Man’s digest really works, and there was evidence of it through our basic requests, maybe then, all one needs to do is believe in happiness.
   The rest will take care of itself.
On Friday, a few days beyond June 21, morning is grey, chillier than the day before. Not a drop of precipitation in sight. Thanking Paul for our stay, at half past seven, Jan and I made our way from the Kamloops hostel out to the highway. Stale sesame seed bagels tucked deep in our packs, we hoped to get a head start. Other travellers, also moving east, had already packed their gear.
   Watching a torrent of cars and transport trucks blow by in haste, loitering on the shoulder of the TransCanada, we contemplated the trip ahead. Habitually, Jan and I willed a harm free journey. Counting our flight to Vancouver,  in four months, we'd logged close to 6000 miles. Having been in near constant motion since leaving our jobs at the hotel in March, it hadn’t felt like a stretch. The unknown quotient of the remaining weeks of our trip was a thrill. Along with the rush of day-to-day adventure, came the proverbial ache of anxiety.
   The yin and yang of confronting a faceless future.'
1976: Tapes from California © 2016 Jill C. Nelson

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chapter 9 Excerpt: "Luke"

View of Mt. Baker, Washington, from Aldegrove, B.C.
Chapter 9: Luke

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” – Saint Francis de Sales

Awakening Easter morning, I peered through the bedroom blinds. The sky was a dull grey, no sunshine in the forecast. Despite the dismal weather, claiming her mm had a surprise, Yvette had gotten up, dressed, and encouraged us to do the same. Hidden inside of cupboards, next to books and between boxes of Crispy Crunch cereal were dozens of chocolate Easter eggs wrapped in coloured foil; a caring touch by Jean who rightly assumed we might be feeling homesick. After we finished gathering up the eggs, Yvette’s mom cooked us a hearty blueberry pancake breakfast. Around four, sisters, Louise and Linda accompanied by Linda’s husband and their three children, congregated around the living room in anticipation of a traditional Easter dinner. Somewhere within the commotion, Yvette’s much-lauded older brother called to apologize.
   Luke would be arriving late.
   The past several weeks, Jan and I’d heard many stories about Luke – all of them good. Whenever that happens, you wonder if a person can actually fulfill expectations. In my mind, I’d manufactured some Adonis-like human being with a six foot wing span. In this scenario, big brother did not disappoint. Arriving minutes before dinner, standing at a little over six feet tall, peering down from a pair of heart-stopping baby blues and wavy, chestnut brown hair floating past his shoulders, Yvette’s sexy, older brother easily lived up to the hype. One momentary look, and it was easy to understand why Luke drew people to him like shit sticks to a blanket – particularly women.
   Once introductions were over, we took our seats at the table set for twelve. Supplemented by the appropriate trimmings, Jean had prepared a spectacular turkey feast .
   In the midst of serving trays and casseroles dishes containing turkey, almond stuffing, scalloped potatoes, broccoli, squash, cranberries and rolls passed in conveyor belt-like fashion down the table, Luke absorbed some well-intentioned flak from his parents for his unconventional lifestyle. Currently staying  with friends nearby, a Jack-of-all-tradesman, Luke took on whatever work he could, dividing his time between Victoria, Saskatoon, and Mexico. For a fraction of what it would cost to settle in a major city, Luke’s dream was to live in the country permanently. The way he explained it, seemed natural.
