Hippie Days – Expecting the Unexpected in the Wild Northwest

The Wind River Mountains

We’re on our own for awhile and plan to make a grand circle of the northwest. Going north into Wyoming we hit ranch country, all cowboys, horses, boots, saddles and ten-gallon hats. Scooter’s been waiting for this. Heading into the Wind River Mountains on a bumpy dirt road, we go back in time to beautiful Big Sandy Lodge. Built at the turn of the 30’s, it hasn’t changed a bit and is so remote it has no electricity or phone service. Just as we pull in a mother and baby antelope leisurely cross the road in front of us. The kids want to stay here. Me, too. It’s heavenly to park the van and sleep in real beds. But we’re on a roll and more than one night is too long, just the way Daddy likes it. After eating with ‘real’ cowboys in Pinedale, we’re excited to be heading for Yellowstone National Park, the epitome of U.S. family summer vacations.

So much riding cramped in the van is hard on all of us. Little fights break out. Scooter and Nicole are free to roam in the back of the van with a box of their favorite toys and some art supplies. Their attention is diverted from each other for awhile until they both reach for the same color pencil. Older big brother wins, Nicole whines “I had it first,” and a tug-of-war ensues. The grin of victory is quickly wiped off Scooter’s face as the strength of the weapon’s release propels the sharpened pencil into his mouth. “Aaiiyy!” he screams. Ray swerves the car to the side of the road. I fall all over trying to grab Scooter, thanking god already that the it’s not sticking out of his eye. The van screeches to a halt amidst Scooter’s cries, Nicole’s sobs, Daddy’s bellowing “Godamit!”

I cradle his head between my hands, but there’s too much blood, “Oh my god, Spit!” Assessing the damage it’s not as bad as I thought. In the roof of his mouth is a hole the exact size and shape of a pencil eraser. Luckily there aren’t many blood vessels or pain receptors in that area. I hold him close as he calms down. “You’re a very brave boy,” I smile, “but that was pretty stupid.” I realize it’s pretty stupid of us for allowing the kids deadly sharp weapons in the back of the car, and stupid of the car manufacturers for not having seat belts like in airplanes. Disaster averted one more time; we’re back on the road in a much more subdued and contemplative state of mind.

Our dreams never mirror the reality, but we have to start somewhere. I keep returning to the miracle of Ray quitting his conservative job as an investment counselor to follow a counterculture life. The defining issue of finding the best school for Scooter becomes interwoven with “The Trip”, as in “I can’t believe we’re on the Trip!” But it’s only for the summer or until we reach our primary goal. Are we enhancing or damaging our family dynamics by living like vagabonds at a time when our children need more stability in their young lives? Most of the people we know and meet  are who dropping out, becoming flower children and raising the flag for peace are younger than we are and single.  But“We are here now!” I’ll not regret this decision, no matter if the results diverge wildly from what we expect.

Hippie Days – All Over Colorado

pict0005-241x300-4843411Hippie Days –All Over Colorado

After two weeks of traveling hundreds of miles, experiencing innumerable exciting new adventures and interminably crisscrossing the state of Colorado waiting for Scooter’s hearing aid to be fixed, we cross over our second mountain pass Pike’s Peak and arrive in Colorado Springs to find that, amazingly, it’s fixed and ready to go. After taking a quick look at the Air Force Academy we’re “On the Road Again” toward our rendezvous with the gang in Boulder. Trudy’s sister Mary Ellen and friends are taking the summer off from college, working and playing in this young progressive town where the University of Colorado is located.

Of course they don’t know we’re coming, but Trudy has given us an address and assured us that we’ll be welcomed. Maybe not, when they see a family with two kids and a dog in a big Dodge van drive up.

“Hi, anybody home? I call into the open door.”

A cute tall blond woman comes to the door smiling, “Hey.”

“Hey, we’re friends of your sister. Did Trudy tell you we might be stopping by? I’m Terry’s sister Jill.”

“I’m Mary Ellen,” she nods her curly-head. “We’ve been looking out for you. Do you know where Trudy and Herb are?”

“Not exactly, but they’re on their way here. We left them in Arkansas. Our rendezvous in Aspen didn’t happen and this is our next stop.” In the meantime everyone’s jumped out of the van including the dog. “Here come the rest of us.”

