Tales of Open Road

Riding a la carte ....

... you go with the flow ...

Tales of the Open Road, by Bill Jodrey

One evening I entered a lunch cart for coffee and a muffin.  Shortly thereafter a man sat on the next stool to mine and, after ordering, he lookd me over and asked, "Are you traveling?"

I answered, "Yes."

He asked, "North?"

I said, "Yes."

He told me that he had purchased a round-trip ticket between Raymond and San Luis Obispo, which is where we were then, and he'd sell it to me for $4.00.  He said he had expected to return to Raymond but the ticket expired the next day at midnight and he could not leave for several days.

I told him that I was strapped for cash so he dropped the price to $2.00 and, as I could not pay that, he said $1.00 and then he finally got the right idea and said, "What the hell.  It's no good to me.You use it."  I accepted, thanked him, and left.

As I was walking through the shopping area I saw, reflected in the windows, a police car keeping pace with me. I will never understand why, at the next alleyway between stores, I bolted  into the alley where I saw the open rear end of a pickup truck and, without breaking my stride, I dove headfirst into it.

Almost immediately the police car was into the alley with lights looking everywhere except where I was.

I slept all night and left at dawn to find the railroad station.  At the station I learned that the northbound train came at noon, which gave me five hours to promote some cash and there are ways to do it.  By noon, traintime, I had been washed and fed and ready for a twelve-hour ride through North California's scenic grandeur.  I rode during the daylight hours on the observation deck at the rear of the train.

At midnight the conductor shook my shoulder as I pretended to be asleep.  He said, "The next stop is your station, son.  Be careful getting off."

When I left the station I walked about a hundred yards and, as I leaned my shoulder against the building to look over the center of town, a voice asked, "Are you looking for something in particular?"  I turned to see who had spoken and, of course, it was the local gendarme and when I answered , "A place to sleep," he said, "I have just the place.  Come with me."  Of course, another night in the hoosegow was better than desert sand.

This jail was different than some others in that there were four cells.  In one were two brothers picked up for stealing, one cell had a man who had killed his wife that afternoon and he cried and sobbed all night through.  Cell #3 had two runaway children and they were waiting for their parents to pick them up and take them home, and I was alone in Cell #4.

A motley batch of humanity for sure.  I was glad that I had slept for awhile on the train. Oh, well - when you can't change a situation, you go with the flow.

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