   Despite fine-looking features, soulful blue eyes and liberal philosophies, what struck me most about Yvette’s older brother was his gentle deportment.
   At times, exchanges between parents and son were prickly. Staring down my plate, I listened alert as Luke softly deferred to Jan and me as unsuspecting allies, suggesting that our presence at the family table might help improve what he’d perceived his parents’ questionable opinion of their only son.
   The back and forth had reminded me of squabbles between Chris and my parents around the Sunday evening dinner table not many years before. Heated arguments about my brother’s hair length, his unsuitable clothing, and what they saw as a rebellious nature in general. According to Luke, Jan and I were doing the same thing he was, bucking conformity, trying to find a sustainable way to keep our heads afloat. Refraining from caving to societal traditions and parental expectations.
   I hadn’t thought of it that way before, yet when Luke had said it, it sounded sensible. Sane. Then again, every utterance from Yvette’s big brother’s princely mouth seemed reasonable. Much to their mom and dad’s dread, Luke pointed out, even his kid sister was an example of non-compliance. After all, Yvette had both feet planted firmly in her big brother’s shadow.
   After a time, somebody cracked a joke and people moved on to lighter dialogue. You got the impression this was the family norm. Relieved the conversation hadn’t spiraled into obtuse remarks or hostility – I’d noted that although members of Yvette’s family did not unanimously agree, they were civil and respectful of one another.
   Levity deflected beautifully. The absence of alcohol might have had something to do with it.
   Dishes magically cleared away. While Jean served homemade coconut cream pie and Nanaimo bars everybody milled about. Announcing he’d be returning shortly to his friend Mandy’s place in Langley, Luke asked Louise if she’d give him a lift. Prior to our trip to Aldergrove, it had been decided that Louise, who lived with her husband in Vancouver, would drop Jan and me off at the Y on her way home. From there, we’d take the bus back out to Betsy’s for one last night before departing with Walter and company next morning.
   When the time came, it was tough bidding Yvette yet another goodbye. Tears welling, the three of us made a firm promise to meet up in Banff that summer. Thoughtfully, Yvette wrapped up the remaining Nanaimo bars for us to take on the road.
   Mandy’s country home was a small, yet pretty, older house. Outmoded fixtures and a wood burning stove absorbed much of the main living area. Joined by her husband and young son, Mandy was moving to Hawaii and selling off several pieces of furniture. Looking over some of Mandy’s tables, Louise purchased two items for her apartment. When we about ready to leave, off the cuff, Luke made a proposal. Though careful not to commit, after our return from California in a few months, he might consider driving Jan and me to Alberta.
   I didn’t care if Luke’s offer was in vain and would never materialize.  
   Gesturing affirmatively, I concurred. “That could definitely work.”