Thankgod she doesn’t look horrified. “You guys come on in.”

Mary Ellen is sharing the place with a couple of openhearted friends, and we end up staying overnight in the van, and being offered use of their bathroom. Another sign of the times. The gang shows up the next day. We have a rousing evening together and decide to go camping in the mountains near Nederland. Obviously their apartment isn’t going to hold us all.

To give the adults some peace we take the kids to a movie ‘Herbie Rides Again’ that just happens to be about a Volkswagen. They’re excited to watch a movie about a car “just like Uncle Terry’s and Herb and Trudy’s that flies.


Children’s Diary – Boulder CO – July 13

We stayed with our new friends Mary Ellen and Molly in their apartment.

We went to the movies in Boulder. Herbie Rides Again was about a flying VW.

Hippie Days – Worm Attack in Aspen

Downtown Aspen

Children’s Diary July 7, ’74 – We went to Aspen. It rained and we saw a flock of sheep. We had to stop the van. 200 sheep. Baa-baa-baa.

Aspen, Colorado. We’ve heard about this mountain wonderland – an historic mining town that’s become a dichotomy of rich developers and young people with countercultural ideas. We’d heard that Hunter Thompson had migrated here because,”he knew the Aspen Institute was here, and all the things left over from the silver mining era that gave a certain dignity to this Colorado town. Once you got to Aspen you could smell the funkiness and a rock’n’roll mentality.” We drive through the quaint main street, which is becoming a popular tourist destination, and find a commercial campground for the night.

“My fanny itches,” Nicole’s complaining. By the time we set up camp, eat dinner and get ready for bed, she’s crying. I get out the flashlight. It’s dark in the tent. “Let’s see what we can see.”

“He can’t look.” She waves Scooter away. Of course he’s interested.

The flash of light illuminates the little wigglers before they make a quick retreat back up her cute little bum. Mixed emotions spill from our mouths, “Yuck!”  my noise wrinkles.

“Cool.” Scooter smirks.

“Get ‘em out!” Nicole wails.

The only way to calm her down is promise the worms will go night-night just like her when the light is out, and tomorrow we’ll take her to the doctor. Fortunately we’re in town.


Children’s Diary July 8, ’74 – We took Nicole to the doctor. She had worms. (Scooter’s addition) Yeah!

“Yes, They’re pinworms.” The doctor says. “Very transmittable. You’ll need to wash all your sheets, towels, clothes and keep her things separate.”

“But we’re camping in our van,” I whine. That means I’ll be spending the day at the laundromat. Hope they have one here.

He continues, “You’ll all need to take these pills so you won’t reinfect each other.” The children each try one and smile. They look and taste like Necco candies.

Nobody looks happy back at the campsite. “How about Daddy can take you kids fishing and I’ll clean and wash?” All three of them quickly agree. I roll my eyes and sigh.

Hippie Days – Eldorado Springs – By My Own Fire

Last journal entry of Hippie Days – July 7, 1974


Alone under the stars, moon, clouds, mountains, and trees.

The wind carries the smells, sounds and heat of the fire.

I calm down, lighten up, breathe in, write poetry.

I call “I love you,” toward the heavens. To whom?

Life. The world. My children. My husband. It doesn’t matter.

This solitude gives me serenity.

I was lonely cooped up in my box in suburbia – four walls and a roof, with only my small children to talk to. I couldn’t breathe. Instead of escaping I withdrew, became sullen, yes, sometimes unbearable. But now there’s peace and time to contemplate under this open shining sky. My whole being mellows. Even the past looks rosier. Now being alone is nice. Being with people is nice. The children notice the change. Sure we still have hassles but they don’t loom so large and are resolved more easily. Instead of trying to achieve right-mindedness, oneness, goodness, I stop trying altogether, let down my defenses and just open up. As Anais Nin perceived, now I’m “free to bloom”. Of course the cycle will continue. Life will become not so easy once again, but I’ll keep a little of this wisdom each time the wheel of life turns, moving up the ladder notch by notch. It takes an exceptionally long time, but no worry, I’m immortal.

