Wednesday, March 14, 2012

First Trip on the Green Tortoise

     My first experience was many moons ago, well before I met Ophelia in Seattle.  A hippy friend of mine related a trip he took to Seattle and of the hostel he took shelter in.  I had never heard of hosteling and it all sounded so exciting to me.  I was unemployed at the time and the thought of pounding the pavement in search of a meaningless job was not my idea of fun.  I had some money saved up so I forgot about looking for a shitty job and decided to take the same trip my friend had taken.  There was a travel company that had some buses and a couple of hostels that offered folks cheap adventures and lodgings.  It was run by some old hippies and as it happened, they had a route from Orange County to Seattle.  I booked passage on this trip and departed one Sunday afternoon on a converted ‘70’s era school bus.  I really had no idea on what to expect and a part of me struggled with thoughts of whether or not I was doing the right thing.  I was quite nervous and unsure.      Many of the passengers were a new generation of hippies sprinkled with an assorted lot of Europeans.  Hippies are cool, but I found that I can only take them in small doses.  I really felt out of place, but I settled in for the two day ride to the Emerald city.  The bus stopped in L.A. and Santa Monica at a couple of hostels to pick-up more travelers, a few of whom were very attractive European gals.  At that point I realized that I was going to enjoy this communal trip.  The bus continued north and here and there it would stop to pick-up more people until we were packed-in like sardines.  As night came, we all jockeyed for a place to sleep.  The rear of the bus was actually one large bed that twenty or so people could lay out somewhat comfortably.  The tables and seats on each side and center of the bus converted into beds and the luggage racks served as bunks as well.  I found a spot on the large bed in the rear and it was quite comfortable despite being sandwiched between complete strangers and the hum of the tires on pavement eventually soothed me to sleep.
     We arrived in San Francisco early the next morning at one of the hostels owned by this adventure company.  We had the opportunity to use the showers at the hostel for two bucks, but I did not take advantage of it as I was clean, but some of the other passengers sure as hell needed one.  It was my first time in a hostel and I was a bit nervous about it.  There were so many hippies there and I felt completely out of place.  One could smell the stoneage everywhere and as much as I wanted to spark-up, I decided instead to wander the streets of San Francisco with a group from the bus.  We had all day as the bus wouldn’t depart until eight that evening.  I was with a group that consisted of three Americans and a gal from Great Britain.  We strolled along the streets just going where our feet would take us.  I felt free, but a part of me still felt as if I were doing something irresponsible.  My mind was so preoccupied with thoughts of what I should be doing (looking for work) that it made it very difficult to concentrate on all the wonderful sights of the city.  I promised myself that as soon as I returned home I would immediately find a job; any job just so I could placate that little fucker in my head and then I could enjoy this little freedom.
     That promise had certainly helped in the matter and I was able to open myself up to the beauty of the city as well as to my fellow travelers.  Almost immediately the sense of culture shock came over me.  It was hard to believe as I am from the same state, but the people were very different from folks back home.  Everyone was friendly and helpful and they would take the time to give us directions to the various sites.  People back home would never even make eye contact as you passed them on the street.  The folks of San Francisco were definitely more affable than those from Orange and L.A. counties.
     We got back to the bus around eight that evening and all the beds were already set up.  I hurried to get one of the beds underneath one of the tables at the center of the bus.  It was like a little cave with a small curtain that could be drawn for privacy.  These were reserved for couples only and the bus driver reminded me of that, but at that moment the English gal stepped aboard and I motioned to her that I had this sought after spot.  To my surprise she was fine with sharing this cozy cubby with me.  My intentions were not at all sexual as she was a bit plump and homely and I would have needed at least five shots of something potent to find her somewhat attractive.  I just didn’t want to sleep in the rear with mostly guys surrounding me.
     I didn’t sleep well at all actually.  At first it was my thoughts that kept me up.  My heart raced as I pondered the girl’s thoughts and motives.  I wondered if she expected me to make a move and I lay there contemplating whether or not to as it had been a long time since I had any sexual encounter with a gal and now there was one lying next to me.  Thoughts of sex soon dissipated as the temperature dropped.  The horse blanket lined Levi jacket that I had brought was my only protection from the cold.  I curled up as best I could in this tight quarter, shivering away most of the night.  She was zipped-up completely in her sleeping bag like a cocoon and I wanted to cuddle just for warmth.  I managed to sleep some until we arrived somewhere in the woods of Oregon.

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