1976: Tapes from California © 2016 Jill C. Nelson

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Chapter 44 Excerpt: Mirror, Mirror

Chapter 54: Mirror Mirror
Greater Vancouver

“If you are lacking certain things in your life scheme then you have not made the pattern for them, or you blocked it with another, or you did not think that you would have them anyway. So, did you get what you expected – Did you? Yes, I think you did. We have news for you – you do not face the world at any time; the only world you face is the world of your own being – body/soul/mind, and your atmosphere – which is your responsibility. You should prepare then. This is your world and your responsibility.” – The Golden Force, Chapter 3: Growth (pages 27 & 28). 

'Since leaving San Francisco, I’d started reading portions of The Golden Force, trying to digest the book’s message, and assimilate it with my pre-existing belief system. Deceptively taxing reading, the book required a good deal of thought and analysis. Until that point, I’d mostly read contemporary and classic literature, biographies, and true crime. Specific passages of HOOM’s holy book were not only demanding and tricky to understand, but hard to imagine assuming into my life. By adopting a more studious approach (not my usual forté), eventually, I hoped to grasp initiatives.

   It was too soon to know what I would do with the information.
   As of late, I’d found myself identifying with one of my literary heroes, twenty-year old Franny Glass, the chief character in J.D. Salinger’s immortal novel Franny and Zooey. As the story unfolds in the Glass family’s New York City apartment, having taken a sudden exodus from her studies, as if an appendage, Franny clings frantically to an anonymously written book of Russian origin; The Way of a Pilgrim. Her preoccupation with the book’s divine subject matter has driven Franny into a paradoxical, spiritually charged emotional state, causing her to question everything she had come to take for granted, exasperating her mother Bessie, and particularly, her brother Zooey.
   Given my incongruous state of being, I was beginning to appreciate Franny’s impasse. The fact the book had belonged to her beloved (and deceased) older brother Seymour did not escape me.
   The previous evening after Jan, Fujiko and I finished dinner, now Father’s Day weekend, I walked over to a Safeway to place a rare collect call home. Significant changes had transpired within the last couple of months.
   The conversation with my father went well. Dad and I reminisced about our family trip to Vancouver and San Francisco many years before. Then he passed the receiver to my mother. Filling Mom in about our recent travel adventures, eventually, I broached the subject containing the four-letter-word: H-O-O-M. Explaining there was a possibility I might return to San Francisco in the fall to join the organization as a novice-in-training, I stressed this was only one option of many. By her silence; I knew what my mother was thinking: She’s lost her mind. HOOM is an insidious cult!
   “What about St. Lawrence College?” Mom put forth a concerted effort. “I've sent in the $35 registration fee. I thought you’d at least consider it. All your friends will be going off to school.”
   I hated letting my mom down. “I don’t know.” I said. “I’ll first have to see what happens with HOOM. I’m not ruling anything out.”
   Negative propaganda surrounding counter cultures, communal lifestyles, spiritual cults and worse -- left wing, grass roots guerilla groups employing weaponry to overpower opposition, populated the news in the years leading to our departure. It was a tough sell attempting to mollify parents when stories of diabolical and violent masterminds such as Charles Manson, and more recently, the S.L.A. (Symbionese Liberation Army); a subversive group that headlined media outlets following the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst, daughter of newspaper mogul Randolph Hearst, were in the forefront. These reprehensible stories left a sour taste in the mouth of parents and establishment – making it veritably hopeless to convince my mother that Holy Order of Mans was different.
   Thankfully, there wasn’t time to debate the issue. Keeping the call short, we segued into a softer, palatable topic. I told my mother how much I looked forward to seeing family again in less than two months. Mom was pleased to hear those words. The best part of returning to Southern Ontario was the prospect of seeing old friends again, though with everybody headed in different directions come September, our bittersweet reunion would be short-lived.
   Hanging up the receiver, something ugly dawned on me. By relating information I knew would upset my mother, unintentionally, maybe subliminally, I'd wanted to hurt her. If so, that made me a callous bitch. It possibly also meant I was hoping to seek revenge for something. In truth, I hadn’t expected my news bulletin to receive a warm reception. However, by stressing words such as if and maybe, I felt my update was delivered in a way that was acceptable. It’s about making a convincing sales pitch. Sometimes the manner in which an idea is presented is easier to digest than what is actually said. In my case, the strategy accomplished the reverse, harsher effect.
   If only I was able to convince myself.
  Returning to Steiner Street would depend upon what emerged in the coming weeks – if any of it still made sense. HOOM didn’t have quite the stranglehold on me it had one week ago.
   Still, it was there, persistent.'
Tapes from California: Teenage Road Tripping, 1976 © 2016 Jill C. Nelson

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Excerpt from Chapter 15: Hitching a Ride

