In the summer of 1972 my friend Peter Gore and I hitchhiked from Boston to San Francisco. Both of us were longhairs. Rides came fast and ne driver had a Super B. Lucky drove 110mph from Omaha to Reno. Lucky dropped at the foothills of the Sierras. We stood on the highway for thirty minutes.
A Riviera stopped on the shoulder.
The occupants were four elderly convicts just out of prison. They were drinking whiskey. It was noon and the temperature was 100 degrees. Peter wasn’t too keen on taking this ride, but the wizened driver asked, “Can you drive us into Frisco. I got me a girl there.”
“No problem.” Their ride was a brand-new Riviera. V-8 metallic red with a white hardtop. I liked fast cars.
Peter sat in back and I took the wheel to drive about 110 through the mountains. The old-age convicts gulped down that first bottle and sucked down a second. The windows were open to the wind and their skin was stained with salty perspiration.
Slightly outside of San Francisco one of the reformed prisoners said that he wanted to drive.
I pulled into a Phillips 66 and we got out of the car.
“Ain’t you coming with us?” He was in no condition to drive.
“I don’t think you should drive.”
“And why not?”
“Because you’ve been drinking.” I wasn’t throwing a stone. I like my drink too.
“What you know about drinking and driving?” He slipped into the car and held the steering wheel with shaking hands. “See you later, suckers.”
The Riviera pulled out of the gas station.
“I’m glad to be out of that car.” It had been a long ride for Peter.
“”We too.” I pointed to the Riviera, which was stopped before the road. The reverse taillights came on and the car backed into the gas station past us and rolled over the gas pumps. They exploded, engulfing the car with flames. The convicts were struggling to get out of the fire trap.
Peter and I pulled them out one by one, as the station attendant doused the fire with an extinguisher.
“Why you leave the car in reverse?” The driver asked with a tongue thickened by whiskey.
“Me?” I stepped up to him. He might have been a convict, but I was younger by a good 30 years. “I didn’t do nothing wrong.”
A state trooper pulled into the gas station.
The convict told him his side, blaming me. My version was more believable, for the cop came over to me after his radio call and said, “That car is stolen. Best you go unless you want to spend more time with your friends.”
“We’re going.” Peter picked up his bag and we went over to the highway. I stuck out my thumb.
A hippie gave us a ride ten minutes later.
Our trip from coast to coast took us 47 hours hours. It could have taken a lifetime if it wasn’t for the cop. We were three years late for Frisco’s summer of live. Groovy times was gone, but that night we crashed in a pseudo-guru’s flat.
It was very groovy to be off the road.
Safe and sound.