One evening I
found Mom waiting by the roadside with a young girl named Barbara Bratlie. She
was from Washington and had been hitchhiking, cruising through the country,
looking it over. She had no plans for the evening, so we invited her to stay
with us. She accepted, which pleased me because I would have someone to talk
to. We camped at Standish-Hickey State Park on the Eel River, which I would be
following for a long time yet. That evening Barbara and I took a walk and
talked about different things. We feasted on a mass of nondescript foods and
drinks. She was fun, and we begged her to stay on with us for a few more days,
but our rate of travel was too slow for her.
The next morning
Barbara and I took a walk down to the river. I brought my camera and took many
pictures of her. Then I took off my shirt and shoes and socks and took a swim
in the river. The water was fine. I even did a dive off a rock cliff, which is
pretty good, since I am a chicken when it comes to diving. Barbara got a shot
of me in the water.
Then the fun had
to end. It was time to go. Barbara got in the car and rode away with Mom to
find a better place to hitch a ride. I was upset that she wouldn't be with me
anymore. Well, I would have to get over it.
As a matter of
fact, by nightfall I met up with someone else who would become a good friend.
When I reached Richardson Grove State Park, there was Mom sitting by the road
talking to a guy named Keith Van Sickle. She had run into him earlier, noticed
that he was wearing a shirt advertising a marathon, and told him about my run.
He and his family were staying in the park where we were camping that night, so
after a shower, dinner, rest and reading about the park's history, I met Keith
at the campfire. The rangers were telling pretty bad jokes and trying to sing
songs. They said everyone must join in. When Keith and I did not, we were
pulled up on stage. The ranger said I must sing a solo—"My hat, it has
three corners. Three corners has my hat. And if it had four corners, it would
not be my hat." I tried to sing in my best voice. I guess I was O.K.
because the rangers let us go after that. Keith suggested that I run with him
at 6 a.m. I really didn't want to run, but what are friends for? We did 2�
miles. Afterward we said goodby, as Keith's family was leaving for home that
morning. Ever since, Keith and I have written often—dumb, insane letters—but it
is fun to do. It had taken me a month to find a good friend.
Good things do
not last for as long as you would like them to. And this proved to be true on
this day, too. I fought the freeway and cars for hours, but managed to see the
world's largest totem pole at a shopping center in McKinleyville. It had been
carved from a single tree and stood 160 feet high.
And I got to view
from the side of the road the Eureka airport—a nice place, from what I could
see of it, a mass of concrete in the middle of a pasture. Matter of fact, there
were cows grazing in a field just across the road. A couple of jet liners flew
in out of the fog like ghosts. Spooky.
Although I didn't
want her to, Mom slept on the sand of the beach that night. Clam Beach park
really wasn't much of a place. When Mom woke the next morning she was sorry.
The night had been wet and misty. Sand had sifted through her hair and through
her clothes. From that day on I made sure she didn't do anything that she
thought would be neat yet regret later.
In trying to get
as far away from Clam Beach as possible, we succeeded in going only 21 miles. I
could have gone much farther but the logging trucks and motor homes were on the
road in great numbers. The drivers seemed to have one thing in mind—to run me
off the road. They did a good job of it. Every time a truck passed I had to
stop or the wind it created rushing by would knock me off balance. This was
dangerous when I was on a bridge or overpass. I would grab for one of the side
rails and kneel down.