"Jan and I stood in the campground parking lot taking stock of the visual splendor. Shouldered between robust mountains, cerulean sea, sun and sky, the landscape up and down the coast from the mouth of the Big Sur basin was extravagant. For miles in all directions, daunting cliffs, accentuated by a profusion of colored cacti perched on jagged rock, stretched beyond where the eye could see. We couldn’t have summoned a more heavenly place to rest our heads.
     Employing the same tactic as the night before, when the park official was attending to young man driving a small station wagon, Jan and I sleuthed past the visitor’s booth and into the campground. Safe beyond the front entrance, we popped into the general store to pick up a couple dinner items and scoped the most idyllic setting to drop our tent. This would be a respite for our bodies and our minds.
     Below a wooden bridge, not far from a pebbled pathway, we found a spot adjacent to a brook. Large fir trees, and the rugged Santa Lucia mountain range seemed like old friends. Quickly, Jan and I set up our tent and unfurled our bags. Still ill equipped for light and fire, I hoped the temperature would remain relatively comfortable. Not wanting to give energy to negative thoughts, I didn’t express my fears. 
     Jan suggested we get our bearings.
     Suspended on a fallen tree trunk, bathed in blonde sunshine, I composed a letter to my family, and another one to Liz. Depicting our San Francisco experiences, I described Peter, Michael, Gerry, and the Holy Order. Two days had passed since leaving Steiner Street, I missed the place and the people in it.
     That morning, Jan told me she’d dreamed about Gerry and Peter coming to take us away. When she'd tried to cry out, her voice fell silent. In my letter, I told Liz about Jan’s dream, and more about Peter than I had mentioned to my family. After sharing the things I knew about him, I re-read the letter and thought it made Peter and his life seem depressing. Much of his life was depressing, but I didn’t want to her to think he was a loser – which he wasn’t. I added how when Peter entered a room, he was whistling, or carrying wild flowers. I told her he was helpful, a good listener, and fatherly in many ways. When Jan and I'd mentioned how Jan had been refused at the border during our first attempt across to Washington, Peter had taken the side of the officials. During our spiritual discussion on the second night, he nearly croaked when I admitted I couldn’t imagine being around in twenty years, much less know where I'd be in twenty days. He reminded me the world is a good place. "It’s getting better all the time,” he'd said. I should never forget it. I told Liz of Peter’s patience and fearlessness, and how close I felt whenever we talked.
     There were strong feelings.
     Liz and other friends knew I could be over the top once something grabbed a hold of me. No doubt, my family would be wary about some of the things I’d intimated.
     When nightfall came, our cheer fizzled. Just as the night before had sucked, this one did too – only worse. Here we were, nearing the end of April in California; it felt like January in Southern Ontario, mostly because of our inept sleeping bags. The gnawing in our stomachs didn't help – a bag of Fritos split between two people, and an apple apiece doesn’t cut it. My spirits low, I began to feel sorry for myself; that I was responsible for dragging Jan along on this unpredictable excursion. She had wanted to travel; there was no question in her mind or in mine. Still, Jan was sixteen months younger than me. A big gap. No doubt, she was scared shitless. I know I was – of all kinds of things – wild animals, and crazy rapists lurking in the forest seeking unsuspecting victims to overtake, and kill.
     As stupid as it might sound, freezing to death in our tent flashed through my brain, just as it had the night before. I should have been the prudent, older, protective sister. I was however, able to take comfort in the knowledge that Jan was above holding someone hostage for her own choices.
     Wide-eyed and shivering in my sleeping bag, I felt increasingly guilty. As of late, our trip seemed to be hitting the skids.
     The temperature dipped down to almost zero. It would be an unforgiving night."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Excerpt from Chapter 45: Hope reigns in Hope

Texas Lake Youth Hostel, Hope, B.C. 1970s

Chapter 45: Hope reigns in Hope

“We can't return we can only look behind from where we came.” – Eugene McNamara

     Excerpt: 'On Wednesday, my condition hadn’t improved leading me to believe I’d caught a bug after all. Regardless, Jan and I headed out early in the morning rain to purchase our bus tickets to Hope. Soon, we’d be on our way. 