(Though my travel journal ends here, I will try to re-create the rest of our Hippie Days from the continuing entries in the Children’s Diary.)

Hippies Days – Westward Ho!

Independence Pass, CO

On through golden wheat fields of Kansas we go. Many people we’ve talked to abhorred the drive through those flat middle states, but because I’d spent most of my life in the flatness of Florida, I appreciate the perfectly connected puzzle-pieced vistas of farmland going on forever. Camping spots are scarce, but on the Colorado border a shimmering oasis appears in the distance. Alone in the middle of these great plains stands a manmade reservoir surrounded by trees so lofty and isolated they look artificial. A plain’s wind is blowing as we pick our campsite. I start cursing “Oh shit!” and Ray “Goddamnit!” as everything loose flies in all directions. If only we’d known that we had it good. When the winds recede the flies descend. We race through a dinner of rubbery pancakes and put away all the food to deter the bugs. The kids let off steam at the playground with some other camp children and are soon covered with mud after a quick game of baseball in a recently irrigated field. We’re all getting used to being dirty.

The sky darkens, giving us respite from the bugs. The children fall asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow. Peace reigns. I look to the stars flashing everywhere, take a deep breath and reminisce. Days are pretty hectic and not always fun as the children become more aware of their restricted quarters in the van. Although they can’t get along without each other, they can’t get along with each other either. When they grow bored antagonizing each other they start on the dog. Luckily our dachsund Kobi is a tough little dude and starts growling, raising his lip and showing his teeth when he’s had enough. The vision of my life as a hippie is very different than this reality.

With a good night’s sleep, the morning brings a sunnier attitude. We’re heading into the Colorado mountains towards Independence Pass.

Children’s Diary – Eldorado Springs – July 6

We drove way up in the mts. and we saw snow. It was called Independence Pass.

Hippie Days – American Graffiti

American Graffiti

We’re on our way to Hutchinson, Kansas to visit our Ormond Beach next-door neighbors. Our first babysitter Tamy and her sister Teresa, who’s rebounding from a quick bad marriage, are spending the summer with their aunt. Though Hutchinson is known as the land of Dorothy before Oz, for me it’s cruising American Graffiti style – the 1973 hit movie of one night in the life of rocking and rolling teenagers. And that’s what we’re doing. Since we have a motel room we decide to get in a little (young) adult nightlife.

“I wanna go,” charms Tamy through her cute smile. Ray takes his turn babysitting so she can join us girls cruising the well-traveled route down Main St. checking out the scene. Taking a sharp turn into the local drive-in we scan the parking lot for friends and cute guys hanging in their cars, then back out on the road to smoke some dope and retrace our steps for one more run through town. We turn into the local 3.2 joint.

“Time for a beer,” I call.

Teresa orders, “Red Eye please.”


“Beer and tomato juice,” she laughs.

“Gross.” my nose involuntarily wrinkles.

“Me, too,” orders Tamy. “It’s good.”

“Never heard of that. Okay, I’ll try one.” They serve us all, no questions. Tamy’s only 16 and already used to getting served without ID. All gussied up she looks older than her 24-year-old sister.

I look longingly over at the one crowded pool table. I’d picked up the habit in Ormond Beach hanging out on rare weekends at the closest beach bar on the pier. I place my quarter in the line on the table, the only woman to challenge. It’s okay to serve minor girls liquor, but maybe not okay for women to shoot pool. I have another drink to get loose. Everybody’s watching as my turn comes up. I’m edgy when I saunter over and grab my cue, “How’re you doing, man?”

“Howdy,” he nods a jittery little smile.

But I love a little competition and win my challenge game. The next guy grabs his cue for an almost unheard of match between a black man and me. I lose my initial good luck and during the game relax enough to get to know my partner, who grew up in my hometown Sarasota where his parents still live. We laugh at the coincidence of meeting up in a place like Hutchinson.

Time to switch and give Ray his ‘turn’ on the town. He’s had trouble getting the kids to sleep after the excitement of being in a motel room with a pool, TV, toilet. Ray’s souring sense of humor is sweetened as the girls grab him laughing and push him into the car. I hear of their escapades in the morning.

