Thursday, September 11, 2014

Excerpt from Chapter 33: Flower Lady

Vernal Falls, Yosemite

Chapter 33: Flower Lady

Nothing matters very much and very few things matter at all.” – Lord Balfour

An old brown truck that had seen better days pulled up to the Village Mall at Yosemite Park where Jan and I stood with matching thumbs out. The overly eager driver, obviously delighted to happen upon two teenage girls standing at the side of the road, was more disappointed than we were when he discovered we weren’t headed in his direction. A pleasant enough fellow, we would have been more than happy to ride a good stretch of the road with him.
     One down.
     Next, an older man stopped to give us a short lift, taking care of a few miles, with approximately two hundred and eighty five left to go. When he dropped us off, a couple of young guys were already ahead of us lingering on the shoulder of the road. According to the small sign the two had fabricated, they also had a reasonable distance ahead to travel.
     The last thing you want when you’re hitchhiking is competition. Luckily, we were young, and we were female – those two factors alone usually trump two males in their twenties waiting on a ride any day of the week. Unless, of course, the prospective driver happens to be a woman.
     Along came a black Pontiac Parisienne. After crisscrossing over two lanes and coming to a stop, the driver opened the heavy passenger door, enabling us to make our way into the vehicle with ease. He even sprung out of the car to help us with our backpacks, and told us he was heading to Lake Tahoe.
     Discouraged, we had to decline. Once they’d clued into the fact that Jan and I we weren’t getting into the car after all, our competition almost tripped over one another as the two dudes raced over to the vehicle and jumped inside. Jan and I watched longingly as the big boat squealed from the curb with a vengeance. Dust and stones, perpendicular to the white wall tires, spat and sputtered, like a mini explosion as the driver tore up the road. Wondering if the fireworks display was for our benefit, I hung my head. That could have been our ride if only we were going to Tahoe.
     It was out of the question.
     Almost cheerful about our misfortune, Jan was convinced that morning a car would soon appear with our names emblazed on it. I chuckled to myself at her wishful thinking and sat down on a rock, briefly removing my boot and sock to expose my foot and wiggle my toes in the fresh air. It was still a relatively cool morning. One that would become progressively warmer as the day wore on.
     My right foot had become sore the day before when my feet swelled in the heat while walking up and down The Mist Trail at Yosemite. The inside of my one hiking boot caused friction against the back of my heel, and an ugly callous the size of a robin’s egg had surfaced. The callous actually started back in Vancouver when my work boots were still new, but had gotten worse in recent weeks. I considered switching to my sandals, but then I’d have to strap my boots to my backpack and I didn’t want to create any extra weight –even one pound or two was too many to carry once the sun came out in full force.
     Ten minutes later, an anonymous vehicle eased its way up along the horizon. Finally, a yellow ‘69 Toyota station wagon came into view. As it got closer to us, the car began to slow down and eventually stop. Inside was a good-looking man in his late twenties. His name was Grace. Grace introduced us to Jude, his equally attractive blonde girlfriend. The couple were from Australia and on their way to San Francisco for a few days prior to heading up to Montreal, Canada, to attend the summer Olympics. Ultimately, they were headed to Europe where they planned to travel with a Euro-rail pass.
     We didn’t subscribe to coincidences in late spring of 1976, and so, with an extra bounce in our steps, Jan and I began to unload our weight into the back of the small wagon. My good friend didn’t neglect to shoot me an all-knowing glance. Out of respect, I gave her a mock bow.
     Jan's intuition had been spot on.

1976: Tapes from California © 2013 Jill C. Nelson

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