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  • After a hearty breakfast, courtesy of my new lawyer friend in North Platte, he saw me off on the Greyhound that came into town just to pick me up. He had given the company a good verbal thrashing about dropping me off on the side of the road, for no good reason, and threatened them with further action – they were happy to accommodate his request for a special detour of the next bus to pick up a wronged veteran. They assured him that the driver was replaced at the next stop, and would be dealt with appropriately.

    I was back on the bus – but everything was different now. I desperately missed my travel companion for the first half of the journey - the loneliness was overwhelming. There had been so much life on that bus – this bus just felt old and tired. Everyone was serious, and kept to themselves. I just looked out at the scenery going by, as we gradually transitioned from the flat lands of Nebraska to the hills and buttes of Wyoming. I’d never appreciated the vastness of this country until this trip, especially as we made our way west of Nebraska and into the wide open, desolate west. I looked for Jean at each stop we made. As we continued west, I became increasingly hungry, as I had no money for food, and wasn’t going to beg. I just had to hold on until we got to Portland.

    The bus stopped for about 30 minutes in Rock Spring, Wyoming. I met a girl there who was going to be taking the bus the rest of the way to Portland. She took a liking to me, and became my new traveling companion. Oddly, her name was also Jean, and she was also going out there to stay with a brother. She was nothing like “my” Jean, but she was a warm body, a decent enough companion, and she fed me, and even had some weed! I was not complaining. I never did find my original Jean, but this one was bound and determined to make sure I was taken care of. When we got to Portland, she brought me to her brother’s apartment, a 2 bedroom with 4 other people already living there. Nobody seemed to be very happy about my unexpected presence there, but apparently Jean didn’t care, and told me I was welcome to stay there with her. We slept together on a pull-out sofa in the living room. This wasn’t an ideal situation, but it was a roof over my head, and again, a warm body to sleep with. We didn’t have a whole lot of chemistry going on – just a couple of lonely souls appreciating the warmth of one another.

    It didn’t last long. The others in the apartment weren’t nearly as generous as Jean, and when something went missing, I was immediately accused of stealing it. I knew it was a set-up, and I also knew it was time to go. I grabbed my backpack and split. I didn’t need this shit. Jean came running after me, apologizing, but I just kissed her goodbye and told her not to worry about me. I thanked her for taking care of me on the bus and for letting me stay with her. As I left, I made a mental note to myself – next time I run into a Jean, just keep on going. Things didn’t seem to be working out too well between me and girls named Jean!
  • I was completely disillusioned by the whole Portland experience. I decided it was time to go back home. I didn’t care about Treasure Island, being AWOL 30 days, I didn’t even care at that point whether or not I got picked up by the law. I just wanted to go home. If the law picked me up, maybe I’d get there sooner. I walked out onto Highway 84, looked East and stuck my thumb out.

    Like my trip east from Norfolk, this trip started out on a promising note. As I made my way into Idaho, I ran into a girl who was travelling my way, and seemed just as lonely as I was. She was very quiet, but pretty with warm, friendly eyes. We hitched together for a day. As night began to fall, we left the road, climbed up a small mountain, up to a stone tablet that looked down on a beautiful valley below, with a stream running through it. I laid out my sleeping bag on a flat area, she produced a bottle of wine, and we both sat there, drinking the wine, taking in the incredible vista, not saying much, just enjoying each other’s company.

    When we’d quenched our thirsts, we laid back and made beautiful love under the bright stars and moon, until we fell asleep – a most lovely night. When I awoke the next morning, she was gone, without a trace. All I had left of her was a beautiful memory to carry me on my way. As I made my way through the rest of Idaho and into Utah, I was growing hungrier as I went. I was still flat broke, and I wouldn’t ask people for food or money. I just trusted that when I needed it, what I needed would be provided. I grew weaker and felt more strung out as I got closer to Ogden, Utah, watching the strange looking Great Salt Lake to my west as I continued south through Utah. Just past Ogden, the highway turned due east, as I climbed up through the mountains. It got a lot colder up there.

    One short ride I had at that point was from a nice, middle-aged Mormon lady who’d just gotten back from a mission trip to the east. She was really nice, and asked me how long it had been since I’d eaten anything. “Is it that obvious?” I asked. She smiled and said, “Look, how about if I make you a deal – this will make me very happy. You agree that you’ll call your mother, and I’ll treat you to a nice lunch. How about it?” I said that worked for me, and she took me to a nice restaurant in the hills there, and I had one of the most memorable meals I’ve had, one that I still vividly remember, 37 years later. I had meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and 3 or 4 glasses of iced tea. I knew that I would not hold up my end of the deal – I knew I couldn’t call Mom – I didn’t want to put her in a compromising position, where she’d either have to lie about me being in contact with them, or be pressed into giving me up.

    After several more rides heading east, I found myself standing on I-80, cold, tired, with very few cars heading east. I was seeing many more cars heading west. At that point, I’d barely gone 800 miles, with another 2500 to go. I just couldn’t do it. I needed to go back to Portland, and figure things out from there. I walked across the highway, faced West, and stuck out my thumb to go back to Portland. That was where I would spend the rest of my AWOL time. It would be different this time.
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