When I was nineteen I had fucked up most of my classes and was asked to leave the university until I could get my shit together. I didn't want to stay in Iowa City like a lot of my friends who were just working at restaurants and going to see different bands every night. My roommate's sister had been in the California Conservation Corps and really liked it until she met Dina Shore's son and eventually left to live in a little town outside of Eureka with him. I was up for an adventure and so I thought I'd sign up. In order to join the Corps you had to have a California address. My roommate's sister and Jody were nice enough to let me use their address and even forwarded me my mail.
I decided to move to Santa Rosa because one of the dishwashers at The Mill told me it was a cool place to stay. I flew there by myself and stayed at the Redwood Motel. It was a very charming town. At the time, they were shooting, Peggy Sue Got Married and they wouldn't let anyone go to the downtown section since it was a period piece. I had to take care of a lot of business before I could get accepted into the CCC and then once I was signed up I would have a month to kill before I started. I needed an interview, a physical and to take care of a lot of other paperwork. Since I didn't know how to drive at the time, I had to walk everywhere and make a wide circle around the downtown area. It was so much easier to hitch a ride. Of course, now I know how stupid that was, but at the time, I needed a ride and people (meaning men) would just pull over and ask me if I wanted one. I liked to tell myself that since I didn't stick my thumb out, that I would be able to choose. If someone pulled over that looked too scary, I'd just tell them that I was going for a walk and didn't want a ride, thank you very much. In reality, by the time I said, "thank you very much," they could have me pulled into their car and driven off with me anyway.
One of the other really stupid things I did at the time was take caffeine pills. This guy I knew in Iowa City, ordered a big bag of them out of the back of one of those punk rock magazines and I kept them with me wherever I went. I thought the pills made me more alert, but really they just made me spazzy and more annoyed with people than I already was. Bad idea.
Most of the rides I got were fine. Usually, it was some smarmy middle aged guy who wanted to talk to a young girl. They never asked about me, which was perfect because I didn't feel like talking, they would just go on and on about their jobs or their families until we reached our destination. The day before I left, I had come out of my physical where I learned for the first time that I had a heart murmur. The doctor referred to the kind of murmur I had as a "fad". I guess I never thought of myself as being all that trendy. So, on the walk home, a very nondescript man asked me if I wanted a ride. I got in his car and everything seemed fine. About a mile out, he stopped talking and became agitated. I could feel how pissed off he was. He wouldn't look at me and just gripped the steering wheel tighter and tighter. I finally asked him to pull over.
"We're not there yet, " he said and kept driving without looking at me.
"That's okay. I forgot I had some other errands to run so if you could pull over right here, that would be great." He didn't say anything and didn't pull over either. I was really nervous at that point and the pills were making me hysterical.
"Pull over! Pull over right now! I want to get out!" I meant to sound forceful and angry but I think I sounded more like a squeaky, petulant, little girl. He did pull over however, and before he could come to a full stop, I grabbed my backpack and ran. You think that would have kept me from hitchhiking but I told myself I would do it one last time to get to the bus station so I could leave Santa Rosa which didn't seem quite so charming anymore.
A guy named Roy stopped to offer me a ride. He was wearing one of those gas station attendant shirts with his name embroidered on it. I had my army duffel bag and my backpack (everything I owned) on me. He asked me where I was going and I told him I was meeting my family in San Francisco. I figured if he thought I had people expecting me, that he wouldn't try anything funny.
"You oughta be careful down there in the city. You know, I seen a lot of pretty girls like you become whoores in San Fran. It's just a shame what happens."
"I'll be fine," I assured him. "I'm going to meet my family and then we're driving to Yosemite together. See? Nothing to worry about with me." I wasn't even fooling myself, so I'm sure he wasn't buying my perky girl act.
"Instead of going down there and running into some bad business, you know you could always stay here. I got a trailer. Really, I got two trailers. You could live in one and I could live in the other. I'm working a vein in a gold mine up there in the hills and I just need someone to cook for me. It wouldn't be nothin' sexual, just some cooking and maybe some cleaning..."
Even though it sounded like every girl's dream, I talked my way out of that offer and out of his car. I kept reassuring him about my family, but what I really wanted to say was that I would rather take my chances at becoming a whoore in San Fran - at least there I wouldn't also have to cook and clean for anyone.