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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Sunday, 17 July 2011

July 17th: Monterey in California

On July17th 1975 I was in Monterey in California.  I was in the process of hitching from Northern New Hampshire into Mexico.

Parts of this journey:    New Hampshire to Denver.    Denver to Monterey.       Monterey to Tijuana.

It took me only 3 or 4 days to cover the 2000 miles to Denver, but three or four weeks for the 2000 miles to the Mexican border, as I took a more rural route and stopped as I went along.

Mosquito Pass:  Picture by Nick Taylor,  CC
After crossing from New Hampshire, I met up with my sister in Denver and spent a couple of days with her and her friends in their cabin near Bailey, to the south-west of the city, at about 9000 feet in the Rockies.  I remember good walks through purple-tinged slopes and I learned to throw horseshoes.  Eventually they dropped me off on a main road in the mountains and a hiker took me on further.  Then a young couple in a 4WD took me to Leadville, which involved driving across the Mosquito Pass (13188 feet I noted), one of the highest passes in the States.  A school teacher took me on to Poncha Springs where I ate in a truck stop.  An Indian guy with a white girl took me up a bit of Poncha Pass but they weren't going far so I decided to stop and camp in the woods.  Unfortunately it rained most of the night and I emerged damp in the morning as men passed by going fishing.  My first lift that day was from a camper going over the top of the pass, and then two young women on their way to Arizona took me over Wolf Creek Pass all the way to Durango.  Tired and still wet, I needed a couple of days of peace without talking to people, so I checked into the Central Hotel, which was cheap enough.  It seemed just like an old fashioned cheap hotel in Greece and sure enough the owner or manageress was from Kalamata in Greece.

Mesa Verde:  Picture by Crazy Monk,  CC
Rested, I found a couple of lifts west before Lenny and Judy picked me up in their VW camper and I stayed with them for two days.  They took me into the Mesa Verde National Park, for a drive around the canyon, and we stopped to see the Pueblo Cliff Palace and some other ruins.  We drove on to Cortez for shopping and then into Utah to camp in the Manti-La Sal Forest.  I slept in the van, while they used their tent in the thundery, rainy weather.  The next day we continued north-west through the canyon lands and deserts of Utah, beautiful wild country and I drove most of the way, enjoying my fortune at being able to drive in this craggy, eroded world.  We camped again when the country got more forested in Uinta National Forest and they dropped me off by the freeway in Salt Lake City.

A couple of lifts took me to the Tooele turning near the Great Salt Lake, and then a guy took me in his sports car at a steady 100 mph all the way over the salt flats to the Nevada border and Wendover where he was going to try his luck at the casino.  I had a hamburger there and then a lift to Reno from a well-digger who had just driven to somewhere on the east coast and had to come straight back to the west because his mother was seriously ill.  He asked me if I could drive before he asked me where I was headed.  He was pretty far gone and had a bottle on the front seat to keep him awake, he said, and I tried to drive as much as I could.  I went through hills and scrub on a wide winding road, while storms kept passing, until the darkness fell and eventually we came to Reno.  He drove me down the strip where the lights seemed bizarre after coming in from the desert past midnight.  He let me off at the first turning out of town. 

I took some rest in the warm Nevada air but it got colder around 4, so I started hitching again.  I got a lift about 6 in a pickup to Vellejo, through lovely country in the Sierra, the Truckee River and a descent past lakes and forest and across the plain by Sacramento.  A final lift took me to Golden Gate Park.  I had a contact in San Francisco who let me stay, but left me to my own devices largely.  I wandered the streets and Telegraph Hill, ate in Chinatown, bought a book in City Lights, but it was a fairly solitary experience, unusual for this trip in America.  In the end I left in the afternoon and hitched in four lifts to Greyhound Rock, near Santa Cruz.  My final lift pointed out a good place to camp beneath a Monterey Pine on the beach, where I could watch the pelicans.  The next day was very slow around Monterey Bay, with a series of short lifts through Castroville, the "artichoke capital of the world."  At Monterey there was a long wait and I began to walk down the road as the fog came in.  I pushed a car to a gas station and the driver took me 15 miles on.  I walked down to the beach but found the only cave occupied; I shared a bottle of vodka with the occupants and walked back to the road and sheltered under a tree.

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