There are two types of travellers: ‘seers’ and
‘doers’. ‘Doers’ travel because they love
adventure, they are drawn to a backpack and the outback or
anywhere else in the world where they can get down and dirty and
experience life in other countries and cultures.
‘Seers’ just love seeing beautiful things. They will
travel to the farthest reaches of the globe to view the Taj
Mahal, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef. I’m
definitely a seer. Unfortunately I have the budget of a doer.
Thus I found myself hitchhiking up the West Coast, picked up and
stranded in the forests of Portland, Oregon. The rain was coming
down hard and no one was stopping. I was stuck in the rain, walking up the I–5 towards
Portland. The city was fifty miles down the road and would have
taken me days to reach on foot. I decided to sit down on the side
of the road and wait for some kind soul to come to my rescue.
Eventually a jeep pulled alongside me and slid down its window. “Hey y’all, I’m heading for Portland if ya
wanna ride,” a dimlooking but friendly fifty-something
cowboy called out to me. “Sure,” I said.
“That’d be great.” I was sitting in his car before
he could change his mind. I was not five minutes closer to my
destination before the cowboy pulled out something and suggested
that I might like to touch it. Recoiling at this offering, I
opened the door and was out of that car before it had even come
to a halt. Unfortunately while hitchhiking is gloriously free, it is not
without its drawbacks. You run into your fair share of flashers,
born-again Christian Evangelists and general crazed lunatics.
I’ve been shown a variety of penises, told I’ll be
enjoying an eternity burning in the fires of hell and once was
forced to vacate a vehicle when the driver offered me a
peanut–butter sandwich and a marriage proposal. Every now and again one has a travelling experience for which
they are truly grateful. So cold and despondent was I at this
point that when a multi-coloured van nearly ran me down I almost
wept with gratitude and relief. I jumped aboard and stepped back
into the seventies. Inside the van were painted psychedelic
patterns, swirled rugs and several spaced out hippies reclined on
a makeshift sofa. I was introduced to Jim, Daisy and Wood-Nymph
by Phoenix, the driver. “Where’re you searching for?” Phoenix drawled.
“Portland,” I replied prosaically. “Cool,
we’re finding ourselves there soon; we’ll be there by
sundown.” “Sundown?” I said. “But the
sun’s already set.” “Tomorrow,” Phoenix said
slowly. “Oh,” I said, starting to worry a little.
“So where will you be until then?” Phoenix turned back
to the road, losing interest in me and deciding it needed his
attention. Then Wood-Nymph stirred from her beanbag. “The
Hot Springs,” she said. “Where else?”
“I’m a visitor.” I apologised for my total lack of
local knowledge. “I’m from England.” Normally this statement induced enthusiastic enquiries from
Anglophile Americans. The hippies, however, weren’t
interested. Wood-Nymph turned back to Daisy who started
absent-mindedly fondling her breast. “Oh,” I said to myself and stared rigidly out of the
window for the next hour or so until we came to a halt. The
hippies bundled out of the van. “Hey! Where are we
going?” I called after the hippies who were rapidly
disappearing into the night. The hippies had become silent on
this matter and I was forced to follow them in silence. To my
dismay this entailed slipping down a wet, muddy cliffside and
through a forest of fallen trees, boulders and roots all of which
were entirely invisible under the midnight sky. Finally we came to a clearing and, to my absolute horror, the
hippies stopped and immediately started to disrobe. “What the hell are you doing?” Daisy looked at me like I was more stoned than she was.
“Going to the Hot Springs.” “We’re going into the Hot Springs?” Apparently
this question was so stupid it didn’t warrant a response.
Daisy threw off the last of her attire and skipped off towards
the pools of steaming water nearby. I stood rooted to the spot and watched the naked hippies
frolicking in the water. Nothing on earth could induce me to
strip off at -10 degrees. Then it started to snow. Absolute humiliation or an icy death. I closed my eyes, flung
off my clothes and jumped into the water. And so it was that I
spent the night getting stoned under the stars sitting in a
natural hot-tub as the snow came down.ARCHIVE: 5th week TT 2004