    At half past one, our bus broke out of the downtown terminal driving eastbound on Highway 1 destined for Hope, Surrey, and Abbotsford. Deb’s hometown of Chilliwack was scheduled along our three and a half hour course. Encouraged by its name, traveling the TransCanada highway, we watched curiously out the window at green pastures, rolling foothills, and rivers that snaked through woodlands with hushed domination. Feeling upbeat about our next adventure, I was hopeful for all that Hope might bring.
    Seated next to me, chin tucked down, Jan wrote in her diary. I began reading chapter seven of The Golden Force titled “Universal Law of the Creative Mind.” The chapter talked of a dynamic life force living within and outside of us that materializes when summoned. “To harness and develop acceptance of that power with confidence is integral,” the passage stressed that the power of reception opens the door for all things to transpire. Creative and unfiltered thought processes brings about manifestation.
    The same song and dance.
    Reiterating the positive visualization technique Brother James had taught us when we’d first met him back in April, barring the odd exception to the rule, by keeping a clear-cut image in our minds of what we’d anticipated, for much of our trip, it had become apparent. Maybe it was because we weren’t aiming high enough. Possibly, it was because we’d deluded ourselves into believing that our prayers were being answered.
    I doubted it. Negative thinking works on the same principle as positive revelation. If you look ahead to darkness, it will befall you. Employing the formula, hope should be the alchemy of all good things.
    Nearing the Hope municipality, large billowing clouds that had supplemented us for a good portion of our drive through serrated mountains, touched the surface of the highway, enfolding our bus, and generating a stir of excitement amongst its passengers. Surrounded by the Cascade Mountains and thick secluded wilderness: valleys, streams, lakes, and the Fraser River (named after Canadian explorer Simon Fraser), we had penetrated a dream paradise.
    Pulling into the bus terminal, six and a half miles south of the Texas Lake Youth Hostel, Jan and I climbed down the steps and chilled. Purchasing a couple of muffins at a country store, we headed back out to the road to hitch the rest of the way to our destination. For our fee the hostel book promised breakfast and a light supper – a dinner meal sounded too good to be true – we knew from experience that it’s always best to show up with a semi-full belly, in case of food shortages.
    Walking out to the TransCanada Highway from the terminal, we didn’t have any difficulty soliciting a ride. Driving a light brown pick-up truck, an early-thirties woman pulled over to the shoulder of the road. Her name was Sharon. Smiling when we told her where we were headed, Sharon said that she lived and worked at Texas Lake and assured us we would love the hostel and its adjoining co-operative community.
    Nearing the Texas Lake premises, Jan and I gazed around at the mountainous setting next to a neighboring lake where rose-colored pickerelweed drifted restfully over a quickening waterfall. A pretty sight in summer, I imagined how the scene might appear in winter. Bleak, desolate, watchful.
    About to approach the dirt driveway, Sharon slowed down the truck, allowing us to observe various buildings of differing sizes; cabins for permanent residents, and sleeping dorms for travelers. There were chicken coops, a huge vegetable garden; an oddly shaped dome type structure in behind the main (big) house; cows and goats, dogs and cats. At first impression, once again it appeared that we had arrived where we needed to be. For the moment, the purr in the air was a knowing wink and the hurt of leaving Vancouver and our friends behind took a back seat. Texas Lake promised to be another wondrous designation – a utopian edition of a Bermuda Triangle sewn covertly into the planet’s seam. 
    A person would have to be steel hearted not to be seduced by the simplistic Texas Lake surroundings at first glance. A couple of decades away from melding into the technological age, 1970s youths took pride in small prizes.'

1976: Tapes from California © 2015 Jill C. Nelson

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Excerpt from Chapter 36: Chinatown and City Lights