Part 2

Teresa’s a very warm upfront person. She reacts to life more emotionally than intellectually and let’s her feelings rule. I like that. Teresa brings out the dope while she, Tamy and Ray do the cruise through town, “Wanna toke?” giving no thought to the idea that Ray might not like our young babysitter Tamy seeing him do something illegal. He’s always been a paranoid pot smoker, but since it’s not me offering it he tries to stay cool when she passes it around. It takes us leaving the neighborhood and a trip to Kansas to break down that barrier. After a few drinks, which is Ray’s choice of poison he relaxes and adores the cruising, flirting, drinking, and dancing with these cute young girls on his arm till late into the night.

Although the girls try to talk us into staying another night – we’ve all had such a good time with our hometown friends – the double Virgo in Ray makes him want to move on and keep to some schedule he has in his head. I’ve never been able to change his attitude about taking life easy and we never stay long in one place. I get pretty good at taking photos from a speeding car.

Children’s Diary – July 5, 1974

We stopped in Kansas. We saw Tamy and Terry Fain. We swam in the pool.

Hippie Days – Of Haircuts and Bug Bites

Beaver Dam Reservoir

After breakfast we go back into town for supplies, a little sightseeing and a post office run. Eureka Springs is one of our General Delivery locations for dropping off and picking up info on our traveling companions’ whereabouts. On our winding way in we pass an orange VW. It’s Herb and Trudy. I wave them over, “Good timing! You two, in person are way better than General Delivery.” We learn that they’ve camped just a few miles from us on a secluded bluff. We follow them to the spot and  Terry, Barb and Kathy are already there, sitting in front of their green VW camper taking life easy, eating famous Chipley watermelon while enjoying the view from the bluff. Never know when we’ll meet up with this wandering bunch of hippies. Or does our karma keep bringing us together? I scan the vista, “How’d you guys find this place? It’s glorious.”

“Some local hippies. It’s called Log Rolling Bluff,” pipes Trudie.

“Cool!” I smile.

This very secluded spot is on private property and named by the pioneer lumberjacks who used to roll their logs down the hill and into the lake where they were floated downstream. But there are no facilities, so the whole gang decide to follow us to our campsite on the Beaver Dam and Reservoir, which ain’t half bad either. It’s no problem for the others to break camp as there are no tents to take down. This time we stock up on booze before we arrive, and proceed to consume a bottle of Vodka in the form of gimlets, with lots of limes.

barber shop

We’re a pretty motley crew sitting around the campsite, and sufficiently mellow, so that when Ray suggests haircuts, we laugh and razz each other. Who looks the worst? The best? We all rise to the challenge and talk Terry into going first. Who’s going to do the honors? Ray of course. He started the whole thing and talks a good game. Terry morphs from hippie to clean cut David Bowie look-a-like. Trudie takes over for a final touch up including a wet comb job. Terry’s skeptical, but after a toast to his handsome new self, he gives in with a big smile.

The kids get all wrapped up in the good times jumping up and down, calling “My turn, my turn.”  I must admit Ray gets better and better and both Scooter and Nicole love the results in the mirror.

I’m last, repeating over and over, “I just want a trim.” It’s taken me a long time to achieve the long straight Joan Baez look that’s in style now.

Ray’s loose, snipping away saying “I’ve been telling you to get a haircut and now you’re looking better than you have in months.” I’ll take that as a compliment.

There is one catch to this beautiful area. Remember we’re still in Arkansas and have already had a run-in with mosquitoes. This time it’s chiggers or red devils: the bright red parasitic larva that feeds on the skin and tissue of mammals including humans, causing irritation and swelling. Having grown up in Florida we’ve long been familiar with these “red bugs”, encountering them camping in the piney woods, especially in the Spanish Moss. But by the next day we’re all covered from head to toe, Scooter and Nicole complaining the loudest. We’ve heard that the only way to get rid of them is to dot each bite with nail polish to suffocate the little varmints. The nail polish runs out, and Terry, who’s the hardest hit, tries Elmer’s Glue. When the glue has dried in his armpits, stuck all his hair together and pinched more than the actual bites. He can’t decide which is worse, the bugs or the cure. His solution – shaving his armpits. Ouch.

Time to say good-bye. We’ll meet again in Aspen, CO if our karma holds.