It was in the days of reading Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey, that the tales of Neal Cassidy and the Merry Pranksters' wild and crazy adventures showed us the way as we careened off into our own wild and crazy adventures. Many of those adventures happened in cars. Chipps, an early friend from Connecticut in the early 70s, envisioned himself another Neal Cassidy. He lived and loved like him, he partied like him, and he drove motor vehicles like him. I remember coming home from Vermont in a snowstorm on a windy, narrow mountain road, all of us in touch with an alternate reality of sorts. I spent that ride on my knees, bent over, my arms shielding my head as I tried to curl into the safest position I could find, as Chipps sped down the road, fishtailing and passing cars on blind curves. He had blind faith that he could vibe out the road ahead and will us all safely home. I, unfortunately, didn't have that same blind faith and cried the whole way home with everybody else annoyed at me for not adding my confidence vibe to the mix. I'm pretty sure I would have been as terrified if it had been Neal Cassidy driving. I guess it's not for everyone.
Then we left the east coast and eventually, on our second time westward, made it out to Washington State and Oregon, where we really settled into being a family. The reasons we left there were complex, and it pulled at us for a long time. I manage, with the help of a dear friend, to go back every few years, but this trip has been different. This time, I am completely on my own. I've found and spoken with old friends, more than one I have seen in person for the first time in 32 years. I wonder if they realize how important they were at that time. Those were such formative years. I've often wondered if they ever wondered what became of us after we drifted away. It turns out they did. They seemed as happy to see me as I was to see them, and the connection was still strong.
Now, I'm driving along Highway 6, headed back to Portland after visiting the coast, listening to the local radio station. They're playing music from the years I lived here, and my memories swirl. There are occasional familiar sights, but it's the overall feeling that overwhelms me. I lived here in the early 80s for a few very important years. I was in my mid-20s with two children and was married to Paul, who died seven years ago. It's odd being here without him and reconnecting with friends I haven't seen in so many years and then having to tell them that he is gone. It's eerie visiting our old haunts, the houses we lived in, and it's a little lonely. At the same time, it was important to make this journey alone.
As I entered Tillamook State Forest, about 20 or 30 miles east of Tillamook, just before Lee Camp on Route 6, I decided to refresh myself with a little inspiration. Soon after, I stopped at a scenic spot to write the piece above. I figured, 20 years from now this will be an old memory, so why not just write it down now while it's fresh. I turned off the car, listened to the radio and wrote, not realizing that the headlights were still on. Before I finished writing, the radio stopped. With a sinking feeling, I tried to start the car. The battery was completely dead. I couldn't even put the electric window down. I decided to wait a little while and see if it would charge itself back up again, but no luck. Being dusk, I decided I'd better not fool around pulled out my phone - no service. With the help of a red cloth grocery bag, I started trying to flag down some help. Thank-you Powell Books. Car after truck after car went by, some hesitated, some even looked over my way. One young couple even flashed me a peace sign as they slowly drove past. Finally, a woman about my age stopped but had no jumper cables. While chatting with her about help along the way and her offering to send help my way from further on, another woman about my age made her son turn around to help me out, and she even had cables in her tiny, sporty BMW convertible with the battery in the back.
As I drove the rest of the way back, I could see the beautiful sunset in my rear-view mirrors. Then, as I went south on 217, I saw it off to my right. It seemed appropriate. It was the end of the day and the end of a grand adventure.