Excerpt from Chapter 36: Chinatown and City Lights
On Thursday morning, one of the female novices at Holy Order of Mans, Joanne, came out to the garden area of Duboce Park where I sat sketching yellow cornflowers. We chatted a while about life in general, inside and outside of HOOM.
    Suspicious, initially, I wondered at first if she’d been sent by one of her superiors to try to get inside of my head. During the course of conversation, I realized that wasn’t true. Joanne had come outfitted with gardening tools; she was not there under false pretenses. It wouldn’t have been worth her effort to pry anyway. I certainly didn’t understand what was going on and doubted that anyone else could make sense of it either. 
   A couple of years older than I, Joanne had been raised in a commune in Northern California. Based upon little information she shared about her upbringing by parents who were artists and nomads, joining a cult didn’t seem like an unnatural step for her. She made and accepted her choice as easily as one might accept an arranged marriage. I was baffled and intrigued. Joanne was well meaning and joyful, not in a sickening kind of way. Her good cheer seemed to come from her heart.Our exchange that morning was lightweight as a powder puff; a nice reprieve from the heady conversations the Brothers tended to yammer on about. 
   If anything, our brief, revealing talk helped to ease some of my doubts from the day before.
   Joanne had no idea.
Inside the hostel, Jan soaked up the first couple of morning hours drinking coffee and talking with John Gailey. John was on his way to Los Angeles where he hoped to find a few days’ work before heading down to Mexico. A veteran traveller, he’d laughed off any notion it might be dangerous traveling south of the border alone. After an exchange of addresses and telephone numbers, Jan met me in the garden and we set off for Market Street to purchase a needlepoint kit for her.
   On our way through Union Square, we were accosted (pleasantly so) by a pair of clean cut Moonies dressed as college boys. Their matching polyester pants and button-downed shirts fooled us -- at first. Essentially, we were ambushed by two missionaries offering us the world on a silver platter – free dining privileges and friendship – in exchange for a weekend, praying and cavorting at their compound located in Berkeley – a regular barrel of laughs.
   In all likelihood, there wouldn’t be too much cavorting – these dudes were a serious pair. During our time in San Francisco, Jan and I had heard many rumors and warnings about weekend visits to Moonie quarters. The group had a reputation for preying on aimless teenagers; ridding them of self-respect and responsibility reduced to drooling, monosyllabic subordinates willing to do whatever was required of them by leaders. A kind of reverse suck version of the tactics that master manipulator Charles Manson employed to lure, bully, and divide family members.
     Reading one another without speaking, it was unanimous, Jan and I would brush off our two walking manikins.
     It wasn’t easy. Wide-eyes blazing, all amplified pupils, the two passionately expounded on their faith and beliefs extolling the virtues of commandant, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, giving the impression they were buzzed on mescaline or even something better. Not that either one of us had anything personal against mind-altering substances, but the deportment of these boys was enough of an excuse to refuse.  
   Moonies were freaks, not in a good way. By comparison, HOOM members were innocuous.
1976: Tapes from California © 2014 Jill C. Nelson

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Excerpt from Chapter 21: Finding Our Place in Space

The following excerpt is from Chapter 21: "Finding Our Place in Space." 

'After the Gregory incident, sleep that night was fitful and sparse. It didn’t matter. If we wanted to be in Hemet by late afternoon, we had to get up early and walk to the terminal a few miles away from the men’s Y to catch the 12:15pm bus. At this rate, Jan and I were reluctant to hitchhike and take a chance on another stranger. Gregory's crushing blows against our door was as if someone had taken his boots to our emotional well-being. The last thing we wanted to do that morning was put ourselves at more risk. The bus would take us from San Diego to Riverside; then we'd need to transfer onto another bus out to Hemet. Our only regret was not getting over to explore Old Town, a part of San Diego where we had planned to spend our final day. With the trek ahead, so much for foiled plans, Old Town would have to wait.
   This excursion was not going to be cheap, about ten dollars total -- we hoped beyond hope our decision to skedaddle would be worth the investment. Arriving at the depot a couple of hours ahead of schedule, we stuffed bags into a locker to conserve our backs while waiting around. To pass time we read, and watched people come and go. Before we knew it, it was time to board.
   The bus pulled out of the terminal -- on schedule. Heading east from San Diego, Jan and I were two giggly friends again, excited to leave the city and our worries back at the men’s Y, with the junkies and the ex-cons. Our ride would be almost two and a half hours. Feeling fatigued from the crazy night we’d endured and the long walk to the terminal in the blazing heat that morning, we took turns dozing along the way. Once we arrived at the Riverside station, there was another hour to spare before the last bus left the station for the desert at half past three.
   The mid-afternoon sun high in the sky, I was completely overdressed in a pair of green cords, work boots, and a long-sleeved, pale blue peasant blouse. Since leaving Val and Phyl’s earlier in the week we were running out of clean clothes and would need to find a Laundromat once we got settled in at the hostel.
   The distance between Riverside and Hemet wasn’t far, approximately thirty-six miles. Traveling on an old beat up school bus, the ride was far longer than it would have been had we good road conditions. As our bus crawled up and around the dusty dirt roads at a snail’s pace, with only five other passengers on board, I expected Rod Serling to announce we’d crossed over the threshold from reality into a void called “The Twilight Zone.” It wasn’t that bad actually, but it did occur to me what would happen if the bus was to break down in the middle of the desert. Jan entertained the same concern, but we tried not to think about it and sat back to enjoy the ride.
   This was a piece of cake after the Gregory fiasco.

