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  • Chapter 1: Pod People

    The blue boxcar chugged along Route 66, through small towns spat into farmland, into a land of red rocks. It entered California at Needles, where the desert heat indeed does that, halting at a barrier manned by agriculture cops. We had picked up the sacred highway in St. Louis and traveled along it about a week, with a dalliance in New Mexico, to the edge of promised land.

    My companion Jay and I had set out from Watertown, Massachusetts, where we shared an apartment, heading west to find pieces of our lives. Throughout the arc of our trajectory we were cocooned in my 1968 Chevy 108 panel van that I had converted to a camper back when Jay and I had shared another house, this one on a cul-de-sac in Cambridge. We were neighbors there, not roommates, each married to women from whom we were now divorced. So we hung together, and in '73 decided we needed to put some distance between our past and present existence.

    Blue Boxcar was my CB handle for several cross-country trips, chosen to magnify my vehicle in the minds of truckers I might CQ in my wanderings. Driving to the West Coast and back was a habit I picked up after outfitting the van – painted a color the dealer said was Detroit Police Blue – with a table/bed, benches, cabinets, an ice chest, sink, propane stove and wall lamp, a clothes closet and even a pottie. The walls were soft brown cowhide and the ceiling white vinyl over R15 fiberglass insulation. The carpet and bed cushions matched the exterior, and blue-and white drapes, courtesy of my ex-wife, covered rollout windows in the side and back. At some point it acquired a roof deck, a 4x8 sheet of plywood with low handrails all around strapped to the roof. I had planned to plant grass on it until I learned how much that would weigh and lend to rollovers. Regardless, it was a nice sleeping platform.

  • Camped for the night, we would rustle up grub on the three-burner stove under a wheezy exhaust fan, and repair to the pedestal table to eat, hoist beers, roll joints and talk. Stereo speakers piped in music from the Blaupunkt radio in the console when we could find a decent station. When we turned in, we would haul out our sleeping bags out from the benches, unscrew the pedestal, lower the tabletop to straddle the benches and toss a couple of long cushions on it to make the bed. Then we parted the curtains and slept under the stars.

    We were transiting the country ensconced in a pod. Though its CB handle was Blue Boxcar, I dubbed my van Pod, and liked to make up acronyms for it, like Property Of Dutton, Pickup Or Deliver, and Portable Opium Den. Altogether, Pod made five trips across the continent. This was its third, and Needles was about a third of the way around the continental dial.

  • The California ag inspector wanted to know if we had any fresh fruit or vegetables in our possession. As our diet of late hadn't gone in that direction, we had none to report. We didn't declare any drugs, assuming they were not on the list of prohibited produce. So the official let us pass.

    The next nightfall would find us parting company in San Francisco. Jay hopped off in the city to visit some old friends from back home in Indiana. I trucked across the Bay Bridge to Oakland to rendezvous with a long-lost love. But that's another story.

    Continued in Tour de Farce: A Bird in the Bush

    @image 1: Kansas water tower after a thunderstorm looking North, 1977, © by Geoff Dutton

    @image 2: The blue pod under construction with my neighbor Jay, Cambridge 1970, © by Geoff Dutton.

    @image 3: The blue pod watches the sun set, New Mexico, 1973, © by Geoff Dutton

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