The temperature in Hemet that May afternoon was an extreme 102 degrees and counting when we pulled into the terminal close to five o'clock. A change of clothes was in order but our journey wasn’t over yet. We hadn't reached the Meadowlark hostel a couple of miles outside of town in Valle Vista. Hotter than hell, according to AAA, there were no buses going out Valle Vista way.
   It figured.
   After a detour at Robert’s Health Food Store where a nice girl offered us a couple of glasses of water, Jan and I walked up the road a ways and stuck out our thumbs. For a long hour, vehicles few and far between roared by without giving us a look. If we hadn’t had a sleepless night or been up at the crack of dawn hustling our asses to the bus depot, we might have considered hiking to the hostel. In the dry, oppressive heat, however, walking was out of the question. The possibility of sunstroke was on both of our minds.
   There was a gas station just ahead at the corner. Surely, someone there might suggest a way for us to get to Meadowlark or drive us for a small fee. Since Jan was relegated to call down to the front desk to dispose of Gregory the night before, it was my turn to ask for a favor.
   While she waited outside, I entered the gas depot and approached an elderly man seated on a stool reading a newspaper. Sitting comfortably in his faded denims and white undershirt marked by yellow sweat stains it was clear his itinerary was open. When I approached him, the man looked up, obviously recognizing I wasn’t from the area.
   “Can I help you?” He told me he was the proprietor of the station. I explained how we'd journeyed from San Diego earlier in the day and arrived in Hemet from Riverside an hour ago, telling him we needed a ride out to Valle Vista where the Meadowlark youth hostel was located. I asked the man if he had a car or access to one would he consider doing the honors and drive us over there.
   The stranger looked at me with raised eyebrows when I mentioned the part about our planning to stay at a hostel in Valle Vista. He knew Valle Vista, but he didn’t know of a hostel anywhere in the Hemet region. I pointed to the photo of the place in the guidebook and he frowned, still puzzled about its existence. Sure enough, he asked me to follow him out to his car. When we stepped outside of the station, I introduced the man to Jan. Tickled that our scheme had worked I thought it best not to tell her we might be getting a ride out to a mirage in the middle of the desert.
   Double-checking the address, we drove down the road a ways until pulling up to the front gate of the Meadowlark property situated on a few acres of land, with several buildings scattered about. Supposedly the hostel was situated somewhere within the grounds.  
   At first look, it appeared that no one was around. The man waited in his car while we walked up to the front door of the main house and knocked. No answer. Then we ventured around to the side door of one of the smaller buildings and discovered an office where a young man was seated inside. Above his desk, a sign read “$2.00 /nite.” Jan and I were about to pay when we were informed the hostel wasn’t officially open yet for business. Not until summer.
   Gravely disappointed, we groaned. The young man had an idea. Since we'd traveled a distance to get there, we could stay, as long as we didn’t mind sleeping out in the horses stables.
   We sure didn’t.
   Returning to the car, we thanked our gas station friend for the lift and went back inside the office to pay for a couple of nights. The young man then proceeded to bring us back around to the animal stables where the temperature was at least fifteen degrees cooler. Three horses and one colt were housed in the stables. It felt good to get out of the sun and be in the company of a few furry creatures. Finally, we were able to lay down our packs, rest our legs and tired bodies.
   Not far from the premises, a small grocery store stocked fruits and vegetables, and other inexpensive food items for supper.Things were starting to turn around. Little did we know that Meadowlark was much more than a youth hostel.'
1976: Tapes from California © 2013 Jill C. Nelson